Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Selling Skills for Insurance Brokers

I have recently been running a Selling Skills for Insurance Brokers for TACK International in the historic Rookery Hall, Worleston Cheshire – part of the handpicked hotels group –

 The original house was bought by one Baron Von Schroder in 1867 the son of the founder of the Merchant Banker John Henry Schroder whose name is still to be seen in the City of London.  

 In more recent times Rookery Hall was selected by  football legend and Pop star Mr and Mrs David Beckham for their engagement party.
(There is even room to land your helicopter on the lawn at Rookery Hall!)
Nowadays Rookery Hall is an elegant Hotel and Spa.

 We were looked after brilliantly.  The venue has very comfortable rooms, excellent conference facilities Wi-Fi that worked , Plasma Screens for PowerPoints etc. The food was of first class standard both at break out times and the main meals of lunch and dinner.
Set in 38 acres of gardens and parkland with some mature and beautiful oak trees. The park lands are fringed by the river Weaver.
To the rear of the old house a super terrace overlooking a large fountain and lawn and lovely flower beds.  In the evening of the first day we enjoyed drinks on the terrace soaking up the sunshine warmth of the early autumn.

The delegate group came from Brokers based from Leeds, Harrogate, Peterborough Wolverhampton ,Birmingham and locally from the Crewe area .

 Some specialising in Marine, Health and Safety other in more general commercial insurance- focusing on SME sector selling Professional Indemnity Director and  Officers Liability insurance, policies to cover assets earnings and legal liabilities retailer insurance, landlord insurance.
The Commercial Insurance world has changed considerably over the years as have the demands of their clients. Clients are more knowledgeable today that in times past. They source information and budgets at the touch of a PC key.

Some of the objectives of the programme included the following:-
  • The 5 aspects of Influence that Brokers need to consider with their clients

           Assess your own selling style and adapt it to suit your customers

           Apply TACK’s research into clients’ likes and dislikes when dealing with salespeople

           Apply a proven sales structure and process during every future sales scenario

           Plan your calls professionally

           Sell by setting clear objectives

           Research and target the right prospects and customers to generate the best results

(Acorns on the lawn at Rookery Hall. 'From little acorns mighty oaks grow'
so it is with the 'acorns' of selling skills.)
           Gain and retain your clients’ attention

           Ask value driven questions to fully understand your customers’ needs

           Apply the concept of ‘YOU Appeal®’ ensuring the customer is your focus at all times during the sales process

           Motivate customers by applying TACK’s Offer Analysis© technique

        Dealing with Challenging Client types

           Respond to and manage objections confidently and professionally

           Deploy key strategies for winning business and gaining customer commitment

           Close every sales conversation on a positive objective

           Keep developing your client relationships for long term and profitable business
Today’s insurance account executive has to be not only qualified and work to give best advice in line with the regulations of the professional bodies like the FSA but have to earn the right to be appointed that of trusted adviser. Gone are the days where was gained renewal business was just a rubber stamping affair which could carry on for five or six years.


The delegates worked very well right from the start. The course fizzed from the opening introduction sessions. The programme looked at the critical importance of influence in a professional intangible service such as commercial insurance.
(Team exercise ( Construction sector) James scribing with Matt, Harjit and Robert putting in their 'two penneth worth ')

                                          ( Nick in discussion with Steven detailing out their offer analysis for a differentiated value proposition to a nominated client.)

Although there are fine points of difference in most commercial insurance packages the importance of handling professional relationships is vitally important in this sector. Presenting detailed policies with clarity, impact and in a motivating way sets in motion the building of relationships between professional trusted advisor and client.

With the entry of professional social networks such as Linked In clients are to search out broker supplier profiles and likewise brokers as part of their research planning and preparation analyse both clients websites as well as the key people in a Client Company they need to deal with. They source information like Kompass , Dun and Bradstreet  etc. and also sites like Risk Disk

Broker executives need to ask both technical and statutory questions in order to offer advice yet need to do this in a conversational but business-like manner.

As well refining our sales processes we reviewed the way our current communication and messages are conducted to the client.

Action Plans gathered  -the course  delegates left full of ideas and focus  departed to implement their learning take aways back in their own markets.
For  comments from delegates from this course scroll down to 'what the clients say' section on this link

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Metro newspaper's ECOVELOCITY low carbon motor show the future

Sales and Marketing have much to thank the car industry and its contribution the profession of selling. Whether it be for those who still travel to their clients or exhibitions via a car or through many of the aspects of selling skills that have their roots in the automobile industry.

On the 8th of March  1911 Ford opened their office in Shaftsbury Avenue-Piccadilly, London. The history of public motoring in UK has changed enormously from those early days.

Henry Ford's production oriented sales model communicated to his customers was you can have it (the Model T) in 'any colour so long as its black'.
Soon to follow was Alfred Sloan ( General Motors) with his  product range of ascending price and luxury ( Buick, Pontiac, Chevrolet , Cadillac)  whose origins you can still identify in the big manufacturers of today.

Last week it was the turn of  Ecovelocity the low carbon motor show in London to show off the industry's new wares.
Ford  their Focus Titanium X 1.6 TDCI, Focus Zetec 1.6 TDCI, Fiesta ECOnetic 1.6 TDCI, 5-MA Titanium X sport 1.6 TDCI, Mondeo Ttanium 1.6 TDCI and C-MAX Grand Titanium 1.6 TDCI

Vauxhall ( General motors in UK) displayed their HydroGen4 fuel cell car, the Ampera extended range electric car, and the low emission Corsa ecoFlex. The Ampera will be launched in 2012.

Peugeot brought the worlds first full diesel hybrid 3008 HYbrid4 already pre-ordershave been placed at the show.

There is something both iconic  about the Battersea Power Station site ( Europes's largest brick building) and ironic ( Battersea is a decommissioned coal-fired power station -presumably a high carbon output in its day belched out of those huge towers) yet it was the chosen site for the 2011 low carbon motor show.

But then Ecovelocity was a very different sort of motor show. The public visitor profile was high family and I guess those motorists who have decided to do their ethical bit by looking to buy a eco car or van.

So rather than the usual tawdry glitz of female models in various state of undress sprawling over the bonnets of the cars; you had an outdoor show something like a cross between a county show, a car lot  and a silent go kart track.

Indeed there were queues  for the the two driving experiences on offer for 5-11 year olds and 11-17 year olds. The track parades were so different as the cars whispered by.

It is amazing to see the wealth of  sales offerings now in this sector. There were over fifty different models on display. As Metro's motoring editor James day wrote in the show brochure
" ..Going green doesn't just mean embracing electric; there are petrol hybrids, diesel-hybrids, plug-in hybrids, hydrogen fuel cells. bio fuels and even standard petrol and diesel engines producing 99g/km of CO2 or less."

Even the likes of Ferrari and Porsche and Jaguar are getting into the Eco business.
Britain must be one of the first countries to set legally binding ‘carbon budgets’. The Department of Energy & Climate (DECC) estimates
25% of the UK’s carbon emissions could be attributed to the transport industry.
39 % to electrical supply industry
17% to residential use
16% to business consumption.

Along with the environmentally responsible reasons to sell and buy Eco cars the impact of road tax, congestion charges and parking fees have gone. The Government  is due to knock thousands off the price of a new car and electricity is cheaper than fossil fuels.

With public transport prices rising the car is once again in vogue.

Along with the driving tracks , energy supply, charging point systems - there were also Art installations.
Sonic Forest consists of 16 aluminium poles contain audio speakers, lights and photo electric-cells. Layered on top is a series of programmed harmonic drones as well as rhythmic loops generated with Ableton LIVE. As one touches theses 'electronic trees' you trigger off both musical and environmental sounds.

It drew people of all ages to become spontaneous performers

Visitors were drawn to play the 'Sonic forest '- notice the  'Stig' no longer in his white racing overalls but in colourful flower patterns.
Sonic forest
Having also exhibited at this year's Glastonbury music Festival, Christopher Janney's Art Installation will be next shown at the Bournemouth Lights festival.

Some of the cars and vans on show:



The Bluebird electric

The Bluebird electric is to be driven by the grandson of Sir Malcolm Campbell MBE- Don Wales in an attempt before 2013 to exceed 500 mph.  Don currently holds the UK land speed record for electric vehicles at 137 mph which he achieved in Bluebirds electric in August 2000


                                                   Schneider electric stand exhibit

Creative recycling of  car parts

Rubber Crocodile made from used tyres


Track at ecovelocity with the Battersea Power Station overlooking.

 A final note:

An Eco friendly hearse for your eco responsible willow coffin. Brahms electric hearses . The brochure stated " Green funerals are a way of celebrating our lives  and our personal values. Electric hearses can signal to our children and grandchildren to take care ahead as the era of cheap oil ends."

Video clip taken from the pedestrian bridge over the What Car Parade test track

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Unanswered questions and asking those we dare not ask - have we forgotten how to sell?

There are no answers
And the one
You already
Don’t have
Is it.

(Benjamin Dean short-zen-poems)
The above short poem and  photo of the sculpture  both are examples of a Koan.

A koan consists of a story, dialogue, question, or statement, the meaning of which cannot be understood by rational thinking but may be accessible through intuition.
 One widely known kōan is "Two hands clap and there is a sound; what is the sound of one hand?" -oral tradition attributes this to Hakuin Ekaku, 1686–1769.
The White Koan, situated directly outside the main entrance of Warwick arts centre, is a modern art sculpture designed by the artist Lilian Lijnt.
This week  within the Arts centre of the University of Warwick campus  the British Human Genetics Conference 2011 was held.  The Warwick Arts centre has been a buzz with the Scientists presenting papers, debating in seminars trying to seek the seemingly intractable challenges and wonders of DNA and RNA.

Sponsoring some of the talks, the industry held  an exhibition where the Biotech industry - suppliers, distributors, equipment manufacturers , genetic related charities, were engaged. Visitors to the stands  engeaged in conversations . Sponsorship by Nanostring Technologies and Agilent Technologies acknowledge with special thanks by BHBC.

To encourage delegates to visit the trade exhibition stands, the registration desk issued registrants with an incentive to win a HP mini Netbook. On a pocket sized card were 41 circles with the names of the exhibitor organisations.

The card read " Go and TALK to the exhibitors and collect a sticker- match up with the circles - the person with the most will win the HP netbook. Don't forget  to put your name and contact information  and registration number and hand it to the registration desk  by 1.00 on Wednesday 7 ( last day of the conference). The winner will be announced after the the  BSHG lecture  (last lecture of the conference) If there is a tie, then a draw will take place."

Various parties  were asking each other many questions on their forefront their scientific work e.g.  " Next Generation Sequencing - what's happening now?  and Genetics Clinical Research studies asking  " How can we help you".

So there was much SELLING going on whether they might have consciously acknowledged it or not.
For detailed reports, British Society for Human Genetics

Scarman House Re-fit

Meanwhile over at Scarman House just five minutes away TACK International were running their Solution Based Selling programme.

The Scarman House premises are undergoing a refurbishment programme. The refit of the coffee lounges nearly complete with upgrading of certain bedrooms going on for the next few weeks.

Below Coffee point and  the spaciouss lounge at Scarman
Scarman House refurbished lounge

The lunches are excelent both in the range and quality of food at both Scarman and Radcliffe. The dining is of a very high standard despite the large numbers that the kitchen has had to deal with. during the lunch time. 

Scarman House is also a great place  place to meet up with friends and clients.

 I was able to catch up with trainer colleague Emma Steward who been running a creativity course over in the sister building Radcliffe. So we had a good chat at the end of the day.

Also bumped into Paul Hayden who was running a coaching programme  in another part of the site.

It was good to meet  with Simon Cooper who was leading the Solution Based Selling course , Neil Parry and Sales Director of TACK International Carole Hudson. We  have not  all worked together since a job earlier in the year in Selville.

Solution Based Selling: The TACK model consists of the following elements

  • Create rapport and trust
  • Identify customer needs and priorities
  • Create and design solution 
  • Present differentiated value proposition
  • Negotiate terms and conditions
  • Implement solution, evaluate and develop.
One of significant changes from Traditional Selling to  a Solution based selling mo has been a change of style from telling and informing clients through presentation to a listening approach the client solve their problem. Nowadays Clients have  the Internet where they can access masses of information- indeed there is information overload.

So the Solution Based Seller is there to listen and ask really good questions to help the clients develop and solve their . TACK employ a drill down questioning process.

1st level

Factual- situation-circumstance

2nd level

Issue or Concern- Problem
3rd level

Net Effect- Implication- Consequence
4th level

Develop Solutions - Conclusion

Maybe with the rise of Account development and Sales Processes CRM systems and the like are not enough because we must lose sight of the sale.

Thinking back to the Koan - there are unanswered questions not only in the fields of philosophy  and genetics but also in selling. We still need to have the chutspah ask the "answerable questions"  ( see also Dave Kurlan 10 mistakes sales people make see

On the Solution Based Selling Course one delegate reminded us all about sometimes asking the questions we  dare not ask.  We had been discussing those challenging situations when business relationships has become bogged down and looking for ideas from the group as other approaches.

The delegate described how he had had a situation where he felt he had tried everything with this client with an competitor of his as the incumbent  so he asked out boldly question no 1. below. And it worked!

Such directness is risky but when you have covered the bases and you seem to be treading water sometimes that reticence -  that fear of rejection dissolves our courage . 

Perhaps we have lost our way in selling due to the drive for models , Sales processes,  CRM -  Account Management, the tools of Selling 2.0 but have got a bit too prod to ASK for THE BUSINESS.

So here are ten questions we used to be a little braver to ask again.
  1. What makes you scared of taking the decision?
  2. What do we have to do to get your business?
  3. We've been working on this for a long time now, why exactly won't you give me a chance?
  4. Can we go ahead?
  5. Do you have the authority to decide?
  6. Why is it taking so long to take the decision?
  7. So why won't you buy from us?
  8. Why don't we get some dates in the diary?
  9. What are you actually prepared to spend with us?
After any of these then just shut up. Don't eye ball but look them straight in the eyes for a few moments and then look down but keep quiet.


Paul Hayden at Scarman House ( Lounge Bar)

Simon Cooper  - Scarman House ( Lounge Bar)

Neil Parry in the training room at Scarman

Saturday, 3 September 2011

The changing business landscape ,Selling and Social Networking – Implications for Employment relations in the era of Modern Selling 2.0

(Photos of garden  landscaping exhibits at British Museum, National Gallery and the Museum of Garden History )
Of the many changes in the selling landscape are the different ways that we try to divide up our lives – work/life balance.

We used to consider there was a clear difference between social, work and domestic life.

It is hard to beleive that one used to  asked the boss for permission to make a telephone call from the office to home. BMP (before mobile phones) a ‘road warrior ‘salesperson one regularly asked permission to use a customer’s phone to phone in orders , queries etc.

In some research* ( scroll down to end for link) this year I have been involved with, a quarter of Sales Managers with direct reports consider they have the right to call their sales team both within and beyond working hours. We live in an increasingly 24/7 world.

(Australian landscape outside the British Museum )

The three segments of work, social and domestic life are now merging into just two - on-line or off-line environments. In some ways with the proliferation of mobile smart phones it seems to me to becoming a world of ‘ eyes down on line- eyes up face to face’.

Employment relations expert Acas has recently drawn up guidelines to help businesses, staff and trade unions agree how to handle the use of the Internet, blogs and social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter inside and outside of work.

The ACAS/ Institute for Employment Studies Research study considers

1. How extensive is the use of social media in UK workplaces?

2. What challenges and opportunities do social media present for
management of employment relations?

3. What does good practice in this area look like?  Research paper

The number of people logging onto Facebook at work has ‘rocketed’ in the last ten years. Current estimates stand at 6 out of ten using the site during working hours.

Unwisely some people post derogatory comments about managers, colleagues or their company on their page.
John Taylor , Chief executive of Acas stipulates that “ On line conduct should not differ from offline conduct.”
“Employees should assume that everything they say on the Internet could be made public and should think whether they want their colleagues or boss to read it.”
Wall landscape of grasses outside National Gallery ,London )
“They might not mean it but what they post could end up being seen by billions of people worldwide”

“If an employer is too tough, it needs to consider the potential impact might cause bad feeling and be time consuming.”

Taylor adds: “Importantly, many companies want their employees to be up to date and comfortable with Internet working, as social media sites are increasingly a key part of business and marketing. Firms need to bear this in mind.”

Research by Spring Technology has shown that almost a quarter of the UK check their work emails at least once a day while supposedly taking time off.


For sales of course, we may have an employer boss but we also have a client who is our boss.
Indeed some argue now that customers are increasingly the ‘owner of our brand’.

Much as salespeople in their meeting preparation may Google to research about their clients and prospects so of course Buyers in their research or out of curiosity will Google us!

Similarly Buyers might look at face book, Linked In ,Twitter, Blogs and You tube traffic about potential Suppliers and their representatives.

Of course we cannot protect that easily what other people say about us and most clients will distinguish what may be gossip about us -  but they will certainly judge as to how we talk about our company and our clients in social media etc.

As products and services become more commoditised the UPOD (Unique Point of difference) may come down to whether we are to be trustworthy in the eyes of the web surfing client.
(The Knot Garden, Museum of Garden History, London with in the background the tomb (right) of John Tradescant the elder  c1570-1638 and his son also John 1608-1662. Both great gardeners, plant gatherers and collectors who also created a Museum called The Ark at their house in the parish of St- Mary-at –Lambeth. )

Part of that picture of trust  we build up is in both our corporate and personal brand image held on social media- LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, You tube, Blogs….

Perhaps Sales managers should consider adapting the ACAS guidelines to the Sales management and sales policy area.

Acas Recommendations

1: All employers should have a policy on Internet/social
media use.
2: An Internet/social media use policy must set out
clearly and explicitly the organisation’s expectations of and definitions of
acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, and the consequences of
violation. These should be consistent with disciplinary procedures and
cross-refer to them.
3: The policy on Internet/social media use need not be
complicated – the main message that online conduct should not differ
from offline conduct, with reference to existing conduct guidelines, may
4: The policy on Internet/social media use should be
drawn up in consultation with staff, either through their representatives,
if present, or directly, if no representatives are present.
5: A policy on Internet use needs to be communicated.
6: Organisations should make sure that there are
adequate mechanisms for employees to raise formal and informal
7: Organisations may wish to consider how they can
reap the business benefits of social networking.
8: Employers will need to keep up to date in
developments in employment law relating to social media.
9: Employers need to consider reviewing policies on
Internet use/social media on a regular basis.

Links relating to this post   Social Networking and How to develop a policy
Go to  for more details on Acas's guidance including practical tips for employers  Research paper

*The full research study -state of Sales Management in 2011  will be presented at the ISMM forum September 29th in Cheadle- De Vere Cheadle House, Royal Cresent, Cheadle Royal Business Park, Cheadle, Cheshire. SK8 3FS . Either book online or contact June Kelly at