I have been asked on numerous occasions to help evaluate and identify the traits of strong salespeople in the insurance industry. Agents want to know if their producers portray the characteristics that reflect sales success. They want to know how to identify prospective employees who exhibit those characteristics. They want to know if they, themselves, are more insurance expert or sales expert.
We have not done studies in human behavior or analyzed the traits of insurance or sales experts. But we have observed insurance professionals for over 30 years and have noted the traits of successful producers. We’ve seen sales professionals in other industries as well and we’ve identified a personality characteristic common to all great salespeople – we call it the Chameleon Characteristic.
A chameleon is a form of being whose greatest strength and defense is its ability to meld with and mimic its surroundings. The best salespeople we have encountered in the insurance business take on the same characteristics as the chameleon. When they encounter a prospect they spend much more time listening and “feeling out” the prospect than in impressing him with the producer’s knowledge. Like the chameleon, the producer is “tasting” his surroundings to determine how best to approach the prospect with the greatest chance of success.
The key to that success is to identify the personality of the prospect and to understand the best way to adapt your presentation to the prospects personality. If the prospect enjoys a gregarious, high impact professional, the Chameleon will become that professional. If the prospect is introverted and an “analyst” in nature, the Chameleon will approach him from a low-key and analytical basis.
I truly enjoy watching a Chameleon work. By the way, this nature does not speak to the degree of knowledge of the Chameleon. The Chameleons who are light on knowledge and try to bull (or bully) their way into sales will not usually be successful in the long run. However, the Chameleon who is polished and professional – who has the experience and knowledge of insurance and of the situations he faces with the prospect – is a wondrous sight to behold. He will learn more about the prospect in a one-hour conversation than most agents would learn in a year. By the time the meeting is over, he not only has the prospect’s confidence as a knowledgeable and caring professional, but he will usually find some common personal ground to share with his new friend. Chameleons will know a little about everything and, while not being an expert, will know enough to discuss any hobby or area of interest as well as developing a comprehensive knowledge of the prospect’s business.
How To Tell A Chameleon from ‘just another lizard’
A Chameleon is always “there” in a conversation. He is focused into what the other party is saying like a laser beam. His purpose in any conversation is to learn, not to impress.
A Chameleon likes to have fun, often poking fun at himself – never deprecating anyone else. He knows that he may someday need the goodwill of the person about whom he speaks.
A Chameleon will use repetition to make sure he understands. You will often hear him say, “Let me make sure I understand. What you said was…” Believe me, he understood every word the first time it was spoken. But the repetition of a prospects issues or concerns is a well-known method of winning over a person’s confidence.
If you are watching a Chameleon at work, you will notice that he seems to be different to different people. That’s his chameleon mechanism kicking in. He is changing to adapt to the needs and to the best approach for each person with whom he comes into contact.
If you ever have the chance of seeing a Chameleon, study him. He can teach you a great deal about consultative selling. Very few Chameleon’s are high pressure salespeople. They don’t need to be. They win clients by becoming like the client and winning his confidence.