Notice the title says fact-finding conversations, not fact-finding appointment. As insurance and financial services professionals, we certainly want to work by appointment. However, it is not more appointments we need, but more conversations.

1. Forget appointments.

You can have many more conversations than you can have appointments.

The old way of thinking is: I must see three appointments a day, or I will not succeed. We were all trained this way. Relax. It’s not your fault. This way of thinking used to work. But things have changed, and we must change our thinking about how to be successful.

Try thinking along the lines of: I must have one informal fact-finding conversation for every hour I work.

Well, Marvin, what’s the difference between an appointment and a conversation? And why is this important to me?

People don’t want to come in to see you for an appointment. People don’t want you to come see them for an appointment either.

You may be using too many old think techniques. Of the licensed professionals in my Marvelous Performance Schools, 65% do not have an internet presence, personal blog, Web site or LinkedIn account. These are the people wondering why they are struggling to meet their goals. They are stuck using old thinking methods that are not working. (By the way, did you know 100% of Fortune 500 executives have a LinkedIn account? You can connect with them in groups on LinkedIn. But this only works if you are actively using LinkedIn.)

Here’s the solution: Conduct informal fact-finding conversations when the opportunity presents itself. Not only when you have an appointment.

Example scenarios that happen every day (and much more frequently than the number of appointments you are conducting daily):

1. Your current client calls your office with a service question.

2. Your current client emails you with a service question.

3. You run into your client at a coffee shop, school function, church function or community function.

Are you seeing more opportunities yet? What other scenarios can you think of that I’ve not mentioned?

We live in a world that has more opportunities than at any other time in our careers. And I’ve been in this industry since 1987.

2. Stop selling products.

Our customers and prospects require us to engage with them much differently today. Old think continues to work less and less effectively. Most of the companies you represent are also still stuck in old think. If I see another company-produced product brochure, I think I will be nauseated. We don’t sell products; we sell benefits. Nobody goes to the hardware store because they want to buy a drill. They go to the hardware store because they want a hole that the drill will give them.

3. Start asking questions.

Try this: “Mr. (Customer), may I ask you a question?”

Most people will allow you to ask them a question–the key is that you must be prepared with the first question. You may have some great questions that you prefer over my own, but if you want access to the questions I use, please visit www.marvinleblanc.com/LIS to download a free copy of “The 21 Interest Bearing Questions.”

If you’re on the phone with the customer, simply start at the top and read the question to the caller. If you have a chance encounter with a customer, you literally can pull out the sheet and read it to them.

Or try saying: “Mr. (Customer), we don’t have the answers to all these questions. I need this completed.” Hand them the sheet of questions. They can email or fax it back to you. You should plan to follow up with them until you get the sheet back. After all, a customer should give you their spirit of cooperation.

You might be saying, “Well Marvin, my clients are more sophisticated than that.” Not true. The more intelligent they are, the more they need you to simplify the process. They may be an expert in their area, but they are not the expert in your area. You are.

Here’s your call to action:

1. Carefully review the 3 key points I just gave you.

2. Honestly try the ideas presented here for 21 straight days.

3. Track your progress.

4. Think simple.

5. Think differently.

6. Think conversations, not appointments.

Marvin LeBlanc is a left-handed, right-brained, fun-loving Cajun who is obsessed with life performance and overcoming adversity. Marvin has been a fully licensed insurance professional since 1986 and is president of Marvin D. LeBlanc Insurance Agency. Marvin is an entrepreneur, writer, speaker and the founder of Marvelous Performance Systems. Marvin is available for business retreats, keynotes, breakout sessions, workshops and individual coaching programs. His Katrina comeback memoir, “Come Hell or High Water,” will be available in the fall of 2011 through New York publisher www.bloomingtwig.com. To rent Marvin’s brain or inspire your underperforming group, contact him at www.marvinleblanc.com/lis or (225) 938-4177 and request a free, fun conference call. He returns all voice messages within 24 hours unless he’s no longer alive.

For more on fact finding, see:

Close Sales Easily Using Fact Finders

Value Finding Through the Art of Communication

Postscript: Marketing – Discover More Sales with the Discovery Letter

For more from Marvin LeBlanc, click here.