Fixing Abysmal Sales Skills Part 2


cluelessLife Insurance Companies and Their Agents Don’t Know How to Sell Insurance
(and most sales professionals don't really know the definition of sales)

The problem of poor insurance sales is multifaceted.

Forget About Selling to Needs

First, agents operate from a “needs analysis” -- how much insurance does the family need given their financial commitment for education, retirement, support, etc. The agent then uses this needs analysis as the basis for his sales presentation. But have you ever seen anyone take action because of need?  I only see people take action because of wants.  The Center for Disease Control reports that 61% of Americans are overweight and need to lose pounds.  But the only ones on a diet are those that want to lose weight.  So the first thing that agents must do is rip the word “need” from their vocabulary.  Every time an agent talks about a prospect’s needs, he must have points deducted from his annual conference score or MDRT qualification.  There must be a penalty for this improper thinking and speaking.  No prospect will ever buy based on what they need.  They buy only what they want.

Sure, the agent should be diligent and calculate the insurance needs of the family, but that’s the same as a physician who calculates how much pain-killer you need.  He does not discuss it with you.  It’s a calculation that he does as part of his professional responsibility.  He does not want to administer too much or too little.   Similarly, the agent must know how much insurance the family needs when it’s time to complete the application. But the need is one factor in the conversation and the number need never be discussed with the client as part of the sales conversation.  To include this number as part of the sales conversation will cripple the agent’s effectiveness and allow him to fall back on the “needs” conversation. The agent must focus on developing the prospect’s want because they will only buy what they want.

The Correct Definition of Selling

Next, I think that agents are confused about the definition of selling. Let me offer two:


  • Selling is the asking of appropriate questions so that prospect sees the correct course of action for himself


  • Selling is enrolling the prospect in their own vision


Note that neither definition has anything to do with features and benefits.  It’s my personal belief that any article, book or sales training that mentions “features and benefits” should be burned as this is the lowest level of sales conversation that cheats the prospect from the opportunity to take important action. And when the sales person does not close, the prospect is cheated.   To think that the fundamental components of a sales conversation are features and benefits is to admit stunted thinking and intellectual failure.

An Illustration of a Master Sales Conversation


Let me illustrate my definitions of sales.

(P = Prospect, A=Agent)


P: I don’t really know why we agreed to meet with you.  We really can’t afford any insurance.

A: I do help people get enough insurance but that’s not really what I wanted to talk with you about.  Before I explain that, let me ask you a question.  Since we are not going to talk about insurance, why did you set this time to meet?

P:  I’m not sure; I guess you might have something useful to tell us.

A: About what?

P:  About how to handle our money better.

A: Why, do you feel it’s not handled well now?

P:  Well, I make a good living but it always seems we are behind, never able to do the things we want to do or are important, like get enough insurance.

A:  Do you think that everyone has priorities?

P:  Yes.

A: What are yours?

P:  That confuses me sometimes.

A: Really?  Is that your new BMW in the driveway?

P:  Yes.

A:  Do you have a loan on it?

P: Yes

A:  Well, then I guess your priorities are clear.  You have decided to put your family in debt and use your limited cash in order to drive a new German automobile instead of those things you previously alluded to as being important.  Would you agree that people set their priorities with their checkbook?

P:  Yes.  And I don’t really feel good about it.

A:  I think you do or you wouldn’t have bought the car.  Do you notice that people do what makes them feel good today?

P:  Sure

A: do you think this leads to the best decisions?

P:  No, not at all, I think it’s a little immature.

A: What do you think is mature?

P: Making decisions based on the long run and those things that are really important

A: What’s really important to you?

P: The health of my family, being able to send my kids to good schools, making sure they are happy and protecting them

A: Do you feel you have made those things a priority—is the BMW consistent with that?

P:  No.

A:  Would you like to get on track and start living consistent with your priorities and making financial decisions consistent with them?

P: Yes.

A: Where do you think you should start?

P:  Well, I know I need to start placing money in a college fund and I know I don’t have enough insurance should anything happen to me.

A:  And god forbid you become disabled; are those you love protected?

P:  I’m not sure if I have enough of that protection through work.

A:  You tell me.  If I could help you with the items you just mentioned so that you start making financial decisions consistent with your visions for your family, those things that are priorities and living the vision of being a responsible father that you have for yourself, would that be valuable for you?

P:  Yes, that would be unbelievable.

Make Sales Without Discussing the Product

At this point, the sale is made.  The conversations that occur hereafter are mechanical.  The prospect now desires to make a change.  The product features are nearly irrelevant because the prospect has made an emotional commitment.

The seller has done his job.  He has asked pertinent questions about the prospect's concerns.  He allows the prospect to see the appropriate course of action for himself--no persuading, no convincing. This is sales mastery.

Abysmal Sales Skills Part I


  1. Outstanding article. FAB...features, advantages, benefits is so out of date and yet is still being taught. Great insights. You hit the nail on the head. People buy what they want, not what they need.




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