The obstacles that producers often encounter to closing sales are greatly self-imposed. They focus on the “Do’s” and forget about the “Don’ts,” which are equally crucial to making a successful sale.

First, do ensure that some baseline criteria is met for every potential new sale. Here are the four criteria for qualifying every prospect:

  • Need. The prospect should actually need the recommended product or service.

  • Pay. The prospect may need it, but also must be able to afford and pay for it.

  • Pass. Can the prospect pass the underwriting requirements, such as loss history, driving record, medical or financial specifications?

  • Seen. Is the prospect the decision-maker who signs the checks, and is he or she willing to be seen under conditions favorable to closing the sale? Reconsider if your prospect insists that you mail in quotes or proposals, or if your presentation is interrupted by cell phones.

As a sales manager, if you ignore the “Don’ts,” you are ensuring that they will be repeated again and again. Just as a football team practices the basics of running, blocking, tackling and catching to prepare for game day, so should producers and their managers revisit the basics of every sales call to improve the chances for success. Below and the following pages, eight mistakes that producers often fall into:

1. Don’t forget to qualify the prospect at the first meeting

This meeting should be used for fact-finding and getting to know the prospect’s business.

Use a survey form that you personally modify for each appointment. Tell the prospect that the purpose of this meeting is for both of you to decide whether to have a second meeting, based on your need/pay/pass/seen assessment.

This takes away any perceived sales pressure, as the prospect understands there are no expectations to buy today.

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2. Don’t ever try to sell insurance on the first contact

The only objective at this point is to sell the appointment.

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3. Don’t ever agree to send the prospect a proposal

If you can’t get an appointment, you do not have a qualified prospect. Walk away.

Related: 3 different closing tactics to help you seal the deal

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4. Don’t ever leave — or send — an application

The prospect won’t complete and return it.

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5. Don’t talk only to the gatekeeper

You must meet the decision-maker, the person who signs the check. If they’re unwilling, walk away.

Related: When it comes to sales, are you a hunter, gatherer or sniper?

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6. Don’t give away any information or suggestions

Too many producers like to show how smart they are and give it away. As you uncover and identify gaps and deficiencies, ask questions and probe hard to get a sense of the prospect’s comfort or discomfort with the subject. Zero in on these areas during your final sales presentation.

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7. Don’t ever agree to quote ‘apples to apples’

This is one of the major obstacles to sales success because it focuses only on price, requires no expertise and allows the prospect and present broker to maintain complete control while you remain a “copy, quote and pray” producer.

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8. Don’t ever assume that what the current policies show are accurate or current

Instead, initiate simple questions such as, “How did you arrive at these limits of insurance on your contents?” “When is the last time it was reviewed?” “Is the limit of insurance on the building based on replacement cost, agreed value, or other, and what is the co-insurance limit?”

If it’s not a businessowner’s policy, ask if a worksheet has been completed to establish loss of income or extra expenses limits. Ask about peak season and transit exposures. Ask for copies of recent audits. Ask when the prospect last reviewed these issues with the current broker, and ask how frequently they meet.

At a later date, present your proposal based on the insurance the prospect told you was needed and compare your proposal to the current policies. You have now differentiated yourself from the incumbent, and have gained control of the sale. Because you brought the insurance program up to date, your proposal may be more expensive.

The incumbent agent is at an extreme disadvantage because he now has to accept your work as more accurate and current. If the differences are dramatic enough, the prospect often will not go back to the incumbent for a comparative proposal. 

Barry Seigerman is an independent broker/producer. Contact him at

Related: Becoming an insurance hero