Prospects are more likely to have sales resistance training than agents.
The purpose of prospect responses to agents is to gather as much information and to be in control. Prospects can often lie to insurance agents about what they intend, how much money they will spend, and who makes the decisions.
Prospect intent is used to make agents unpaid consultants. It allows them to lead them until they have all the information. They often use their quotes as a way to compare their agent with a competitor.
Prospects will stop calling agents if they have the information they require.
Are prospects now bad people?
This system is almost second-nature for salespeople.
Why are prospects doing this?
Prospects are scared of being sold things they don’t need. The image of an agent isn’t a positive one for most people. Prospects feel that they must have a way to deal effectively with agents in order to protect their interests. Prospects build a defense wall in response to negative stereotypes of agents.
How do agents deal with prospects’ defense system? Most play right into it. A lot of people don’t have a system for selling. They let the prospect take complete control of the selling process. The agent is eager to help:
Gives their knowledgeand makes commitments without expecting anything in return
It is a waste of resources to pursue deals that won’t close.
Non-prospects who have never bought will be provided with quotes
It is easy to misinterpret the ubiquitous phrase “I’ll think about it and get back to You” as a future sale.
What can sales organizations do to help solve this problem? They often focus too much on product knowledge, and neglect to teach the right situations or concepts that products work best with.
Solution: Train agents in a systematic way to make presentations, so that they can “run on it.” Training should be in the best interests of both prospect and agent.
Spend too much time with prospects who will never buy.
Recently, a manager evaluated two of his agents as follows: “Gary spends too many time with non-buyers and gets too involved into non-productive activities. This behavior can be attributed to the fact that Gary doesn’t ask hard questions. Amy has a strong relationship with prospects but Gary and she have both lost deals due to their inability to ask the tough questions. This is why?
Agents avoid asking hard questions upfront to protect their prospects. They fear losing something they don’t have. Agents believe that their job is to make sure everyone gets closed.
Sales training has taught us that “Don’t accept NO for an answer” over the years. Insurance agents learn to persevere, handle objections and stalls, close trials…and be closing. Prospects need to be able to resist sales pressure in order to protect themselves.
Prospects know that agents won’t listen to them if they say “NO”. They’ll try to change “NO” into “YES” by “hanging in there”. If the prospect is really saying “NO”, the best way to get rid a representative is to say, “I’ll think about it, and I’ll get back with you.” How many “think it through”‘s do you really see turning into a business?
The solution is that agents need tools to distinguish tire-kickers and buyers. They need a way to get support at the beginning of the sales cycle. They must learn how to qualify prospects and not just get them in. Agents who are successful learn to ask hard questions upfront, which saves precious resources and allows them to focus on real opportunities. A buyer will accept a “NO” answer. It is a paradigm shift that most agents need to make, but it can reduce the stress and increase productivity. This allows prospects to feel in charge, which then relaxes them and lets them buy, rather than feeling “sold.”
Agents are too talkative.
Recently, a manager stated that “My agents’ listening skills weren’t there they needed to be.” When someone speaks, they don’t get the true meaning behind it. This leaves prospects feeling like my agents don’t understand them and their problems.
We should have expected that when we sent them to College of Product Knowledge to fill them with technical knowledge, and then sent them out for their quotas, this was the result.
What’s the problem with our story? People buy for their reasons and not their agents’. Second, many companies present the same information to prospects. When they do, the agent becomes just another agent to them. The prospect then sees low prices as the determining factor to obtaining the business.
Answer: Asking questions. Instruct insurance agents to ask questions instead of regurgitating to prospects. Prospects should do 70% of the talking during a sales call. This can only be achieved if the sales rep asks lots of questions.
Ask questions to gather information. Ask questions to learn about the prospect’s “pain”. The same way your family doctor would do during an office visit is this. They will ask you questions, but they won’t tell anything unless they have completed the correct diagnosis.
Weak agents focus on price.
The real problem is not price! Because it is often the first question prospects ask about, agents focus on the price. Study after study shows that quality and service are often more important than price. The main reason to keep and get business is not price. Our products are used to solve problems, improve their lives or prevent future ones.
Solution: Teach agents how to ask questions and get to the root of real problems. When they do this, the price won’t be the deciding factor in sales.
Over-emphasis on product knowledge can lead to confusion and misinterpretation. Selling is often reduced to “pitching and presenting” as a result.
Sales training is dominated by product knowledge. Studies show that product knowledge training accounts for 80% of all training dollars. Once they have this product knowledge, agents are eager to share it with others and become Professional, Unpaid Educators. This allows the focus to be on the product and not the prospect’s problem.
Solution: Train agents in strategy and tactics to help prospects define their problems clearly and co-create solutions. It’s important to have product knowledge, but it’s crucial to know how it is used in each stage of the buying process.
Agents fail clients to disclose their budgets upfront. Agents are often uncomfortable discussing money. Talking about money is considered intrusive and unsettling. Until a prospect makes the request, many agents are reluctant to talk about money. This is one the five biggest weaknesses agents have.
The solution: An insurance agent can tell if a prospect is willing to solve a problem and if they have money upfront. Talking about money is key to managing, as resources are evaluated on their impact on the bottom line. Teach your agents two things about money.
The prospect’s cost to fix the problem, or the risk.
What they would be willing to spend to solve the problem.
The agent cannot have a honest discussion about money without making assumptions. We all know what happens to assumptions.
Prospects are reluctant to make firm commitments to agents.
Insurance agents will often be willing to present a proposal, give a quote, or do any other type of work. This is an extremely time-consuming and resource-intensive approach.
What number of quotes has your distribution sent out in the past twelve months with no response? What is the annual cost to your distribution/team for sending out quotes that don’t go anywhere?
Agents need to understand what motivates people buy. Agents must be able to communicate with prospects and find out their level of commitment before offering solutions.
Manager: “They don’t do enough prospecting even when I use a longstick.” Every professional agent will experience some call reluctance at one point or another. The story goes like this: they are so overwhelmed with paperwork that they don’t have the time to prospect new business or they are so busy calling existing customers (who, incidentally, aren’t buying anything), there is no way they can add new appointments. Get ready. Do you sound familiar with the BT club (boutto)?
Over 40% of veteran sales professionals have suffered bouts of call resistance severe enough to endanger their sales career.
o 80% of new agents fail in their first year due to insufficient prospecting activity.
The solution: Insurance agents must create a realistic activity program. The plan should be reviewed weekly and implemented with effective accountability.
Approval is a must for any insurance agent.
It is a common and easy mistake. “I love people so I’ll become an insurance agent.” It is easy to find an insurance agent who would rather be friends with prospects than do business. Although relationships are important in the selling process, it is not an area where people can satisfy their emotional needs. It’s actually the opposite. Selling is a demanding and difficult profession that can be frustratingly rejected. People who accept rejection often leave the profession. They should not have entered the business. Sales interactions are fundamentally different from social interactions. Professionals who are successful understand and accept the fact that making money professionally is the ultimate goal of selling.
The solution: Assess yourself and determine if approval is required. Managers should ask tough questions to help them hire better people. They also need to teach them a system to strike the right balance between building relationships and getting committed.
Sales agents are not considered a profession by insurance agents.
Doctors, lawyers, engineers and teachers all share one thing in common: they continue their education to improve and maintain their skills. How many insurance agents are constantly looking for new ways to improve their skills? Many agents think that they are already able to sell for years. What more can they learn?
Solution: The best performers in all professions are constantly looking for ways to improve their skills and achieve the consistent success that leads to continued success. Managers must invest in top performers and support them in their growth. Managers need to realize that your growth is hindered by your ego. They must be open to learning and willing to let go of their ego. All of us can learn from one another.
Hiring: Supervisors, managers, and distributions must follow a step-by-step process to profile, attract, recruit, interview, and hire top performers. Hire goal-oriented people, not goal-setters. Managers often hire goal-setting agents and are shocked when they fail to achieve their goals. It is likely that the agent had only a wishlist. When interviewing or coaching, ask the agent to explain the goals they have set and how they achieved them. It was a goal or a wish list if they failed to achieve it.
A manager’s most important task is to recruit and hire the right people. A poor hiring decision will not be remedied by any amount of coaching, mentoring, or training. It is important to do it correctly the first time.
Management: Develop a sales process that emphasizes effective recruiting, coaching, growth, and development of agents. You must stop making excuses for your agent’s poor performance and set high standards. If your team is not producing at a high standard, this starts with you. How can you expect your agents to be held accountable? Management is not about getting what you want. You only get what your inspectors and expect. You don’t manage people, but you do manage them.
Training: Books, tapes and one-day seminars can be useful for learning and motivation. But if you want better skills as a golfer, pianist, or salesperson, you need to practice and improve your abilities. Selling is a skill you can learn and master over time.
These scripts and rebuttals can be used to help you move your sales and management career or increase your current business volume.
These are not meant to be used as sales tools. You have to use them.
It is important to do enough of what you love, at the right time.
Don’t wait for success to occur, and do something today to make it happen.