Selling From A Different Direction


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Are there times when you’d do better approaching sales from the other direction. Times when the prospect doesn’t seem to be listening, even though your value proposition should be exciting. Times when the customer won’t even think about something new.

There’s an interesting story from way back which ranks at the top of sales manager war stories.

It makes this point simply, without lecturing. And brings a smile to even the most depressed of sales people.

Maybe its true, and maybe it isn’t, but that’s irrelevant. It gets the point across, like this.

Back in the days before Independent Financial Advisers, when ordinary people had savings rather than debts, and there were virtually no rules, some fast talking wide boys made a fortune, persuading family and friends to buy investment schemes.

They called it Life Assurance. It was regular savings, a portion of which bought insurance. The rest went into investments which, after 25 years would turn into a pile of cash.

These schemes exist in one form or another today, with one important difference.

In those days, the seller earned a commission equivalent to all the savings made in the first 18 months. That commission was paid as soon as the contract was signed. The sales guy took an immediate win, whereas the investment wouldn’t start until two years payments had been made.

Not surprisingly, sales people fell over themselves to get into the business – even though there was no base salary or expenses, and sales weren’t easy to make. Customers were rightly suspicious, but the rewards were eye watering.

The subject of the story, our hero, gave up a good job with a salary, and a car and a pension, to get into the Life Assurance business, confident he could cut the mustard. He had smart brochures, strong arguments, and a bunch of contacts.

His strategy was simple. He was a social animal. He was well liked. He got on well with everybody he met. He was always on the invites list, usually near the top. He’d attend every function he could, and pitch everybody he met.

After 6 months our hero was staring bankruptcy in the face. Things just hadn’t worked out as expected. He went to all the parties, but nobody would listen to his story.

Every time he met somebody new they’d chat. Eventually this person would ask “And What Do You Do?” Our man would smile confidently and reply “I sell Life Assurance”. And that’s when it happened. His new prospects eyes would glaze over at “I sell” and would look around for an escape route before the “Life Assurance” came out.

In desperation he decided to change his approach, and come at the prospect from a different direction. Luckily for him it worked. Within another year he was making more sales, and more money, than he could ever have dreamed. Ultimately he became the most successful guy in his business.

Some years later he was interviewed by a journalist wanting to know the secret of his success. Which changes had he made in the rags to riches transition? What insight could be helpful for readers?

“Well it was was quite simple really” our hero explained “I kept the same products, and strategy and brochures. Went to the same parties and pitched the same people”. “I just changed one word in my introduction, and then everything started to work the way it was supposed to”.

People didn’t walk away. They listened. Asked questions. Ultimately they bought products.

“When they asked me what I do, instead of saying I sell Life Assurance, I said I buy Life Assurance for people looking for safe investments with solid returns and no risk.

Would you like me to help find the right scheme for you?”

And that was him selling from a different direction.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steven Reeves
Consultant, author, software entrepreneur, business development professional, aspiring saxophonist, busy publishing insight and ideas. Boomer turned Zoomer - thirty year sales professional with experience selling everything from debt collection to outsourcing and milking machines to mainframes. Blogger at Successful Sales Management. Head cook and bottle washer at Front Office Box.


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