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Knowing When To Discard Business Sales Leads: Overcoming The China Egg Syndrome

Knowing When To Discard Business Sales Leads: Overcoming The China Egg Syndrome

The China Egg Syndrome concept has a fascinating beginning. Most people have no idea what a china egg actually is. The story goes back to the early 1960s. A life/health insurance trainer kept one on his desk. Normally, it is a nice decorative item, an egg-shaped colorful piece of glass or porcelain sitting in a little golden metal holder. Perhaps you have seen one. This particular piece was used as an agent-training exhibit. Here’s the meaning.

Most agents, whether newly minted or veteran, have a problem. And, if they do not solve this particular problem, they will likely go out of business. It is that simple. As any successful practitioner of the art of selling will agree, one must be on an eternal campaign to find, develop, and close leads. Finding people and businesses which are receptive to our products and services is ongoing. In the insurance business, that means using every source and method to gain entry to those who might be receptive to what we have to offer. Then, we must get them to buy our proffered policy solutions.

One would think finding leads is important but not crucial. Let me disabuse all of that notion. It is the life blood of selling; insurance is no exception. Closing leads to produce business and commissions is the second to last step in the process. The final step is service and conservation. The primary aspect is thus developing a constant fresh flow of good leads; that everyone knows is the hard part.

Now we come to the subject of this commentary. In poker lingo, it means knowing when to hold ’em and knowing when to fold ’em. In insurance sales terms, it means knowing when to continue developing the lead (sitting on and nurturing that egg, if you please) until it hatches into a sale. It means knowing how and when to recognize one is sitting on a sales lead, ( an egg) one that is never going to hatch, a china egg. Don’t think this is easy. It is not. And retaining and spending time, energy, effort, calls, re-submitting, additional contacts and interviews, and fussing with well developed leads, works-in-process, that we have actually become rather attached to because we have invested such effort in them, is the bane of far too many otherwise successful business sales people. At some point, we must detach ourselves from this china egg. It’s almost like saying good bye to an old friend, a deadly old friend.

The way out of this conundrum is to turn the problem into a process. It takes organization and discipline. Here is one way to do it. Once lead sheets develop into folders of product/service proposals, and after the first closes, we begin the quest to determine whether the proposed solutions are eggs that will hatch or are china eggs. From here things get interesting. From here begin sales. From here begin the most creative excuses. From here, most often, prospective buyers start getting scarce (hard to reach, don’t return phone calls, don’t answer voice messages, emails, faxes, follow up letters). Every seasoned advisory agent has experienced them; thus it is not necessary to burden readers with any.

The straight forward process is three strikes (follow ups) and out. I know this is hard, but it is the lifesaver. Obviously, it makes common sense to retain certain ones in a suspense file for future follow up. You may find, when one turns up a few months later, that you want to give it another go. I say do it. There is something about coming upon a folder 8 months down the line that gives it a fresh look. And sometimes, the china egg actually turns into a real one and hatches. In some cases, you might even receive a call! We’ve all had it happen.

I even have a FINAL resting place for a very select few of my china eggs in the back office morgue file. You know, just in case? When this process has been completed and most all of the china eggs have been discarded, you find that you have served yourself best by serving yourself well and in a disciplined manner. The process from initial close to final discard might take a few days, weeks, or at most a month. That is with breathing spaces between follow ups and all. You know you are doing it right when you notice you are not building up great files of thick folders that keep on getting more numerous and older! I’ve known agents who have kept these lead files so long, that the prospects have died! Keep them moving along.

You know you are doing it right when you are constantly taking in new leads, working them (HARD), and discarding most of them in a brisk way, using the “one, two, three strikes, and you’re out” procedure, all within a rather short time. It is a judgement call. And by maintaining a suspense file, you still retain the possibility of pulling out a sale now and again. Turnover is the name of the game. It is quite liberating. Time to move on. Here are two final thoughts. 1. Our only stock in trade is time&skill. 2. China eggs are nothing but time wasters, kind of like sinkholes, to be rid of in a reasonable, quick, but orderly way. Good selling, everyone.