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Do you really think you are different?

Written By
Dave O'Brien

Zywave surveyed over 150 brokers awhile back, and we asked them what made them different. Overwhelmingly they responded that it is their people and their service. Excellent answers, after all, we are a people business. However, how good are we at illustrating this difference? Imagine 10 brokers in a row lining up to talk to a prospect. If they are all beating that drum, it makes it hard for a prospect to truly see the value.

I spent a few days in New Orleans at the Zywave User Conference awhile back. Believe me, brokers are fun people. Outgoing. Gregarious. (And downright scary when someone comes by with a tray of test tube shots.) I will tell you that if I have to compete on likability against a typical Zywave partner, I would be struggling.

However, I learned a lesson a few years ago when I almost lost a client. A new CFO came in (that right there could be a blog post on its own!) that had a relationship with another broker. Fortunately, I had a great relationship with the HR department so I was able to see the other broker’s proposal.  (By the way, here is a tip: Make sure your proposal says “this proposal is for ABC Company only and is not to be released to any outside parties without the express consent blah blah blah.” If it doesn’t, expect others to see it!) Anyway, here is what surprised me: My proposal was almost exactly the same as theirs. Not just the spreadsheet, but the whole proposal. Think that’s crazy? How different is the following from your standard proposal?

– Disclaimer page
– Table of contents
– Carrier list
– Potential page or two about firm
– Tabs on each line of coverage
– Summary of recommendations

Sure, there are some differences in layouts, colors, etc., but the overall premise is the same. Here I was, ready to go blabbing to the new CFO about what makes us good, and yet on paper I was underwhelmed. I’m not shy about asking for help so I picked up the phone and called a broker in Texas who is a Zywave partner that does incredible things for their clients. I know they spend a lot of time on their proposals and had won a lot of business because of them. What I learned was fairly obvious, yet incredibly powerful in producing results.

In order to differentiate, the first part of the proposal/presentation should be a section outlining all of the pain points that you have uncovered in your discussions with them. At the end of the proposal/presentation, you should include the solutions you have put together to solve their issues. Simply put, when we say it is our “people and service,” we need to illustrate exactly what that means. We need to go the extra mile and explain exactly how we are going to help them.

The simple truth is the prospect could care less about years of service, my background or what I believe makes my agency great. They care about themselves and their needs. So why do most proposals start out with agency marketing propaganda? Because we like to talk about ourselves. It’s like listening to the sales guy at the cocktail party saying, “Well, enough about me, let’s talk about you . . . what do you think about me?”

I think this is exceptionally important in today’s times. Employers are hurting and cutting back, and sales have dropped through the floor. Illustrate you understand their situation, and that you have the tools, talent, negotiating skills, etc., to help solve their problems. I know of one broker who recently picked up a very nice client utilizing this method. At the beginning of the presentation, he outlined “Goals” and went through everything he uncovered the group was trying to accomplish. By doing this, the goals became “his” as well and instantly he was on the same team. The end of the presentation he was outlining solutions and it became a working meeting.

Brokers in the survey have it right. It is the people that make the difference. Next presentation, show them how good you really are, and put the prospect first.

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