Picture Perfect

Suppose you are the CFO of a medium sized manufacturing firm and you have plans to meet with two agents from difference insurance agencies.

The agent from agency A sits down and does a few things to establish rapport. Then he starts telling you about his company, its reputation and commitment to quality service. Soon he goes into his presentation about their standards, number of markets and risk management philosophy and asks you for an opportunity to provide a competitive quote and see how they do.

The agent from agency B comes in, and after doing a few things to establish rapport, begins with a brief story to gain some credibility and then asks a few questions.

Producer: “Recently during a meeting with the executive of a manufacturing firm, the CFO told me his greatest concern was that all of the services available to him were poorly coordinated and because of that he didn’t feel he was getting all that he was paying for. What he said he wanted was a more defined annual service plan that was proactive in nature and would help him exercise maximum control to prevent and manage losses. We gave him that and as a result his cost of losses has decreased by over 37%. I don’t suppose that you are concerned with anything like that are you?”

“That’s been a significant challenge. I don’t have the time to really manage all the aspects to make sure they happen.”

Producer: “Just out of curiosity, when your agent came out at renewal time to go through your service plan and laid out when he would deliver policies, review claims, review your mod worksheet, review payroll, and set up a renewal strategy so you wouldn’t waste your time or overpay for insurance, were you comfortable with how they laid everything out?”

Prospect: “It’s never been that formal a process.”

Producer: “Well, maybe it’s not that important because you’ve never had an unpaid claim or an extensive audit.”

Prospect: “Wait a minute – this is important. If we had been doing this last year we wouldn’t have had the surprise with….”

Which of these approaches best describes your selling style?

Remember that people like to buy but they don’t like to be sold. The only way they can do that is by selling you why they want to buy. Instead of trying to persuade, convince or pitch someone why they should buy your product or service, learn the Art of Negative Sell and let them sell you. You’ll make more sales and have a lot of fun doing so.

ruben levisman

This is a great example of two very different styles. I’d like to see more “Real life” samples like this. Thanks.



Great post, Steve.

I think the narrative structure of the post really brings home the differences between the old “show up and throw up” approach and a 3rd-generation (post-consultative) selling style. Yes, questions were asked, but it’s not just about asking questions: it’s about having enough insight to guide the prospect to articulate their pain points *through* your questions.

Again, really nice job.

– Jeff


I’m agreeing with Ruben(above.) This kind of real life dialogue drives home how well questioning can work. It also shows how you can sway the course of the conversation with how you set up the question. If salesperson B had just asked what the current insurance agent had done at renewal, would the prospect have even known that some agencies even renew mod worksheets, payrolls and strategies? Probably not. Now he has doubt about his current agent.
On a different note: I’m holding Profitable Persuasion right now. Looking forward to reading tonight.
Thanks Steve!


While the theme of this post is useful, the “Art of Negative Sell” is absolutely the wrong title for the technique. There are many other title’s for this technique, but Negative Selling is not one of them. Negative Selling involves discussing a competing vendor in a “negative manner” and this should never be done under any circumstances.

Steve Clark


For your information the term negative selling has been used by many notable sales trainers for decades. I first read about it in Tom Hopkins book “How to Master the Art of Selling” first published in 1980.

In this book, on page 233 Hopkins says, “The concept of negative selling is very simple: If you express doubt in your prospects ability to do something, he’ll tend to do it just to prove that you’re wrong.”

If you had ever read this book or others like it you would not have made such an ill informed comment.

If you want to rise to the ranks of the elite in selling I suggest you start reading and doing your homework before you go popping off about things you don’t know.

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