There is usually much apprehension when it comes to making sales calls. Some sales professionals will visibly tremble with fear at the thought of picking up the phone and cold calling a total stranger, while others just seem naturally adept at turning prospects into customers. Regardless of your sales call comfort levels, the fact remains that it is a necessary aspect for successful insurance agencies.
The agency’s growth and success hinges on you, or your sales team, making effective sales calls. Like other important aspects of running a business, effective sales calls require careful planning and execution. When most decision makers are asked “At what point in the sales cycle is the salesperson most likely to lose the deal?”, the resounding answer is “during the sales call.”
That thought may strike more fear into already apprehension-filled sales agents, but it should also serve to highlight just how important each interaction is to your business. Apprehension and incompetence can be alleviated with proper planning before a call.
The Call Plan
Prior planning makes a huge difference in confidence levels and success. Even the most natural of improvisers can benefit from the creation of a plan. Your sales call plan can be broken down into two main sections; the Customer Sales Plan and the Sales Call Plan.
- The Customer Sales Plan
To carry out an effective call, you must first understand who it is you will be calling. So, a plan is a good idea before you attempt to have a conversation. During the process of creating a customer sales plan, you will shape your objectives and determine the best approach to take. This is where you can build a profile of the prospect. This understanding will allow you to package your offer in the most suitable manner.
The more comprehensive your customer sales plan, the more you will be able to find relatable points for discussion, and in turn, endear the prospect to you. That means gathering more data than merely age, sex, and profession. You must dig deeper to try and understand the customers wants and deepest desires. It is that ability to understand a prospect that will set you apart from much of the competition and will be a major determining factor in the success of the sales call.
- Sales Call Planning
So now that you know the prospect better than they know themselves, you can confidently engage them in a sales call. You will feel better prepared to answer any questions that may come your way, which is ideal because a good sales call is one where the salesperson does little talking, and the prospect is bubbling with questions.
Your ability to provide satisfactory answers, and in a manner that convinces the prospect as to the value of your insurance product will be essential to getting the client. For the sales call plan, you should put yourself into the mind of the prospect. You should already know a great deal about this person, so thinking how they think should not be too difficult. In adopting their mindset, what questions might they come up with during the call; what objections will they have to make a purchase?
Plan to answer their questions and address objections before the prospect even asks or makes them.
Quick tips for an effective sales call:
- Do not spend too much time on pleasantries.
- State the purpose of your call clearly.
- Build up a rapport with the customer through questioning, listening and observing.
- Allow the prospect to do most of the talking, but ask the right questions that lead to a satisfactory outcome for both parties.
- Don’t be pushy. Remember that you do not always have to make the sale on the first contact.
- Ask your question in a conversational tone that demonstrates real interest in the customer’s needs.
- Talk about the benefits of your products or service without exaggerating.
- Check to make sure that the customer understands what it is you are selling and how it can be of benefit.
One of the key components of the planning phase is the definition of goals. Without a goal in mind, it will be tough to measure success, and the call can quickly go off track and out of control. Meandering sales calls with seemingly no purpose are essentially a waste of time for all parties involved. Setting objectives help to give your plan and execution better structure. For an objective to have meaning it needs to be SMART. That means it should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-framed.
SMART objectives which are detailed and precise provide the greatest chance of success and helps to take away much of the anxiety that can occur before, during and after a sales call. As you go through the SMART process, you transform your intentions into meaningful and achievable objectives.
Making the Approach
The way that you approach a sales call is a major determining factor in achieving a successful outcome from that call. The approach will be mainly determined by information that has been gathered about the prospect before the call. The more information that you can collect, the more personalized you can make your approach.
Avoid generic sales pitches that are synonymous with telemarketers, and which are known to turn people off. Let the person you are talking know from the outset that you have taken some time to learn about them. Address them by name, mention something you have in common, and talk about their family, work, or favorite hobby as appropriate.
There are multiple ways to gauge the success of a sales call. Ultimately, it comes down to what your initial goals are. It may sound counterintuitive, but not every sales call should end in a sale. So, in that respect, measuring a call by whether or not the prospect made a purchase is not always the correct way to measure success.
Before and after the call, ask yourself “what exactly can I mark as success?” The ultimate aim will, of course, be to turn the prospect into a client. However, it can be a good idea to recognize all the smaller successes that may or may not lead up to the end objective. Success could be viewed as:
- Adding a key contact within a company, network, or community.
- Getting your insurance products and services onto the prospect's radar.
- Improving your sales call techniques.
- Getting a better understanding of your market’s needs.
- Developing new product or service ideas.
Learn and Move on
It goes without saying that you will not meet your overall objective on every single call that you make. Each call should be seen as a learning tool which you can use to make the next call even more efficient. If the prospect is not interested in taking you up on your offer this time, then turn the call into a feedback gathering session. Ask why they did not take the offer; what would change their mind, and how you can improve your sales approach. You would be surprised how useful a prospect saying “no” can be.
Nervous and underprepared sales people end up wasting lots of time and effort. When you plan effectively, you can make more logical and time efficient sales calls. What’s more, the prospect will be more at ease if they feel that they are holding discussions with someone who is knowledgeable, prepared, and confident.