Sales and Marketing :
Too Personal Can Cost a Sale
by Dan Seidman

How skilled are you in handling candid conversations with strangers? This is something sales professionals need to master.

With a decade's worth of experience in insurance sales, Ken describes himself as witty, engaging and proficient in building relationships with prospects. But there was a time when Ken wasn't as savvy. Here's his story.

It was my first sales call without my manager. I was seeing a prospect.  It was winter, and tenements typically tend to be very warm during the winter, because the apartment caretakers send up too much heat. When residents in these buildings keep their windows closed, the humidity can make you break a sweat within minutes of entering their apartments.

The apartment I walked into was beyond humid. My prospect had all of her wet wash -- skirts, blouses and even underwear -- hanging from three lines strung between the apartment walls. I felt like a lizard in a tank. In the midst of presenting my products on the woman's couch, I heard a snap.

One of the clotheslines broke, and a pair of panties fell from the air and landed right on my head. Meanwhile, this woman's little Chihuahua was yelping at the top of his lungs.

I simply removed the partially damp panties from my head. Without missing a beat, I continued to explain the life insurance policy I was selling.

She told me that she knew she needed insurance and wanted to just go ahead and take care of it. Cool. This was my first time soloing, and I was landing a sale.

As we began to fill out the forms, I looked up at her and asked, "So how old are you?"

"Fifty," she replied.

"Really?" I said. "You look a lot older." I have no idea how that came out of my mouth. Her eyebrows went up in surprise and then slammed down toward her nose in anger.

"Get out of my house. Get out." She pointed toward the door.

I bobbed under some clothing and left, still in shock at my own stupid comment. I did learn to be more professional, even at the risk of being less friendly. But I paid for that lesson with the lost sale.
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