She’s very, very good at getting people to open up and talk about sensitive, revealing subjects. Over four decades she’s been interviewing politicians, business leaders and entertainment icons of all stripes. And anyone in sales can learn plenty from listening to her work.
We’re talking about Terry Gross, host of the Peabody award wining NPR show Fresh Air. Recognized for her artful probing and fearless drive to understand her subjects’ choices and motivations, Terry’s conversational style gets to the heart of things and makes it all seem easy.
We’ve picked just four aspects of her approach that insurance producers and prospectors would do well to emulate.
Learn as much as reasonably possible about the companies you’re calling on and the people you’ll be meeting with. Company Websites can help you learn a lot about what they do and who they serve. Research gives you an advance glimpse of the potential risks and safety issues. You can learn who the key people are and what they value. The people you meet with are bound to appreciate your interest and the fact that you’ve taken the time to learn something about them.
You’re be a lot better off knowing in advance that a retail bakery and deli also does catering, ships gift baskets around the world, and makes their own private label jellies and jams, than to discover it for the first time at your sales meeting.
Let them lead the way
If your queries are too pointed (especially early on), you might stop someone short if they’re not confortable with the direction of your questions. So it’s usually better to use broad, open-ended type questions at the outset. For example, one of the best is something like, “Tell me how you got into this kind of business?”, or “Besides keeping your premiums in check, what are your biggest risk concerns?” “Tell me about your department, team, current situation” – whatever is relevant in the context of the meeting. Once you’ve established some rapport, just go from there.
Humans have different degrees of natural curiosity but we can all learn to increase our curiosity quotient. One simple way to do that is by cultivating the habit of paying close attention and listening carefully to what people are telling us. Curiosity will naturally increase as our ‘tuning-in’ habit strengthens.
Don’t let them be evasive
How do you get people to answer stuff they don’t want to deal with? Keep asking! It’s quite possible to be persistent and succeed by asking again and again in different ways – even using the gentle reminder, “You haven’t answered my question yet.”
Ask with confidence. Nobody wants to be rebuffed for being intrusive, but prospects’ are more likely to appreciate your professional persistence and integrity as long as your questions are relevant.
Have your own thoughts about the skills that make Terry or anyone else a great interviewer? We’d love to see what you think in the comments section below.