JUN 18, 2015 | BY LYNETTE GIL
[small revisions have been done on the original]
Welcome to the wonderful world of insurance, rookie!
Whether you call yourself “rookie,” “newbie,” or “noob” (the youngsters’ version of this word), we’ve all found ourselves in a new job at one time or another. We may have had peers or coworkers joke with us by saying words like these as terms of endearment… or, better, had them take us under their wings and teach us about our new environment.
The truth is that any advice is helpful when you’re entering a new field. New insurance agents understandably feel overwhelmed as they begin navigating the complex world of insurance, sales, customer service and even agency management.
But have no fear! We’ve compiled a list of some of the best advice for your first day at school — or work. It’s advice that will apply for years to come, in fact. Down the road, you can use this list as a starting point for your own list of best advice for new (or even seasoned) insurance agents.
- Brush up on your customer service skills.
If you thought that that job as a waiter or at a retail store was a waste of time, think again. Remember how your performance was being evaluated every second by your restaurant guests? There are some very interesting parallels between serving clients in the food industry and in the insurance industry; in both cases you’re dealing with a client who expects the best customer service, and as fast as possible.
America’s Professor, a company that provides insurance pre-licensing courses in 26 states via online learning programs, says on their website, “Customer service often sets competitors apart from one another in highly competitive businesses like insurance. Good insurance agents understand that when their quote isn’t the lowest, their ability to make customers feel valued and important can tip the scales back in their favor with clients.”
- You are in sales; never forget that.
As a sales professional, your job is to find the product that is best for your client’s needs, and educate your prospect about that product. It’s not a one-and-done deal. Selling insurance means starting a lifelong relationship with your client.
If you’re new to sales, observation is key: Look, read, listen and watch what the top salespeople are doing. How do they dress? What do they say and what do they never say? What are some of their success stories (and horror stories), and what can you learn from that?
- Find a full team of people to support you.
No, you’re not the only person in the world that has been rejected by a prospect … but you might not know it if you don’t talk to other people and share your experiences, while listening and learning from theirs. If you’re an independent insurance agent or just joined an agency, look for tools such as trainings, support and encouragement from your support team.
- Dress for success.
First impressions count. Stacy London, a stylist who stars in TV shows like What Not to Wear and Love, Lust, or Run, knows this. Her job is to help people dress appropriately for work, for going out, and for the life stage that they are in. She tells them what looks good on their bodies, what doesn’t work, and what is appropriate for a range of situations, all while helping them maintain their personality and sense of self.
The TV shows ultimately reveal the reactions of family, friends and strangers to the old and the new looks. It’s an interesting social experiment on how first impressions shape what we think of people. The strangers might say, “I want that person to be my friend” or “Oh no, I would never take that person to meet my parents.”
It might sound harsh, but we do form a perception of who a person is based on how they look. So, keep it clean and classy, and learn what styles work best for you. If you need help, department stores have personal shoppers that might assist you. Or, ask a fashionable friend.
- Relate to your prospect or client.
More than small talk, asking about a prospect’s family, work and interests will help jump-start the conversation and make you both feel at ease. Remember to focus on your client: after all, you’re here for them (not the other way around).
Maribeth Kuzmeski has written a lot about the importance of client relationships and how “conversation is the bedrock of relationships. Without them, our relationships are devoid of substance,” she writes.
Kuzmeski believes that conversation is an art that can lead to many more opportunities, including cross-selling or getting referrals. “(Conversation) is a great way to invest in others. The act of listening — the other half of having a great conversation — shows people you care. Have you ever been around someone who just wants to listen, wants to hear all about your day or a recent trip? You might not encounter these people very often, but when you do, they really stand out. When you speak with prospects and listen to what they have to say, you’re showing you value them,” she says.
This is good advice, but remember that a conversation should go both ways. Take time to also share a little of yourself, your hobbies and other points that will help position you as an authentic person who is genuinely interested in helping out your clients.
- Proofread all written communication.
What happens when you see an error in anything that’s written? You either stop reading or think: “There’s spell check for that, idiot.” You can’t help but let your own internal grammar troll come out.
Why is this? Something that is poorly written comes across as unprofessional and ignorant. It immediately loses credibility. In an industry where you are working hard to build trust with your clients and prospects, the last thing you want is to do anything that will take away from that trust. Make sure that you double-check that email, and even that text message, before hitting send. If it’s a longer document, have a second or even third pair of eyes review it.
- Transparency is important, during the sales process and after.
On your way to building client trust, transparency is of utmost importance. Think about car salespeople: When you’re at a dealership, are you interested in becoming friends with most of the people there? The usual answer is no. You know these salespeople want to sell you a car today. Past experience tells you that they will hound you until they make their sale. It’s an attitude that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
Steven McCarty has written about how to build trust with prospects: You need to “work hard to educate prospects about how to do their due diligence on you (including FINRA’s BrokerCheck, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and National Ethics Association (NEA), among others). Also, consider purchasing a background check on yourself to prove to them you have no criminal or civil skeletons in your history.”
- Learn how to market yourself.
What sets you apart from another insurance agent? If people can find your same product cheaper and faster somewhere else, why would they buy from you?
A recent blog from Rob Holmes, founder of the Holmes Group and Estate Strategies and the December 2014 ‘Alumnus of the Month’ for The American College, talks about your personal brand: “How do you package yourself, your products and your presentation? The items in your package are YOU. What you say, how you say it, spoken words, body language, punctuality, the way you dress, and demeanor are all components of your all-important first impression, and they make up your brand.”
- Be persistent.
“Persistence leads to success,” my father is always telling me, along with another gem: “Talent prevails.” These two proverbs work hand-in-hand. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t keep persisting, you’ll flicker out like a candle in the wind.
But enough about poetry. In truth, having a high energy level rubs off on the people around you, from your clients to your team. There isn’t a more contagious attitude in the world than someone who is genuinely excited to work, to serve their clients, to help families navigate and plan for their financial futures.
Persistence is a quality that you must develop and continually work on in order to prevail in the insurance industry. Investopedia says that, “This is perhaps the most vital quality of any good insurance agent. Those who work in this field absolutely must be able to handle rejection on a daily basis over the course of their careers, and do it with a smile. Good insurance agents understand that each ‘no’ only brings them closer to someone who will say ‘yes.’”
Think about it: When a client says no, you either adjust your pitch or take them off your list, leaving you with more time to dedicate to another client or prospect.
- Manage your own expectations.
In his book Things a Little Bird Told Me, Twitter’s co-founder Biz Stone notes that “timing, perseverance and 10 years of really hard work will eventually make you look like an overnight success.”
For the people who keep on saying that something was an “overnight success,” here’s the reality: There isn’t such a thing. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Michael Jackson didn’t become famous overnight. Steve Jobs encountered a number of challenges on his way to success.
It all comes down to managing your own expectations and those of your clients. The reality is that you’re going to have to work very hard to achieve whatever success means to you. Brent Kelly, the owner of BizzGrizz, a tech company that offers marketing solutions to small business owners, and a former insurance agent, writes that all insurance agents “start off in the first year or two of our careers and expect to be driving the nice car, living in the nice house, and playing golf about 100 days a year.”
However, you must realize that this “business is tough like any profession, and it takes time, effort and failure to become a master,” he says.
So, take a deep breath. Your time to bask in the light of success will come, granted you put in hard and intelligent work.