The Thrill of Selling

By joe gandolfo & robert l. shook  •  February 2, 2010

Joe Gandolfo, the only life insurance agent in the world to sell a billion dollars worth of life insurance in a single year (his 10-year average annual production is $800 million), shares one of his success secrets with sales veteran and author Robert L. Shook.

Once you’re face-to-face with the prospect, what should you say?

First and foremost, don’t forget that your only objective at this time is to secure an appointment for a sales interview. It would be a serious faux pas to attempt anything else at this stage. Under no circumstances should you ever attempt to sell during the initial approach.

Whether you’re in the prospect’s office or have been put through to him or her on the telephone, your approach should be identical. Mine is, “Mr. Brown, I’m Joe Gandolfo with XYZ Company. Has Bill Smith mentioned my name to you? (This breaks the ice, and it doesn’t matter if he says yes or no.) I don’t want to take up your time today to discuss life insurance, but I would like to ask for an opportunity to meet with you sometime next week to share an idea with you that has been of help to other people in your field. Would next Thursday at 2:30 be convenient or would four be better?”

In the event that I don’t have a referral, I use the name of one of the prospect’s competitors who is already a client of mine: “Mr. Brown, has Fred Miller ever mentioned my name to you?” Now, it isn’t likely that Miller, his competitor, would have talked to him about me; however, mentioning Miller is an ice-breaker; and Brown is probably interested in knowing what his competitor is up to. The reaction to this approach is usually receptive.

Notice that I gave Brown a choice of two times to see me – at 2:30 or 4:00 next Thursday. Suggesting seeing him the next week implies that I am a busy person. A prospect thinks, “Busy people are more successful than people who have a lot of time on their hands. “It’ s also easier for a prospect to make a commitment to see a salesperson next week. He doesn’t have to deal with it today and can cope better later. When a holiday is coming up soon, I say, “I don’t want to talk with you today, but I do want to talk with you next week after the holiday.” Apparently, this seems even farther into the future.

Giving him a choice of times for our meeting, rather than having him decide whether he wants to see me, is usually very effective. I have assumed that his only answer will be 2:30 or 4:00. If he can’t make one of those times, he’ll come up with an alternate.

When I mention that I deal with his competition, it also tips him off that I am familiar with his problem. For the same reason, I might set up the appointment by saying, “I’d like to share an idea with you that’s been of help to other auto dealers.” He now thinks I am a specialist in his field; and secondly, it makes him feel like an oddball if he’s not willing to discuss an idea that pertains to people in his field.

Again, do not try to sell the prospect on your first call. It is very poor strategy to attempt anything other than securing a future appointment. In my own office, I absolutely refuse to see anyone who walks in cold. I will see a salesperson only by appointment. The same thing applies to the salesperson who calls and tries to sell me over the telephone. He hasn’t the slightest idea what he may be interrupting. I think it’s just plain rude to interrupt another person.

Every now and then, there is the temptation to give an on-the-spot presentation, especially when a prospect says, “Say, Joe, what is it you want to tell me?” It used to be that my natural reaction was to go right into my sales talk. But I soon learned by experience that it would backfire – I could have kicked myself at those times.

Through trial and error, I discovered that it was far better to avoid giving on-the-spot presentations; and no matter how much a prospect pushed me to give him additional information, it worked much better when I’d say, “I’m sorry, but I have to rush, and it wouldn’t be fair to either of us if I hurried through it right now. So, I’d like to be able to share my idea with you next Thursday. “

Another approach I frequently use is: “My name is Joe Gandolfo – I am with XYZ Company. I didn’t call you today to take up any of your time to discuss insurance, but I called to ask for an opportunity sometime next week to introduce myself personally and share an idea with you. If it fits with your philosophy and pocketbook, fine; if not, I promise I’ll be on my way. Can I see you next Thursday morning at 7:00, or would 8:00 be better?”

On occasion, a prospect will say, “I’m just too busy to see you next week. In fact, I’m booked up for weeks – I don’t have any openings in the foreseeable future. ” When a busy and successful person says this to me, I try to set an appointment with him before his normal workday begins. If he still can’t figure out a time to see me, I say, “You have to eat sometime. How about breakfast? Six-thirty, okay?” Successful people like to do business with other hardworking people who also get up early. But if I can’t pin him down to an early morning time, I’ll try for lunch. I might also add, “I’m on call 24 hours a day, so you give me a time that’s convenient with you and I’ll work it into my schedule.” Does it work? More than 50 percent of my sales have been made before 9:00 in the morning. That tells you something, doesn’t it?

Sharing an Idea

One of my key sentences is, “I want to share an idea.” This sentence is the focal point of my approach, and through my entire career I have never deviated from it. It’s simple and direct: “I didn’t call today to discuss life insurance with you but to ask for an opportunity to get together sometime next week to share an idea with you. It’s difficult for almost anyone to turn down the opportunity to share an idea, so no matter what product is being sold, this approach works.

Every now and then, however, there is a prospect who will say, “No, I’m not interested.” When I hear this, my stock reply is, “John, may I ask you a question before I hang up?” And out of courtesy, the prospect will say, “Sure, what’s your question?”

“If you’ll recall, I said I wanted to share an idea with you. Well, you know the value of the U.S. Patent Office, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Well, believe it or not, during the John Quincy Adams administration, Congress came within three votes of killing it! They believed that all of the good ideas had been conceived, and wanted to save the taxpayers’ money. Since then, of course we’ve had radios, automobiles, motion pictures, television, computers, spaceships to the moon, and who knows what all, even in your own business. The question I would like to ask before I hang up is, Have you closed your patent office?”

“Er, no, Joe, not if you look at it that way.”

“Fine. May I see you next Thursday?”

This approach has generated millions and millions of dollars of extra sales for me. I recommend that you try it – it’s dynamite.