Why Insurance Agents get a Bad Rap

The insurance profession doesn’t have the best of reputations. With its complicated policy language and insider jargon, it’s easy for the consumer to point the finger at those selling the product as sleazy hacks just out to make a quick buck. The unfortunate fact is that, just like in any business, a few bad apples can spoil the bunch when it comes to selling insurance. Couple that with a product that most people don’t actually look forward to buying, and you’ve got a recipe for an entire industry getting a bad rap.

Despite the fact that the world economy would grind to a halt without insurance, most consumers see it as a necessary evil. And the face of the insurance industry—the agent—must develop good sales and customer service practices not only to counteract this perception but also to ensure long-term career success. There are no shortcuts in the insurance business.

As a new agent fresh from insurance school, you do not want to fall prey to some of the bad habits that give the industry a black eye. Following are several poor sales habits that you’ll need to avoid at all costs as you embark on a career selling insurance:

1. Pitching a product too soon without understanding the needs of the prospect.

Many insurance salespeople—especially those new to the industry—pitch services and products too soon. This is done in a misguided attempt to quickly close a prospect without a basic understanding of why people buy. As a consequence, these individuals end up selling products that an insured doesn’t need or isn’t interested in because they have not spent the time to find out what their needs are in the first place.

2. Opening your prospect meeting by talking about yourself or your company.

It’s baffling how many salespeople believe that the best way to start a meeting is by vomiting all over the prospect about themselves, their products, or how great their company is. Understand this: No one cares. People only want to know what’s in it for them, and how you can solve their problems. Agents waste precious time babbling about achievements when they should be laser-focused on the most important thing: uncovering and solving problems. The prospect should be doing most of the talking during a first meeting. If that’s not happening, don’t expect to have a second meeting.

3. Not listening to the prospect.

This is directly tied to the “talking about yourself” habit. In a rush to get as much information as possible across to a prospect, agents fail to listen and look for other cues that may lead them to where the real issues are for a prospect. As a result, agents don’t hear or understand the main problems their prospects need solved. This is a frequent misstep in the insurance business. One of the fastest and best ways to connect with your prospect is to ask probing questions, listen carefully to the answers, and then continue to ask high-value questions until you’ve isolated problems you can solve.

4. Not understanding the prospect’s business.

Insurance agents are expected to have a good grasp of the issues surrounding a prospect’s industry. By specializing in a particular industry, you can speak their language and better understand the coverages that they need. As a result, you can gain the trust of your prospect and stand out from competitors who don’t specialize.

6. Bland presentations that no one wants to sit through.

The point of a sales presentation is to show a prospect exactly why they should buy your service or product. Unfortunately, very few insurance salespeople tailor presentations to their prospects by targeting specific problems that the prospect has revealed. Instead, agents use the same tired, regurgitated PowerPoint slides and presentation binders, regardless of a prospect’s genuine needs. Also, steer clear of insurance jargon whenever possible and present solutions in clear terms that a layman can easily understand.

7. Not following up and delivering on promises.

Nothing irks a customer like when they ask for information and the salesperson doesn’t deliver it. Worse still is when a prospect asks for a quote and never hears from the agent again. Obviously, it’s always a good sales practice to deliver on promises in a timely way. And if you ultimately can’t deliver a quote? It’s far better to explain this to a customer as soon as you know you won’t be able to provide it, rather than never responding again.

Insurance sales is an honorable career, but one that gets a bad rap due to the complexity of the product and a few disreputable salespeople. Make it clear to your prospects and customers that you’re one of the good ones by avoiding these bad habits now before you get your insurance license.

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