When it comes to the art and science of closing a sales deal it’s fair to say that Steve Wilmer is an expert. From the United States Marine Corps to law enforcement to the top of the insurance sales profession, Steve has gained a wealth of experience in organizations and industries of all types—and has achieved proven success in teaching others how to use their strengths to win business and run successful insurance agencies.
We spoke with Steve, and he generously shared his holistic process for how to close a deal. In this article, we’ll go through this process step-by-step, so you can apply his advice to your own sales process.
Steve Wilmer’s Steps To Closing The Sale: The Ultimate Guide
1. Be unapologetically you.
According to Steve, the foundation of being successful in sales is built on the conviction that he is unapologetically himself—a conviction he says all sales professionals should hold. Before we can discuss tips for closing sales, we have to start from the foundation: Not everyone is cut out to be in sales, and individual agents should sincerely examine if this is the career that best aligns with their goals and passions.
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The foundation, Steve says, is built by starting with an understanding of your “why.” Why do you want a successful agency more than anything else, and what do you plan to do to achieve it? Then, in addition to answering your “why,” it’s important to focus on personal development. If you want to be the best at anything—including sales—you need to be constantly improving yourself. These two steps have nothing to do with sales “skills,” but they instead require agents to figure out who they are and who they want to become—crucial aspects when it comes to living out the concept of being ”unapologetically you.” Once you’ve determined your “why” and committed to improving yourself, you can begin to take actionable steps toward achieving success in sales.
2. First, decide to work on yourself.
“Learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job. If you work hard on your job, you can make a living, but if you work hard on yourself, you'll make a fortune.” ― Jim Rohn
Again, Steve emphasizes that, at the beginning, being successful in sales has little to do with sales at all—it has to do with personal development. Here are his tips for getting started:
- Develop mental toughness. In order to be successful in sales, you have to be prepared to hear “no” over and over again. Developing mental toughness will help you handle objection and rejection.
- Pick helpful personal development books, and try to read a new one every week.
- Meet with a group of like-minded individuals or agents to discuss what you’re reading and what you’re learning.
- Write down the “why” statement you created in the first step. This statement will serve as your guide when your sales career hits low points and will provide you with a daily reminder about why you’re doing the hard work to be successful. Print it out and hang it above your desk (or wherever you will see it most frequently).
- Write a vision statement for your life and career. Look out six months ahead: Where do you see yourself? What is your sales production? According to Steve, this is an important step, yet one salespeople often ignore—to their detriment. You need a vision for your career in order to be successful; you should be revisiting it daily to make sure all of your actions align with the goals you’ve identified and the future you envision.
3. Surround yourself with successful mentors.
When asked if people should have a mentor, Steve replies—”no, you should have multiple!” Mentors and business coaches are crucial to your growth; just ask anyone who’s winning in their industry. They all have mentors and coaches, and if you want to be successful, you should too. Steve suggests the following tips for finding a mentor and business coach:
- Look for a mentor who is at the top of the field that you want to be successful in. Be humble enough to ask them to mentor you, and then listen to and learn from what they have to say.
- However, your business coach doesn’t necessarily have to be better than you in your given industry—but they need to be someone who sees things from a different perspective, keeps you accountable, helps you determine goals, and more. A business coach doesn’t necessarily need to be an expert in your particular field in order to help you reach your goals.
- Be willing to ask questions. Shockingly, according to Steve, a lack of desire to learn from individuals who are successful in their industry is an epidemic among salespeople. In fact, he says he wishes more novice agents would ask him to share his knowledge and expertise—so often people assume they are “bothering” those potential mentors and business coaches who can actually help them grow and develop in business and in life. Steve implores readers to take that first step to ask and see what happens. If a person can’t mentor you keep looking for someone else who is willing to take you on as a mentee.
In addition to finding the right people from whom to learn, successful insurance agents seeking to close sales must learn to tune out individuals who aren’t successful themselves. One of Steve’s favorite quotes is: “Stop asking people who have never been where you’re going for directions.” A leadership mindset in any organization requires surrounding oneself with successful mentors and listening to what they have to say—as well as blocking out the noise from those who haven’t succeeded. As Steve also says, “Don’t take constructive criticism from people who haven’t constructed anything.”
4. Once you’ve built the foundation, focus on sales.
Up until this point, we’ve focused mainly on building a foundation as a person, not as a sales professional. Once you’ve completed the above three steps, it’s much easier to find success in implementing the sales-specific approaches Steve identifies below.
Sell the problem, not the product.
Every agent wants to sell more auto, home, or life insurance—but agents who are proven successes don’t focus on selling their specific products, they focus on providing solutions to the problems their customers have. Successful sales professionals don’t just respond to these problems once they appear—they proactively help their customers and potential customers by providing options and solutions for issues they haven’t even realized are problems.
Ask better questions.
Most insurance agents and producers aren’t asking enough questions. If you’re doing all the talking, your customer isn’t. For that reason, it’s important to learn how to ask questions that encourage a response instead of using telling statements—as Steve says, ”telling is not selling.”
Here are some examples of excellent questions and talking points you should be asking your leads and prospects to get them talking about themselves: both their problems and their pain points (that you can help them address):
- “What’s important to you? Why?” The answer leads to follow-up questions. If you listen to everything a prospect tells you, they will tell you exactly how to sell to them. For this reason, agents should always listen with intent to understand, not to respond.
- “Would it be important to make sure your home is completely paid off if you passed away? If that’s important, would it be important to have money to leave to provide for your family? Do you have enough? How much do you think you need?”
- “If [product] is all you want, I’ll explain the policy. If the product meets your needs, and I can offer you that product, what am I missing? What makes you not want to choose this [policy/product]?”
5. Address price with your prospects.
For most agents and producers, price is the elephant in the room. It’s one of—if not the—biggest issue, and you have to address it to be successful and close the sale. According to Steve, the following tactics can help agents make this part of the sales conversation process less intimidating and prone to objection.
- Focus on cost vs. price. Prospects will ask about the price, but you need to reframe the conversation to be about cost. They are asking what the price is to have auto, home, or life insurance, but as the sales professional, your job is to ask them what the cost is if they don’t have it. This distinction relates to our discussion of personal development from earlier in this article: There are two pains in life, and the pain of discipline weighs ounces, while the pain of regret weighs tons. By focusing on the true cost of not having the solution you can provide, you’ll be able to talk candidly with potential customers and show them that you aren’t just selling a product, you’re ensuring they have the coverage they need to protect themselves and their families in the event that something happens to them or their property.
- Paint a picture to make sure your customers feel specific emotions that will help encourage them to see the value in insurance. Ask the specific question, “How does that make you feel?” It’s easy for a potential customer to shrug off a product that feels “too expensive,” but it is much more difficult to object to how they (or their family) would feel not having the product. Steve states that his success in closing deals has been in large part thanks to the fact that he always asked this question, and he was able to make his clients feel something.
- Don’t let your customers control your conversations with them. Stay in control, ask questions, and make sure you’re helping clients feel the value of insurance. According to a Harvard study, 95% of people make a purchase subconsciously, not based on logic, so it’s up to you, at every point of the conversation, to ensure your clients can’t create reasons to not buy from you.
- Be assertive, not aggressive. Focus on leading clients through situations, asking more questions, and diving deeper into their wants, needs, and pain points—not telling them what you think they need. Steve refers to “Green Eggs & Ham” here as the number one sales book of all time—the character didn’t push the prospect around or give up just because his prospect said no; he simply kept asking questions until the prospect answered the question the way he wanted it answered.
5 Biggest Mistakes To Avoid
- Never “call someone’s baby ugly” (so to speak). As a sales professional, never make prospects or clients feel bad about a decision they’ve made in the past. Instead, provide a new solution that helps them and adds more value. Once you’ve provided value, and they trust you, you can help them understand why your solutions are more beneficial to them.
- Never sell from your own pocket. Just because as an agent or producer, you may not be able to afford a product or service doesn’t mean your ideal customer can’t. Don’t undercut your value—let your price be what it is.
- “Never fish from the same pond.” If your pond has small fish, find a bigger pond. Expand your selling region geographically, or think outside the box. One of the best ways to find “more fish”? A partnership with EverQuote!
When it comes to finding potential customers for your agency in the digital age, buying high quality leads can be one of the most effective strategies you have. Real-time leads, like those you purchase from EverQuote, are connections to people actively looking for insurance products. Real-time leads are excellent prospects because they generally have higher relative conversion rates (as well as a typical quicker time to bind). Learn more about EverQuote’s leads and how they can help your business grow.
- Never operate based on your feelings. Instead, operate based on your purpose. What anyone else says or does doesn’t matter when you know your purpose as an agent is to provide your prospects and customers with the absolute best products to help them protect themselves and their families. By keeping this front of mind, you’ll be much better equipped to handle the feelings that come with the objection and rejection you’ll undoubtedly have to face.
- Most importantly, never ask for permission. Never ask questions like “Are you interested in...?” “Do you have time to…?” “Would you like to…?” As human beings, we’ve always been taught to ask for permission—from our teachers, our parents, and society in general, we’ve learned that permission is necessary. And it is… except in the world of sales! As a sales professional, you can’t ask for permission. What should you do instead? Ask for buy-in. For example, if you’re selling insurance, Steve says not to ask if a prospect is interested, but to instead ask if what you’re saying “makes sense.” This allows the prospect to clarify or ask questions without giving you a hard “no.”
The Final Step: Take Action
Now, it’s time for you to take Steve’s proven guide to closing the sale and apply it to your agency. Steve says most agents won’t complete this last step, because it requires most of them to go back to the drawing board. Think of it as if you’re building a house: It’s difficult to rebuild a house—but if it’s not built on a solid foundation, it will eventually need to be rebuilt anyway. When the winds come, the house will continue to fall, and you’ll be constantly doing patch jobs.
Similarly, instead of continuing to struggle with a shaky sales foundation, tear it down today and rebuild it the right way. You can get in touch with Steve to learn more about his proven sales process, his books, and his speaking engagements at his website: SteveWilmer.com.