Independent Life Brokers' Education Summit,
Seminar #20, May 15, 2000,
Client Service in a Demanding Age,
By: Lawrence Geller
Lawrence Geller is one of the most prolific writers of individual and group disability in Canada. Working with professional partnerships, upper income individuals and other life brokers he is consistently one of the leading producers of disability coverage in Canada. This presentation will teach the broker who currently writes disability or life insurance business what he needs to know to attract and keep discerning clients. The focus will be on successfully competing for and servicing the insurance portfolios of upper income professional and business clients.
Positioning Ourselves for Success
Anyone in commissioned sales has, at one time or another, been subject to major swings in their cash flow. In some months our income may be more than we need. In other months our income may be less than the bills and expenses which must be met.
For my first several years as an insurance agent these swings in income were my most common problem. Since that time the problem has diminished progressively. It hasn't disappeared altogether, but it has diminished.
Most of the reason for the variation in my income was obvious. In some months I sold and placed in force more coverage than in others. When the good months occurred it was all that I could do to pay off our accumulated indebtedness, let alone put money away for a rainy day. So I often found myself "in the hole" without any reserves in the bank.
My income increased annually in those first few years, but my comfort level didn't. To a great extent this was because I was almost entirely dependent at the time on first year commissions. I had very few group insurance clients and, although I was selling some disability insurance, first year commission life contracts still generated the bulk of my income.
Then I started to talk with agents who had been successful, in many cases for longer than I had been alive. They all said much the same things:
1. build a strong clientele (giving you access to repeat sales) of economic growers who were responsible;
2. try to develop a number of group insurance clients;
3. try to sell products which pay regular, substantial, renewal commissions, even at the expense of the first year commission rate.
All of this came down to much the same thing. If you are paid every year for every case that you have done in the past, then your income cannot help but grow each year (provided that your lapse rate is reasonable and that you continue to write a consistent amount of new business).
If you get paid a fair renewal commission rate on your cases then you will be able to provide a lot of ongoing service to your clients. This will encourage them to give you more of their own business, and refer others to you, without your having to ask. We'll get back to this a little bit later.
As your clients mature, and their incomes increase, their needs for coverage will also increase. This will give you an ongoing source of new business, from clients who already know and trust you. There is no rejection when dealing with existing clients.
As you get to know members of each of your group insurance cases you will begin to deal with them for their individual insurance needs. Again, there is no rejection in dealing with clients who already know and trust you.
People who have group insurance with you will refer you to their friends. Business people discuss their group insurance with other business people. Everyone is looking for better plans, with better service, at the cost that they are already paying. If they feel that you can help them they will deal with you.
Group insurance also results in level, annual renewal commissions. You are paid every year for the work that you do on your group clients' files.
Many forms of coverage pay commissions to you on an ongoing basis. When bonuses payable on larger books of business are taken into account the renewals on a book of business can be very substantial.
The result of following an active program for developing long term business is that you will, within just a few years of starting the program, know in advance what the renewal commissions will be, for each month of the year. This will allow you to plan a budget in a meaningful and realistic way.
Any new sales which you make will be icing on the cake once you can pay all of your fixed monthly expenses out of your renewal base. Many of these new sales will come from your existing client base, or from recommendations from existing clients. Eventually you will be able to pay all of your expenses from your renewals, allowing you to spend more time doing what you want.
This is a great business. None of my friends in other professions get paid every year for all of the work that they have done in past. Their incomes are entirely dependent on what they do today. Unlike us, they can seldom afford to take as much time for the important things such as family as they would like.
The first step is to begin to think long term. In client building as well as in commission schedules this change in your attitude may be all that it takes to make you financially independent, with a steady income stream.
In the past decades we have all experienced tremendous change. Today, major shifts continue to occur in the thinking of our clients and prospects. Clients are demanding more value for a lower cost. Many of them are starting to seriously question whether traditional insurers, distribution systems, sales people and advisors add or subtract value. Many of them are deciding to manage their financial affairs themselves, searching for products, information and advice on the Internet.
The great David Cowper used to say that this is a time of Oceanic Change. Do you know how to harness this fundamental change? Or, as the winds of this change blow into your face, do you just row harder into the wind?
Many successful and highly motivated financial advisors continue to market their products and services in the same way as their predecessors. They rely on cold calling and marketing campaigns. These tactics have always been time and labour-intensive, but in today's more competitive marketplace they're far less effective than other marketing strategies. Because traditional marketing techniques take so much time and effort, sales people and advisors sometimes decide to do nothing and just hope they get enough referrals and repeat business to pay their bills.
There are five key marketing rules that we can follow that may well be the key to our success in these changing times:
1. Developing long-term vision to match long-term planing. Most sales people and advisors focus on short-term prospecting activities instead of building their practices for the long-term. They hunt for the next hot prospect, or for a different product that will bring them success. But success comes only when you have a clear vision of what you want and a achievable plan to get there;
2. Establishing a referral generation process and using it every day. An insurance or financial planning practice thrives or fails based on its ability to attract new clients. Sales people and financial advisors who attain the greatest success are often not the most technically competent nor may they be the best salespeople. They may just be the best marketers of their services. Having a process for consistently generating referrals to ideal prospects with the least work and at the lowest cost is the way to attain the success that we seek, and deserve.
One of my friends in Manassas, Virginia says that, as his New Years resolution for 2000, he decided to earn what he was worth. Just that simple change in philosophy has already increased his income from where it was in 1999;
3. Restructuring to generate renewal commissions and fees or trailers. All businesses have two goals: to create ongoing positive cash flow that increases every year and to build up capital reserves for the future. Renewal revenue - predictable income that continues without further effort from you - can help to meet both of these goals;
4. Focusing on clients rather than products. Sales people and advisors have become product experts, but they don't study the hopes, dreams and fears that motivate their clients to act. The next generation of entrepreneurial sales professionals will need to know much more about their clients and why they act on an idea, or don't act on it;
5. Specializing in a niche market. In many professions, such as engineering law and medicine, professionals have dealt with information overload by specializing in relatively narrow fields or practice. But many sales people and advisors are still generalists. They believe that the key to success is to be all things to all people. Unless you are a marketing specialist with a wide network of technical specialists who can help you, this mass-market mentality is a prescription for frustration in the client-centred marketplace. If you want to specialize you must focus your marketing efforts on the specific groups of people or on the niche markets that can benefit most from your specialized services. This will take a game plan and time to achieve.
By following these basic rules, you'll be in a position to benefit in the new client-centred marketplace and to attract your ideal clients with less effort. They'll bring their business to you and you won't have to chase after sales anymore.
Using technology is now a permanent part of every business. While everyone now seems to be using word processors, spreadsheets, data bases and quotation programmes, e-mail and faxes, the trick still seems to be to integrate these resources so that they are as seamless as possible and so that they enhance, rather than complicating the way that we work. An advisor can make better use of their resources and increase their profitability by having adequate technology, and using it. The goal is to do more business, more effectively, providing greater value to our clients, with less work.
To a certain extent this is again an issue involving specialization. Your job as the advisor is to discuss the needs and design the packages for each client and sell the financial instrument or insurance as well as solving major problems. Your assistant is likely licensed and deals with client service issues as well as increases and decreases in coverage or investments and making additions and changes. You are probably almost always available at the office or through your cellular telephone.
You can use technology to make your practice more effective. You can make sure that you have fairly fast computers and that your software is current. You should have excellent fax and scanning technology and a good office photocopier.
All of this is inexpensive for the return that you will get. You will present a professional image because that is the way that you work.
Every investment that you make in your practice will be repaid in short order. Among these investments I include a knowledgeable assistant who is happy with their job (and well enough paid to want to stay) and a good office environment.
The average buyer continues to think that sales people and financial advisors, insurers and other financial companies, and the products that they sell are all pretty much all the same. This is basically because the focus is on sales and product promotion and not on positioning.
Webster's Dictionary defines a resource as:
something to which one resorts for comfort or help or to gain an end, a source of supply, support or aid.
What this clear definition tells you is that the ultimate position you can achieve as a resource is that of an advisor in times of change - when things change, people know they can call upon you for advice and counsel.
At this point you should be asking yourself if you are positioning yourself as a resource to your prospects and clients or as a sales person. Do they see you as someone who is trying to sell them something or as someone who is helping them to buy something that they know that they need or to solve a problem that they've identified, often with your help?
A good way to measure this is to track the number of incoming calls that you receive - not only calls for service, but also calls from prospects in the marketplace who have heard what a great resource you've been to one of your clients. In other words, the number of unsolicited referrals that call us is the way that we can keep track of our positioning with our existing clients.
If you're not getting incoming calls, even if you're doing a fair amount of promotion, then you're not positioning yourself as a resource and people don't see you as someone to turn to in time of need or emergency. The challenge you face today is how to position yourself as a resource in a market replete with many competitors who sell essentially the same products. The challenge is thus:
1. to position yourself. You must make a solid commitment to make the right people aware of who you are and what you can do for them. Are you making the right people aware of these things? Once you've established that, you are able to position yourself in the new marketplace;
2. to promote yourself effectively. This requires good communication skills. It is speaking clearly and persuasively so that people understand what you can do for them. It is listening perceptively to understand the real need and to bring discernment to the process. It is writing with clarity and power so that it is personal and not just promotional;
3. It's an ongoing process, not an one time or occasional thing. It's doing the things necessary to gain visibility in the marketplace, whether that is community involvement, working with centres of influence, or organizational involvement;
4. to position and promote yourself as a resource, means recognizing that character is far more important than expertise. King Solomon said, "A good name is better than riches." It's important to realize that to be a resource you must be trusted.
As resource, you put the emphasis on the results that your customers will achieve by using your unique abilities, to paraphrase Dan Sullivan. The products and services you offer are just the means to your customer's end. They represent the tools that you will use to help your customer achieve the results that they are looking for.
The advisors who behave as resources will be the ones who pick the money up from the table at the end of the day. They will gain their clients' time and attention by focusing on their needs. It is a funny thing, but the most successful advisors are resources to their clients and never seem to focus on their own need to make a sale.
Are you a resource to your customers?
If you start the sale by concentrating on yourself or your products, you are positioning yourself for a pure commodity sale, and for competition with everyone else who provides that commodity.
If you start the process by concentrating on what your clients are trying to achieve, you are acting as a resource.
Looking the part may be important, but acting the part is vital to be considered a resource that is trustworthy and can be counted on. Clients quickly realize whether we are just talking the talk, or whether we are walking the walk and in an age when everything moves at Internet speed they have no time or patience for anything that they don't see as real and meaningful.
Positioning yourself as a resource helps prospective clients to differentiate you from the competition and allows you to gain access to the client-centred marketplace on a favourable basis. Why do you think that all of the financial web-sites are popping up offering what seems to be unbiased information meant to help the consumer to learn enough to make a purchase? The backers are trying to position themselves as a resource, with as little direct contact as possible.
We have all been taught many prospecting techniques. All of them are designed to help us to get those greatly desired, desperately wanted, and badly needed referrals. Why is this so?
Since I first started in insurance I have heard advisor say:
"If I can get in front of enough of the right people, I can sell."
Then they go on to say:
"If I could get enough referrals to the right people, then when I get in front of them, I can sell them."
Heck, I said these thing myself on more than one occasion.
We have all been taught many ways to try to get, ask for, and even beg for referrals. The more leads the better, whether hot or cold. List upon list. I remember having an ongoing "Project 200" for the first years that I was in the business. Whenever I called someone, the list got shorter and when someone bought the list got shorter still. I was always trying to get back to 200 prospects. It eventually didn't matter who was on the list, as long as there were 200 names. Quality ceased to matter. In retrospect I think that they were trying to teach me to be frustrated, without knowing it. It was just the way that things were done.
There are books and systems that can help you to position yourself in the minds of your clients. Sheldon Taerk of Creative Planning used to tell me that if we are desperately wanting and needing referrals, we may not get many. He always said that there is nothing less attractive to a client or prospect than a pushy, needy, and greedy salesman.
If we are a professional advisor, and not just a salesperson, then we can not communicate desperation to our prospective clients. I know from high performers in our profession that those who perform a valuable and vital service for their clients, and who do not need referrals for their success, and who often never ask get them anyhow. Why is that so? We need to understand what is going on in that situation.
Successful advisors want more than just referrals. They are no longer trying to find "leads" or "names" or to ask for "referrals," they are seeking well-deserved professional recommendations from those who appreciate the quality of the work that they do.
Consumers want to do business in their own ways, not ours. Over the years I have learned and read about a great many referral systems. Some of are somewhat subtle, and some of them are plain in-your-face asking, pestering, and grinding down so that we can get some "names." All of these systems, scripts, and strategies suffer from the same major problem.
It is not about me and whether I deserve a recommendation. It is about the client and how they want to be viewed by their friends, family, and colleagues.
We may have provided them with information that really helped them or with a service that was of value to them. We may even deserve a recommendation. But, they aren't sure that they want to put us in contact with any of the people they know. They may not want to have one of their colleagues or family friends come up to them where they worship, or at the community centre, or in a casual encounter and say, "Why did you give that insurance guy or that financial planner my name and number?"
Most of us are not open to a phone call that we don't want from someone we don't know. The same thing is true for many of the clients who we work with. They don't like it, and they know that their associates and acquaintances probably won't like it either.
Remember, when they say, "I can't think of anyone," they are most likely really saying "I don't want to give a name to you right now because the person might not appreciate it or want me to do it." The more we beg or push, the more our relationship with that client will suffer.
We are now in what has been called the "Experience Economy" If we make our referral / recommendation process something that is unpleasant for our client or potential centre of influence, they will not want to help us. We shouldn't ask for referrals or recommendations if the clients are not comfortable with giving them to us. Ideally they should volunteer.
Everyone want their business and life experiences to be pleasant. Smart marketers know that and are looking for ways to heighten the experience for the client and prospect, not to diminish it. They want the client to be proud of the recommendation that they made and to be thanked for making the effort. They know that, if the person making the recommendation is thanked after the work is done they will feel pride and that more favourable recommendations will shortly follow.
Any referral system that is designed to get some names, that makes the client feel that they have been pressured, stressed or manipulated will be ineffective. They will be more than that. They will earn us in many cases, distrust and dislike on the part of those we seek to favourably influence.
Remember that your recommendation script, system or strategy must be comfortable and work for you. All too often what we have done is to find someone who has been very good at getting referrals / recommendations, taken their strategy, put it in books and on tapes, and then distributed it so that everybody can learn that same method.
Sound familiar? Hold on a minute. Think about that.
Each of us is very different with very different practices and very different clients. A strategy that worked for one person in New York, may not work for another in Toronto or Guelph, or Kitchener.
There is a business philosopher in Minnesota by the name of Harvey McKay. One of his pearls of wisdom when looking at business and sales systems is: "If it doesn't work for you, it doesn't work." That is undeniably true.
We must each find a system and a stratagem that works for us. It must be based on things that we are comfortable saying and doing. It must be something that suits our personality, our temperament, and our way of working with people. Attempts to do anything else will cause us to be reluctant to actually following through with it, and it will upset our performance.
I know that some of you will say that, "you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone and do it anyhow." I don't see it that way. What we may have to do through practice and time is to expand our comfort zone. You see, when we perform profoundly out of our comfort zone, we become reticent, reluctant, frightened and ineffective. Remember call reluctance? If it doesn't work for you, it doesn't work. The challenge we have now is to find something that does work for us.
The best kind of personal marketing is when the client feels that the whole reason for the exchange is based solely on them and what they want.
Years ago, the great Earl Nightingale said the secret of success was to treat every person as the most important person in the world.
At the end of 1999 I went out for lunch with one of the key people at one of my largest (and favourite despite that) clients. At the end of the lunch he paid me what both he and I considered to be a great compliment. "Geller", he said, "when I call your office I feel like I am your only client." He thought about it for a minute and then added: "but then I know that it isn't true because everyone I know says the same thing".
When I got back I gave my assistant a bonus. She's doing her job and the clients notice it.
When we start our process by talking about us and about our being recommended by them to others, we are saying in effect, "this whole conversation is about what I want and what I need, not about what you want and what you are seeking."
If it works for you, it works and don't change it. If it isn't working, find your comfort zone and work within it.
For those who have not met with the success that they wish for using the techniques that they have been taught to date, remember, that when you are seeking professional recommendations, it must be about them, their family, and their friends, and not about you and what you want.
Sometimes we do great work for a client and they still don't recommend us to others. At first this really bothered me. Then I realized that I might not deserve, at that particular point in our relationship, a recommendation from that client.
I found that If I kept providing service, kept connecting and being of value, I soon earned a recommendation.
So when do I believe that we deserve recommendations and how can we get them?
A well known coach in our business is Dan Sullivan. I am fond one of Dan's sayings. In discussing the entrepreneurial environment, he points out that most of us come into this world with an entitlement mentality. We have been taught from our earliest days, that we are entitled to things. Dan points out that in the new millennium we only have one right, and that is the right to create value. He is absolutely right.
In the minds of our clients:
1. We don't deserve a recommendation just because we showed up for an appointment. They always expect that we will do that.
2. We don't deserve a recommendation just because we sold somebody something. That is what they paid us for.
3. We don't deserve a recommendation because we delivered a policy. They paid us for that too.
We only deserve a professional recommendation when we have created extraordinary value and given the client or prospect an experience that they can receive from no one else.
Good recommendations come from the quality of service and experience provided to existing clients.
If we want a recommendation, we must deserve it in the client's mind. We must perform in such an extraordinary way that the person who receives the value and the experience from us is helped and changed by the experience. We must consciously be seeking to give such extraordinary value to them that know that they couldn't get the same service and experience from anyone or anywhere else.
This means that we always have to put the client's interests first, whatever they are.
We have to be prepared to share so much wit, warmth, and wisdom that we would have the perfect right to charge $150 or even $250 an hour for the time that we spend, even if the client bought nothing.
Start taking this seriously and you will start getting recommendations without even having to ask.
You may now be asking yourself, "Are there times in which you can ask for or suggest recommendations?" Once again, we all must find the scripts, the systems, and the styles that work for each of us. But to help you, we can discuss some of the "recommendation indicators" that I use.
Whenever the client begins to make statements like:
1. I wish I had done this before;
2. My brother should have done something like this;
3. This is really a neat idea;
you are getting clear recommendation indicators.
4. Whenever we hear the client or prospect compliment us on the work we have done;
5. When a client suggests that others would be well advised to know the type of work that we have done;
6. Or if they express appreciation for the creativity and insight that we have provided to them;
we are receiving "recommendation indicators. "
Whenever we begin to hear things like this, this is our cue that it might be the right time to suggest a recommendation. When that happens, I recommend that you put down your pen or pencil, give full attention to the person and say something like:
"You know, that makes me feel absolutely wonderful! One of the things that I really enjoy about my work is learning that what I have done has been helpful to people like you.
You know that I would like my business to grow by working with more people like you. When you recommend me to others, I am very grateful."
This will tell the client three things.
1. you have given your full attention to them;
2. you have complimented them by telling them that you really appreciate working with people like them; and
3. you want your business to grow by working with people just like them.
There is nothing wrong with wanting your business to grow. It is the proverbial "American way." Most importantly, it allows the clients to respond as they wish. They will not feel pressured, coerced, or manipulated in any way. It truly allows them to have control of the process, to feel comfortable about what you said, and to enjoy the experience. At that time, they may literally recommend that you call certain people.
Perfect, that is almost exactly what you wanted. But there is something more. If that happens; Thank them for the recommendation and then suggest that they call that person and recommend that they call you.
Remember the goal of our business is never to make another outgoing telephone call to get new clients or to get business from our existing clients. The goal is to have people calling us who want to take advantage of the services that we offer. If you don't think that way, it will not ever happen that way. So whatever way you decide to build your business, make sure you are aware of the recommending signs.
We have to be well positioned in the mind of the clients and centres of influence that we hope will recommend us. Any study of marketing today will talk about what is called "positioning." Positioning is when both we and the clients that we are working with clearly understand who we are, what we do, and the value that we can bring to the equation.
One of the problems with the way that we have been taught to market ourselves is that our clients don't know what we really do. We try and do a little bit of everything, and therefore nobody can understand specifically what we do that will justify recommending us to others. Before we can have a good recommendation system in place, we will need to spend time thinking things through to determine the business we're in, the clients we're seeking to attract, and the unique value and service that we can provide to them.
If we want to market our services, we must be well positioned. Recommendations come to the people who are well positioned in the view of the client or prospect.
Positioning means that we come to mind, every time that a client thinks about their savings and security. When through the promotional work we do, the way that we touch people's lives, and the way that we communicate what we do, they fully understand what we do for them and the value that we bring to their financial life, we have positioned ourselves. When, in the course of their everyday contacts and conversations, our clients talk with people who may need the type of work that we do, they will talk about us. In that way, if we have done the work of positioning ourselves; we will have earned a favourable recommendation.
The goal of our business is to have our clients do all of the marketing and recommending for us. What we are discussing here is that simple philosophy which says that we have delighted and serviced and created such a valuable experience for the people we are working for, that they literally cannot stop talking about us. Today that is often called "Buzz." We want to be the people in the buzz.
In today's financial marketplace there are plenty of manufacturers, plenty of brands and far too many choices for most people to even begin to grasp. With just a little effort and a little money, we can now get almost anything we want, provided we know where to find it, and how to tell its relative value in a meaningful way.
This overabundance of product, is especially clear when it comes to financial information and services. Product manufacturers compete to have all inclusive product lines, or to strike alliances so that they can appear to have a product for everyone. There's a huge surplus of intellectual property and services out there.
The law of supply and demand states that when there's an abundance
of any commodity, the value of that commodity plummets. If a commodity
can be produced at will and costs little or nothing to create,
it's not likely to become scarce, either. That's the situation
with financial information and services today. They're abundant
and cheap. Information on the web is particularly plentiful and
There is one vital resource, that is always in short supply. The most successful advisor has just as much of it as you do. Even Bill Gates couldn't buy any more, no matter how much more he can spend. That scarce resource is time. And in light of today's information glut, that means that clients have a shortage of time and attention to spend on their financial affairs.
This combined shortage of time and attention is relatively new. Consumers are now willing to pay handsomely to save even a little time and marketers are eager to pay just to get a small amount of a client's attention.
Traditional marketing methods are the enemy of anyone trying to save time. By constantly interrupting what we are doing at any given moment, the marketer who interrupts us not only tends to fail at selling us his product, but also wastes our most coveted commodity, time. In the long run, cold calling and dialling for dollars will be doomed as marketing tools. The cost to the consumer is just too high. Their demise began with Caller Identification. The days of easy telephone access to potential clients are now almost gone.
The alternative is what is now called Permission Marketing.
It offers the client an opportunity to volunteer to be marketed
to. By only talking to volunteers, Permission Marketing guarantees
that clients pay more attention to the marketing messages that
they receive. It allows advisors to calmly and succinctly tell
their story, without fear of being interrupted by competitors.
It serves both clients and advisors in a win-win exchange.
Permission Marketing encourages clients to participate in a long-term, interactive marketing effort in which they are rewarded in some way for paying attention to increasingly relevant messages. Imagine your marketing message being read by 75% of the prospects you send it to (not 5% or even 1%). Then imagine that more than 40% respond. That's what happens when you interact with your clients one at a time, with individualized
messages, exchanged with their permission. Permission marketing is anticipated, personal and specifically relevant to each client.
I think that I know what you're thinking. There's a catch. If you have to personalize every client message, that takes too much of my time. If you're still thinking within the framework of traditional marketing, you're right. But in today's age of technology, contacting clients individually is not as difficult as it sounds. Permission Marketing takes the cost of marketing to the consumer and spreads it out, over not one contact, but dozens of contacts. And this leverage leads to substantial competitive advantages and profits. While your competition continues to try to interrupt strangers with mediocre results, your Permission Marketing campaign will be turning strangers into friends and friends into clients and clients into centres of influence.
For this to work an advisor has to offer every prospective
client an incentive to volunteer to deal with us. They have to
have a reason to call us after they have been recommended to us.
Without a selfish reason to call back after our first conversation,
the new potential client won't call again. If you don't provide
a benefit to the consumer for paying attention to your message,
your offer to help will suffer the same fate as that of every
other competitor that's competing for their attention. It will
The incentive you offer to the customer can range from meaningful information, to entertainment. But the incentive must be overt, obvious and clearly delivered.
This is the most obvious difference between new and old Marketing methods. Cold callers spend all of their time interrupting strangers, in an attempt to capture their attention and get a meeting. Permission Marketers spend as little time and money talking to strangers as they can. Instead, they move as quickly as they can to convert strangers into prospects who choose to "opt-in" to a series of communications.
Using the attention offered by the consumer, the advisor offers a curriculum over time, teaching the client about the products or services he has to offer. The advisor who uses Permission Marketing knows that the first contact is an opportunity to sell the prospective client on a second contact. Every step along the way has to be interesting, useful and relevant to the client.
Once the prospect has agreed to pay attention to what you have to tell them, it's much easier to teach them about your product or service. The advisor who uses Permission Marketing is able to focus on specific ways that they can and will help that prospect. Without question, the ability to converse freely with potential clients over time is the most powerful element of this marketing approach.
The knowledgeable advisor will work to reinforce the incentive, to be sure that the client's attention continues to be focused on the message. This is surprisingly easy. Because this is a two-way dialogue, not a narcissistic monologue, the advisor can adjust the information being offered and fine tune it to each client.
This allows an advisor to increase the level of permission that they receive from the client over time. The goal is to motivate the client to give more and more permission after each communication. This may be permission to gather more data about the client's personal life, or finances, or hobbies, or interests. It may also be permission to offer a new category of product for the customer's consideration. In fact, the range of permission that you can obtain from a client is very wide, and limited only by its relevance to the client.
Over time, the advisor uses the permission he's obtained to
change their client's behaviour, that is, get them to the time
when the say, "how do I buy this." That's how you turn
permission into revenue. After permission is granted, it becomes
a truly significant asset for the advisor. Now you can live happily
ever after by repeating the process. In other words, the final
step is to leverage your permission into a profitable situation
for both of you. Remember, you have access to the most valuable
thing a customer can offer - their attention.
Nothing good is free, and that goes double for Permission. Acquiring solid, deep permission from targeted customers takes an investment of time.
Permission Marketing cuts through the clutter and allows a advisors to speak to prospective clients as friends, rather than as strangers. This personalized, anticipated, frequent, and relevant communication has far more impact than a random message displayed in a random place at a random moment.
Think about choosing a holiday destination. If you learn about a resort from a cold-calling telemarketer, or from an unsolicited direct mail piece, you're likely to ignore the recommendation. But if a trusted friend offers a holiday recommendation, you're more likely to try it out.
Permission Marketing lets you convert strangers, people who might otherwise ignore your unsolicited offer, into people willing to pay attention because your message always arrives in an expected way that they appreciate.
An advisor, using traditional marketing tools, looks for clients by sending an approach letter to one thousand strangers. A Permission Marketer gets clients by focusing on a limited number of prospective clients and networking with them, consulting for them, working with them until they trust him enough to offer him a full time position as their advisor.
Permission Marketing takes patience. Permission Marketing campaigns grow over time - the opposite of what most marketers look for these days. And Permission Marketing requires a leap of faith. Even a bad mass marketing campaign gets some results right away, while a permission campaign requires infrastructure, and a belief in the durability of the permission concept before it begins to bear fruit.
Getting a new client is expensive. It takes money to get her attention and it takes continuing effort to educate her (interruption marketing is expensive, and so is the process of winning a customer's trust). It's also expensive for the client, who has to spend time evaluating and learning about the features and benefits of a product.
So, instead of focusing on how to maximize the number of new clients that you need, the focus should be on keeping your clients for longer and getting more business from each of them over time. The acquisition cost is much lower, per sale, than that for new clients.
It's back to the old days, when merchants had a limited supply of customers and worked to get the maximum revenue from each one. Except that now, with technology, advisors can put this old world thinking together with the ability to dramatically grow their client base to improve their future prospects for success.
To elaborate a little more on this return to the one to one
marketing approach, we need to focus on four things when selling
1. increasing our "share of wallet." Figure out which needs you can satisfy, then use the knowledge you have, and the trust you've built, to make that additional sale.
2. increasing the longevity of client relationships. Invest money in client retention,
because it's a small fraction of the cost of acquiring a new client.
3. increasing the range of our product offerings to existing clients. By being client-focused instead of product-focused, or company-focused, an advisor can increase their offerings, thus increasing share of wallet.
4. creating an interactive relationship that leads to meeting more of our client's needs. It's a cycle. By constantly offering the client an incentive to give more information the advisor can offer more products to each client.
This technique isn't easy. If it were, then everyone would do it. It requires an investment in technology, along with the commitment to do it right. It puts you under more pressure as well, because as each client becomes more valuable to you, the cost of losing one increases.
Permission Marketing demands that in addition to looking at the past, we now look to the future. The challenge facing most companies is that they notice people's interest too late to be able to meet their needs.
Like caterpillars turning into Monarch butterflies, prospects
go through a five step cycle:
4. Loyal Clients;
5. Former Clients.
Permission Marketing is a first cousin to one to one marketing. In one to one marketing the process begins with the first sale. In Permission marketing the process begins with the very first contact.
Permission Marketing works to turn strangers into friends and friends into clients. One to one marketing uses the very same techniques, incorporating knowledge, frequency, and relevance, to turn customers into repeat customers. One to one doesn't compete with Permission Marketing. It's part of the same continuum. The one to one marketer takes the permission that's been granted after someone becomes a customer and uses that permission to create even better customers. The better the permission, the more profit created.
You can't build a one to one relationship with a client unless the client explicitly agrees to the process. Everything from discovering a need for life insurance to designing an estate plan requires an overt agreement from both sides.
By measuring the amount of permission you have from each client (one may allow you to make recommendations to be implemented while another may let you call them once a year), you can begin to track the return on your investment in Permission Marketing. By focusing on how much permission you have from your existing clients, you can begin to recognize the value of your permission as an asset.
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