NU Online News Service, July 2, 9:33 a.m. EDT

The key to being a good salesperson is the ability to make cold calls, and building and sustaining relationships is not enough to make an independent agent a successful salesperson, a research study has found.

According to Shannon L. Goodson, a behavioral researcher with Behavioral Sciences Research Press Inc., in Dallas, the importance of people making that initial contact with clients and not feeling intimidated cannot be underestimated, nor can the fear some salespeople harbor toward that act.

His findings do not meet with total acceptance from the insurance sales community and were questioned by one executive.

Paul Monacelli, chief executive officer of ADP/Statewide Insurance Agency Inc. in Cedar Knolls, N.J., and past president of the Professional Insurance Agents of New Jersey, said that while the researchers may have some valid points agents may find worth examining, he believes the primary road to success is preparation and having a story to tell.

“If you have something to say and are prepared, then you will have success,” he said.

But according to Ms. Goodson, salespeople “need to be comfortable not only the first time [they make contact] but even in asking for referrals, and some [agents] have trouble doing that comfortably. The lifeblood of sales is being able to contact people comfortably.”

Ms. Goodson, along with researchers George W. Dudley and Trelitha R. Bryant, worked on the study for Behavioral Sciences Research Press (BSRP) based on 30 years of research on sales people seeking a common link to selling success.

They found that the best predictor of future sales performance is the willingness of a salesperson to initiate first contact with prospective customers and not be afraid of promoting themselves or their product.

Taking a multi-industry sample of 1,043 currently employed sales people, participants in their study completed a Sales Preference Questionnaire (SPQ*GOLD) designed to detect and measure 12 types of behavioral inhibitions associated with what they term Sales Call Reluctance.

The study identified 65 percent of the very high producers who participated–a better hit ratio, BSRP asserted, than other tests that identified the top performers in 20-to-54 percent of the cases.

This study, of which Ms. Goodson estimated a quarter were property and casualty agents and brokers, is not just aimed at identifying those that will be successful. It also aims to help salespeople identify their reluctance and point to the resources they need to overcome the issue.

Another group that can be helped by this study are managers who have to recruit new talent, Ms. Goodson noted, something important to perpetuation planning. When they suffer from Sales Call Reluctance they limit themselves to their comfort zone and fail to bring the best people into the agency.

The test and book, “The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance, Earning What You’re Worth in Sales,” can help individuals indentify their issues and work to end the problem without having to admit they have a problem to their colleagues, noted Ms. Goodson.

“Lots of times agents are afraid to tell someone that they are scared,” said Ms. Goodson. “They can take these self-help resources and run with them.”

Additional information on BSRP is available at www.bsrpinc.com.