Manes and Associates

Years ago I was given a booklet titled The Tyranny of the Urgent written by Charles E. Hummel. Buy a copy, and read it regularly. The premise is simple: We spend too much time distracted by the urgent and too little time on the important.

Stephen Covey created a matrix to help us understand and manage this dilemma. He charted the urgent and the important. I believe it was his book that also drew the analogy of the goose and the golden egg. We all want golden eggs, but we all too often neglect the goose. Our fascination with the immediate and short term blinds us to the real potential and success that are the long term.

Hummel and Covey are successful. Their ideas are relevant, and they should be listened to and their gospels embraced. I would, however, like to add one more tyranny that must be considered in a business with intense competition. This is the Tyranny of Maybe.

Here’s the reality of today’s marketplace. Every consumer has unlimited options in what, where, and when they can buy. They also have access to more information than they have ever had in the past. Everyone can learn more than they need to know to make any purchasing decision.

As a provider of products and services, insurance agents always compete with someone out there who can do what you do better, cheaper, faster, or more efficiently. Our job as a seller is to find the prospective buyers that we have a reasonable chance to satisfy, then exceed their expectations. We must focus our limited time and resources on them and their needs, then provide evidence that what we do is what they want or need.

The good news is that with the internet we can sell to anyone anywhere. The bad news is that anyone anywhere can sell to the people we consider to be in our marketing territory. When our universe was limited to the people who lived in our neighborhood or our town or our county (parish), our market was undoubtedly reachable. Those days are gone. Now we must target. Our principal target must be the real prospects (people who are likely buyers of what we offer) versus suspects (people nice enough to listen but without a need, the money, or the ability to decide or buy).

We need to find the decision maker or the Radar O’Reilly who tells the decision maker what to buy, when to buy it and how to make payments. Since we’re always selling and our universe is now unlimited, we must discern what prospects are buying. Most importantly, we need to know if they will buy and when they’ll buy.

Too many salespeople never reach “the ask.” The great ones always do. If the prospect says yes, shake their hand, have them sign the application, and get the check. If they say no, thank them and move on. If they say maybe, watch out. You may get caught in the Tyranny of the Maybe. Determine the reason for the uncertainty, address it directly, make “the ask” again. Hopefully, you get a definitive yes or no. If not, move on. The maybes will waste your time, energy and future.

MICHAEL G. MANES is the owner of Manes and Associates, a New Iberia-based consulting business focusing on planning, sales and operations, and change. He has over 47 years of insurance industry experience, including serving as an instructor of Risk and Insurance at Louisiana State University. Manes can be reached at or 337-577-3885.