Back to Basics in the New Year

by Jeanne Buysee, American Family Insurance

Did any of your New Year’s resolutions survive the first month of 2013? The clean slate of the new year makes it the ideal time to make a firm decision to facilitate improvement in some area of your life or business. According to the University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology, about 45 percent of Americans usually make resolutions each year, but only eight percent are successful in achieving their resolutions, and another 24 percent say they fail every year. Resolutions fail because not a lot of thought is given to what you want to succeed—they are just what you think you should do.

Many small businesses make resolutions, but when they don’t work, it’s often because the goals are impossible to achieve, the fixes that are needed can’t happen in a short time, or there are simply too many. Because the success rate for resolutions is so low, it would be wise to continually review your goals, examine what has brought success, and go back to the basics.

I have given up personal New Year’s resolutions, but I do make an annual sales plan for my insurance agency. Insurance is a curious product—a promise that cannot be seen, felt, smelled, heard, tasted or touched. It is a guarantee of compensation for specified loss, damage, illness or death in return for payment. Insurance for tangible things, like your home or automobile, is easiest to sell, but policies that cover intangibles, such as life and disability, are more difficult. There needs to be complete trust between the buyer and the seller, because no one can imagine being disabled or dying too soon.

No matter the type of product, there has to be a plan to make sales. Before your goals for the year get out of hand, it’s a good idea to review the seven basic steps to a sale:

  1. Introduce yourself—then shut up and listen.
  2. Explain why the offer is important to the individual customer.
  3. Get confirmation, then explain details and ask for feedback.
  4. Establish credibility and show the customer why you can be trusted.
  5. Educate the customer—detail what’s needed to complete the transaction and what it will cost.
  6. Schedule next steps and follow up.
  7. Ask for the sale—don’t assume the customer will ask. 

The first step is the most important. The sales process is not about the salesperson; it’s about the customer. Selling is about relationship building, attention to detail, knowledge, sincerity, follow-through, focus on the prospect, and positive communication.

Even though one may learn and practice the steps to make a sale, the biggest obstacle to success is fear of asking for the business. It is imperative that you believe in the service, the product and yourself. You must develop discipline so you don’t let fear keep you from success.

Everyone has had to face the fear of asking for something. I found help from the following quote by Eleanor Roosevelt and taped it to my desk, so whenever I feel fear of any type, I read it and believe it: “I gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which I must stop and look fear in the face... I say to myself, I’ve lived through this and can take the next thing that comes along… We must do the things we think we cannot do.iBi

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