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Here’s why you missed your sales goal this year (and how to make it next year)



Recently, I spoke with a friend of mine who is an insurance salesman. He predominately sells life insurance and property and casualty insurance. When we talked at a local bar, he confided in me that for the first time since the financial crisis in 2008, he is not going to hit his sales goal.

He talked about how he has a solid client base. However, every year he loses life clients to lapses and old age, or property and casualty customers that change policies based on $5/month difference.

In the past, he has always been able to replace this yearly runoff. However, this year, he’s had trouble replacing these customers. He complained about his inability to get prospects to talk with him.

“No one picks up the phone when I call, and no one ever calls me back.” He said. “When I email people, they rarely write me back – even if I’ve been referred to them by someone we both know!” He lamented.

After a couple of beers, he said “I don’t understand – I’m doing what I’ve always done.”

“That’s the problem,” I interjected “you’re doing things the way you’ve always done them.”

I’m writing this piece because my friend isn’t the only one having troubles making his sales numbers this year. I’ve been hearing this same story a lot in the past few months.

So what’s the solution? You have to modernize your sales toolbox.

Here’s how to do it:

1)     Have a strategy. Many individuals (and even some companies) don’t have a strategic plan for sales. They just target people in their territory that they get from a list they bought, a tool their company uses, or folks they get as referrals. Are these the RIGHT people to target? Maybe … maybe not. The product you’re selling may not be a fit depending on what life stage the person is in currently.

Here’s a quick way to create a strategy and go to market plan:

  • First, define who your ideal customer is – who typically buys your products? Who is your product designed for?
  • Next, segment your customers into different groups based on different behaviors like what type of products they typically purchase or where they are in the purchase journey.
  • Then, find where they live and breathe and go there with messages that are tailored to their needs via channels where they spend their time. For example, if your target audience is recent college grads, are you going to more successful with direct mail or Snapchat? (Hint: You better start learning how to use Snapchat!)

2)     Remove cold calling and blast email from your toolbox. Notice I didn’t say remove calling and email. It’s the “cold” and “blast” adjectives that are the problem. You need to do research on your prospects before reaching out to them.

These two acquisition methods have declining in value for years, and a recent study by Baylor University showed that cold calling results in a meeting about 1% of the time. I read an article last week that touted the “success” a cold caller had by calling 1,250 people to get 18 meetings. That’s a 0.01% meeting rate!

3)     Add social media to your toolbox.  I get over a 50% meeting rate for some my clients using social media and social selling. Thus, at that rate, they have to reach out to 30 people on LinkedIn to get those same 18 meetings that the cold caller generated (and without annoying and alienating 1,232 other people to do it)!

Social media is also great for getting signals such as buying a home, birth of a child, getting married and switching jobs. These are big pivot points from a needs perspective, and you can get notified when your current and prospective customers hit one of these milestones.

4)     Personalize your outreach. In today’s world, it’s all about the customer experience. Everyone has bought from Amazon or Zappos or has used an American Express credit card or flown on Southwest Airlines. They know what great, personalized customer service looks like.

When you reach out to a customer via phone, email, social media or even by sky writing, if it’s the same generic message, you’ve lost most of them before you’ve started. Go to LinkedIn. Go to Twitter. Go to Facebook. You can find out an enormous amount information on a potential client, and it’s all free.

Use this information to tailor your message to that person. If you can’t think of a problem your prospect has that your product solves, then maybe you shouldn’t reach out to them.

5)     Tailor your message to the medium. Not only personalize the message to the individual, but to where it will be read as well. You wouldn’t use the same words in an email as you would in a face-to-face conversation. However, many business just cut and paste their direct mail pieces email into social media. Don’t be surprised when those messages don’t work! Direct mail and social media readers are different audiences, so the voice, tone and content need to be adjusted accordingly.

In addition, most emails and social media posts are now read on a mobile device, so when you are crafting your message, make sure it is in a short, easily-readable format. Tip: send emails and phone messages (and blog posts too if you are daring!) to your phone before you send them. Do you have to scroll and scroll and scroll to read it? Would a prospect actually scroll that much in an email from a stranger?


Add these tips to your toolbox, and you’ll be well on your way to hitting your sales goal for next year. Remember, you are not reinventing the wheel, you’re just moving the race track.

(Note: I’m happy to say that my friend has enrolled in some training that his company offers to help learn modern selling tools. He’s a great salesman so I’m confident he’ll hit his numbers next year.)

About the author

Robert Knop is Founder and CEO of Assist You Today, a company dedicated to helping organizations accelerate new customer acquisition and increase client retention using digital strategy and social media. He’s a proud member of the Wave3 network of consultants, and always happy to talk strategy, digital and social selling. To learn more about how to evolve your marketing and sales approaches for the digital age, please fill out the form below:


Photo: Tara Hunt

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