Day 2 at the NAMIC Annual Convention began with a keynote from Daniel Pink, author of “Drive”, “To Sell is Human” and other New York Times bestsellers. His message for the NAMIC attendees was about selling, with what he called a “1-3-4″ message: 1 big idea, 3 principles and 4 takeaways.
One Big Idea: Seller Beware
After pointing out that sales is generally viewed as negative and pictured as a slimy sales man (almost always a man) selling a used car, Pink pointed out that this view is from a time in the past, a time of “buyer beware” when customers had little information, few choices and limited ways to talk back. However, times have changed: instead of information asymmetry with sellers owning most of the information, we live in a new world of information parity where consumers have all the information, have many choices and multiple ways to talk back. In this new paradigm of “seller beware”, we need to reconsider how sales are done.
Three Principles, Four Takeaways: Summary
Pink then proposed three principles to selling in this new world, and four takeaways based on current research on behavior in the new world. Here is a summary of thoughts from this part of his talk.
Much of our thinking about who is best at sales is not true – we picture the ultimate salesman as highly extroverted, but in fact they are no better than ones that are highly introverted. Research shows that “ambiverts” are best – they are able to be introverted or extroverted based on context. We also assume that a direct approach is best for persuading customers to buy, but in fact research shows an interrogatory approach, asking questions, can be more effective when based on facts. Also a small, honest blemish on an otherwise strong offering can increase it’s attractiveness, another counter-intuitive result from research. Finally, giving the information a customer needs to make the sale easy, rather than trying to persuade them to change their minds, is effective. Pink presented his findings in a humorous but very informative presentation.
What does this mean for the insurance industry?
As good as the main presentation was, the real gem came in the last question of the Q&A session at the end of the keynote. A participant asked a great question: in an industry where agents are an aging population and we’re finding it difficult to find, train and make successful a new generation of sales professionals, who should we look to hire? Pink talked about avoiding strong extroverts and look for a few qualities that can be measured and correlate with successful sales candidates: ambiversion (as described above) and conscientiousness (shows ability to follow up, make calls, and stick with the sale). Pink observed that the new work generation grew up in households where they were served a “heaping bowl of self-esteem”, and didn’t learn how to handle rejection. He said this generation responds well to being trained in how to handle rejection, that it’s part of the process to encounter failure. They can be taught that sales is not just a transaction, but a way to help people and make a difference – values are important to the new millennial agents.
Pink’s presentation offers important advice to developing the agent force for insurers. In a new world where consumers have an advantage of knowing about the products and services we offer, insurers need to look for and train a new generation of agents that are equipped to succeed by better knowing how to fail. Contact me if you’d like to discuss Pink’s presentation and how it can be applied to insurer distribution networks.