Why did the prospect cross the road?Article added by Rodney Ballance on May 1, 2014
Rodney Ballance

Rodney Ballance

Branson, MO

Joined: September 22, 2011

What now seems like a lifetime ago, when I was a young man just back from my time in the military, a long-time family friend named Bill Swindell approached me about buying life insurance. His approach was caring and thoughtful, but he was talking about life insurance. I was like most young people; 10 feet tall and bulletproof. The last thing on my mind was death.

Every time I’d see Bill, he’d ask me about making an appointment to discuss how life insurance could take care of my financial future. He would even tell me, "If you start a plan now, you could have over a million dollars by the time you’re 55." His words haunt me now that I’ve reached that age.

I got to the point where I would literally cross the street if I saw Bill coming. I remember ducking into the hardware store one day when I saw him walking toward me. Hiding behind the nail bin, I just hoped he wouldn’t see me. Looking back, I regret going to such lengths to avoid hearing what he had to say, but I know for a fact that I’m not the only person who feels that way.

Looking back on my career, I hate what I did to Bill and the fact I never bought anything from him. Has anything like this ever happened to you? Either as a prospect or as an agent, have you ever avoided or been avoided? If you’re like most of us, you have to answer "yes." With that in mind, let’s ask, "Why did the prospect cross the road?"

Don’t tell me what I should do!

Be honest. Isn’t this the way most of us feel about almost anything in our life? How can someone else know what my desires or ambitions are, before I share those thoughts with them? Approaching someone with a solution to a problem they don’t even know they have is like wearing a big radioactive hazard sign on your chest. People will avoid you at all costs.

If you’re wondering why it’s so hard to get an appointment, take a close look at what you’re saying to the prospects. Sales people with a limited range of products to sell will almost always lead off with how great their product is, even if the prospect isn’t at all interested in that product. I believe this is the most popular reason prospects cross the road.

What is he selling now?

I’m sure you've known life insurance agents who jump from one idea to another, just because they fall for the hype of the company pushing a specific "solution." Some agents go through their list of family and friends with one type of insurance or another, and exhaust their potential for new business. By the way, this is because they don’t know how to prospect.

Out of desperation, the agent responds to an email from someone pushing another niche market product, and they go through their list all over again with a renewed excitement for this product. Some of the existing clients buy because they like the agent, but naturally, there are fewer purchases than the first time around. Eventually, the agent burns these clients out, and they start to cross the road when they see him or her coming, because they’re afraid of what the next sales pitch will be.
I’m not in the market for insurance

No one wants to be sold anything that we’re not already thinking about buying. If you’re not in the market for a new set of tires for your car, advertisements on the radio or a flyer on your windshield at the grocery store are more of an aggravation than an attraction.

Why would we, as insurance professionals, try to drive a square peg into a round hole every time we get close to a new peg? Sooner or later, the pegs will get tired of your attempts to push them into something, and start avoiding you all together. The biggest problem here is that they will tell everyone they know about your sales tactics, and they, too, will cross the road every time they see you coming.

This guy is pressured to sell me something

We’ve all been there. It’s Friday afternoon and I’m on the last appointment of the week with way too few sales. This appointment is our last chance to earn enough money for groceries. I’m stressed to the max, and I’m trying not to let it show.

It doesn’t matter how hard you try to keep those emotions bottled up, the people sitting across the table from you will pick up on it faster than a dog can smell a steak cooking on the grill. They sense that you’re trying hard to sell them, which only serves to push them away. You’re branded as a “high pressure salesperson,” and they will cross the road every time they see you coming.

The only solution to this problem is listening

As humans, and especially as financial professionals, we must train ourselves to listen to the concerns people have before we try to offer a solution to them. If you walked into a doctor’s office with a sore throat, and before you could say what was wrong he recommended an x-ray of your arm, would you have much confidence in that doctor?

Unfortunately, we’re recommending strategies and products without first hearing the patient’s complaint. We will never fix their problems if they don’t first recognize they have a problem, and then trust that you can offer a viable solution to their personal and specific issue or concern.

I’ve been blessed with a successful career as a life insurance professional because I was taught early to ask questions and actively listen to people. I’ll write more on active listening in a later article.

For now, though, please try to help people stay on your side of the road. You would hate to be the reason someone got hit by a car crossing the street just to avoid hearing your latest sales pitch. On the other hand, some other agent would probably thank you, because a close encounter with death will definitely get them thinking about life insurance. Then they’ll call someone who is happy to listen.
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