Thursday, December 8, 2016

Clint Eastwood, Sales Genius

“Ever notice how you come across somebody once in awhile you shouldn’t have messed with? That’s me.”  Clint Eastwood “Gran Torino”

Ever notice how you come across someone once in awhile who is always unmistakably blunt and honest?  That’s Clint Eastwood.

If you have read my Maya Angelou article or seen the video Maya Angelou, Sales Genius, the theme is that people remember the way you make them feel.  Clint Eastwood intentionally starves the audience of dialogue only to bludgeon them with a few sharp words of truth delivered through his gritted teeth.  He wastes no words, yet his characters share a similarity.  Honesty.  Eastwood never uses any doublespeak or fuzzy language.  The audience knows where he stands without him having to try and convince them of anything. Clint-Eastwood-as-Insp-Dirty-Harry-Callahan-in-Dirty-Harry.jpg

As a salesman, you may be a great speaker whose voice is music to your own ears.  If so, it has to be gratifying that you’ve got an audience who might pay you at the end of your perfectly delivered sales pitch.  What if you just perfectly delivered honesty?  Would that work better?

Sales pitches are written specifically to get people to buy.  They are not written to tell the truth.  Otherwise, no one would ever buy overpriced pieces of shit (OPOS).  In order to be able to exude truth, you have sell the right thing to the right client and do it with rock steady conviction.

“You have to feel confident. If you don't, then you're going to be hesitant and defensive, and there'll be a lot of things working against you.” Clint Eastwood

So how do you attain this Eastwood kind of confidence?  You have to learn everything about the material you are delivering and everything about the client buying it.  We built our Insurance Professor Consulting Program for licensed insurance agents, so that they can deliver products to clients the best possible way.  I’m talking about the way that ends with happy clients and more income.

Here’s the rest.  I don’t know about you, but I like the idea of saying whatever I want without worrying what anyone else thinks.  It’s freeing.  I am not talking about insulting people.  I am talking about being honest with people for their own good and mine.  In my business, there has been a lot of effort put behind shielding the client from what he or she is actually buying.  I think the whole idea of it is idiotic.  Calling it “Mortgage Protection,” so you don’t have to say the words “Life Insurance” is weak.  Our training program is not about hiding things from the client.  It isn’t about wasting words.  It isn’t about driving Euro sedans and wearing shiny wing tips.  It’s about making it happen.

Some of our consulting clients already learned a different method of selling.  The old method.  Well, the old way is losing to the Brevity way.  I am not telling you that it is easy to forget the old way and adopt something new.  It is actually pretty difficult, which is why you will see the old way in practice for probably around 10 more years.  But, if you think you should be closing more and bigger business, you have to take the plunge.  The good thing about our system is that you have peers around you who are making or have made the same changes to their practices.

“To make a fighter you gotta strip them down to bare wood: you can’t just tell ’em to forget everything you know if you gotta make ’em forget even their bones… make ’em so tired they only listen to you, only hear your voice, only do what you say and nothing else… show ’em how to keep their balance and take it away from the other guy… how to generate momentum off their right toe and how to flex your knees when you fire a jab… how to fight backin’ up so that the other guy doesn’t want to come after you. Then you gotta show ’em all over again. Over and over and over… till they think they’re born that way.” Clint Eastwood, “Million Dollar Baby”

-Justin Stainback
Insurance Professor

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Mark Twain, Sales Genius

Mark Twain once said: “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”  I want to explore and discuss how that is important in today’s world of selling.  

Let me first give you an example that most of us in sales have experienced.  You meet a potential client and ask some questions and find out that this person has a product that they have bought for a significant amount of money. You know that this product (whatever it is) is an inferior piece of shit.  Naturally, you go about trying to convince this person that they have made a mistake and you have something that will work much better and the kicker is that it costs less.  Your expectation is that your prospect will see the value and jump on it immediately.  But, that doesn’t happen, does it?  Why?


The answer is Cognitive Dissonance.  Mark Twain lived from 1835 to 1910.  Cognitive Dissonance theory was not proposed until 1957 by Psychology Professor Leon Festinger.  Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort we feel over the turmoil in our brains that is caused by conflicting beliefs, ideas or values.  Our brains work hard to make us think we are doing the right thing, even though there may be overwhelming evidence telling us otherwise. Consistency of belief tends to be more comfortable than the feeling of having made a mistake.

Rationale.  Many times, very smart people will justify their dumb choices.  They use illogical reasons for buying or keeping their piece of shit, over priced product.  Here are a just a few.

-You get what you pay for.
-It could be much worse.
-It’s what my spouse wanted.
-We had some extra money laying around.
-It’s worked fine so far.
-My dad did business with this company.

So how do you snap someone out of this kind of “natural” behavior?  You leave all that sales presentation 101 bullshit behind.  I know you’ve heard “Knowing is half the battle.”  Well, i would say, it’s closer to 90% of the battle.  You have to know what your client is thinking or feeling and you have to get ahead of it for his or her own good.  You will never sell to someone who is net feeling at ease and someone who is experiencing cognitive dissonance is not at ease.  

How do you know what your client is feeling?  Empathy, if you don’t have it, you will learn it.  We have all made mistakes.  Some of us have made huge mistakes or have been wrong in a big way, only to discover a profound truth.  You must not be patronizing but sometimes you have to challenge those who can handle it.  Some know-it-alls find that hard to resist.  With others, you just have to be a sounding board.  Ask good questions and then shut up and listen.  People will talk themselves into buying from you if you allow it.  And then do right by your client and sell the best thing.  “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”  -Mark Twain

-Insurance Professor

Monday, November 7, 2016

Insurance Buyers, Static or Metamorphic

My 10 year old son is in homeschool.  His best and favorite subject is Science (mine too).  He and my wife get to do all kinds of cool science classes and experiments.  I am not very involved in the lessons except when I overhear what they’re working on and feel compelled to interject with a very important theory of my own.  Typically, I find that my speculation is undervalued by the two of them.  

Earlier today, I heard the words, “Static” and “Metamorphic” in reference to earth science.  I thought about how these two words are perfect to describe people who buy stuff.  We have addressed the idea that consumers buy differently now than they did in the past, but I want to talk quickly about the rate of change.  

First off, the Insurance industry is very slow moving, kind of like a three toed sloth.  For decades, the same type of sales training has been used for these 2 reasons.  The products have been fairly consistent over long stretches of time and people have consistently fallen for the same sales pitches.

But, there has been a change.  Did people get smarter all of a sudden?  No.  They did not.  They used an information gathering tool that became available.  It used to be that if you needed information on life insurance, you reached out to an agent.  If he gave you a queasy feeling and if you wanted a second opinion on life insurance, you reached out to another agent.  At some point though, you had to buy or you would have invested too much time shopping to justify the savings you may have achieved.  In other words, a person is only willing to dedicate a specific amount of time to learning about a particular good or service before deciding to buy it or not.

About, 15 years ago, people were still getting their first look at life insurance products through the agent but then seeking validation of their queasy feelings through the internet.  Even when internet speeds were that slow, you could now figure out that you were being pitched something that sucked… and you didn’t have to burn time getting in front of another agent.

Fast forward to today.  In just 15 short years, the captive/career agent system for life insurance is crumbling.  Career agents are being laid off because consumers are too well informed to buy from them.  Even those who still work for life insurance companies are often allowed to sell other companies’ products because if they do not, the consumer will just buy the best priced product somewhere else.  The carriers are being forced to innovate.  They are finally using online applications and are closing offices because no one walks in any more.

Neck ties are being sent to GoodWill for greatly overestimated tax deduction values.  The best, most talented agents of today are independent.  They are smarter about the industry and product, yet much more casual.  They address the need and help the client buy the right thing instead of selling the merit of a one size fits all product.  I think i may have been one of the very first life insurance salesman to abandon slacks for jeans.  

The flow of information in the last 15 years has made a metamorphic change, which has been the catalyst for changes in the whole industry.  The need for life insurance has remained static.  And this may surprise you but the client has really only made a minor change in the way he or she buys.  

In general, people want the same thing they always wanted.  They want to take care of their families.  They want to understand what they are buying.  They want to buy it at the right price.  And all things being equal, they prefer to buy from a person.  But, old methods of selling will feel more and more uncomfortable to the client.  I believe those methods will eventually be abandoned by the industry.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

No For Now, And No Forever!

If you are in sales, you have heard “No” many times over.  There have been hundreds of sales training programs that are focused on dealing with rejection.  Many of these are based on clarifying what “no” actually means to the client and then focusing on solving that issue.  Here are just a few of the reasons for hearing “no.”

  1. I don’t understand.
  2. I am not the decision maker.
  3. Now is not a good time.
  4. Your price is too high.
  5. You don’t have what I need.
  6. I don’t trust you.

So, I am definitely a proponent of digging deeper to make sure that the client is getting the best experience, price and product.  And I agree that when your client tells you “no,” it is possible to turn that into an eventual “yes.”  But what I don’t get is why anyone would accept the idea that they should hear “no” so often.  If you hear “no” for any of the reasons above, it’s because you screwed up somewhere.  Most of the time it is because you talked too much, your prospect talked too little and you have no understanding of what motivates this person to buy.  If you are friendly and likeable, the result of this is probably “No for Now.”

Why so much “no”?  Because sales training is too focused on the product.  If sales is focused on the client, and you are a good salesman, you can understand your client so well that you may never hear the word “no.”  Don’t believe me?  I can’t even remember the last time I got a “no” in a client meeting.  I strive to understand the client to the extent that I will not even ask them to buy if I know I cannot help them in a significant way.  I typically don’t have ask them to buy at all because my clients and I are on the same team and we are pursuing the solution together.  To be fair, I hear “no” enough at home from my wife that I have strived to eliminate the word from my work day.  Thank you honey, you have made me the man I am today.

What about “No Forever?”  Most salespeople do not know when “no forever” has happened to them or why.  Here are a few reasons for “no forever.”

  1. You pushed a product that made no sense or the price was too high and the client found something much better somewhere else.
  2. You were rude or crass.
  3. You got a bad review from a former client.
  4. You didn’t do what you said you would do.
  5. You smell, ask dumb questions, sound like an idiot.
  6. You oversell.

The main reason for a “no forever” is when the client has a profoundly great buying experience with someone else.  You will never get that client back.

You want to be (You Have To Be) the guy or gal who is the best at selling and who has the best product to sell.  Then you’ll have to get all your “no's” at home, like me.

-Insurance Professor

Monday, October 3, 2016

Maya Angelou, Sales Genius.

I have been thinking about some of my consulting clients who seem to have difficulty separating the client’s desire for information from their own.  Some of my consulting clients are natural sponges of information.  This is what attracted them to us in the first place.  What I see happening sometimes is that we are focusing too much on information and not on how the client feels.

We all have clients who place a lot of value on the experience of learning something that they think they would not have learned from another salesman.  In this regard, the scarcity of this information is what makes it valuable.  But, once trust has been earned, spending more time getting deeper in the weeds gives you a diminishing return.

A client can only retain so much, so giving away more than a practical amount of information can end up reducing your chance to make the sale.  This amount of information is different for everyone.  Five minutes of education may be perfect for some clients where others need thirty minutes or more.  I would contend that very few people ever want or need more than 45 minutes of solid information to decide to work with you.  I personally try to limit the info dump to around 15 minutes.

But why do people really buy from you and keep on buying from you?  They buy from you because of the way they feel when they interact with you.  Maya Angelou said “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Did you know it has been proven that Doctors with good bedside manner have healthier patients?  This is because anxiety is so bad for you.  Doctors who you like, lower your anxiety and the ones you don’t like raise your anxiety.

So what is the best way to make your client feel?  If someone pinned me down on it, I would tell them that i want my clients to feel at ease.

Remember though, that we want the clients to take action.  It is our job to make that happen.  So we want the client to feel at ease before, during and after taking action.

-Insurance Professor

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Why Aflac Agents Are Throwing So Much Money Away

Ladies and Gents of Aflac, first let me say that you are some of the most fearless, hardest working people in the insurance business.  I really like being around you all and I respect you.  If you have made it through the first couple of years and are making a good living then you’ve dealt with enough rejection to make a lesser person suicidal.  It also means that you have a gift.  You understand people and you know what motivates them.

Recently, I did some work with an owner of a local company that has about 50 employees.  As I was asking about their benefits, he mentioned that he had an Aflac agent who had been servicing the company for a couple of years in addition to the group health broker.  The company owner seemed to like both the health insurance broker and the Aflac agent.  There were a couple of employees who had made claims and received benefits, which definitely makes the risk feel more real to those who were not participating in any of the Aflac plans.  This meant that the agent was able to get back in there and enroll more employees the next time he was through the door.

The business owner, who is generally more accessible and friendly than many of his peers in business had even sat down with the Aflac guy, though he told me that “they really didn’t have what I needed.”  

So let me get right to the point.  What he did need was a simple review of his current personal insurance, some legacy planning suggestions and some help in identifying a business income risk due to loss of key people.  All of this took me very little time to accomplish and the result was great client satisfaction and much more commission than was earned by the Aflac guy….about $44,000 to be exact.  I am not telling you this to brag.  I consider myself lucky that the Aflac agent did not have the tools to get this done.  He certainly had the relationship, which is the hardest part.

So if this was so easy to accomplish, then why didn’t the Aflac agent do it?  There are 3 simple answers to this question.

  1. He did not understand the potential.  In a 50 person company, the Aflac agent usually only focuses on the rank and file employees and what they will buy.  Each employee may be a potential of $200 in commission.  Get 15 people to buy from you and you’ve had a great day.  What you’re missing is that the earnings potential is easily 10 times that amount if you understand where to look.

  1. He did not know the next few questions to ask.  And this is simply because he never learned the next few questions.  Aflac agents are independent, which means they can sell other company's’ insurance products.  But, how would it benefit Aflac to train their sales force to sell something that Aflac doesn’t have?

  1. No marketplace for the higher end buyers.  Contracts with the right carriers are easy to get.  Wholesalers are falling over themselves to give away brokerage contracts that give you access to the whole world of Life and Disability carriers.  They are not all created equal.  Some come pretty much bare bones, while others come with a ton of great service.

You may be asking… Why would he reveal all this?  The reason is that the life insurance industry is so under-served that I decided to build a new consulting program, just for Independent Aflac Agents.  

We have already built 2 successful platforms for Wealth Managers and Property and Casualty agents.  Even though this is more specifically targeted, I already know this platform has the most revenue potential of the three.  This is because of a proprietary formula we use to measure measure income potential.  Aflac agents consistently score a higher number. The average lost potential revenue is well over $100,000 per agent.

Use this link to sign up for a spot on my calendar. We will have 20 minute call where I will tell you how the formula works. I will also reveal some of the strategies my clients are using with great success.

P.S.  This program is for experienced agents only.  We ask that you have a minimum of 1 year experience before signing up for the call.

P.P.S.  One of the first questions I am often asked is, “Do you still sell insurance?”  The answer is YES and I do not plan to stop.  Here is why.  Most sales coaches, trainers, consultants gave up a career in sales to teach.  The problem is that trends change.  What worked 5 years ago may not work today.  I stay in the business because I like it and so I can keep my material fresh and current.

Kind Regards,

Justin Stainback
Insurance Professor

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Don’t Be Like Chester Copperpot

Don’t Be Like Chester Copperpot

Who the hell is Chester Copperpot?  Come on.  You’ve seen “The Goonies” if you were watching HBO back in the 80’s when this was the intro to all the prime time movies they played…
And shame on you if you have not seen “The Goonies.”  Rent it on Amazon.  Watch it with your kids, for Heaven’s sake.  Watch it again if it’s been a while.


Chester Copperpot preceded Goonies in the hunt for One Eyed Willie’s treasure.  He was motivated and confident.  He had some knowledge, skill and experience.  He generally knew where the treasure was.  He also had a tool (Copper Bones, which was the skull shaped key).  He was crushed in a booby trap, but even if he had made it further, he wouldn’t have gotten the treasure.  Remember the musical notes on the back of the treasure map that he didn’t have?  

The mistake Chester Copperpot made is that he overestimated the amount of knowledge he had, or he underestimated the amount of knowledge it would take to get the rich stuff.

Too many people are satisfied with the tired old sales practices of the past. They make lazy excuses for not getting sales made or blame it on some numbers rule that someone else told you.  Here’s the numbers rule I learned at my first job in life insurance.  I was told that I had to speak with 10 people to set 3 meetings to make 1 sale.  Today I know that talking to 10 people to make 1 sale would be an epic failure.

Have you ever lost a sale or didn’t make something happen that you wanted to happen and you didn’t know why?  I can tell you the reason.  About 95% of the time it’s because you didn’t have the knowledge and the tools you needed.  The question you should always ask after a disappointment is “Could anyone have done it?”  I am talking about the best person in the world or even someone with a few months more experience than you.  If the answer is yes, then it’s your fault and you need to fix it. When Is Your Best Really Your Best?

Things move really fast now.  Technology and trends move lightning fast.  People get information differently now than ever before.  This means that consumers buy differently now, but sales training has not kept pace.  If the sale is the treasure, then you have to be equipped with the right knowledge and tools to get it.  Don’t be like Chester Copperpot.  Spend time learning, get the rich stuff and then do the truffle shuffle.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Selling to People Who Don't Like You

Selling to People Who Don’t Like You

So you think you could never have a job in sales because you feel like the customer will not like you.  You have a point.  I hate salespeople too.  They won’t leave you alone when you’re just looking.  They ask you stupid questions that you know they already have the answers to.  They lie, they brag, they drive BMW’s and they won’t stop talking about their stupid overpriced product that you don’t need.  

I can tell you that you do not have to subjugate your own personality to “act” like a salesman.  Selling is easy and it can be learned.  Here are a few things you need to know.

  1. Sell what you believe in.  What turns most scrupulous people off from selling is being forced to sell something they don’t believe in.  Even as a teenager, working as a waiter, it was much easier serving people my favorites from the menu.  It was also easy to tell customers to avoid the well aged chicken salmonella salad.
  2. Forget the product, focus on the need.  Some people can understand the merit of an object, but only as it relates to what it means to their own life.  People don’t choose a dishwasher because 200 degrees is the proper water temperature to sanitize dishes and because it matches the fridge and makes the color of the counter tops pop.  They buy dishwashers because dishwashers save time.  That’s time that can be used for playing with the kids or watching more Netflix.  
  3. Listen.  Don’t just pretend to listen.  You need to actually absorb what the client is saying.  And NEVER interrupt.  Ask good open ended questions.  Sprinkle in some questions that are off topic too…. “What do you like to do for fun?”
  4. Pull back the curtain.  Educate your clients.  Tell them what the “salesmen” are afraid to tell.  Tell them how the company profits, tell them how commissions are paid.  Explain why the price is what it is.
  5. Make it your own.  Scripts are for Indian tech support and people with no personality.  Talk to people they way you normally talk.  The client can tell that it’s the real you.  

If done properly, you won’t lose any friends because you’re trying to sell them something.  Actually, you should be making new friends as you go.  People can tell when you’re being sincere.  If someone decides they don’t like you because you try to sell them something, you shouldn’t waste concern on what that person thinks.

Justin Stainback

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Empathy and The Golden Rule in Selling

Empathy and The Golden Rule

I’ve been exploring the ideas of Empathy and The Golden Rule in selling.  I think that the professional salesperson has to demonstrate one and abide by the other in order to have the right kind of career over a long period of time.  

To be empathetic is to have the ability to feel what someone else is feeling or to recognise another’s emotions.  This ability is essential to doing good business if you are in sales.  The very best salespeople are only inhibited by sales scripts because they have the ability to figure out each individual buyer.  We all know the classic and very trite car salesman line…”What’s it going to take to get you into this car today?”... Well, the very best salespeople can see through the client’s eyes and walk in his or her shoes and thus could just ask “What would it take for me to buy this car today?”empathy.jpg

There is a perfect kind of language that raises the odds of selling to each individual person or couple.  The most empathetic salespeople can figure it out.  This comes naturally to some salespeople, but for others it must be studied.  Just as a Psychologist spends 10 years in college to be able to relate to people, a salesman can study enough material to learn empathy.  There are seemingly endless books on the subject.  You have to be able to understand what your client is feeling in order to pick up on the subtle clues that are like a breadcrumb trail that leads you to the close.  

So here’s the danger to the client.  Some of the best salespeople can show empathy but be completely amoral.  You know these kinds of salespeople, or at least you’ve seen them in movies like “Boiler Room,” “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Glengarry Glen Ross.”  If you haven’t seen these movies, go and watch them all.  These people are real and they are out there folks.  I once heard a guy say “I didn’t get in this business to save the world.  I can do that when I have money.”

The most skilled salespeople can sell inferior products to clients.  They can also sell a good product at an unfair price.  What can happen is that a person can be so well trained at selling that the client would literally buy something that makes no financial sense.  For example, my business is life insurance.  I have worked with many clients over the years who bought policies for 30+% more than market cost even though the agent had access to lower prices for better products.

Let’s talk about why The Golden Rule is so important.  As you hone your craft, you have to keep in mind that you must always do the right thing for the client.  For some of us, it isn’t hard to always do the right thing.  It just comes natural.  Others might be tempted by greed.  Some find ways of spinning their own truths or rationalizing to make themselves feel better about what they choose to sell.  You may be able to get away with making a few sales this way, but it will catch up to you.  A reputation of being a salesman of low character will directly affect your income in a way that you’ll never make up for with sales skill.

If you plan on making a career out of selling, you must blend these two important elements.  You have to be able to understand what your client wants and needs and be able to convince them to buy.  You also have to do so in the most scrupulous way.  One without the other doesn’t work.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

90% of People Have The Wrong Life Insurance

If you bought it from someone who works for an insurance company, you are paying 20%-60% too much. It may even be in danger of lapsing, and no one is telling you! It isn’t your fault and you aren’t alone.  This is an industry wide problem.
Let’s Start With the Facts
Only around 60% of households have life insurance. Only around 40% have individual life insurance. Among those people who do have life insurance, 40% don’t think they have enough. If you are one of those who has the right amount of individual coverage, Well Done!

Why aren't people buying the right coverage?  
They don’t have a good independent agent to consult with. Over 80% of consumers say they don’t purchase more life insurance because they think it costs too much.  When asked what price they think it is, they estimate triple the actual cost. Thinking it’s out of budget, they don’t even shop it to see. Others think Life Insurance is complicated and they won’t be able to understand it enough to buy it.  They have a point.
Among Americans surveyed about buying life insurance, understanding what they’re buying ranks as the number one concern. Price ranks 3rd.  Why is it so hard to understand?
Some people who want to buy do not think they can qualify. Many have tried through the mail and other sources with no luck.

I’m One of the Ones Who Does Have The Right Life Insurance.
That’s great, but where did you get it? If you bought it across the kitchen table from someone, you’re probably paying double.  
Did you buy you life insurance policy as an investment, or for college planning? Some agents manipulate the commission on these to get paid more, making the policy underperform its potential!
You might be one of the people who bought something you do not understand. The agent might not have understood it either! Many or even most agents who are really good at selling are bad at designing the the right kind of insurance. Others, like some Home and Auto agents only do it because they have to in order to validate their carrier contracts.

We can help.
A 20 minute phone call could save you hundreds or thousands per year.
No Obligation!  If you would rather not work with us, that’s OK!  We will still tell you how to fix your life insurance.  That’s how much we care about this.