Every agent has their own style in closing sales, and no individual technique is best. But there are three types of closing tactics that can be used very effectively if executed properly.
In 1972, I was interviewed by Aetna Life & Casualty’s magazine The Advisor to talk about my closing techniques. After 50-plus years of successful selling, I can easily say that what I said — and what worked — then has consistently worked since: “The first person who has to be sold on a client’s need is me. I have to convince myself that my proposal is absolutely right for the individual. Once that’s done, he’s got an awfully big job convincing me that it’s not.”
That was, and is, my philosophy on closing. I’ve always approached qualified prospects with confidence, prepared to sell and was not put off by excuses or stalling tactics. Even at the beginning of my career, I tried to determine what the prospect’s “hot button” was so that I could use a technique that would close the sale.
Most of your closings take place during the first presentation. If I don’t close by the second interview, I feel I haven’t properly qualified the prospect. You can’t just wait for the closing to happen: You have to set the stage and gain an understanding of the prospect by listening, questioning and being prepared to close.
1. The ‘Lightning Bolt Close’
The first technique is what I call the “Lightning Bolt Close.” It’s used with very sophisticated, high-net-worth prospects who have no time to listen to long insurance presentations and care little about cost. Instead, they care about who recommended you (trust); whether you present yourself as a strong person they would like to have on their team (confidence); and how fast you can wrap things up (speed) so they can move on with their lives.
The chairman and CEO of one of the biggest investment houses on Wall Street needed a new insurance broker. One of my agency’s outside producer relationships received the referral and asked us to help as the account was beyond his ability. We reviewed all current policies and locations, made personal inspections, and were ready to meet the client. He refused to meet us until we had a complete proposal. The other producer felt that I should handle the sale alone. I had a terrific comparative, professional proposal ready, and knew I wouldn’t have much time, so I prepared for a “Lightning Bolt Close.”
I was brought into the middle of the company’s open trading floor where, surrounded by hundreds of traders, sat my prospect. It was bedlam. I introduced myself, he said he knew why I was there and asked how much time it would take. I said I could do it in less than 20 minutes. He stood up and I followed him off the floor to a small private office. He said, “I don’t have 20 minutes. Maybe only five minutes.” I explained that we made a careful analysis of his exposures and coverage, which we felt was inadequate and hadn’t been updated in years. Our proposal greatly improved his coverage, and therefore was a lot more expensive. No numbers were discussed.
He asked if I was sure our program was better than what he had. I said, “Yes.” He said, “What do I need to do?” I picked up his phone, dialed the number of his present insurance agency, said who was calling, asked for his broker, handed the phone to the prospect and said, “Tell him he’s fired and that you have a new insurance broker.” He did just that, hung up the phone and said “What else?” I put an application and pen in front of him and said, “Sign here.” He signed, stood up, shook my hand and said, “Don’t screw this up.” He returned to the trading floor and never looked back.
That transaction took exactly five minutes. He never looked at the proposal, which I later sent to him and his accountant. That man’s family remains a client of the agency to this day.
2. The ‘No-Proposal Proposal’
The second closing technique that can be successful in certain situations is “The No-Proposal Proposal.”
This is effective when you find that the prospect is currently with the best insurance company for the risk and you can’t find a more suitable carrier.
Your objective is to obtain an authorization for a Change of Broker (BOR — Broker of Record). This effectively retains the present carrier but replaces the current broker with you.
Your job is to show the improvements you can make to their existing insurance, because, based on your detailed survey and analysis, the present broker has either missed or not stayed current with the insured’s exposures.
The “No-Proposal Proposal” has been a very effective tool in our agency, and I have had personal success with such risks as a large Long Island synagogue, a Fortune 500 manufacturer, and a high-net-worth celebrity personal client, and have retained their business for many years since.
I have never made a sale solely based on a lower price; price is secondary. The value you present is in service to the client, and the key element of that is keeping up with the client’s needs and enhancements to their policy and periodic reviews of their coverage. You have to be aware of their changing needs.
If you coast, you can only coast one way.
3. The ‘Application Close’
The third closing technique is the “Application Close.”
It is valuable when working with someone who needs insurance but who seems indecisive or is procrastinating. Don’t ask if they want to buy anything; just listen to their needs and go right into the application, which puts the action on the prospect to respond.
Now, there might be a good reason why a person doesn’t buy — perhaps he hasn’t disclosed critical information. Because you have a good idea as to what the insurance needs are based on your fact-finding, if the prospect objects to completing an application, stop the process right away. Don’t take it as a personal rejection, but only that what you have determined is not correct and move on. Usually, when prompted, the prospect will complete the application.
The key to the close is you, not the prospect. You have to prepare for the close even before you make the presentation — then pounce on it when the opportunity presents itself. Don’t forget to ask for a check and a referral.