When I was 16 my dad gave me a gift. Our neighbor had just opened an insurance office down the street and my father got me a job as a telemarketer. Granted, I wanted a new car. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the thought of calling people during dinner to solicit auto insurance quotes. But as I look back, this part-time job shaped my entire career. It’s where I learned that if I wanted to be successful in sales, I needed to ditch the pitch.
My first day of work our neighbor sat me down at my desk, gave me a stack of cards filled with names, addresses & phone numbers, showed me how to dial 9 for an outside line and gave me a pink piece of paper with “the pitch.” My job was simple. Call people and get them to agree to getting an auto insurance quote.
The “pitch” proved to be worthless. This sorry excuse for a script was probably written by some sort of insurance monkey at the corporate office who didn’t know a lick about sales. Here were my first 30 calls:
Andrea: Hi, Mrs. So-and-so. My name is Andrea from Blah Blah Blah Insurance Company.
Mrs. So-and-So: <hang up expediently>
Andrea: Hi, Mr. Someone. My name is Andrea from Blah Blah Blah Insurance Company.
Mr. Someone: Don’t you have anything better to do with your time? <hang up>
Andrea: (mumbling under breath so her new boss doesn’t hear) Of course I do. I’m sixteen and could be out partying with my friends.
People don’t want to talk to insurance agents. I was seen as a big fat waste of time. So I decided to try things my own way.
I tried all sorts of things, like:
- Talking in a (very fake, but I tried so hard) British accent
- Being blunt by saying “Hi, I know I probably just interrupted your dinner and I’m sorry. I’m just doing my job. would you like an auto insurance quote?”
After all sorts of trials and errors, I stumbled upon a method that actually worked.
First a little back story; I grew up in Ashland, VA which is a town so small we actually had a town song that we would all get together and sing at the town talent show each spring (true story). Think “The Music Man” meets “Leave it to Beaver” and you’re close.
So being from a small town I noticed that I personally knew half the people on the list – or at least their children.
I changed my sales pitch to something like this:
Andrea: Hi, Ms. Smith. This is Andrea – I go to school with your daughter Amy.
Ms. Smith: Hi, Andrea. How are you?
Andrea: I’m doing great. How about yourself?
Ms. Smith: Pretty well, thanks. Did you want to talk to Amy?
Andrea: Actually, I was calling to talk to you. See, I have a new job working at Blah Blah Blah Insurance Company. I’m not trying to sell anything. I’m just collecting information so we can send you a quote, followed up by a nice hand-written thank you card and then you can decide if you want to do anything with it.
Ms. Smith: (slightly taken aback) Oh. (usually a pause) How long will it take me to fill out?
Andrea: About 3 minutes.
Ms. Smith: Well, OK. Go ahead.
Yep, it was that simple. Eventually I outsold everyone in the office (and made darn good money).
So why did this method work when everything else failed?
- Establishing a personal connection. Once it’s established that you and your prospect have something in common – it takes your chances of closing to a whole new level.
- Removing the pressure. No one wants to be “sold.” When is the last time you went to a sketchy used car lot seeking the thrill of being pressured into something you don’t want to buy? Saying “you can decide what you do with it” signaled to my prospects that I respected their time and wasn’t going to pressure them into something they didn’t want.
- Cutting ties quickly. Occasionally I’d get the “No, thank you.” My reply was always, “Thanks for your time. Have a great day.” The way I saw it, it was much easier to dial more numbers than it was to convince someone that they really did want a quote. In the end, if a customer is sold because of pressure, the likelihood of them being a loyal customer is greatly diminished.
- Sincerely believing in my product. Most of the people who stuck it out to get a quote ended up saving money. I thought this was a good thing, so I felt like I was providing a great value. Later in life, I sold advertising in a low-quality and very expensive print publication. I knew the ads were a bad investment and learned quickly that you can’t “fake” belief in your product. And if you don’t believe in it – you can’t sell it.