Negotiating comes with the territory for insurance agents, whether we like it or not. Whether we're being made to negotiate with clients, marketing staff, underwriters, or leads, it's part of the job each and every day. There are rates to negotiate. There are deadlines to revise. There is coverage to haggle over. And these are all just examples of negotiations with the people outside the 4 walls of our own business. There's also a certain amount of internal negotiations with staff to get what we need to be a successful small business.
When we trained for this job, no one sat us down and taught us the art of negotiation. What makes most of us successful at negotiation is probably what we've learned in our own personal relationships or as parents dealing with our children. The learning curves granted there are usually much more gracious than the ones you'll find when you're looking over a desk at a potential customer.
Never fear though, negotiation isn't impossible to learn from a business perspective. There are reliable ways to go about it. The basic principles include being preparation, positioning yourself wisely and having a well thought out strategy when entering a discussion you want to "win". If you're like most people, you're not a. fan of confrontation, which is what negotiation is at it's gentlest core. But once we're able to see that it's a necessary evil and a tool to help you improve the outcomes of many different and difficult conversations, you'll stop shying away from it and start using it to make a big difference in your business.
IF YOU'RE NOT PREPARED, YOU'VE ALREADY LOST. In order to enter into a negotiation fully prepared, you've got to take time to realize what the other person seeks to achieve. Next, you'll need to brainstorm a strategy that makes them feel that their needs and/or wants are being met. This means taking time to ask the right questions the way you would in a normal sales meeting when you're seeking to serve your client the best you can. Finding out what the other party wants most will help you determine the best way to get what you want.
KNOW WHEN TO HOLD'EM. Negotiation should be approached as a marathon, not a sprint. The only thing that rushing will get you is BURNED OUT. Acting too soon could cause you to give away more than necessary. Realize that the back and forth is part of the process and and push back that both parties give is normal and the rightful means to an end.
SAVE THE PRICES FOR LAST. Don’t lead with the price. Always begin negotiation by understanding what it is the other party is wanting, and explore options and alternatives other than price to bring more value, vs. committing to price concessions. The goal is to create an atmosphere of cooperation and a feeling on the part of both sides that we are working together for a win/win solution. Always start by evaluating potential outcomes, and what each looks like. There are 3 potential outcomes to any negotiation.
The BEST outcome, the ACCEPTABLE outcome and The WALK AWAY.
The goal is always for both parties to walk away feeling like they have not given away too much. The very best way to accomplish this is through transparency which leads to solutions and to partnership instead of adversarial conversations. Once the objective is established, which should be “What a win -win looks like for both of us” and we understand the other party's position and interest, we can effectively prepare for the negotiation session.
Being prepared and anticipating objections helps us prepare for value propositions that lead to more effective, constructive conversations. Think through the potential issues, concerns and objections you uncovered and then think through options and approaches that address issues and objections.