Sales professionals in any business must possess certain basic traits, such as the curiosity to know their products, the patience to understand the needs of the customer and the determination to overcome mental and physical fatigue. It would be interesting to see what makes people successful in selling life insurance, universally acknowledged as one of the toughest products to sell, particularly because of its intangible nature.
The foremost trait that I find in high-performing advisors is discipline — they follow a regular routine come what may. They have fixed hours for meeting prospective customers and for providing post-sales service. They regularly visit the company’s office and keep themselves abreast of the latest product, changes in rules and follow-up customer-service issues so that the commitments made to customers are honoured.
Humility is the second-most important trait I have observed in such people. In spite of consistent success, high income and special attention by bosses, they never display arrogance. Their style of dealing with the office staff and customers is very pleasing. They are able to elicit support and guidance from people in the organisation.
The third significant trait is to deal with customers from a position of knowledge and an urge to serve him by suggesting products that suit him and his family. Every prospective customer, big or small, is made to feel important, with the agent giving him enough inputs to take an informed decision. Such successful advisors do not discriminate between customers on the basis of their purchasing power. In fact, they consciously define their niche market as they grow in business so that productivity vis-à-vis time invested is always on an upward trajectory.
The ability to scan the environment is another very useful trait. Such advisors are inquisitive and they keep learning about the trends in financial markets and the economy so that they are able to spot opportunities in good as well as bad times. The changing profile of customers is systematically tracked by them for securing business with relatively smaller investment of time. This provides them with a flow of new business and income throughout the year.
Such professionals are often in demand in their area. Thanks to their knowledge and sincerity, they are recognised in society as a trusted and dependable friend. In all the LIC offices where I was responsible for sales, I found the high achievers would be consistently among the top 10.
Such achievers always have very high regard for their organisation and, for them, upholding its prestige is like patriotism, something that can never be compromised. Therefore, their actions are guided by a strong sense of responsibility. They work tirelessly to improve the image of their organisation and, in the process, they are able to mobilise tremendous goodwill for themselves and their company. On the other hand, they never tolerate inadequacy of service to their customers.
Even though this community of salespersons has contributed immensely to the mobilisation of savings of people, they are often seen with contempt and distrust. Steps should be taken to restore the professional dignity of insurance advisors and project them as role models for sales personnel in other industries.
The writer is advisor (Life Reins.), GIC Re and former MD & CEO, Star Union Dai-ichi