Strategy & Execution

Your Effective Discovery Process

The first and most important part of your diagnostic, consultative process is discovery.  In this step, you are systematically uncovering the risk issues of your prospects before you move to step 2 – strategies to manage these risks.  An essential goal is to allow the prospect to make an informed decision to work with you, in an atmosphere where you can listen first, then apply solid and professional risk management solutions.  This mindset will differentiate you from your competition and create value for your prospect or client.

Executing the discovery process starts the minute you establish rapport with your prospect.  If you rush through step 1, your client will not be responsive with answers to probing about his or her pain points.  In other words, your prospect won’t tell you his or her deepest problems and fears unless you have first established a level of trust.

Seven suggested components of your discovery process should include:

  1. Personal greeting, credibility statement and value proposition
  2. Establish rapport
  3. Manage expectations through an action plan
  4. Determine the depth of relationship with the incumbent agent or broker
  5. Determine your ability to interact with senior leaders of the firm
  6. Assess prospect’s motivation to work with you
  7. Determine how to move into developing strategies (the second step)

During the discovery process, you’ll find that if you spend 80% of the meeting listening, you will naturally develop a healthy rapport.  It demonstrates to your prospect that you are sincerely interested in them and their business.  Focus on learning about the goals, passions, and struggles your prospect is facing both personally and professionally.  Listen carefully to the answers and thoughtfully respond.  The more information you can gather, the better position you are in to garner trust and respect.

Begin the discovery process by asking open-ended rather than simple yes/no questions.  Yes/no questions begin with the words: are, is, can, would, will, or do.  Consider big picture questions such as:

“What do you see as the strengths of your business?”

“If we are sitting here three years from today looking back, what does success look like?”

“What keeps you awake at night?”

When your prospect answers these questions and you need to explore more thoroughly, ask, “Can you tell me a little more about …?”  These three questions will greatly enhance your discovery process.  They will also enable you to learn more about your prospect’s business and to establish a deeper, more meaningful relationship.

In the discovery process — your first meeting with a prospective client — it’s important to learn when and how to walk away if someone is a poor fit for your unique process.  Not only is walking away a technique, it’s also supported by your mindset, tone, and manner.  You set the tone during the discovery process by being selective in your qualification standards. As you know, walking away is one of hardest things you have to do.   It’s human nature – most of us do not like confrontation and we don’t like telling people no.  Because we want people to like us, walking away conflicts with that desire.

If you never learn to say “no”, you are setting yourself up for frustration and disappointment as well as wasted time, effort, and resources spent on prospects who may never turn into clients.  It is essential that you manage your efforts and focus on prospects with the highest probability of success.

So how do you strike the balance between persistence and knowing when to walk away?

You need to establish a criteria filter – or guidelines of where, when, and how you determine the likelihood this prospect will actually become a client.

The Reach Your Peak program introduces a Prospect Qualification Filter based on three criteria:

  1. Understanding the depth of the relationship with the incumbent agent or broker
  2. Gaining access to the prospect’s management team
  3. Determining the decision-maker’s enthusiasm for your unique process

The Prospect Criteria Filter is built using a signal-light metaphor:  red (stop), yellow (caution) and green (go).  If you get three green lights, go full speed ahead.  If you encounter a yellow light, proceed with caution and perform due diligence before committing time and resources.  If you get a red light, your time, confidence, reputation and money are at risk.  With red-light situations, you must use your best judgment to determine quickly if this prospect worth the investment of your time and energy.

Understand that walking away does not mean you’ll never do business with this prospect.  It simply states that right now, the prospect is not a good fit for you.  Move on to other prospects who have a higher probability of turning into long-term clients.

When do you decide to walk away?

Last week we spoke about the power of walking away.  This week, let’s address the issue of getting rolled by the incumbent! The number one criteria for assessing the viability of a lead is the prospect’s relationship with his or her incumbent.  Yet many professionals have difficulty determining this relationship.

How often have you been asked to provide a competitive bid because the prospect wants to “keep the incumbent honest?”  Has a prospect ever given the incumbent last look at your proposal to get a lower price?  If you winced at the answers to these questions, you must understand how important it is that you determine your prospect’s relationship with his or her incumbent agent or broker.

Before you invest your time, money, reputation, or other resources into a prospect, learn about the incumbent before you arrive at the first meeting.  Look them up on Facebook and LinkedIn.  Ask your carrier marketing rep and centers of influence if they have knowledge.

Learn what their strengths and weaknesses are, their level of experience, their specialties or niches.  Determine what others think the incumbent does well and what they may lack.

Once you are armed with this information, ask the prospect one or more of these questions during the first meeting:

  • “How long have you been with your existing agent or broker? What attracted you to them?”
  • “What role does your agent or broker play in your insurance and risk management program?”
  • “How well does your agent or broker know your business and the risk issues facing your organization?”
  • “Do you consider your agent or broker as a trusted advisor and at the same professional level as your CPA or attorney?”
  • “What does your agent or broker say to underwriters to leverage positive aspects of your business?”
  • “On a referability index of 0 (not referable) to 10 (highly referable), where does your current agent or broker stand?”
  • “Have you obtained any alternative proposals over the last five years? If so, why didn’t you move your business?”
  • “What would cause you to move?”

By developing a system to gauge the relationship between the incumbent and your prospect, you’ll be well on your way to a better new business hit ratio, and you won’t risk wasting your time, confidence, reputation, and money on non-productive prospecting.

What questions do you ask to determine the incumbent’s relationship with a prospect?

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