THE INITIAL PROSPECT INTERVIEW—
A THEATRICAL PERFORMANCE
WITH FIVE SCENES
Your interview is a structured, rehearsed,
and emotionally engaging production
By F. Scott Addis, CPCU, CRA, ACRA, TRA, ASA
Memorable theatrical performances just don’t happen. They take talent, planning, rehearsals, creativity, energy, passion, props, a compelling plot, and more. The actors spend countless hours visioning their performance as well as analyzing and adjusting verbal and non-verbal communication techniques. Why? Because the production must resonate with the audience. It must be a memorable performance that drives emotional engagement.
According to Rebecca Ray in “The Five Act Play,” plays originated in ancient Greece, and Aristotle was one of the first to suggest that plays should be structured into scenes. She explains that a scene is a unit of a story contained within a script. It features a brief situation and dialogue … actions happening in one place over time. One scene is marked off from the next by a curtain, a black-out, or emptying of the stage. In a theatrical performance, scenes are vital in sequencing or separating the narration of a story into manageable parts for the audience, the actors, and those who work backstage. The division of scenes ensures a good flow of the narration and makes the story memorable.
You are wise to view your initial prospect interview as a theatrical performance … a structured, rehearsed, and emotionally engaging production comprised of scenes and props. This article offers five scenes for a compelling prospect interview leading to action and results.
Scene 1—First meeting agenda. The first meeting agenda is a document that spells out the content and flow to the initial meeting. It lists the items to be attended to, sequenced in a manner that ensures that your story is clear, concise, and compelling. It communicates to the prospect that you are professional, value their time, and have an orderly plan to accomplish objectives. It is a statement that you are organized and serious about your game. It sets the stage for a memorable performance. And it lets you move from one scene to another as your story comes to life with a proper balance of speaking and active listening. If the prospect attempts to shift the focus of the session, you have a tool to delicately move them back to the appropriate scene.
Consider creating a standard first prospect meeting agenda that can be customized for each opportunity. No more complicated viewpoints, misinterpreted norms, and finish lines that are nowhere to be seen.
Scene 2—Their world. In this scene, you will listen, listen, listen. The second scene is all about the “discovery” of your prospect’s goals, passions, and struggles. For that reason, follow the 80/20 rule. Let your prospect speak at least 80% of the time while you speak only 20%. Whether a personal or business opportunity, tell the prospect that you would like them to fill the following buckets:
- Bucket 1—Strengths
- Bucket 2—Opportunities
- Bucket 3—Challenges
Each bucket has a specific purpose. Buckets one and two let you listen to the prospect speak in glowing terms about their business and/or family. In this scene, you will have a front-row seat as the prospect shares about accomplishments and future aspirations. Your willingness to actively listen in the second scene separates you from the competition and endears you to the prospect.
For the third bucket—challenges—ask questions like, “What keeps you up at night? What issues do you face that hinder your ability to capture future opportunities?” Here the prospect agonizes over issues, concerns, and challenges. Do not interrupt. Don’t try to solve their problems. Simply state, “Tell me more. How is this issue impacting your ability to achieve your objectives?”
Getting inside your prospect’s world is vitally important. Why? The single most important motivator in purchasing decisions is not data or facts. It is an emotional response. People buy when they feel comfortable, when they feel that they can trust you, and when your approach feels natural and reassuring. While you may take great pride in the “features and benefits” of your offering, it is imperative that you assess the degree to which you are able to stimulate the emotions of those whom you serve.
Memorable theatrical performances just don’t happen. … [It] must resonate with the audience. It must be a memorable performance that drives emotional engagement.
Scene 3—Value proposition. You have established an emotional connection in scene two. Yet, your prospect asks, “Okay, how do you create value for me?” In scene three you articulate your WHY … the reason for your professional existence. Your value proposition summarizes your unique offering and how it exceeds your competition’s. The ideal value proposition is concise and appeals to the prospect’s strongest decision-making drivers. It is an irresistible offer, an invitation so compelling and attractive that the prospect would be out of his or her mind to refuse your offer.
Your differentiated value proposition must go beyond functional product or service descriptions to express the result a prospect can expect to achieve. In formulating a value proposition, ask yourself the following questions:
- What does the prospect value?
- What are the biggest challenges facing the prospect?
- What unique abilities do I possess to assist the prospect with these issues?
- What will be the outcome if I can help the prospect overcome these challenges?
- Who is my competition, and what are they delivering?
- What can I provide that my competition cannot?
Frame your value proposition in the form of a process … a series of actions or steps taken to achieve a particular end. An effective process produces the right results consistently. A simplistic, five-step process (supported by the risk decision matrix) comes from The Institutes’ CPCU program and is outlined below:
As you deliver your value proposition remember the following:
- Value cannot be created unless you uncover the prospect’s business problem or issue.
- Value is in the eyes of the beholder. Your value proposition must be customized to the specific need(s) of each prospect.
- A value proposition based solely on product features, functions, performance, and pricing is not sustainable.
- Your true value lies outside the product or service that you are selling.
Scene 4—Prospect Qualification Filter. The concept of “scarcity” is the theme of scene four. Research confirms that people judge an offering as “high quality” if it is scarce. Scarcity sets the stage for the Prospect Qualification Filter (PQF)—a strategic tool to determine the degree to which a prospect meets your predetermined criteria. Simply put, the PQF facilitates your ability to confidently and consistently select prospects who “belong on your team.”
Three criteria stand above the rest:
- Understanding of the depth of the relationship with the incumbent agent or broker.
- Gaining access to the decision maker(s).
- Determining the decision maker’s enthusiasm for your value proposition.
Let the prospect know that you are selective. Consider wording such as, “I am honored to be here today and blown away by your accomplishments and future vision for success. I wish to deploy my unique process for you. Having said that, I am quite selective in handpicking engagements through the utilization of a qualification filter consisting of three criteria.”
Prospect Qualification Filter
The PQF is comprised of lights—red (stop), yellow (caution), and green (go). If you get three green lights, a new client is around the corner. If you encounter a yellow light, proceed with caution, and perform due diligence be-fore you commit time and resources. If you get a red light, stop. There are times to run a red light; however, it should be done only with the strong belief that you can turn the red light green.
Ask questions for each criterion. For example, for Relationships with Incumbent Questions, ask “Do you place your current agent or broker at the same level as your CPA or attorney?,” “On a referability index of 0 (low) to 10 (high), how referable is your current agent or broker?,” and “Does your current agent or broker know what keeps you up at night?”
For Access to Decision Makers, ask “May I assume that you have full authority to make decisions on risk management business partners who support you?” For “Enthusiasm for Value Proposition, ask “To what degree are you energized about my unique approach in addressing your insurance and risk management needs?”
Scene 5—Action plan. The final scene of your memorable performance is the action plan—a formal document that spells out the objectives, standards, and steps of your engagement. The plan should include the names of the people who are responsible for each action step and the timeframe for completion. You may also consider including signature boxes at the bottom of the plan whereby you and the prospect mutually agree to the execution of the plan.
The action plan is unique, memorable, and has high impact. It elevates your professional status and lets you gain firm control over the flow of your performance.
The initial prospect interview … a theatrical performance reserved for you!
Scott Addis is CEO of Beyond Insurance and an industry leader. His agency was recognized by Rough Notes magazine as a Marketing Agency of the Month, he was a Philadelphia finalist for Inc. Magazine’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” award, and was selected as one of the “25 Most Innovative Agents in America.”
Beyond Insurance is a consulting firm that offers leadership training, cultural transformation, and talent and tactical development for enlightened professionals who are looking to take their organization to the next level. Since 2007, the proven and repeatable processes of Beyond Insurance have transformed agencies as measured by enhanced org-anic growth, productivity, profitability, and value in the marketplace. To learn more about Beyond Insurance, contact Scott at email@example.com.