The Authentic Salesperson

Monday, February 11 2013

Thirty-five years ago I was a neophyte life insurance salesman armed only with a strong set of values, insatiable curiosity, a farmer’s work ethic, and little else.  But it was enough to earn me passage to my first annual sales conference; a lavish trip with my wife. It was an experience I was then motivated to repeat every year.

At that first conference I met Art, a crusty old guy from Saskatchewan. He was short, bald and round – not what I pictured as the epitome of success, and yet, year after year, he was the first or second top salesperson in the company.

“Congratulations kid!” he said. “Are you planning to be here again next year?”

“You bet!” I responded enthusiastically.

He sized me up and then asked, “How much insurance do you own?”

“I have a $10,000 policy,” I said. “Why?”

He frowned and said, “If you want to be here next year, the first thing you do when you get back home is buy yourself a $100,000 whole life policy.”

“I can’t afford that!” I stammered. “And it’s more than I need right now.”

“Hmm,” he replied. “I’ll bet that’s what your clients tell you too, and you believe them. How many $100,000 policies have you sold?”

“None yet.”

“And do you really believe that none of the people you’ve seen in the past year needed at least $100,000 or more of insurance coverage?”

A little sheepish now, I replied, “Well, yes there were some that, based on their situation, I know should have more, but I couldn’t convince them.”

“Nor will you until you’ve committed to your own insurance portfolio. How can you sell it if you don’t believe enough in the value of your product to own it yourself? I can pretty much guarantee that you will start to sell more as soon as you buy more for yourself. And if you do that, I expect I’ll see you here again next year.”

I followed Art’s advice and bought a $100,000 policy when I got home. Within 30 days I sold two more.

That was a powerful message for me. From then on, I committed to always owning the best of what I sold to others. How could I be credible and authentic if I didn’t? Authenticity is critical in selling. You have to be real; walk the talk. True to yourself and true to your customer. Anything less is dishonest.