Several years ago, I heard a quote that challenged me. Looking back, I now realized that it also has changed me.
As a commercial lines producer for 15 years, I attended a variety of sales and product trainings classes from insurance carriers and associations. Most of them were very informative and did help my business, but I would often find myself falling back into bad habits.
Yes, I gained product knowledge and a new sales idea or two, but I wasn’t gaining momentum. That’s because most of my training focused solely on the technical side of the business.
- Technical sales training is important.
- Technical sales training has value.
- Technical sales training can help you sell more.
Unfortunately, technical sales training completely misses the emotional aspect of why people buy.
So why is it that most companies offer solid technical sales training, but completely miss the boat on offering soft skills sales training?
The same soft skills training that improves personal growth and development, communication, attitude, humor, likability, and building connections.
That’s a great question, yet there is no clear answer.
Regardless of the reason, soft sales skills are VITAL for every single insurance producer and agency leader.
You can teach anyone about a product, service, computer program, or any other technical skill. Yes, some may take longer than others, but they can all be learned and mastered over time.
Learning, developing, and growing soft sales skills is an ongoing process that takes a lifetime.
You will never master soft sales skills, but you can continually improve them.
The key is that you must value personal growth, communication, building relationships, and attitude.
Soft skills are easy to overlook because they don’t show up overnight. It’s easy to diagnose that a salesperson doesn’t understand the product he sells, but it’s hard to pinpoint why he can’t build quality relationships.
However, that does not undermine the importance for soft skills.
Customers buy emotionally and justify the purchase intellectually.
Yet, most insurance producers still sell intellectually by focusing technical aspects of a purchase like the competitive price, coverage, and insurance carrier reputation. Those technical aspects are indeed important, but if the future client or client doesn’t like or trust you, it is likely you will still lose the account.
Customers may use some of those technical aspects to justify the final purchase, but that’s not why they buy.
Customers buy because of likability, relationships, trust, or maybe even just a FEELING.
Several years ago, I personally asked 20 of my clients in various industries and commission size, why they did business with me. In fact, I asked them, “What is the #1 reason you selected me and why do you continue to do business with me?”
Did they answer price? Customized insurance program? Agency service? While those were all factors, 18 out of 20 clients simply said they liked doing business with me.
While the insurance business can seem complicated, especially in today’s technological world, the great producers keep things simple. Your clients and future clients still desire relationships and buy emotionally.
Producers need to understand the emotional reasons why customers buy and then consistently work on improving their soft skills.
1. Invest in you
The best producers and agency leaders are continual learners. They see growth as a daily process of learning and trying new things.
Growing yourself personally takes diligence. You must work at it. Surround yourself with books, podcasts, videos and anything else that will push you. Even 15 minutes a day can springboard you ahead of the competition.
This may require that you give up some things in your life. You must determine what trade-offs you are willing to make.
Are you willing to sacrifice watching SportsCenter, Dancing with Stars, or the latest Netflix release at night and replace it with a book, reflection, or prepare for tomorrow’s meeting?
Are you willing to release some relationships that aren’t contributing to your growth and development and surround yourself with others who will both challenge and encourage you?
Those are not easy decisions, but they are what separate the high-achievers from the rest.
2. Record yourself doing everything
Recently, at a workshop, I asked the audience, “How many of you record yourself practicing a presentation or proposal?” A few hands went up in to the air. Then I asked, “How did you like watching yourself.” Everyone said that it was awful. They hated the way they sounded or looked. I then politely asked with a smile on my face, “Well then how do you think your audience feels?”
While that may sound mean, it’s true. The only way to get better in communication is to practice. Recording yourself may feel unnatural or uncomfortable, but it’s powerful.
Record yourself when you practice a presentation, conduct a meeting, or any situation where you are in front of others. Then, you must watch, listen, and analyze. Where do you shine and where do you need to practice?
3. Attend trainings
Spending time developing your soft skills can be done at home or in your office, but you also need to find opportunities to get in front of other trainers and peers. There is nothing like the energy of a live event.
Live workshops and classes are a great way to learn new information and learn from others at the same time. Some of the greatest information I have ever received was not from the speaker on the stage, but from the person sitting at my table at lunch.
Find events in your local area, attend online, or commit to travel to an event to learn and network with other growth-minded individuals. It’s worth it.
The Bottom Line
High achievers invest in themselves. You can’t give to others what you haven’t first received. That goes way beyond just understanding your product and company. You must also be able to work on your own personal growth and development.
Poor sales results are usually the result of poor soft sales and relationship skills training, and not lack of product knowledge.
You are expected to know the technical side of your business and it is imperative that you learn and develop that knowledge, but that is just the beginning.
As its been said many times, “All things being equal, people will buy from those they know, like, and trust. All things being unequal, people will STILL buy from those they know, like and trust.”
Brent Kelly is an executive coach with The Sitkins Network. The Sitkins Network is an exclusive community of high achieving insurance agencies focused on organic growth, attracting, training, and retaining the best talent, and increasing agency valuation.
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