The result of that is you ask a few questions to make small talk, then try and steer the conversation toward your pre-determined solution. Sometimes this works, but more likely than not the client knows you are not really listening and therefore feels like they are being sold something. When that happens, you have lost the sale. Remember, your job is to find solutions, not “sell stuff.”

So what to do? Turning again to Simon Sinek:

“…listening means trying to find meaning in what you hear. It is not simply about concentrating on what is being said to you; it is the active pursuit of understanding.”

The biggest takeaways for me from the above quote are to be an active listener and to really strive to understand what your prospect or client means, which is often very different from what they say.

Do not confuse this with being active in conversation. You may be asking questions, but to what end? Are your questions designed to steer the conversation a certain way or to understand what the other person is actually trying to tell you?

Just because you have looked over the person’s information and think you have a solution does not mean you truly understand their problem. The purpose of every meeting is to find what the real needs are. Just because someone says they want insurance to protect their assets does not mean that is the true underlying reason. It sounds good and makes it easy for you to calculate a proper amount of coverage, but without digging deeper you may end up solving the wrong problem.

Instead, ask these specific follow up questions:

  • What specific assets do you want to protect?
  • On whose behalf are you protecting those assets?
  • Do they have any specific needs that make you want to be sure these assets are covered?

With just those three simple questions, you could find out that there is someone in the family with special needs who depends on your client for income. That means a simple insurance policy in the amount of their assets will not solve their problem. In addition to a very different calculation for determining the policy amount, the situation likely also calls for a special needs trust and some type of investment vehicle that will provide a guaranteed income for the beneficiary’s lifetime.

This is not something you decide to do and flip a switch to become a good listener. It takes practice and it takes planning. So before your next meeting, think about your typical approach and mindset.

If you go into them with a solution in mind, stop. Set aside whatever you think the answer may be and make the decision to get to know the person you are meeting with.

Do not ask a question about a need without asking a follow up question. The first answer they give is rarely, if ever, the real answer. Writing out scripts and sample questions is a great way to prepare. You won’t recite them in meetings, but having them down pat will allow you to focus on the answers rather than what your next question will be.

In this business, we all want to make the next sale. In order to build a practice that lasts, however, you have to stand out from the competition and not become a commodity. There is no better way to do that than to take the time to listen to what people are trying to tell you.

It will make you a better agent and it will create long-term clients

By: Ashley Aaron, CHC CPIA

CEO/President of American Insurance Marketing Services, Inc.

Certified Patient Protection & Affordability Care Act Professional