As a salesperson, I love being a customer. Over the past couple of months, I have toured model homes, visited several car dealerships to buy a new car, and shopped at plenty of retail places. I love being a customer because every time a salesperson engages me, I learn more about my ability to sell.

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All these common sales experiences are helpful, but the most powerful lesson in sales I’ve ever had came from my car insurance agent. I was in my early thirties, a single father, and already my own boss. My car insurance agent called me up and asked for a meeting to discuss life insurance. First, I thought whoa – this is a heavy topic and not something I want to talk to my car insurance guy for. Then, I said yes. I had a term policy at the time that would leave my then-small children with most of their basic needs taken care of, and I thought that was fine. I didn’t meet with the agent because I saw a need, but because I liked him.

It is basic psychology – we want to spend time with people who we like and who express genuine interest in our lives. My car insurance agent had engaged me with questions about my rather unique job, about my children, and my living situation. He took the time to know me, converse with me, and be nice.

It did not take him long to make recommendations and for me to select a policy to purchase. When I told my other friends about my purchase, the naysayers were quick to chime in with all kinds of financial advice. Friends who, by the way, in many cases just didn’t strike me as being as prepared as they need to be for their financial future, but friends no less who made clear that they thought I had been “sold” a bunch of stuff I didn’t need, and that wouldn’t help me.

Fast forward 20 years. I was a professional speaker, university professor, and business coach who lost his voice. I was diagnosed with a set of troubling throat and tongue issues, and quickly discovered I was a speaker who could not speak! Over the next three years, I endured multiple surgeries on the road to regaining my voice just as my two youngest children were finishing college.

I had determined that my children would not ever apply for student loans to pay for college and that they would graduate debt free. Guess what? The life insurance policy I had purchased 20+ years ago saved the day. It gave me resources to make financial decisions and to accomplish my dreams to be a responsible parent, even though my health was not cooperating. It gave me choices in managing my finances that I otherwise would not have had.

I recently called my agent after my youngest graduated college, just to tell him thank-you. My naysayer friends were wrong; he did not oversell me a bunch of products I did not need. Rather, 20+ years ago he listened to my unique situation, understood the members of my family, my other financial needs, and then sold me what he genuinely believed would be the best and most flexible product for me.

When I was out looking at model homes, I learned that many of the salespeople don’t do a personalized tour and chose to stay in their garage office rather than share how the model can potentially meet my needs. When I was out car shopping, my salesman carefully told me how the .9% interest promotion could help me leverage my money. Since I am always interested in driving a car I like and using my money wisely, the car is in my garage now, and my money is doing something else to make me a greater return right now. My recent retail experience a high-end mall store taught me that when salespeople team up to genuinely help a customer, even if only one is going to record the commission, they can really make somebody’s day.

But the lesson my insurance agent taught me 20+ years ago was that when you take the time to understand the customer’s need and projected need, you can create a strategy with your product that can change their life. My agent did not have a crystal ball to know the future; he did not know I would get sick or even that my kids would go to college. But what he did know is that he had access to multiple products, and by really getting to know me, he could do two things: 1.) Match me with the right product and 2.) Close the deal knowing he could sleep at night because he was an authentic sales leader.

After a three-year break, I am back at work and 100% healthy. I have returned to being an active entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and trainer. My life policy continues, but I am now using it differently and it, is meeting a different need. As a salesperson who loves learning from other salespeople, the greatest lesson I have learned is that closing the deal is not about learning another “closing statement” or “sales process.” Closing a deal is about getting to know the needs of the customer and sharing the value of great products with that person to help them make the right choice. The insurance policy I hold is proof of that. The car in my garage is proof of that. The fact that I am still in the same house I was a year ago and have not bought anything else yet is also proof of that.