ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

Sales Call - Back to The Basics

Why do successful major league baseball players take batting practice everyday? Because they realize that their success in their trade depends on their command of the basics and that everyone must remind themselves of the basics of their trade constantly.

As insurance professionals we take advanced training and continuing education from a technical standpoint. But how often do we remind ourselves of what we need to do at every sales call?

Information gathering: Gathering information about a prospect does not begin when you sit down in his office. Prior to the visit you should strive to find out as much about your prospects business as possible. During your initial contact with the customer prior to the visit you must qualify the risk. This qualification process does not imply the collection of coverage information in statistics regarding the prospects insurance programs. Rather, these questions determine whether or not the suspect is a real prospect. Is the customer happy with his insurance program? Is he convinced that he has a fair product at a fair price? Is he insured with a relative? There are many answers that you can achieve by telephone that will eliminate a suspect from your prospect list (at least for the time being).

Yes I know, many agents and producers will visit anyone who will permit them in the door. These are the same producers whose sales ratios are less than 10%. With the exception of certain rural territories, there is no shortage of insurance suspects for property casualty insurance. It is better to rule out 100 suspects in order to achieve 10 valid sales calls than it is to visit 110 prospects to find that the same 10 valid leads are the only ones who prove fruitful. Remember, being busy is not equal to being productive.

During your sales call you have a few very important tasks. First, ask open ended questions designed to find out what the customers problems are. You may have to ask two or three different times in two or three different ways but everyone has problems. You will be most successful if you can offer solutions to his problems through the use of your products and services. The second major point is to LISTEN. Keep in mind that God gave us two ears and one mouth because listening is twice as important speaking. Don't try to impress the client with your vast knowledge insurance. Don't tell him about your background and why he should do business with you. Save that for later. At this stage in the sales call ask open ended questions and listen to what the customer says. For the most part, customers will not only tell you their problems but will also suggest solutions. Once you understand your prospects business his problems and have listened to all he wants to say, gather the detailed information that you need in order to propose solutions to him. The customer knows that his problems are complex. He is not necessarily looking for you to answer his problems at this visit. However he will think less of you if you have to call him several times for further information before you can develop a proposal.

When you propose your solutions to a prospects insurance problems, as you look for approval of your solutions solicit objections. That's right, look for objections that the customer may have. Top sales people understand that customers who offer objections are easier to sell than those who do not. Why? Just because a customer does not offer objections doesn't mean he hasn't any. Those who care so little for your proposal that they will not even raise objections to it are unlikely to purchase insurance from you. Those prospects who at least care enough to formulate objections and voice them can be swayed if you can appropriately respond to those objections.

Never, never, never avoid a customers objections. If you have answers to those objections provide them. If you don't have answers, tell the customer that and offer to respond once you've researched the problem further. Avoidance of customer objections leads to an aura of mistrust.

Closing sales is usually the most difficult part of the process. This is because we usually spend our entire meeting time "pitching" our product waiting until the end of the process to ask for the sale this is a shocking moment that both the customer and the sales person have dreaded. However it can be avoided.

Every time your proposal meets the customers needs or solves the customers problems note that to the customer and jot it down on a piece of paper. Get the customer to agree that this is a good solution and a viable alternative for that part of the conversation. You are getting the customer to agree with you at every point of your proposal. When you've reached the end of your proposal simply recap all of the points you've made and all of the problems that you have solved for the customer asking him to confirm each position that you've taken. Unless you have over looked objections your conclusion will be an evolutionary sale rather than an unexpected request to close the deal. If the customer raises further objections than you know that your sales proposal is not yet complete. Respond fully to those objections until you cam again get your customer to confirm that your solutions solve all of his problems.

Go back to the basics and follow these steps in your sales calls and proposals. You'll find that qualification of leads, gathering information, listening to the customers, and solving problems rather than proposing insurance will result in a much higher sales ratio.