Sales & Marketing Discipline

  • Posted on June 25, 2017
  • by John Scranton

BusinessEvery great company has a key defining concept.  Something that is woven into the fabric of people, products and culture.  For example, 3M strives to use innovative technology and imagination to improve the daily lives of people (  This concept becomes obvious when reviewing their history and how the company operates each day.  The immense challenge for businesses who want to achieve tremendous success like 3M, is to define that key concept – and then to make all decisions in alignment with that concept.

Successful sales cultures are often built the same way.  A truly honest assessment of how your sales time is spent, and the associated results, can be a very enlightening exercise.  Who is your best client or customer?  How did you find them?  How much of your time are you spending trying to repeat that same process?  How much time are you wasting with less productive initiatives or people who are less likely to buy?

Here are a few steps to help you complete this exercise:

  1. Define your Idea Prospect – Use your best customer as an example.  Who are they?  How big are they?  What does their industry and client base look like?
  2. Determine your Most Effective Marketing Tools – What marketing initiatives provide the best results?  Where do your closes come from?  What is producing the right kind of prospects?
  3. Refine your Marketing Plan– Once the above two items are clearly and honestly defined, make sure your marketing plan is directed at repeating the process.  Refine the plan so that it is accurately aligned with your findings.
  4. Stop doing Everything Else – This is a hard one.  But to achieve the 3M type of success mentioned earlier, it is required.  Throw away everything else that does not fit, and only spend time pursuing your best prospects and executing your most effective marketing campaigns.

It sounds simple, but if it was easy everyone would already be doing it – maintain focus on your best prospects and best marketing channels.  As your discipline to this concept increases, your results will improve dramatically.

Originally Posted on September 20, 2010 by John Scranton

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Sales & Marketing Tip of the Day: Narrow Your Focus

  • Posted on June 6, 2017
  • by John Scranton

What services do you provide?  Why would people want to do business with you?  How are you better than the next guy?

These simple questions are much too difficult for many agency executives to answer.  The answers are clouded by the abstract concepts and strategies we read in the trade magazines explaining how to mask the fact that we are selling insurance.  The quandary is further complicated for those who are striving to be everything to everyone – and are at risk of being nothing to no one.

The fastest and most effective path to cleaning the dust off of your value proposition and finding your true mission as a salesperson or producer is to narrow your focus.  Keep throwing the darts at the 20 until you can consistently hit your target.  Only then should you consider going for the 19’s, 18’s or bulls-eye.

StartUpSelling provides marketing solutions to insurance agencies.  Our deep industry expertise allows us to understand the challenges our clients face and to create effective solutions.  Our virtual model allows us to deliver a compelling value and responsive service.

Those are my responses to questions above.  Delivered from memory as fast as I can type.  They are easy to answer, because we have a highly focused sales and marketing strategy.

Originally Posted on May 14, 2012 by John Scranton


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Sales & Marketing Tip of the Day: Refresh Your Prospect List

  • Posted on June 2, 2017
  • by John Scranton

Insurance Agency Email MarketingRefreshing your prospect list and your prospect email list will often uncover low hanging fruit, ripe for the picking.  In my case, this could be a new VP Marketing or VP Sales at a large agency who needs web marketing help and simply is not yet aware of all the available resources.  In the case of an agency producer, a refresh might turn up a new VP HR or CFO who happens to want to shop their employee benefits to prove their worth and has no loyalty to the current broker.  A list refresh can be a cost effective way to quickly open a dialogue with new prospects.

Originally Posted on May 9, 2012 by John Scranton

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Sell more & Work LessIn Sell More & Work Less, we talk about asking the “hard questions” during the sales process.  These are questions that many business people are reluctant to ask because they can be uncomfortable and seen as aggressive.  They include questions like:

  • Is there budget allocated for this project?
  • How does your purchasing process work?
  • Do you have a target date to implement this solution?

Those do not look like difficult questions to pose to a prospect.  In fact, if you have established even a modest level of rapport, you should be able to inquire about these topics without apprehension, and you are likely to receive honest answers.

Understanding if (budget), how (process) and when (target date) a prospect is going to purchase will allow you to focus on those who can buy.  Allocating your time and resources effectively, based on the answers to these “hard questions”, will result in more business.

Originally Posted by John Scranton on January 26, 2012

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sell-more-work-lessIn our new book Sell More & Work Less, we talk about calling and emailing high and wide.  By calling high we mean calling the top level executives.  By calling wide we mean reaching out to several contacts, including some who may not have titles you think directly apply to your opportunity.  When you combine this method with an integrated marketing campaign, the results are often compelling.  In fact, our business has achieved record growth over the past two years using this exact formula.  Here is an example:

I emailed the C-level executives of an organization I thought would be a great fit for our solutions.  The CEO opened my email several times, so I called and left him a voice mail.  A week or so later, a member of his marketing staff filled out the form on our website and asked for a meeting.  We met with the team the following week, and during the meeting they mentioned receiving my emails and reading a book our CEO had published.  We reach them with a multi-dimensional integrated campaign, and I called high and emailed wide.  They became a client shortly thereafter.

Integrated Marketing + Calling and Emailing High and Wide = More Business.

Originally Posted January 19, 2012 by John Scranton

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What a Contractor is Teaching me About Great Customer Service

  • Posted on April 4, 2017
  • by John Scranton

Picture1Whenever I have a commercial interaction, I try to glean a few insights into why it was enjoyable or why it was annoying.  My most recent endeavor has been the engagement of a contractor to make some home improvements.  As my wife and I researched vendors we heard many horror stories of dishonest contractors delivering a shoddy product or poor customer service.  So far the product appears to speak for itself, and I have noticed a few things that make the service superior:

  1. They Never Bother Me – Working virtually, I am in the same building, so it would be easy for the contractors to interrupt me to ask questions or review specifications.  They never do.  The only interactions I have with them are on my terms.  Imagine if this was the case on a car lot?  How can you avoid bothering your clients?
  2. They Deliver a Little Extra – One of the contractors noticed the felt pads on the feet of some of my kitchen chairs had worn off.  Replacing them will require a $5 purchase and 10 minutes of labor.  This is an infinitesimal task relative to the project scope, but it makes my life just a little easier at no additional charge.  What extra value can you deliver to your clients?
  3. They Simplify Billing – We only meet once per week to talk about money.  On Fridays I pay for what has been completed and they tell me what will be completed the following week and what the cost will be.  There are no surprises.  This relieves any anxiety I might have about the financial plan for the project.  What are your clients prospects worried about?

Originally Posted November 30th, 2011 by John Scranton

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10 More Business Quotes Worth Reading

  • Posted on March 30, 2017
  • by John Scranton
  1. All lasting business is built on friendship. – Alfred A. Montapert
  2. Be candid with everyone. – Jack Welch
  3. Our favorite holding period is forever. – Warren Buffet
  4. Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing. – Thomas Jefferson
  5. I buy when other people are selling. – J. Paul Getty
  6. A lot of companies have chosen to downsize, and maybe that was the right thing for them. We chose a different path. Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets. – Steve Jobs
  7. Business is a combination of war and sport. – Andre Maurois
  8. I am certainly not one of those who need to be prodded. In fact, if anything, I am the prod. – Winston Churchill
  9. And while the law of competition may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it ensures the survival of the fittest in every department. – Andrew Carnegie
  10. Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all. – Dale Carnegie

Originally Posted by John Scranton on November 1, 2011

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Speedometer90 days ago I purchased a new vehicle. This was the first car I acquired since I transitioned to a virtual business model, which made me wonder how this vehicle’s first few months as a member of my household compared to my last new car purchase, when I still followed the traditional sales model. Lets take a look at the numbers.

In the first 90 days that I owned my last vehicle, the mileage increased from 33 to 12,430. That is 4,100+ miles per month on the road a traveling salesman. My new vehicle has aged from 6 to 1,624 during the first 90 days of ownership. That represents a nearly 90% drop in miles driven per month.

Now let us explore how that translates to fuel costs. The traditional sales miles were covered in an economical sedan which averaged 27 MPG. 12,430 / 27 X $3.50 per gallon = $1,611 in fuel costs. Meanwhile, my virtual miles are driven in an SUV which averages 18 MPG. 1,624 / 18 X $3.50 per gallon = $316. This equates to $1,300 in my pocket, while making no mention of maintenance costs, even while driving a much less efficient vehicle.

This simple example illustrates just one of the many challenges created by a traditional sales model that puts people on the road. By leveraging a virtual model, people have more time to work and their businesses are significantly more profitable.

Originally Posted on October 10, 2011 by John Scranton

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The Perils of Jargon & The Power of Clear Communication

  • Posted on March 7, 2017
  • by John Scranton

Insurance Agency MarketingYesterday I had some repairs made to my ankle. I won’t share all the details, but to summarize, the procedure repaired old sports injuries and was invasive enough to require general anesthesia.

I spoke with two nurses, a physician’s assistant, anesthesiologist and surgeon prior to the operation.  Each of these people attempted to explain important information to me, however they spoke a foreign language: medicine.

Luckily they were each highly experienced professionals who had honed their communication skills. For example, the anesthesiologist reviewed his recommended strategy called “a block.” He elucidated the details of this jargon by analogizing the process to receiving novacane at the dentist. Jargon before, now clearly understood, and readily accepted (bought) by me as the best course of action.

During your sales process, consistently confirm that your prospect understands your communication and concepts  clearly.  Alliteration aside, ask yourself these questions. If you aren’t sure, ask your prospect.

  • Did you define industry jargon and technical terms in clear and simple language?
  • Did you use examples and stories that a common business person would understand?
  • Did you clearly elucidate how your solution would improve your prospects business?
  • Would your mother understand your value proposition and pitch?

A prospect will not buy a product, service or solution they do not understand.  The clarity of your communication can determine the success or failure of your deal.

Originally Posted by John Scranton on September 13, 2011

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Is Your Sales Process Too Complex?

  • Posted on March 1, 2017
  • by John Scranton

Insurance Agency SalesDuring my daily conversations with producers and managers, I am often reminded of the typical agency sales process. It can be cumbersome and often complex, leaving many opportunities for incremental progress to break down. Some agencies have found creative and intelligent ways to streamline the prospecting/quoting/presenting/closing flow. Others have not. Here is a scenario that is more typical than most organizations would like to admit:

  1. Producer prospects an account. Lets say it is a garage named Joe’s Auto Repair. He or she starts the conversation during a lunchtime oil change. They are open to a quote and a meeting is set for next week.
  2. During the car ride back to the office, the producer calls an account manager to see who is competitive for garages these days. He also calls his go-to company marketing rep who says he would love a garage risk.
  3. The producer then meets with the prospect and completes 98% of the applications, gathers the information needed to satisfy the required supplementals, and even obtains current loss runs. He drops off all the paperwork to his account manager and asks her to call the prospect in the morning for the remaining 2% of the information and then pass it off to marketing.
  4. The following week he returns from a CIC course and sees someone from marketing in the coffee room. He asks how the quotes for Joe’s Auto Repair are coming along and receives a quizzical look. Concerned, Mr. Producer heads over to see his account manager who says Joe has not returned two calls and she still does not have the information.
  5. Now time is running out. The producer drives over to Joe’s and learns that although he received the messages, he had not had a chance to calculate the percent of revenues generated at his primary location versus his uptown location. And since so much time has passed he was nervous and paid his renewal bill, in full. However, he would be happy to talk next year.

Whose fault is this?  The producer thought he covered his bases when he left for his CIC course. The account manager was simply following instructions. The marketing department could have still provided a quote but never saw the apps. Nobody was wrong, but every loses.

The problem is the complexity of the process. Simplify, remove barriers, share duties, allow all parties to interact and continually keep communication open. You will never win every sale, but it is better to lose to a worthy competitor than to beat yourself.

Originally Posted by John Scranton August 11, 2011

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