Let’s Meet in April

From the "I wish I'd written down who told me this" department: A friend of my mystery source runs a successful and expanding insurance agency who tells this story: "A guy called me in January and said, 'My P&C insurance policy renews in February, would you like to quote on it?' I said, 'Let's set up a meeting in early April.' He replied, 'But my insurance policy renews in February!'

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘You get that taken care of and let’s meet in April and have a conversation about the risks in your business model and strategies to address them.’ Or words to that effect.

So what does this mean? Clearly, the insurance agent is NOT doing business with quotes and RFPs. In fact, he’s willing to let this year’s P&C policy renewal go (a bit of a shock to the business owner who called him) in order to have a more strategic conversation with the owner.

His view is: If I pursue P&C for a price, I’ve completely undermined my positioning as someone with valuable expertise, someone who can help business owners think strategically about the MANY different risks they address, well beyond P&C, and I miss my chance to sell a package of insurance products and operational change advice that will address the businesses’ challenges and develop a value-based relationship.

This type of scenario plays out in many industries — consulting, banking, office products, computer technology. Clients and prospects call, looking for a price. “We want to do X, how much will you charge us to do that?” We want sales training. We want a loan. We want 15 computers for our sales force. Typically, they’ll call 3 – 5 potential vendors.

If we take that bait and run with it, we end up asking questions like, “How many do you need, where do you need them, and what color do you want?” Or, “what’s your renewal date, what are you currently paying, and what coverages do you have?” Or, “What’s your rate, who’s your attorney, and when do you want to close?” And we offer up “solutions by the pound for a price.”

However, if we’re solutions providers selling knowledge, expertise, and products to generate a result, we need to consider the “Let’s meet in April” strategy. If the prospective buyer says, “no, gee, I really just wanted a quote,” they’re probably not the right client for us. If the prospect says, “gee, that’s interesting, what business risks are you thinking about,” it’s possible we’re talking to someone who could think at a higher level about risk and be receptive to our value.

Does this mean “no RFPs?” No. It means that we need to understand among other things whether we’re in a “lowest quote wins” competition or whether the buyers are looking a provider who can help them tease apart and address the issues that will help them USE the products they buy to generate a better result. This is rarely done by in “product by the pound” scenarios.

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