ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

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

Tactics for Sales Success

1. Express confidence , but be careful that you do not appear arrogant to your prospects. Confidence is a sales magnet. Arrogance, on the other hand is a sales repellant. If you can a void using the pronoun, "I", in a conversation with your prospect, you will find that your confidence comes across genuinely - without a hint of arrogance.

2. Don't sell to strangers. Buying any intangible like insurance is frightening enough. We in the insurance business have not built a great reputation. Your customers know that there are insurance professionals in the world but they do not know that you are one of them until they have had a chance to work with you and your organization. Making friends is an important part of the sales function. Many producers will prospect the client for many months or years, getting to know them - and making friends. Find common grounds and get to know your prospects if you want to maximize your sales efforts.

3. Do not judge a book by its cover. Some of us will still pre-judge a prospect by the way he looks, speaks or acts. The more experienced producers realize that the depth of prospects insurance needs and the depth of his pocketbook do not necessarily correlate to his appearances.

4. DON'T SELL PRICE. This is the greatest problem for insurance agents in the industry today. Customers that you get by dangling the lowest price this year will leave you for a lower price next year or when your price increases. Worse yet, the producer who knows that his products are not the lowest priced in the market tends to oversell.

The problem in correcting this issue is that the insurance agency system has a large number of "producers" and a relatively small number of "sales people". In order to solve this problem, one must evolve a list of reasons why a customer should do business with you. This could include the longevity, staying power and stability of your carriers versus the lower price carriers. It could involve the level of service that a customer should expect from your agency. It should include the level of knowledge of the producer about the client and about his type of business in order to provide the greatest help in satisfying the customer's needs in the future. After all, no customer feels comfortable if he feels that you are learning his business and industry as you are interviewing him about his insurance. They would like to be insured by someone who already knows about his company and the insurance situations that his industry faces. The professional salesman (and an insurance professional) will be able to compile such a list. Most "producers" in our industry will throw up their hands complaining that the price is always the final issue with the customers. If this were, we would be hard pressed to explain the hundreds of successful salespeople in our industry whose agencies grow each through the retention of their existing accounts and the addition of new accounts (even when their prices are not the lowest in the marketplace).

5. Poor presentation skills kill sales. You may have a string of initials next to your name representing your skills as an insurance professional, but that doesn't mean that you can present a proposal to a client. If you have been in the insurance industry for any length of time without taking the Dale Carnegie Course or joining Toastmasters, do so as soon as possible. If you have been through the exercises that teach you proper presentation skills, either tape yourself or take another sales person to a sales call with you to listen to your current presentation skills. All of us will find certain characteristics of which we are not even cognizant will decrease the opportunities to make a sale with certain clients. An audio tape, a critical audience, or a video tape will help us recognize and correct these deficiencies.

6. In order to enhance your sales potential, prepare and ask open ended questions to your prospect that require them to evaluate new information (rather than simply compare their policies to yours). The questions you ask should be directed toward your "power points" - those features and services that you have identified as being the strongest points in your agency.

7. Make sure you find out what the client needs BEFORE you try to sell your product. This sounds very simplistic, but you'd be surprised how many producers simply ask the client for access to his expiring policies with which to formulate a proposal. These lazy producers are assuming that the needs identified by the client's current agent are all-encompassing and correct. The answer to this problem is to have a survey tool that you have pre-designed to make sure that you have identified all of the customers needs regardless of how his insurance program is currently established.

8. The "I" concentration of selling the benefits of you, your agency and your products can be a fatal mistake in the sales process. You will obviously present the benefits of doing business with you to your customer. However, do so with examples of how your services, those of your agency and those of your products have helped other clients. Your prospect doesn't want to hear what you can do. He wants to hear how you can help him.

9. God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we could listen twice as much as we talk. However, insurance producers tend to talk too much and listen too little. When you speak, do so by asking questions that will permit your customer command of the conversation . Your part of the conversation should be to ask the right questions to permit your customer to tell you exactly what he wants and how you can help him.

10. There is no excuse for being unprepared for customers' objections. Honestly now, how many new objections do you hear from customers after you have been in the business for more than a few years. Your first 100 prospects will raise 99% of the sales objections that you will hear throughout your entire career. Then why are so many of us flustered and unable to respond to objections that you will hear throughout your entire career. Then why are so many of us flustered and unable to respond to objections with positive sales statements that puts the customer back on the road to purchasing from us? The reason is generally laziness. One of the exercises that you should practice with at least one individual (if not with your entire sales team) is the repetition of the top ten or fifteen objections that you may hear from prospects with a variety of responses to overcome that objection. The brainstorming of a group particularly helpful in responding to objections. The producer will use the appropriate response to a situation (if he has practiced).

11. NEVER-NEVER-NEVER criticize your competitors. Criticizing your competitors, whether openly or through innuendo does not make the competitor look bad - it makes you look bad. Don't fall to the temptation of criticizing even if your customer begins the process. always sell the benefits of doing business with you, no the drawbacks of doing business with others.

12. Selling by promising more than you know that you can deliver is critical long-term mistake. Overselling ruins reputations and reputations are what builds or destroys the referral systems that we count on for future sales and repeat sales.

13. A minimum of 50% of lost sales occur as the result of a lack of proper follow up. We all hear customers tell us that they have to think about your proposal and that they will "get back to us" or that we should call them. When faced with this delay, the best course of action is to ask the customer when they will be prepared to make a decision. Assure the customer that you will put the date on your calendar and ask him to add it to his, as well. In this way, your telephone call on that date will not come as a surprise. If he doesn't give you a date, suggest one to him and mark your calendar accordingly. not following through with the prospect tells him a) you're not interested in him,

b) you're not organized to even proceed through the course of a sale, or c) your product was not good enough to sponsor your follow up.

14. Expecting your prospects to return your calls is something like cheering your favorite professional sports team to win the game. Sometimes they win the game, but its the result of their reasons and efforts, not the result of your cheering. Instead of asking your prospect to call you back (or leaving a message), ask when the most convenient time for you to call again will occur and schedule that call yourself.

15. Disorganization and lack of time management is a killer to sales efficiency. Instead of letting your time control you, use Pareto's Principle (the 80/20 rule) to set your priorities in accordance with the most important things you have to do rather than with either urgent things or with unimportant busy work imposed upon you by others.

16 Network for success. Don't count on glitzy, new sales and marketing programs to make your sales for you. Your greatest sales opportunities continue to be to network with existing clients and existing prospects. Each client should give you at least one new client each year if you use your networking skills properly.

17. Successful producers don't have time to blame others for problems around them. Either your problems are uncontrollable, or they are "your" problems. If the problems are uncontrollable, worry or blame multiples their destructive power. Your entire conscious and unconscious mind will be preoccupied with those problems. Any controllable problems are controllable. It doesn't make sense to blame yourself -- fix the problem.

18. Bragging is different than celebrating success. You brag before you put the money in the bank. You celebrate afterwards. Celebrate your successes as the successes of the organization, not your own. As any other successful game, sales is a team event. You can't win it by yourself and you only hurt yourself terribly by assuming the mantle of victory alone.