What I learned about sales

Not just about hustling and getting the sale, but educating the client

Posted by Leo Lu on September 17, 2017

In this digital age, access to information is only an arm’s length away through our smartphones.

Is this bad news for salespeople? Not necessarily.

Gone are the days when sellers pushed products onto customers through exploiting their lack of information. Something as simple as a quick Google search can reveal a product’s ratings, competitors, and detailed descriptions, leaving it rare for the conscious consumer to be fooled. Furthermore, in the event that a salesperson does find an easy buyer, he or she could easily be exposed on the internet as untrustworthy through customer feedback. It is thus much more difficult to profit off of a customer’s lack of information on a product or service.

To effectively sell, it is crucial to educate to persuade. A knowledge-based approach on both sides, the goal is to understand the client’s needs in order to provide the best product to suit them – a transparent process completely different from exploiting informational asymmetry.

Max Zheng, a licensed agent at New York Life Insurance Company, walked me through several aspects of educating how life insurance works to clients, which can be applied to many sorts of sales:

Know The Product

As a large insurance company with 172 years of history, New York Life has developed a great variety of product offerings to cater to a wide customer base. Options include term life insurance, which covers the individual for a specific period of time, as well as whole life and universal life, which are permanent. Navigating through these choices can be confusing, but luckily there are agents there to help. Max calls this “getting the maximum amount of money the customer needs at the minimum spend”. Tailoring the insurance policy to the client through knowledge of every plan, he finds the right solution for every person.

Know The Customer

There is no hiding of information or shady coverings when writing policies for clients, for it’s all in the algorithms of the actuaries. Policy premiums are determined based off of inputs from the customer, and Max takes into account the customer’s assets, liabilities, and income in determining the amount and length of coverage of the policies. He then presents the appropriate options, with prices varying based on the level of coverage and budget.

To help me better understand what I could potentially use life insurance for as someone in my early 20’s, he asked me to think about my future and what I could do to provide for my future dependents in case I were unable to. He also gave me a way of looking at it as investing for the future, pointing out that rates were cheaper at younger ages and locking in the insurability.

Develop Relationships

Life insurance is a business of trust. Insurance agents deal with confidential information in determining policy premiums, and a relationship must be developed between the agent and client. Ultimately, it is up to the customer to decide if he or she wants to purchase coverage and the agent can only do so much. What Max does is educate his clients, providing them with any information that could be helpful to them in making the decision and this way of selling helps to develop that relationship. Customers must first trust him enough to open up a dialogue, a trust strengthened through repeated interactions.

I once had a negative view of life insurance companies after applying for an internship at an agency – it felt like I was in the film “Boiler Room” with the person on the other end aggressively trying to persuade me. After being educated about the topic in a consultative manner, my view has changed. Sales should not be all about hustling, but more about educating.

I learned a good deal more about life insurance through Max educating me, and he can be reached at xzheng02@ft.nyl.com or (646)-812-4788 for his consultations.