There are worse things in life than death. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman? ~Woody Allen
You’ve got to feel for insurance salesmen.
They actually rank below used-car salesmen and bloggers on the list of people no one wants to hang out with. With only a slight edge over politicians . . . maybe.
Pushy pitches, cheesy glad-handing, clumsy attempts to build rapport. And all those lame rehearsed messages to move the sale forward. The worst, right?
Unless, of course, you actually need a little help getting an insurance policy.
Then all of a sudden, you don’t see this person as an insurance salesman any more. You think of him as a “broker,” and you’re all ears about how to navigate the horrifying mass of paperwork you stumbled into when you tried to figure insurance out on your own.
In the bad old days, conventional sales wisdom held that it was a game of numbers. If you could just make yourself cold call enough people or knock on enough doors, eventually you would find someone who was actually in the market for your product.
Of course, everyone who didn’t need the product hated you. Which is why a lot of sales training focused heavily on ways to pump yourself up and feel less crappy.
But a handful of smart salespeople figured out that they could do this weird thing called “direct marketing,” where they could identify and reach out to people who actually wanted what they had to offer. Then they sent those people highly relevant information that was likely to convert them from strangers to buyers.
All of a sudden these smart salespeople weren’t a lower life form any more. They solved problems. They helped people make wise buying decisions. They were experts who provided a valued service.
Much more fun.
Much more lucrative.
The difference between salad and garbage
The difference between salad and garbage is timing.
~ Dan Kennedy
When our poor friend the insurance salesman makes a pitch to someone who’s not in the market for insurance, it’s garbage. Unwanted, unwelcome, smelly garbage.
When he’s smart enough to only give people information they find truly useful and relevant, it’s salad.
So how can we create more salad and less garbage?
Instead of being a hapless insurance salesman, become the expert on insurance for coffee shops. Or NASCAR drivers. Or lion tamers.
Niche your topic of expertise down, then niche it again. Understand precisely who you can best serve (and just as important, who you actually like working with). Study your field so you can serve those people incredibly well.
What’s so great about becoming a specialist?
Experts are attractive. Customers come looking for them, instead of making them go out and hunt down customers.
A topic like insurance is almost infinitely complex. It’s very hard to become an expert on insurance. It’s much easier to become an expert on insurance for one particular kind of customer.
You can learn that customer’s language, understand their problems, and get insanely good at resolving the issues they’re most likely to face.
(And once you have that list of loyal lion tamers, because you know them so well, you can offer them additional relevant products and services. Costco-sized boxes of Band-Aids, perhaps.)
Create killer content
Once you truly understand the customer you want to create a relationship with, start creating tons of valuable free content for that person.
Start a blog (or adapt the blog you have to better and more precisely serve that perfect customer). Create an email newsletter and front-load it with a terrific autoresponder. Record a regular podcast. Get a Flip camera and create some quick, hyper-useful FAQ answers to release on YouTube.
Make it valuable. Don’t try to slip in some kind of cheesy elevator speech — that’s garbage unless you happen to hit the person at the perfect time. But do let people know how to find you when they need to know more.
The more inherently valuable your content is, the less “garbage” factor you’ll create. When you do make an offer, it will be taken for a valued opportunity, instead of a stinky pitch made by an annoying salesperson.
Improve your odds
The salad-to-garbage process always goes one way. Start as salad, end up as garbage.
But offers for products and services are different. This week’s stinky garbage could be next week’s fresh and tasty salad.
So put yourself in front of prospects often enough that when they want what you’ve got, they know exactly where to find you. Assume your content will get passed around (because you will make it great, right?), and regularly let new people know how they can make a better connection with you.
(That’s why we make a point of mentioning our Internet Marketing for Smart People newsletter several times a week.)
Make it your mission to create plenty of salad and as little garbage as possible. Because the less you look like a salesman, the more you’ll sell.
And always remember some additional immortal words from Woody Allen:
Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.