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Embrace Soft Skills to Reduce Rejection

You might have looked at the title of this article and thought it was about online dating.

But the advice I’m about to give is aimed at new advisors as well as veterans in the business.

Veteran advisors can’t afford to be complacent, because the tide can recede despite their previous hard work. For those longtime advisors, prospects and methods have changed just as the products they are selling have changed. New advisors have a lot of new product knowledge, but product knowledge alone doesn’t necessarily make for a fruitful insurance career.


What to Do?

Maybe the answer is to embrace a new paradigm. A paradigm whose hallmark is learning and using soft skills.

Now might be a good time for a confession. I’ve never sold insurance. My career was as a trial, insurance coverage and insurance regulatory lawyer. Then a brain tumor got in the way. As a result, I had to switch gears, and the path that I took was writing about insurance for a consumer audience.

In my prior life, the keys to success included listening skills, identifying and uncovering stated and unstated needs, and trying to find ways to fulfill those needs for my clients. The keys for me were not hitting the numbers for numbers’ sake or hitting home runs each time at bat.

I understand that selling insurance is how advisors support their families and that you do need to hit some home runs. What I’m saying is that there are ways to get reach the goal other than by shooting the third-baseman as you head for home plate.

There are ways to reach the goal other than the “how to overcome the objection” routine that is commonly taught. What is needed instead is a way to help identify prospects’ long- and short-term objectives and find ways to achieve them. The operative word here is help.


How Not to Do It

Let’s define soft skills as the manner in which you listen, comprehend, express yourself and emote. More broadly, it is the package of appearance, communication and knowledge skills that you have.

Some people are born with these soft skills, while others must develop them. In either case, it is critical that soft skills are not developed for the sole or primary reason of making sales. Otherwise, soft skills will be seen as fake, as just another sales tool, and will be counterproductive.

We all know people who feign interest in a subject or conversation — look us in the eyes, nod their head, purse their lips and then move on with their own agenda. Despite their behavior, we may keep them as friends because of inertia or guilt. If the person is just an acquaintance, they are easier to jettison. But if you, a stranger and an insurance salesperson, try it, you won’t get the time of day, much less close the sale.


Another Approach

The jury selection model is an approach to insurance sales you should consider.

Choosing a jury involves taking a pool of individuals (cold calling?) and selecting those the lawyers think may be favorably disposed to finding in the client’s favor (a warm prospect?). At the least, the attorneys want to eliminate from the pool those who may decide against their client.

To determine who’s who in this pool, the lawyers present a broad overview of the facts of the dispute. They then ask some general questions and some that are specific to the facts of the case. This is a way for the lawyers to see whether any of the prospective jurors have experiences, feelings or prejudices that could prevent them from being impartial. Some potential jurors are eliminated by this process until enough people remain to fill the jury panel.

You might consider approaching insurance sales by following this model. Envision the positive results of your cold calls as the entire pool of potential jurors. The nature of insurance sales is usually that you would meet with each prospect. While some reject the approach right off the bat, some will meet with you. The meeting ultimately is intended to result in a sale, but if it doesn’t, that’s OK. After all, not everybody in the jury pool becomes a juror.

Yet the odds are likely better if you use soft skills in your presentation. Just as the trial lawyer asks questions of the individuals in the jury pool and listens carefully for answers that may disclose whether the prospective jurors seem favorable or unfavorable toward their client, you must do the same thing.

This first meeting is the time to listen  for clues such as the prospect’s revelation that their father died relatively young and their mother was forced to work three jobs to support the kids. That’s a segue to a discussion of life insurance and maybe disability insurance. Identify with the strain the death must have put on the family, but don’t shove whole life insurance down the prospect’s throat at the first visit.

Discuss options instead. Cheaper term life insurance may be all the prospect can afford right now. Show genuine understanding and a genuine desire to help. The operative words here are “genuine” and “help.” It’s not just overcoming objections — that’s sales. It is all about finding solutions.


Luke Brown is a retired insurance attorney who writes extensively on insurance, mainly for consumers. He has written several books on insurance and served as the subject-matter expert for the development of an insurance regulatory tool by LexisNexis. Luke may be contacted at [email protected]

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