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Bill Farquharson

The Sales Challenge

By Bill Farquharson

About Bill

As a 30 year sales veteran, Bill has the perspective of a been-there, done-that sales rep in the commercial print arena. Following sales fundamentals and giving unapologetically "old school" advice, he writes and speaks in an entertaining fashion to make his points to sales people and owners who sell. "Bill Farquharson will drive your sales momentum."


The (Damn Near) Perfect Sales Call

By all rights, I should’ve quit playing golf in 1998. In August of that year, I hit a hole in one (on the fly!) at the 17th hole at the Dedham Golf and Polo Club, southwest of Boston. Having achieved the goal of the game—to put the ball in the cup in as few shots as possible—a wise man would’ve stopped trying to beat perfection and try his hand at something else.

By all rights, Steven Lee should quit his job as a salesman. Here’s why...

It took smelling salts to revive me after I opened a letter from my health insurance company informing me of my latest annual premium increase. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, given the fact that it’s an election year and the industry is busy influencing Congress. Hey, those elected officials don’t come cheap!

At the advice of a friend, I went online to look at other options. I guess I must’ve mindlessly filled out some kind of inquiry document and hit the “submit” button because my phone rang a few moments later and an insurance sales rep by the name of Steven Lee introduced himself. He apologized for calling from his car, but he wanted to connect with me as promptly as possible.

I told Steven that I was shopping for health insurance because mine had gone up significantly, and confessed that I didn’t really know the questions to ask. He talked about the basics, gave me some things to think about and suggested that we meet, promising that the meeting would last no more than an hour.

• Good first impression? Check.

• Prompt response to an inquiry? Check.

• Knowing when to shift from phone credibility to face-to-face appointment? Check.

So far, this guy was doing everything right.

As you can imagine, I’m a tough sell being a sales trainer and all. But Steven had it going on, and I had nothing to complain about.

By the time we met a few days later, I had compiled a long list of questions. I had done some research and came prepared due to the importance of this issue.

Steven’s greatest sales skill was that he did not come across as a salesperson at all. He was more of an advisor and, while he wanted to make a sale, he seemed more interested in what was in my best interests and presented several options. He asked me a few personal questions and a few more about my business, paying rapt attention to the answers.

• Rapport building? Check.

• Trust infusion? Check.

Steven deftly moved to the presentation stage and discussed a couple of different options for insuring me, pausing several times to explain the difference between the proposed new policy and the one that I had in place already. The most notable difference was that I would have to give up my Primary Care Physician.

Steven did not hesitate in discussing this important issue, but pointed out that in doing so I would save $150 per month. At that point, he wisely stopped talking. On the surface, it was to let me think. But I recognized it as a test close.

• Problem solving? Check.

• Options provided? Check.

• Good listening skills? Check.

Within one hour, we had not only decided on a new plan, but had filled out all of the necessary paperwork.

• Promise kept? Check.

• Smart enough to stay within my short attention span? Check.

But wait, there’s more...

Having closed on the purpose of our meeting, Steven mentioned life insurance. “I’m good,” I replied and went on to describe my coverage. Turns out, my coverage was actually not appropriate, as Steven discovered when he asked me a few more questions. To my surprise, I was actually over insured in that area and he offered a less expensive solution, saving me another $400 per year.

Next, he asked about the insurance I had on my girls. When I told him about the coverage I had on them, he quickly agreed that those policies should not be touched. Score another point for Steven’s credibility.

Then, he mentioned auto insurance. That one was a no-brainer. I do business with Amica and it would take an act of God to get me away from that company. No sooner did he hear my answer then he said, “Moving on...”, laughed, shook my hand, thanked me for my time, summarized the meeting, and told me what to expect next.

• Sales integrity? Check.

• Stick the landing? Check. All in all.

The thought of meeting with an insurance salesman brings back memories of an old Woody Allen movie. Allen’s character is incarcerated and put in solitary confinement as punishment. When he emerges sometime later, he has an insurance salesman with him who is still talking.

But I had none of those feelings while with Steven. He answered my questions, solved my problem, earned my business, and saved me a bunch of money in the process.

By the time I arrived back in my office (we had met halfway between our offices), a thank you email was already waiting for me along with a list of the things that I needed to send him. Impressive.

• Follow up? Check.

Oh, one more thing he threw in before we ended our meeting—referrals. He asked me for the names of three people that he might call. Within just a couple days, I heard from two of those three people indicating to me that Steven followed up with them immediately.

• Tapping into a customer’s network? Check.

If, at the end of our time together, he had asked me for a critique, I would have been hard-pressed to come up with something to offer as a suggestion for improvement. He was, in my opinion, damn near perfect! Well done, Steven. For your next career, may I suggest golf?

Everyone loves FREE and Bill’s archived video sales tips and “Short Attention Span Webinars” are just that. Look for them at or call Bill at 781–934–7036.

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