Help! My Customers Hate "Salespeople"!

Last Updated May 3, 2011 3:30 PM EDT

Sometimes your worst enemy isn't the competition, but the decades of misconceptions about the role of salespeople in the scheme of things. Here's a heartfelt plea from a sales machine reader who's running into buyer prejudice against sales professionals, followed by my advice.
I'm an insurance agent, licensed in personal products like home, auto, boat, motorcycle and life. We have long term clients that are our friends and try to treat our clients like family. Even so, people don't get excited when I tell them I am an insurance agent. What is a good elevator pitch that doesn't make their eyes glaze over?
Your problem lies in first four words of your email. When you introduce yourself as an "insurance agent", you are running slam against people's preconceptions and misconceptions about insurance agents. In addition, they're afraid that you're going to force them to focus on negative events that might happen sometime in the future and then ask them for money. Ugh!

In my view, you should NEVER open ANY conversation by labeling yourself as an "insurance agent." Expunge that phrase from your mind and mouth! Instead, say: "I have the best job in the world. I sell 'peace of mind.'"

When they ask what you mean, don't jump to: "I sell insurance." Instead, say something like this:

Suppose you've got a child who's brilliant in school and you're already saving for her college. But then you think: what happens if I die suddenly? Where would the money come from? Suddenly your peace of mind is out the window. I make sure that the money will be there for your kid, if something awful happens to you. That's peace of mind.
The trick here is to overwhelm the negative emotions that the customer associates with sales reps by appealing to strong emotions (like love of family and fear of loss) that are based upon reality, rather than upon cultural stereotypes.

BTW, almost every product in the world is bought in order to create peace-of-mind, at least to some extent. For example, if you're selling raw materials to a manufacturer, what you're really selling is the peace-of-mind that the materials will be available exactly when they're needed.

Even luxury goods, for example, are bought, in part, because they create peace-of-mind that the buyer is worthy of the extra expense. To a certain extent, the "art" of selling is understanding these emotional issues and presenting them in terms that resonate with those emotions.

Under the circumstances, it's madness to create a cross-current of negative emotion associated with something as arbitrary as a job title. It amazes me that more companies and people don't find job titles that don't have negative emotional baggage connect to them.

For example, why are there still "car salesmen" out there? Or, almost worse, "car sales associates"? Why not have job titles like "Driving Experience Expert", and a job description that's about matching people and families to the vehicle that will make them safe and happy?

And, beyond that, why are so many people convinced that they're supposed to selling things, when in fact their REAL job is to create conditions that change the emotional state of the buyer? It's really astounding that so many people don't understand even this basic element of what Sales is all about.

READERS: What are some good job titles for salespeople? I'm curious what people are using, because I'm still running into a lot of the same old, same old in this area.

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