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10 of the most common phone selling mistakes (& what to do instead)

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Not too long ago, I was asking my advisor about life insurance coverage options during a phone call. He sent me the options via email and I replied a few days later. He never got back to me. More than being frustrated or upset, I felt let down because I was expecting him to answer my questions and worries about his products (not immediately, mind you, but at some point). Let’s just say I didn’t make a purchasing decision with him.

On the flipside, had he gotten back to me very quickly (and possibly repeatedly), would I have perceived him as pushy? Would the communication have been too much?

We live in a technologicasl world, where every second counts. So why subject your prospects or clients to frustrations, or make them jump through hoops, when you can make their lives so much easier? (And your life, too, really.) They will not only become loyal clients; they will become brand ambassadors who recommend you to family and friends. And isn’t that what we’re all striving for — good referrals?

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A brief report from Elite Freedom Formula on has gathered 33 of the most common selling mistakes that insurance agents and advisors make when talking to prospects or clients. Here, we have gathered about 10 of those and what to do instead.

Mistake No. 1: Not sending an email reminder

We all live very busy lives, and sometimes appointments drop off the calendar. Send your clients a short reminder with the date, time and any other pertinent details, such as the dial-in information or a link to the presentation or resources that your prospect might need.

Having everything in one email reminder a day or two before the call, will help your prospects organize themselves and make the process easier.

What to do:

Send that email reminder a few days — or even a few hours — before your meeting.

Mistake No. 2: Talking too much

To talk or not to talk, that is the question. In the example at the beginning, I was wondering that had my insurance advisor had gotten back to me repeatedly and in a short amount of time, would I have had perceived him as pushy. While I will never know now, since he didn’t even reply to my questions via email, the question still stands: how much is too much communication with your client?

What to do:

When in doubt, consult your references, your experience, and ask your clients, up-front, about how they prefer to be contacted (via phone, email, text, social media, “snail mail”), how often they want to be contacted, and always offer a way out.

Need a tangible example? Think about when you go to a fancy restaurant to enjoy a meal. Do you prefer your waiter or waitress to come by your table 5,000 times, or only once during the meal? Do you like it when the waiter takes away your plate, even when you’re not finished, because the next course is coming out, or do you like to take your time and linger? These are the basics of great customer service and nowadays, service is all about being tailored to each individual.

For a quick reference, check this article.

Mistake No. 3: Being late

A few months ago we wrote an article titled “10 bad work habits you might be doing right now (& how to stop them),” which included this bad habit: “There’s an app for that and it’s called a good ol’ watch.” The importance of timeliness is relevant here, too. 

While there are unusual situations that acceptably trigger tardiness — getting in a car accident, say, or Fido leaping out of your fenced yard — being consistently late signals that you have a problem.

What to do:

Get a watch, put a notification on your phone, jot down the date and time in your planner, do whatever it takes to remind you of the call and, for the love of pumpkin spiced lattes, don’t be late anymore! There’s no excuse.

Mistake No. 4: Not asking enough questions

Think about dating: What kinds of questions do you ask your potential partner to get to know their idiosyncrasies? Well, getting to know what your client needs is somewhat similar, except in a non-romantic kind of way. I mean, it’s not like you’re going to ask your prospect what his or her favorite color is …

What to do:

Have a list of set, standard questions that you ask all prospects. Leave no page unturned. If you don’t understand one of their answers, rephrase the question and ask them again. It is better to have more information than you need than to have to schedule another call to capture information you need. Being thorough in the first place will save you time, and will also help avoid any misunderstandings that might arise from being forced to assumptions.

Mistake No. 5: Not moving the prospect emotionally

Have you seen the many, many, many TV ads about diamonds for this holiday season? Anyone would think that Valentine’s Day would be the best month for diamond stores to sell, but it seems that they want to change that, given the 2015 holiday advertising terrain. One thing that is common in all these ads is the emotion: Show her that you care. Show her how much you appreciate her. Show her that diamonds are, indeed, a girl’s best friend. Show her that chocolate diamonds are beautiful, yet not edible …

The common thread in all these ads is the emotion that they try to convey. Insurance is no different. We have written extensively about this subject.

What to do:

When people really feel your genuine enthusiasm and passion for something, they will get caught up in the emotion. For more tips on how to accomplish this, read this article.

Mistake No. 6: Talking product, not problems

I attended a presentation at the NAILBA 34 conference earlier this year, when the speaker asked the audience: Why isn’t the industry focusing on the problems that it solves for clients? Why is it instead marketing the many product features?

Solving a problem is memorable. For example, “There’s an app for that” was a great reply to the many daily struggles that some of us face. Apple came up with the catchy phrase for one of its early TV ads.

What to do:

Listen to your prospect or client. There’s no better way to learn what is going through someone’s mind. And remember, listening is not the same as “hearing.” You hear noise from the dishwasher, but you listen to your children when they are trying to explain why the sky is blue.

Here’s an article on how to improve your listening skills, a process that is crucial to becoming a great advisor.

Mistake No. 7: Not making them dream

We are not talking about putting your client or prospect to sleep! Au contraire! We want your client to dream of a future where their family is financially secure and happy.

What to do:

This all goes back to being a great listener. Don’t fret, you can practice until you further develop your listening skills. One example of how to help your client dream comes from contributor Amy McIlwain:

“If you believe your dream client is always right and that it’s your job to sell him what he wants without question, he will never perceive you as a peer. You will be seen as a commodity, just another salesperson operating on a purely transactional basis.

What you want is to be perceived as a peer. A peer challenges his dream client’s thinking when it needs to be challenged. A peer makes sure that whatever he and his client work on together becomes the biggest value-creating initiative they can dream up. A peer does not avoid the difficult issues surrounding the results a client wants.”

You can read the rest of McIlwain’s article here: What a dream client wants

Mistake No. 8: Not setting a time for the next appointment

Never, under any circumstances, hang up the phone until you have the next appointment set! And, again, send a follow-up email after the call with important details that were discussed during the call, and the time, phone numbers and other information for your next appointment.

What to do:

Don’t forget to confirm your next appointment.

See also: Have a tough-to-reach prospect?

Mistake No. 9: Not using a proven script

“Hello, Mr. Prospect Number One!” Ooops! This was a real mistake that one of our contributors said during a cold call. (You can read all about it here.)

While her recovery was as smooth as it can be after such a rookie blunder, making a call by the “seat of your pants” without a proven cold calling script is a recipe for disaster. It will make you seem unprepared, which equals “unprofessional” in the mind of the prospect, and that’s not how you want to start a long and healthy client relationship.

What to do:

If you don’t already have a proven cold-calling script, find one. Either Google it or go to the book store. Or check out examples we’ve published, such as:

4 tips from the queen of cold calling

Cold calling basics

Is your script working?

Mistake No. 10: Getting emotionally involved in an outcome

A great psychologist once said that one should never get emotionally involved with what their clients are disclosing … or something to that extent. While this is true, because it would wreak havoc on your own emotions, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be emphatic with your prospects.

What to do:

Empathize with your prospects, but don’t carry their emotional burdens. Recognize that everyone has difficult situations in life and hurdles to overcome. Consider having a resource that could help your prospect or client deal with emotional challenges. Refer them to other professionals when it’s warranted, but be cautious about getting too involved.

See also:

22 reasons why salespeople don’t close more sales

The No. 1 sales mistake you might be making

10 bad work habits that you might be doing right now (& how to stop them)

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