Face To Face – The Meeting

The Myths

  • The MD is the final decision maker.
  • Closing is the most important step in selling.
  • My personality and gift of the gab will convince the prospect.
  • I must be passionate about my product or service.


Finding the heart of the organisation or the person(s) responsible for making a final decision is paramount when handling Commercial Lines insurance products. Personal Lines, too, may require involving more of the family . Studies overseas have shown that the days of the man of the house making all the important decisions are long, long gone.

Even with typically masculine purchases, like buying a new car , the prospective customer’s wife has some influence in the purchase decision 74% of the time – even if the vehicle is purchased through a company car allowance scheme. Dealing with Commercial Lines clients can be a major headache as organisations become larger and decision-making vests more and more in committees.

We assume however that you read through last month’s prospecting hints and tips and your basic research has been done and all fingers point to the person(s) you’re about to see. On the phone, making the appointment you may have asked, “Besides yourself, Johan, who else do you think should join us?” Sometimes the more jugular approach of, “ Are you the person responsible for authorising insurance/medical aid purchases?”

Another (somewhat guerilla style) tactic is to purposefully dial an incorrect extension and then naively ask some pertinent probing questions about the organization.


Get there early . Work on Vince Lombard’s dictate ‘Be there 15 minutes before the appointed time’. An early arrival gives you time to scout for further clues on the type of organisation and an opportunity to chat to the receptionist (a powerful influencer , he/she knows everything about who’s who in the zoo). For goodness sake, do not underestimate the advocacy power of these people. We know they can shut the gate in your face or open it and warmly welcome you inside.

First Impressions

Psychologists know that first impressions are based on our spontaneous assessment of status, clothes, speech and facial expression and this takes only 10 seconds.

Lord Chesterfield advised, “Dress is a very foolish thing; and yet it is a very foolish thing not to be well dressed.” As first impressions stick, it’s sad we don’t take them more seriously as these are factors directly within our control. What else can we control?

    It is like a cocktail party . The hardest thing is the first few words. If you have not found an ice-breaker , never say , “Thank you for seeing me”, “It is good of you to spare the time”, etc. Practise different greetings: a formal, respectful greeting; a friendly greeting and a happy-go-lucky greeting. Study each person for an instant and then select the variations.
    The importance of a good handshake is often overlooked. It can help solidify a new relationship or detract from an otherwise good impression.
    Some people have forgotten how to smile because they don’t do it much. A smile radiates warmth and costs nothing. Whether you feel like it or not, the ability to smile pleasantly and sincerely is a vital sales skill.
    Many sales people destroy all chances of making the sale by avoiding eye contact when meeting someone new . How do you feel when you look at a person wearing dark reflective sunglasses?
    Don’t keep telling yourself, “I have got to make this person like me or I won’t sell”. Every time you tell yourself, “I have got to make a sale”,
    you make yourself anxious, perhaps even desperate. Y ou are an important person. Y ou are an expert in your field and, therefore, you
    are much more than a professional salesperson. Y ou are a problem- solver , an educator and a true business partner .

Identifying the Prospect’s Needs

The professional intermediary’s job goes way beyond establishing needs. If it was that easy , our prospect would be satisfied with buying direct! We need to discover and even create new needs for the prospect as long as that person will honestly benefit from our services. This rare skill, called the Art of Persuasion, is what differentiates the pro from the order taker .

To understand it we must master the rare skill of Questioning Techniques. Lawyers train themselves vociferously in this skill and sales pros
must do the same. 80% of any sale depends on astute questioning skills so it’s worth the time to dwell on them. Our guiding principle is we are selling with integrity not manipulation.

It amazes me how quickly sales people launch into telling prospects all about their marvellous products or services – the Tell Tell Tell Syndrome – in the hope of convincing the prospect, and it often achieves the opposite. Think about your last sales experience as a prospect – did the salesperson ask what you were looking for and how they could assist? Did they put you and your needs first? And how did that make you feel?

So why do we tell?

Perhaps it’s because we know what our services can do, we are so immersed in product knowledge (and so we should be), that this becomes our ‘comfort zone’ and, therefore, very tempting to talk about. Branding doesn’t help us avoid this trap, as sales people are consistently pounded to be passionate about their company’s products.

But the danger is that sales people become their product or service. How on earth can you conduct a dispassionate and objective analysis of a prospect’s business or personal requirements, when you are married to your portfolio of services? Remember business partnering only begins when you put the prospect’s business fist.

Tip: At this stage of the sale, do yourself a massive favour and divorce yourself from your portfolio of services. Now you are able to ask questions that are not biased but truly objective.