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The Key to Relationship Selling

By Tony Cole, CEO of Anthony Cole Training Group

In today’s volatile markets, one of the key sales challenges is to stay focused on adding value and leading with relationship selling. This is not news to those insurance producers who are in a selling role, who find and build relationships. In fact, most producers have been working long-term to be more customer-focused. The challenge is for advisors to be productive and assertive without coming across to customers as sales-driven.

Bravely Say Goodbye to "Think it Overs"

Assertive (not aggressive) producers win more business than others. These people care so much about doing the right thing for their clients that they are willing to risk the relationship and the sale to ensure the prospect or customer makes good decisions. Does this describe you or your advisors?  This is the essence of relationship selling.

What does assertiveness have to do with relationship selling?  In a word, everything. If done correctly, early conversations and meetings will help to understand fully, qualify or eliminate a prospect. This will save time for those prospects who are really not prospects as well as streamline producers’ efforts and pipelines, giving them more time and energy to focus on finding better prospects for whom the agency can solve problems. One of the biggest sales challenges for many salespeople is spending time on unqualified prospects who will never buy.

In initial ‘assertive’ conversations, a producer must be gathering information that leads to a full understanding of what pain or problems the prospect has to solve, what they have done to address those, and what their current provider has done to help.  It is only through the intelligence gained and utilized in these conversations that will lead to long-term mutually beneficial relationships.  These conversations, however, can be challenging for some producers who have been trained to be more service-oriented.

Ask the Right Questions

In the discovery process with a new prospect, the skill of asking the right questions, the right way at the right time is critical.  In our selling system, for a prospect to qualify they must:

  1. Have compelling reasons to buy, to make a change, to do something different,
  2. Have the capability and willingness to invest the necessary time, money, and effort,
  3. Be willing and able to make the decision to fix the problem and be able and willing to make the money decision.

Ask the RIght Questions - Assertively

There are lots of questions that need to be asked to find out if the prospect qualifies in these three areas.  Some of these questions require a producer to be assertive.  Questions such as:

  • “What has your current insurance provider done to address or solve this problem?”
  • “How much is this problem costing you (your company)?”
  • “How will you go about telling your current agent that you are no longer going to do business with them?”
  • “The money you have allocated won’t be enough to get you the outcome you want. What part of the solution do you want to eliminate?”
  • “What will you tell your partner if they say they don’t want to make the change?”

Imagine if producers were gutsy enough to have these types of conversations. What would happen?  You might fear that you would lose more business. But suppose that wasn’t the case.  Suppose by being more assertive, we are actually helping the prospect by discovering what is in the way of them reaching their objectives.

Suppose this led to the elimination of think-it-overs and actually helped people to make decisions.  Imagine that producers stopped making presentations to people who could only say “no” and never had the authority or intention of saying “yes”.  What would happen? They would bring in more new clients and build stronger long-term relationships.

Help your salespeople have more assertive relationship conversations

Anthony Cole can show your team how.

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About the author

Tony Cole, Co-founder and CLO of Anthony Cole Training Group, has a lifelong focus on helping people and organizations achieve their personal best. As a former educator and university coach, Tony helped individuals learn how to improve their game not by ‘running faster’ but with significant and tactical behavioral changes. After 15 years in direct sales and sales management, Tony transitioned his passion for extraordinary performance and began to ignite that fire with other firms in 1993. Anthony Cole Training Group has grown to be a leader in helping companies close their sales opportunity gap by helping them sell better, coach better, and hire better. His blog can be found at

Last updated: 11 Jul 2022

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