Finding an insurance producer who isn’t superstitious is more difficult than winning the lottery. For some, it’s the way they shake hands, others are fanatical about punctuality and still others always wear certain jewelry or make notes using a particular pen or tablet. The list is almost endless. Success seems to be all about following a producer’s personal rules. Should they break the rules, something is sure to go wrong.

While all personal preferences are interesting and sometimes even helpful, there are certain actions that lead to far more robust sales results. Here are eight to think about:

• Every prospect isn’t a potential customer. Always looking on the bright side can mean missing critical clues that are valuable in properly evaluating prospects. Reading prospects correctly is essential to knowing how best to work with them, to understand their needs and identify their problems. The goal is not to sell the prospect, but to decide if, at some point, the prospect can or should become a customer. If the honest answer is no, then it’s time to move on. A producer’s success depends on getting prospects right.

• Invest in prospects. Cultivating prospects isn’t limited to spending time with them or even learning more about their goals and problems, both of which are necessary. Producers often miss what is always clear to prospects: they know you want their money. Most are not willing to say yes easily, especially on the first try.

One way to help overcome what we call the dollar doubt is by investing in our prospects.

What should a producer do? It may be as basic as investing time pointing out overlooked exposures, identifying potential safety issues, finding a solution to a problem unrelated to insurance or preparing a report on a particular issue. If you do, you may pass the test. Later, you can talk about the prospect investing in you.

• Get relationships right. Many insurance salespeople seem to believe that becoming friends with their customers is the best way to solidify a business relationship. Yet, there are indications that customers just want to be treated like customers. Whether it’s Apple, FedEx, Staples, Amazon or Southwest Airlines, it’s the combination of competence and performance that creates enduring customer relationships. It’s the same if you sell insurance.

• Follow up faithfully. Producers, like other salespeople, seem to find it easy to make promises to customers and prospects. Unfortunately, their performance is something less than 100%.

“Not to worry, I’ll take care of that for you,” a producer assured the customer. That was Monday and there was no word by Friday. The customer placed a call. “Oh, yes. Let me check and I’ll call you back.” A week later, she had not called. “She’s out today. Let me see what I can find out,” said an account service person.

Poor follow up is near the top of everyone’s list of producer mistakes. It may do more damage than just about anything else because customers never forget. Success eludes producers who are follow-up failures.

• Avoid the hot potato syndrome. If there’s a close second to not keeping promises, it’s going missing after getting the account. Whether they’re conscious of it or not, customers are particularly sensitive to even infinitesimal changes in a salesperson’s behavior once the sale is made. This is about one thing: commitment. By buying insurance, customers express a concrete commitment, and they expect the salesperson to be equally obligated. They’re on the look-out for moving on indications, which translate into a feeling of being dropped.

When this occurs, customers begin to doubt a producer’s integrity by finding other ways to justify their belief that the person was only interested in getting an account on the books (and a commission).

• Shape how you’re perceived. This has to do with the way an individual thinks, particularly a person’s knowledge and ability to identify and solve problems. In other words, it has everything to do with being authentic. Avoid sending a prospect or customer mixed or misleading messages about you. Such confusion eventually leads to doubt.

• Always make it right. Granted, there are some customers who deliberately make it their mission to take advantage of salespeople. This is true of some insureds, as well. Adept producers can turn difficult situations with clients around by putting themselves in the customer’s shoes and refusing to let them become disasters.

For example, written communications, like emails, can open the door wide to misinterpretation. Voice mails are no exceptions, either. If there is a misunderstanding, don’t get defensive — make it right.

• Never get comfortable. A pervasive myth that circulates among producers is that there’s a time when you’ve paid their dues and have a right to such rewards as more pay with less work, access to prestigious accounts, little or no prospecting and, of course, special treatment, whatever that means.

Translated, this comes down to the right to coast. It’s a career killer because, inevitably, we begin to act as if it’s our right to be more comfortable. In spite of what we may say or think, actions determine a producer’s destiny.

John R. Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales consultant specializing in insurance. He publishes a free monthly eNewsletter, “No Nonsense Marketing & Sales.” Contact him at johnrg31@me.com, 617-774-9759 or johnrgraham.com.

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