A top producer builds trust by getting personal

By Jacques Werth

High Probability Selling

About 25 years ago, I arranged to spend two days with one of the best known life insurance agents in the industry. He had agreed to let me observe everything he said and did with his prospects and clients. He picked me up at the airport in Central Ohio early in the evening, and we had dinner in the hotel where I was staying.

During dinner, he engaged me in a conversation that took me all the way back to my early childhood. Then, he started to talk about the insurance industry, but I interrupted him and asked him questions that took him all they way back to his childhood. When I finished learning what makes him "tick," he said, "Before this evening, I had only met two other people who build rapport the way I do it. How did you learn it?"

"I learned it by watching other top salespeople in many different industries," I said. "How about you?"

"When we decided to buy a house in this neighborhood," he said, "my wife found a realtor and arranged for us to meet him at a local restaurant. Before we ordered lunch, he started doing this rapport building technique with me, and it blew my mind. So, when he did the same thing with my wife, I took notes about all the questions he asked. That's how I got started. About a year later, I was at a Million Dollar Roundtable meeting. In the lobby of the hotel, I met one of the top of the table producers and he did the same kind of rapport building with me. He did it even better than that realtor, so I altered the way I did it to make it more like his way."

I asked, "Did you ever try to teach that rapport building technique to any other agents?

"Sure," he said. "A lot of local agents knew that I had the trust of all of my clients, and some of them asked me how I did it. So, I offered to show it to a few of them, because I had been planning to open my own general agency and I wanted to see if I could teach it.

When I did a rapport building session with each of them, they went through the whole thing with me and answered every question; however, they said that their clients would never sit still for the kind of emotional probing that I did with my clients. I told them that I do it because it builds trust. Nevertheless, they told me that they would not even try to use it. When I realized it would be so difficult to teach other agents how to sell the way I do, I decided to continue on as a one-man producer. That worked out quite well for me."

For many years after our meeting, he kept setting new records for production and client retention. He was often invited to speak to industry associations, but he seldom did. His reason: "When people strongly believe that you cannot build trust by being personal, there is not much point in telling them that this is what makes you so successful."