I meet with several vendors/sales people in the course of a month. As a student of marketing I have learned that I do not know everything. There is always the chance that I will learn a new sales technique when I visit with a sales person.
Unfortunately, I visited with a sales person last month from whom I learned what not to do on a sales call. Granted, he could have been worse, but for someone looking to pry $ 1000 out of my hand, he made some rookie mistakes.
It is not my intention to hurt anyone’s feelings so I will refer to this sales person by a name other than his. I will call him Stan.
Be On Time
I was supposed to meet Stan on neutral ground at 12:30. While I arrived at the restaurant at 12:10 I stayed in my car and listened to Sports Radio until 12:29. When I came into the restaurant at 12:30 Stan was not there. I sat in the waiting area for about 5 more minutes waiting on him and then went ahead and placed my order.
Ten minutes later, my number was called and when I went to get my food, Stan was standing in the waiting area talking with a friend of his.
I was raised with the understanding, “If you are on time you are late.” While I understand that not every person is as anal retentive as I am when it comes to keeping a schedule, there are several business owners who take as gospel the proverb, “Time is money.”
I really do not get a good first impression when a sales person is late.
If a person is willing to grant you some of his/her time, don’t be presumptuous. If you show up to your meeting early, you are communicating respect for the other individual’s time. It won’t hurt you to sit in a waiting area for them until the appointed time. That’s what waiting areas are for.
If the person you see does not see you at the appointed time, you have every right to leave and tell the other person you also are a busy person and if he/she wishes to visit with you, then they need to reschedule.
If you are early and are made to wait past the appointed time it is, in my opinion, a sign of disrespect for your time by your prospect. They would not make the president of the US cool his jets. They would drop everything to see that individual. Why should you allow yourself to be treated with any less respect?
I understand that emergencies happen and/or traffic can be unpredictable. Back in my rookie days as an insurance sales person, we did not have cell phones. Today, however, is a different era. Most sales people have cell phones with them at all times. If you don’t, you should consider getting a pre-paid cell phone specifically for this purpose. If you can’t afford a phone, you may want to reconsider if sales is the appropriate career for you.
If you are not going to be on time for an appointment, call your prospect to explain the delay and offer to reschedule or continue with your current plans. If the reason you are running late makes sense, a business person will understand and possibly even appreciate the fact that you understand that time is an asset and not something to be wasted.
When Stan finally showed up it was obvious that he had not properly prepared for me. To his credit, he had done some research about me on line so he already knew a little bit about me and my wife. Unfortunately, that was about all that he had done to make me feel special.
A great deal of his presentation was on his computer. He had not prepped his computer for our visit. Again, my time was wasted as he had to click on several “Error” messages on his computer before he was ready to talk.
HINT: If you use your laptop computer, or any other prop, as part of your sales pitch, make certain they are in proper working order and ready to go before your appointment. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a presentation on your laptop. I learned many years ago that visual aids help people understand and people don’t buy things they do not understand.
The key, however, is not the use of technology, but the proper use of technology.
In addition to the computer snafu, when I gave him my business card, he opened his portfolio and shoved it in a pile with other business cards, notes, receipts and other crap. He kept his printed sales material in the exact same compartment in his portfolio.
I understand that it takes all kinds of people to form our society. I tend to be a little on the neat-nick side of the spectrum but understand there are slobs and pack-rats as well. I don’t expect everyone to live up to my standard of cleanliness but if I am going to give someone a check for $ 1000 I want to feel fairly comfortable that it is not going to be lost.
What I have learned in my life is that you will never offend people by being neat and organized but you run that risk by appearing disorganized to your prospects.
If you elect to be a pig at home, more power to you. Just make certain your work area is neat and organized.
My first boss in sales once told me that he had a trick he used during a hiring interview. He would have an agent or member of the office staff field questions from the applicant while he snuck out to look at the applicant’s car. If the inside was full of fast food wrappers and other trash, he would know one of the extra things he would have to retrain if he even offered the job to them.
Once we got down to business, Stan’s “pitch” was only about 10 minutes. The problem is that during those 10 minutes he asked no questions about me or my business. Everything he said was about his offering.
Apparently, Stan does not understand that prospects always ask themselves, “What’s In It for me?” before they buy.
Stan never bothered to ask about what my business goals were. If he had, he would have known, before he wasted his time and mine, the demographics of my target market do not use, want or perceive a need for his product.
He assumed that he knew what I needed without verifying anything about me.
The lesson that can be learned by any sales person is not to assume anything but to ask questions.
There are some other lessons that Stan can teach but I think 3 are enough, for now. After all, Stan is a human being and deserves a break of some sort.
Blogging is not the right marketing move for every agent. Although there are potentially millions of readers that you can touch, not everyone will read what you have to say. You will have to drive people to read your blog. Even then, the numbers say that the odds of someone finding your blog decrease as your target market’s age increase.
In other words, if you deal exclusively with Medicare Supplemental insurance for senior citizens, they are not likely to find your blog and you may be better off to use other marketing techniques.
If, however, you sell life insurance to young adults, you may find that a blog for your business helps build credibility for you in your community. You may elect to use your other marketing techniques, like direct mail, to drive people to read your blog.
If you are new to blogging and elect to use the tool, Gretchen Rubin offers 13 tips to help you succeed.
- Start simple. Add bells and whistles over time. Many people get paralyzed at the outset, because they’re overwhelmed by the desire to figure everything out before launching. Don’t get it perfect, get it going.
- Post every day. It’s counter-intuitive, yes, but strangely it’s easier to post every day than to post three or four times a week. You don’t procrastinate, you loosen up, you stay engaged with your subject, and you’ll be taken more seriously by readers. But if you stop writing for a while…
- Don’t point out that you’ve been lax about posting! It’s boring, it shows a lack of commitment, and maybe readers won’t notice if you don’t say anything.
- Include the text of the post as well as the URL if you want to bring a post to someone’s attention by email. Often, people won’t bother to click through, even though they might like your post if they did!
- If you feel squeamish about posting something—don’t. Wait a day or two, and think it over.
- Join the community. Link to other bloggers who write about your subject, shine a spotlight on their work, get to know them. Blogland is a friendly, helpful place—and the truth about human nature is that people become interested in you when you show an interest in them.
- Read about blogging. My favorite resource is ProBlogger, of course.
- Use lists when possible. People love reading lists, especially tips lists. I know, tips lists seem like a simplistic way to present information. But people love them. I post a tips list every Wednesday.
- State the purpose of your blog very prominently. A new reader shouldn’t have to ask, “What’s this blog about, anyway?”
- Maintain quality. I have checklist to try to keep my posts interesting and my voice true:
- Am I being funny?
- Am I giving interesting information from science, history, literature, etc.?
- Am I revealing my character?
- Am I telling stories?
- Am I showing what it’s like to live in New York City?
- Am I linking to other bloggers?
- Am I comfortable with my parents reading this? (I never work blue.)
- Am I criticizing anyone except myself?
- Keep a separate document containing your blog entries. I have an 800-page document containing every post I’ve ever made. That way, I can easily search, copy, and paste the material on my blog when I need it for other purposes.
- Keep a running list of ideas. Invaluable.
- Most important? Have something to say with every post, and with your entire blog. This sounds obvious, but it’s a lot easier to write when you’re trying to tell a story, explain an idea, give a review, link to an article, or whatever. If you’re having trouble with your blog, forget about the blog and focus on what you want to communicate instead.
If you have any other tips that you wish to share with other insurance agents, please leave them in the Comments area for others to read and learn from.
Some people see the glass half empty and some people see the glass half full. Personally, I tend to see the glass needing to be topped off.
Some insurance agents think that the period of time between Thanksgiving and New Years is a waste of time. They are convinced that people have their minds focused on holiday gifts and celebrations and do not want to interrupt their decorating, partying or shopping with insurance matters.
Other insurance agents think this is the best selling time of the years. They are convinced that with all the holiday shopping and joy in the air, people’s sales resistance is lower than normal. While other agents are busy with other pursuits, they are busy making money.
Both mindsets are correct. During this time, you can’t go wrong with either philosophy. If you think that December should be your busiest month of the year and are willing to work to make it so, you are correct. If, on the other hand, you have met your sales goals in the first 11 months of the year and want to take time off to enjoy the holiday season, you cannot be faulted.
The only thing that I would encourage both agents to remember is that the day after 2010 ends, 2011 begins.
Our agencies have more differences than things in common. My focus is on health insurance for people with Medicare. Other agencies focus on life, disability, car or commercial insurance. The knowledge of products and laws for each of those disciplines is vast. I’m a fairly intelligent guy and what I have learned in over 23 years of being an insurance agent is that there is so much to know in each area that I am not convinced that any one person can be an expert in everything.
I am aware that some agencies are licensed to sell insurance in multiple areas. I call them generalists. In my opinion, they are perfect for people who already know what they want. They can facilitate the purchase of insurance and spend the commission with the best of them.
Specialists, however, in my opinion are those agents who know a lot about a single type of insurance. While they may be able to facilitate the purchase of life and disability insurance, they are not qualified to give professional advice to customers in those areas but because they have concentrated their focus on health insurance policies, laws and trends, they are qualified to counsel customers in that area.
The one thing every agent has in common is the need to market their services. Our communities in general and target markets in specific need to be reminded of who we are, what we do and how to contact us.
The one thing that every insurance agent, throughout the US should be doing during December is making a marketing plan for 2011. Whether you take the entire month of December off or redouble your sales activities during the holiday season, it is so very important that you take the time to plan what marketing activities you will be using in 2011.
If you have no other marketing templates to follow, the 5 Ws of journalism can help.
Decide who your target market will be. List all the demographic information you can about them. Decide on the age, gender, geographic location, & etc. for your ideal customer. Obviously, you are still free to sell to anyone who wants your product but by selecting a target market to aim at you will be better able to decide what marketing tools you will be using.
What x 2
There are 2 “WHAT” questions you will need to answer.
1-What need do I want to solve in 2011?
All of us have products to use to solve needs from maintaining a standard of living for survivors in the event of a premature death to paying medical bills in the event of illness. As you determine your marketing plan for 2011 determine which need you want your marketing focus to be on.
That does not mean that you can’t solve both needs if a client requests your help and you have the products. All it means is that you will be better able to determine how to spend your marketing capital on the materials you need.
2-What marketing tools will I use?
As you develop your marketing plan you will need to decide which of the plethora of marketing tools are affective for your market.
For example, a recent study indicated that young adults tend to respond better to social media marketing while it is not as effective to people in the Baby Boom generation. Direct mail marketing techniques tend to work better for that demographic.
As you draw up your marketing calendar, you need to commit to some deadlines to make certain things get done. The old proverb tells us that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. By setting and keeping marketing deadlines you stand a better chance that your intentions will actually turn into deeds.
Your license is probably good anywhere in your state. I live just outside Houston, TX but my wife’s family lives in a small town north of Dallas. I am legally able to take care of the insurance needs of her family and their friends in Dallas but they are close to 300 miles from me.
I devote most of my marketing activities to places within 10 miles of my office. That way, when someone responds to one of my marketing pieces I am able to easily take care of their insurance needs and form a relationship with them.
If you are a captive agent and are required to report to a sales manager, he/she probably already has an official template approved by your insurance company. Whether you like the exercise or not is immaterial. Sometime this month you are going to have to fill out the report so it can be forwarded up the management line. This is the kind of paper work that mid-level management uses to justify their existence. Sales managers will use whatever you tell them on their precious forms as hammers to hit you with during 2011.
If, you are an independent agent, there are no managers looking over your shoulder to guarantee that you complete a marketing calendar.
Practically speaking, however, whether you are a captive or independent agent is immaterial. Whether you use the fancy forms provided by your insurance company or a plain yellow legal pad and pen makes no difference. Sometime during this month you need to commit to a plan of action for your own success.
If you have experienced the end of year “planning” and can share your experiences or comments to help young insurance agents, please leave them as Comments below.