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How to Sell More: The Numbers Game

August 11, 2006 | | Comments 1

On June 28, 1994 I removed my U.S. Navy uniform for the last time and donned a business suit. Overnight, I went from steady-paycheck-sailor to self-employed life insurance agent (although I preferred the term “financial planner”). The number 1 rule you learn as a new life insurance agent is this:

You’re either in front of a client making your pitch or you’re trying to get in front of a client to make your pitch.

You also learn sales is a numbers game. For life insurance agents, the numbers game was the ratio 100:10:3. That meant for every 100 people you actually spoke with, you’d get appointments with 10 of them and sell 3 out of those 10. And that meant I had a phone growing out of my ear. I’d carry around a stack of index cards with names and phone numbers on them. Almost every evening after dinner, I’d retire to the bedroom to make at least 20 telephone calls; most of them cold calls. Yea, those were the days . . .

Every industry/product has its own version of the numbers game. I think it’s a security thing. It helps takes the uncertainty out of being being self-employed. It also helps focus your energy and activity. If I know I need to speak with 100 people this week to make 3 sales, you can bet I’ll be on the phone with at least 100 people trying to get 10 appointments.

Naturally, it’s a tad more complicated than that. Ultimately, the number of sales I make depends a lot upon the makeup of those initial 100 people. If I decide to speak with 100 people who are all over the age of 65, I’ll certainly get much worse results than the life insurance formula suggests. If I were selling long-term care insurance, however, those are the peope I’d want to be in talking to.

It’s not rocket science. It’s merely knowing who your product or service is best suited for and then doing everything you can to engage those people in a conversation. It works pretty much the same way on the web.

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  1. I think a lot of agents have this problem — spending so much time on the phone to just attempt to get a few meetings. It seems to me like there are two separate skills involved: first, getting the meetings set up with the most likely prospects, and second, selling the policies in those meetings. Too many people overlook that division of skills. I think ideally, two agents should work together … one who specializes in getting the meetings, and one who specializes in selling the policy. I know that’s usually not economically feasible, though.

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