By John Pojeta
This story is one of my all-time favorites, and it illustrates how counterintuitive a sales pipeline sometimes can be.
One of our advisor clients specializes in working with farms of all sizes. He understands the industry. He’s passionate about working with the people there, and he genuinely enjoys the work.
Recently, our client sent one of his partners out to an appointment. His partner met with the farmer to discuss the farmer’s commercial property and casualty insurance, but the conversation started to spiral.
Soon the advisor was being thrown off the farmer’s property, enduring a flurry of curses as the advisor fumbled for his keys. When he returned to the office, he shared a few laughs about the odd experience — another entry in the book of sales stories — and moved on to the next sales opportunity.
Here’s where the story gets interesting.
One year later, about two weeks before the angry farmer’s policy was about to expire, he called our client. The original advisor went back out, had a great meeting, and captured the business.
We might not have been thrown off a farm, but most salespeople have a story about a prospect who seemed hopeless but then suddenly placed a call to do business. The timing of a prospect reengaging might seem unpredictable, but these situations happen so frequently that we evaluate the potential value of a prospect much differently.
Typically, if you meet a prospect, you want the sale to close quickly. That’s human nature, and it’s understandable, but it’s also not realistic. We understand, logically, that most businesses are slow to make a major change and that aspects of their industries might limit them to rigid timelines. Even though we understand that a prospect might eventually convert later for any number of reasons, we often look at an unclosed sale as an outright failure.
From our perspective, we see every appointment as having long-term value. A prospect who does not close immediately can become a client later. But more than that, making that connection and demonstrating your expertise — even if it does not lead to a sale — can give an advisor access to a new network or can drive word of mouth about who you are and what you do.
Beyond the value of the appointment itself, stories such as the farmer who had a change of heart illustrate two lessons:
- If someone throws you out, you have to react the way our clients did. Laugh it off and move on to the next opportunity. Taking an experience like that personally can discolor how you approach the next sales meeting. It can bog you down and weaken your resolve. If a sale does not go as planned, you have to find a way to recover and get back to delivering great sales so that the distraction of the poor experience does not slow you down.
2. In addition to your ability to bounce back from a bad experience, you need to develop a never-give-up mentality. We have bad days, and prospects have bad days too. One sour conversation does not mean that the opportunity is lost. Our industry talks about playing the long game, using drip marketing systems and regular follow-up to keep prospects engaged until they are ready to convert, but we still see advisors giving up. You do not have to become a nuisance with your follow-up, but you can connect with a prospect in a soft way a few times a year to stay top of mind.
When you keep taking swings at new opportunities with a consistent gusto and have a process for staying engaged with prospects for the long haul, you develop a sales pipeline where you get both the short-term and long-term wins. This leads to a growing wave of new clients.
John Pojeta is the vice president of business development at The PT Services Group. He previously owned and operated an Ameriprise Financial Services franchise for 16 years. John may be contacted at [email protected].
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