There are a few star performers in sales. The other 99% fall on a continuum from very good to poor. While this isn’t news to anyone, the common approach is to hold up the 1% as models for everyone else. “Strive to be a star,” they’re told. While that may motivate a few, it doesn’t help the vast majority of salespeople who want to sell more but don’t know how to go beyond where they are.
This picture isn’t complicated. For the most part, salespeople can do things that bother customers so they lose sales unnecessarily. Here are a number of them:
1. Trying too hard. A life insurance agent can be so focused on making the sale that prospects feel pushed to make a decision. Even though they may want to say yes, they say no instead as a way to escape.
2. Inadequate preparation. Using “canned” or rote presentations that are so general they’re meaningless and emphasize the product without reference or relevance to the prospect or client.
3. Ignoring the customer.Customers try to figure out whether or not an agent is genuinely interested in helping them, and the answer determines the outcome of the sale. Any answer other than “yes” means a lost sale.
4. Talking too much.When agents don’t know what to say next, they often cover it up with more talk. Instead of using such moments to ask questions, they try to get on track with more talk, but it’s too late, the sale is dead.
5. Laying on the jargon. Some agents think it makes them seem more confident and competent if they use a “secret language” — jargon — to make themselves sound like experts, when it only makes customers feel uncomfortable.
6. Poor follow through.By placing the top priority on closing sales, little effort often goes into preparing the way to get there, including a failure to answer emails, making mistakes, not returning calls, forgetting to send requested information, and not meeting agreed-upon deadlines.
7. Writing off prospects.How many times has a prospect become a client long after the agent has dropped them? There’s no telling how many more sales an agent can make just by staying closer in touch with prospects.
8. Lack of enthusiasm. Whether it’s a clerk at a store, a sales rep at a mall kiosk or a life insurance agent, it takes energy and enthusiasm to engage customers.
9. Not painting verbal pictures. Too many agents try to impress customers with “war stories,” and present “facts” when the prospect wants to know how their purchase will change or improve their life, help them feel better about themselves, and fulfill a need or dream.
10. Playing a role. It’s never deliberate, but it happens. An agent’s words, manner, and attitude can cause prospects to react negatively. Instead of acting normally, they come across as if they’re playing a part or following a script.
11. Failing to involve the customer. It’s not only inexperienced salespeople who are guilty of talking to customers, not with them. It’s as if they are determined to grab the reins and keep control at all cost; akin to winning the battle but losing the war.
Next page: The final 11
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