Tuesday, July 27

Why being in sales can be so frustrating

Right from the start I knew that selling insurance (or anything else) can be frustrating.   It’s not just the all-too-frequent rejection.  You’re dealing with humanity in all its fickleness and illogic, in a way that people not in sales seldom experience.  Today I accompanied the same experienced agent as yesterday on two evening sales calls, and the second call was the sort of experience that could drive some people crazy.  It almost drove me crazy even though I was along solely as an observer and wasn’t getting any commissions. 

Both calls were within a couple of miles of one another, in reasonably nice neighborhoods in central Suffolk.  We arrived at the first house only to find that the prospect had been called into work and wasn’t home.  All was not lost, however, as her 20ish son was there, and said that he was interested in some of our products.  He ended up buying three inexpensive policies, the commissions on which totaled to about $200.  I got to see the experienced agent in action, and tried to remember as much as possible of the things he said and the ways he presented the information. 

After about an hour we headed over to the second appointment.  In this case it was a couple with two small children.  They seemed quite interested, asking a whole array of questions.  Although most sales calls don’t last much over an hour, this one stretched out for about an hour and 15 minutes what with all the questions.  When it finally came time for them to decide, the wife (who was taking the lead role for the couple) said she wanted to think it over for a while.  Words of doom.  She said that her job was looking more and more insecure, and as long as things were so uncertain she was unwilling to take on any further obligations.  The agent tried three different “overcoming resistance” techniques, including a last-ditch one that is to be used very sparingly.  Nothing doing.  As we left, the agent said that he’d call back in a week to see if the couple has come to a decision, but he told me outside that in his judgment (speaking as a successful agent with many years’ experience) there was almost no chance that they would buy anything. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not for a moment question the couple’s reluctance to buy any insurance given the wife’s job uncertainties. It would be very difficult for the family to get by on just the husband’s salary.  My point is that knowing we were there on a sales call, why did the wife wait until the very end to tell us that they were in no position to buy?  Knowing the situation from the start would have saved everyone more than an hour.  She certainly couldn’t have thought that we were giving away policies for free.  Situations like this make it clear the despite the highly evolved brains which modern humans possess, we don’t always think in a logical or sensible manner.

Gym: Day off.

Addendum: It now occurs to me that the wife’s story about her feared job loss may have been fake or at least exaggerated.  Her initial response, when the agent asked her if they were ready to buy, was that she wanted to think about it overnight.  Only later, after the agent made the first couple of attempts at overcoming resistance, did she bring up the job situation.  She then went on to say that she’d have a better idea about her job in a week.   Her initial request to think about it overnight doesn’t make much sense given the further developments.  Waiting until the next day wouldn’t have clarified her job status, given that she went on to say that she’d know about the job in a week.  One also would think that the job-related objection would have been her first objection, rather than the wishy washy “I want to think about it overnight” line.

This new possibility actually reduces my dislike of the wife and, to a modest extent, of humanity in general.  Perhaps she did not let us stay for an hour giving an elaborate presentation, when she knew all along that they weren’t able to buy anything.  The alternative explanation is that she was genuinely interested, and financially able to buy the policies, but after hearing the full presentation decided that the policies weren’t what the family needed.  Which is perfectly understandable, insurance isn’t a one-size-fits-all deal.  After the agent’s attempts to overcome her initial resistance, she then brought up the job issue as a way of ending the discussion without having to give a firm and final “no.”  One thing I’ve learned, people hate to say no.

Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 4:46 am  Leave a Comment  

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