Are You Selling or Qualifying?

Let’s play a game today shall we?  We’ll pretend that you are a life insurance salesperson and your job today is to sell me a policy.  Write down the first five questions that come to your mind that you should ask me.  I’ll give you 4 minutes.  Go!

I use this exercise in many of my sales training programs, because it makes a great learning point.  Let’s see what the learners tend to do in my workshops.  Here are the top questions the learners offer:

“How much insurance do you need, or what assets are you trying to protect?”

“What medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, do you have?”

“How old are you?”

“How many children do you have?”

“Do you engage in any dangerous hobbies such as sky-diving or motorcycle riding?”

“What is your annual income, or what must the insurance protect?”

These are all useful and necessary questions, and I dutifully scribe them on a flip chart as the learners respond.  Once I have a good list, I remind the learners of my original direction:  “I asked you to come up with questions to sell me a policy.  Many of you have given me questions designed to qualify me for a policy.  Do you see the difference?  Which of your questions will help you advance your sale, and which questions simply help you to know what kind of policy to sell me?”  It doesn’t take long for the learners to see that they were thinking about the type of policy to write, rather than how to get me to buy. 

So we do the exercise again, and “Aha!”  Here are the better questions:

“If you were to die unexpectedly this year, what financial circumstances would your family be in?”

“How qualified is your spouse to return to the workforce, or could your family survive on your spouse’s existing income?”

“What kind of education do you want for your children?”  (Nobody ever answers this question with, “Oh, let them fend for themselves.”)

These selling questions help prospects through their own self-discovery process and conclude, “Gee, I really need to protect my family!”

So you see the idea don’t you?  If you are not thinking like your customer, you will ask questions that you need, rather than questions that the customer needs.  Bankers in particular do poorly at this exercise because they think like lenders and ask questions similar to what a lender would ask, qualifying the borrower rather than selling.  Try using this exercise yourself in your workshops, especially if your learners are small business or commercial lenders.

And remember, selling is easy when you….

Think Like Your Customer!

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at

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