Lessons in Leadership
Don't forget to ask
A basic rule of salesmanship often overlooked
By Robert L. Bailey
A friend of mine has been an insurance salesperson, and a very successful one,
all of his career. He is well known and well liked. He’s involved in a number of social groups in his church and his community.
Everyone knows he’s in the insurance business and has respect for his knowledge, ethics and
reputation in general.
After a several-year relationship, another friend commented to my salesperson
friend that he had recently purchased insurance through another agency. My
sales friend said, “You know, I sell insurance too, and I could have given you great value, with a
company that has a sterling reputation for integrity and service, and our
agency would have provided excellent service for you and your family as well.”
“Yes, I know,” his friend responded. “But I’ve known you more than 15 years and you’ve never suggested I buy from you. I thought you didn’t want my business.”
My sales friend had been fearful of taking advantage of personal relationships.
He thought invitations to buy might be viewed as pressure or harassment when,
in fact, he would have been doing his friend a favor.
Close relationships like this are exactly the type of relationships great
salespeople want to build with every customer over a period of time. They know
the name of the customer’s spouse, the names of the children and where they go to school, the family’s hobbies, perhaps even the name of the dog. When information of this type is
developed in casual conversations, they add it to their file, a computer
database or perhaps just an index card for each customer, which can be reviewed
prior to the next contact with this individual.
Universally, we human beings are interested in one thing more than anything else
in the world—ourselves and our families. When a salesperson gives attention to customers and
their families, they are generally sold forever.
One very successful agent never lets a piece of correspondence go out of his
office, even those prepared by computer, unless it contains a short
hand-written note pertaining specifically to the individual receiving the
mailing. “Congratulations on receiving the Rotary Club award. It was well deserved.” “Sorry to hear Judy is under the weather. Hope she is feeling better soon.” “How does Bill like college? He’s a smart young man and I know he will do well.” Every client with whom he has contact senses his friendly nature and knows he
has a personal, non-selfish interest in them and their families.
Another very successful agent presents the same friendly approach to those
around him and insists every staff member do the same. “We hire only people who are inherently friendly, people who like people,” he says. “We like the cheerleader type. We think it’s easier to teach new employees the technical part of our business than it is to
teach them the people skills our customers have come to expect from us.”
We must never underestimate the value of personal relationships in business
The courtesy and friendliness of the salesperson and staff play a significant
role in the sales process. In fact, indifference is the reason most customers
choose not to buy or choose to leave a particular business. And when a customer
experiences rudeness on the part of the salesperson or staff, 60% will go
elsewhere, even though it’s more inconvenient and the prices are higher.
Although great relationships are critical to the sales process, the process isn’t complete until you ask for the business. Every great salesperson must find a
comfortable way of saying, “I would appreciate the opportunity to do business with you. I will always give
you great value.” This applies to friends and family as well.
Always complete the sales process by asking for the business: “You will find that our products and service are the best in the industry. You
can take comfort in knowing that the companies we represent and this agency
will serve you well 24/7, and we would appreciate the opportunity to do
business with you.”
And when you get the business, always say “thanks” and express your appreciation once again, followed by a handwritten personal
note in a hand-addressed and postage-stamped envelope.
Every customer should be treated like a good friend or family member. So it
follows that friends and family should be treated as customers. Everyone who
knows you is assured of getting great value from you. Everyone knows you are an
expert in your field. Everyone knows you’ll treat them fairly. You’re the kind of salesperson everyone wants to do business with, so why keep it a
secret? Why not give them an opportunity to do business with you?
This means you must ask for the business. It’s a basic rule of salesmanship too often overlooked.