Excuse Me, Were You Listening?

Excuse Me, Were You Listening?

One of the most important skills of an insurance agent is to listen and pay attention to what the client wants and needs, not selling them your favorite product. After over 15 years of training insurance agents with product knowledge, sales techniques, networking, properly using social media and listening skills, focus on listening is by far the toughest for most to learn. The average insurance agent says they listen but do they really listen. My experience is they don’t listen thoroughly.

Here is a great exercise to have an insurance agent to do. Watch this short video of young people passing a basketball.  Count how many times the team in white shirts passes the basketball.  Go ahead, watch the video. Did you get it right? Or did you miss an important component? Listening takes a lot of practice, focus and most of all not following the daily distractions. In our high tech world of cell phones, emails, text messages, computers, flat screen TVs, music blasting and digital images, it has become more difficult than ever to sit in a public place and really listen to a client’s wants and needs, but it has to happen.

Here is a little exercise I train my insurance agents to do to improve their listening skills. Have them go to a crowded coffee shop or restaurant. Make sure there are plenty of distractions. Loud conversations, background music, TVs playing, cell phone conversations, the works. Then have the agent to sit and focus on some one’s conversation. Not staring, don’t be a stalker or a creeper, but really listening to their conversation that is not directed at them personally. The more they can pick up, the better listener the insurance agent will become. If you can focus on a single conversation in the middle of numerous distractions, they next time the insurance agent sits down with a client with hardly any distractions the agent will pay closer attention to detail.

Any insurance agent that masters the skill of listening will always be a top producer. The agent makes more sales, gets more referrals and has better persistency than an average or below average insurance agent. Don’t  spend all of your time working on sales skills and closing techniques, work on your listening skills to improve your insurance sales.

The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention. ”—Richard Moss, Author

Special thanks to Daniel J. Simons for the Video and image by www.transcriptiondepartment.com


Tim Wilhoit is owner/principal of Your Friend 4 Life Insurance Agency in Nashville, TN. He is a family man, father of 3, entrepreneur, insurance agent, life insurance broker, salesman, sales trainer, recruiter, public speaker, blogger and team leader with over 25 years of experience in sales and marketing in the insurance and beverage industries.

38 Responses to Excuse Me, Were You Listening?

  • Absolutely love this Tim! people want to buy, they don’t want to be sold. So by customizing your offer to meet the needs of your customers, you will seem more genuine, caring, and as a result will close more business. Don’t be a product pusher! Listen to what your prospects are telling you and asking you for, address those issues and concerns, and then ask for their business!

  • Patrick, thank you for the kind words. I can tell you are one of those true insurance professionals I was speaking about. Thank you for sharing! Much continued success my friend.

  • Ah yes, reminds me of my days while taking a Dale Carnegie course…
    “The best salesmen are better listeners”.

  • That’s why you are one of the greats Kevin! All of the greats had to take at least one Dale Carnegie course.

  • Very good advice! Too often overlooked.
    I posted this yesterday, along the same lines:
    A Sales Thought for the Day: No matter the nature of the product or service you are selling, the first thing the customer needs to buy is you!
    They won’t “buy you” if you keep selling, instead of listening and learning how to fulfill their needs.

  • Amen Phil. Whenever an agent tells me they have the “gift of gab” I know they are a below average agent. The agent with the “skill of listening” is the superstar agent. Thank you for sharing!

  • Listen to your prospects/clients.

    Remember: “The fish is caught by it’s mouth.”

    Listen. Maybe that;s the reason why God gave us two ear and on;y one mouth so we would be listening twice as much as we talk.

  • Duke, you always have an awesome way of putting things into perspective! Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Great advice in every profession! I think many of us want to talk about what we do because we get excited about what we can do for a customer. By truly listening, we can see our service from the customer’s perspective.

  • Maria, thank you for your kind words. It is a tough skill to master, because it is not natural. Once a person masters the skill of listening, the sky is the limit when it comes to influence.

  • I like to point out that we have twomears one voice and one voice. That means listen twice as much as you speak and the term is dialogue not monolog. I beleive it is imperative for anyone in any type of sales to develop listening skills. You will be amazed at the results and your clients will appreciate you for it too. Some companies even promote the fact that they do listen to their customers on their company mission stsatement. Remeber the expression no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care? To me that means I don’t care how good your product or service is, if you aren’t listening to me it means nothing to me and because you were not listening you have no idea if it will meet my needs.

  • Amen Brian! I couldn’t agree with you more. We said, and thanks for sharing.

  • Well my 2 cents… if agents would do whats right for the client n not what looks like is right for the commission books… there would probably be a whole lot less need for E&O and attorneys for our industry… 🙂

  • Can’t disagree with you on that point Tony. Thank you for sharing.

  • I am listening and proud to be part of this group.Thank you for all you guys are sharing.

  • Ali, I appreciate your kind words, thank you for sharing.

  • Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Very true! We, as Insurance agents need to listen more and talk less to contribute to society!

  • Thank you Anna and Smitha for your kind words of feedback. I appreciate it. Have a great week listening to clients!

  • You are SOOOO right. Take care of the customer, and they will take care of YOU!

  • Thank you Jaye, I appreciate you sharing in our conversation. Much continued success!

  • Hope you had a nice weekend Tim, and that the agents that posted could learn from a true professional!

  • Thank you Kevin, I appreciate that. I hope your weekend was nice as well and you got to enjoy time with your daughters.

  • Hi Tim, so good to see your post on LISTENING…..No doubt one the the base areas of success…Can you imagine taken the concept into our personal lives ??
    Such as our relationships with our wives…children..
    etc……the list is endless,as is the new success..No end
    to where the practice can take a person…Thank you for your post Jerry Izenberg

  • Hello Tim:

    I want to learn more about your approach to selling life insurance. This would also apply to all lines of business including family, relationships, organizations that were invloved in and so forth. Please teach me how to become more successful while learning to become a better listener as I want to reach new heights and become a servant in helping others to reach their dreams.

  • Quentin, thank you for your kind words. Absolutley I will help you out. Call me tomorrow anytime. My direct line is 615-294-5677 in Nashville, the central time zone.

  • Interesting. It’s funny how certain things can be missed.

  • Thank you for sharing Brenda, it is a great lesson and sometimes the one thing we miss is what costs us the sale.

  • Dan, that is awesome! Thank you for sharing.

  • I totally agree. Listening is most important no matter what position you are in.

  • New agents struggle with listening.They are thinking of thier next comment before the client can answer.I am guilty as well.
    thanks for the reminder.

  • Franci and Tidwell, thank you for the kind words and comments. I couldn’t agree more.

  • Thanks Tim – I am always amazed at the near addiction many agents have to dominating conversations and presentations – you’d think they’d learn!

  • Put the client’s needs first – almost every client will want to be heard. If you only care about making a sale and earning commission, your customer will probably lose interest in what you’re offering. Agents and brokers who listen carefully to what their clients are saying will be able to earn their trust, which is probably the most difficult part of the job. Don’t over-talk and make the clients feel like they are just listening to a lecture from you. Let them do the talking and listen to their problems, and see what it is they really need. Answer all of their questions and concerns so they feel like they are being cared for. Part of selling insurance is having good customer service skills.

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