If you’re an insurance agent, make no mistake about it: you’re a sales professional. But what does that mean exactly? Sure, you sell insurance products along with your services to customers, on the face of it. But you also identify and solve your clients’ problems. Sales is really about problem-solving and you are selling yourself to your clients as a problem solver.
Your clients aren’t the only ones with problems, though. The sales profession also has its own share of issues. Lloyd Lofton is a sales expert who’s written and spoken widely about these problems. In this post, we’ll take a look at 10 common sales problems insurance agents might encounter both in their training and their early career. We’ll also give you the tools you need to solve these sales problems and boost your insurance sales and client satisfaction.
Problem 1. Who has More Direct Experience in Sales? Hint: It’s Not You!
The Problem As a new insurance agent making sales calls, you likely feel well prepared with your schooling and special training to meet the challenges ahead. But for all your great preparation, when it comes to engaging in a sales interaction, your prospects likely have you beat.
In the product-placement, retail-therapy, cold-call marketing world your prospect lives in, the sales profession can sometimes get a bad rap. This leads to prospects that have gained “sales resistance training” skills, according to Lofton, along with a wariness to be open and honest about their intentions and personal circumstances.
It’s easy for someone new to sales to want to help these customers, with you ending up giving out free advice, being led on without ever closing the sale and losing control of the sales interaction. All your product knowledge training isn’t likely to help you with this type of prospect.
The Solution What you need are the personal skills to gain this prospect’s trust and put them at ease. You also will need to stay in control of the interaction, while giving the prospect the impression they’re in charge. Lastly, you need to know how to apply your product knowledge, solve the prospect’s problem, and win the sale.
Begin building a rapport with the prospect from the moment they pick up the phone or open the door. You want the prospect to see you as a real person and a professional, not just another sales guy/gal. Stay in control of the interaction by having a plan and process and sticking to it. Ask questions to learn the needs of the prospect and sell the benefits of the product and services to meet that need. If you work for a larger organization, ask an experienced colleague to help mentor you on these skills.
Problem 2. That Prospect that Seems So Promising, Yet is Never Going to Buy.
The Problem Not every prospect will become a client. It seems obvious, yet we often forget this reality. With the pressure to make ends meet, turn a profit, or meet sales goals, sales professionals often get in the mindset of not wanting to lose any sale. You may find yourself making another call-back, giving another quote, doing extra research, and giving the prospect “more time to think it over.”
This is a huge waste of your valuable sales-closing time. We all window shop from time to time. It’s natural. But learn the signs.
The Solution Determine if your prospects are ready to buy. Avoid pouring too much time and energy into these so-called “tire-kickers.” Learn how to qualify your prospects early in the sales conversation. Ask the hard questions that may put off some window shoppers who don’t really want to commit to anything concrete. Lastly, realize that “no” is a perfectly acceptable answer to your sales ask. Time to move on to another prospect.
Problem 3. Your Talking Skills Are Great, Your Listening Skills However…
The Problem You talk too much. What did they expect? You learned so much about your products. You created a process and plan to provide top-quality services that really sets you apart. You want your prospect to know that you know what you’re talking about—and to prove it to yourself as well.
As Lofton notes, customers buy for their own reasons, not your reasons or even your organization’s reasons. Plus, your long-winded sales pitch probably sounds like your competitor’s long-winded sales pitch to the prospect, meaning he’ll likely just pick the lowest priced quote.
The Solution Ask questions. You may know everything about your products, but you don’t yet know everything about your prospect, their needs, or their insurance goals. Make everything you say prompt the prospect to give you those answers. Then you can start prescribing solutions that meet your prospect, their needs, and their goals.
Problem 4. You Worry About Price Way Too Much.
The Problem Your prospect may say he cares about price, but it is very rarely the real issue. The real worry is that the prospect’s needs and goals won’t be met by the product, that any benefits will be outweighed by a high cost, or that your quality of services won’t be worth it. Getting caught up on price is never advisable. Someone can always go lower.
The Solution Continue to ask those questions. Find out if your prospect’s price obsession is really about. Once you know how to get to the root cause of the prospect’s price concerns, it will cease to be an issue your prospects obsess over.
Problem 5. Your Training Focused Too Much on Product Knowledge and Not Enough on Finding Solutions.
The Problem You may have been taught that sales calls consist of making presentations and pitching products. You may even be eager to describe a whole range of products you’ve just learned about to the prospect, after all, 80% of your training may have focused on this.
The Solution But your prospect won’t buy for your reason; they’ve got their own. You’ll have to figure out why they want to buy and what solution will work for them.
That doesn’t mean your product knowledge isn’t valuable. It is. At each point of the sales conversation, you’ll need to draw upon just the right product knowledge to fit the new information you’re learning from the prospect. This helps the prospect clarify what their problem is and work with you to determine a best-fit solution.
Problem 6. You Find Yourself Putting Off the Budget Discussion.
The Problem You’ve just gotten the prospect on the line. They seem wary of opening up too much. You’re not sure what kind of budget he has or even what he can afford, but you’re not about to ask right now for fear it will scare him off.
The Solution Money can be a taboo subject, but it’s absolutely necessary to have the budget discussion with the prospect. Lofton explains that it let’s you know how serious the prospect is about solving their problem and also saves you from trying to go off of your own assumptions.
Problem 7. You’re Not Getting Commitments from Prospects.
The Problem You find yourself giving out tons of quotes and following up on a large number of leads, but at the end of the month your sales are lagging. For all that effort you’ve put into your prospects, you’re not get much back in return. It’s not that you don’t expect to lose a certain percentages of sales. You’re just wondering why after doing everything right you’re coming up short.
The problem here is similar to Problem 2. You’re spending your most limited resource—time—on leads who aren’t producing sales. That’s tough for your morale and bad for the future of your business.
The Solution Refocus on those customers who show determination to pin down their problem and find a real solution during the sales process. You want more of those prospects and fewer prospects not ready to commit. Start asking more questions to qualify your prospects before investing your time in quotes.
Problem 8. You Haven’t Been Prospecting Enough.
The Problem There’s so much to do. Leads, calls, follow-ups, meetings, paperwork. We get it. The problem is that without new leads turning into customers your business isn’t sustainable. According to Lofton, 40% of veteran sales pros have let their prospecting fall to dangerous levels and 80% of new agents fail for the same reason.
The Solution Prospecting has to become part of a daily and weekly regiment. You have to find that self-discipline to make yourself put it on your calendar and do it. It’s especially important to continue prospecting through busy periods—a dry spell could be just around the corner.
Problem 9. You Find Yourself Seeking Approval from Your Clients.
The Problem You have to bond with your prospects and clients to build that trust and rapport. That’s necessary for a sales business. But if you face rejection after you’ve invested yourself in a client relationship, it can be really tough emotionally.
The Solution The relationships you have with your clients and prospects will feel genuine to you, but you need to keep it professional. You can’t be best friends with these clients and still do your job. Set boundaries and make sure you can maintain them if you want to stay in this business.
Problem 10. You Don’t Think of Yourself as the Sales Professional You Are.
The Problem It’s easy to fall into a routine with something that works. If you’ve got your process down and a healthy list of client contacts, your business might begin to seem like it’s running itself. Eventually you start taking things for granted. You’ve been putting your skills to good use and they work just fine. The problem is that business is always changing. What works today may fail tomorrow.
Always ask yourself how you can improve. Can your process become more efficient, leading you to service more clients and make more money? Are there new technologies or skills suitable for today’s market that could improve your business? Seek out these opportunities whenever you can. Not only does it make you a better sales professional, it also boosts your morale and can breathe new life into your work.
Problem 11. The Sales Cycle is Too Long.
The Problem A long sales cycle keeps your pipeline full, but it doesn’t do anything for reaching your quota. There are many causes of this problem, ranging from targeting the wrong prospects to spending too much time communicating details that don’t matter.
The Solution Choose your leads wisely, focus on what the prospect needs to know, and don’t wait too long between each contact. Also, closely track the length of each sales cycle to determine if you’re making progress and the reason for it.
Problem 12. Your Lead Sources are Dried Up.
The Problem Even the most experienced salespeople struggle with this from time to time. You think you have a lead strategy that will always pump out high-quality prospects, but soon realize that there’s trouble on the horizon. No leads mean no sales. And no sales will doom you as a salesperson.
The Solution Rely on several lead sources, as opposed to only one. For example, if most of your leads come from referrals, consider the benefits of buying leads online. Sometimes, all it takes is a new lead source to keep you busy.
Problem 13. You Don’t Know How to Effectively Follow-Up.
The Problem It’s a dream of every salesperson to close a deal during the first conversation. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen very often. And that’s especially true in the insurance industry. Effectively following up with leads can be the difference between success and failure.
The Solution By tracking everything you do — from when you made contact to what you discussed — it’s easier to implement a follow-up system that will keep you on track. The use of a CRM can go a long way in reducing the instances in which you don’t follow-up, while also helping you do so more effectively.
Problem 14. Many of Your Prospects are Unqualified.
The Problem You only have so much time in your day to contact prospects. So, if the majority of them are unqualified, you’re wasting time that you could spend on selling.
The Solution Overcome this common problem by experimenting with several lead sources. For instance, buying aged leads is beneficial as you know the prospect is/was interested in making a purchase.
Problem 15. You Rely Too Heavily on One Outreach Technique.
The Problem It’s okay to stick with the tactics that have worked in the past, but you should always keep an open mind. Variety is a good thing when it comes to connecting with your target customer base. Heavy reliance on one outreach technique can result in a dried up lead pool.
The Solution Vary your approach so that you’re contacting prospects in a variety of ways, such as cold calling, cold emailing, and in-person drop-ins. Don’t be afraid to try any technique once.
Problem 16. Prospects Continually Catch You Off Guard.
The Problem You think you know how to answer every question, but then a prospect throws something at you that you weren’t expecting. Not only is this frustrating, but it can kill a deal on the spot.
The Solution As a salesperson, experience is the name of the game. The more questions you receive and the more questions you answer, the easier it becomes to address them in the future. Another way to avoid this problem is to answer practice questions in your downtime.
Problem 17. An Increased Level of “Sales Anxiety.”
The Problem Unfortunately, sales is often a numbers game. You have to make call after call to land a new customer. Or you have to send hundreds of emails to get one reply. This can lead to a high level of sales anxiety. And when anxiety sets in, it’s difficult to stay the course.
The Solution Come to grips with the fact that there will be ups and downs in your career. Some days you make one sale after the next. But some weeks, you fall flat. Additionally, speaking with your supervisor about any anxiety-related concerns that you have. They can provide guidance on how to best approach this.
Problem 18. Prospects Complain About Cost.
The Problem This is one of the most common sales objections, as everyone is looking to score a deal. Since you probably don’t have the authority to change the price of your product or service, you need to take a creative approach.
The Solution Play up the value that the customer receives in exchange for the higher price. Also, when applicable, consider if you can present a lower-priced product to the prospect. Your conversation shouldn’t end because of the price. There’s always a chance that you can find a middle ground.
Problem 19. You’re Not Closing Deals.
The Problem You’re spending a lot of time conversing with leads, but your close rate is below average. This is a major problem, as the only thing that matters is sales. This is what keeps you employed. This is what makes you money.
The Solution If you’re not closing an above-average number of deals, review your sales approach to pinpoint the hang-up. When are prospects dropping off? What are they telling you about why they’re not buying? Sometimes, a small tweak can go a long way in improving your close rate.
Problem 20. Cold Calling Scares You.
The Problem Even the most experienced salespeople shy away from cold calling. It can be intimidating to call someone who isn’t expecting to hear from you. You’re worried about getting hung up on, cussed out, or even reported to your manager.
The Solution Just do it. That’s the best advice you’ll ever receive in regards to cold calling. Stop thinking about what could go wrong, and turn your attention to what could go right. Yes, there will be times when you don’t achieve the desired result. That will happen more often than not. But there’s always the chance that the next person you call will make a purchase. That’s why you need to pick up your phone, dial one lead after the next, and give it your all.