Sell More Without Saying a Word

“If speaking is silver, then listening is gold” Turkish Proverb

Perceptive listening is the key to great insurance production.

Have you ever had a sales appointment where you felt like a rock star on the big stage or an attorney delivering a spellbound closing statement? You rattled off all the right phrases, terms, and filled all the coverage gaps.

You went back to your office and told your boss, “I nailed that one, it’s a done deal!” Only to find out later that the prospect that you just dazzled selected a different agent?

What happened?

The person who talks the most feels the best, but the one who listens has the most information.

Listening is power.

Top insurance producers have always been good listeners, but in today’s information filled world, listening is an art form.

I have taken classes on active listening. While it has helped me in the business world, my wife may tend to disagree! I often react or want to “fix something” before processing the words that the other person is trying to communicate.

Active listening is the process where you listen carefully to what someone is saying and react properly to the words being spoken. Active listening is effective, but in today’s complex selling world, you need to take active listening a step further.

In his book, Duct Tape Selling, John Jantsch introduces a concept called perceptive listening. John defines perceptive listening as, “When you hear and interpret the words as they’re said, but also consider what that other person isn’t saying, what she might really be thinking, and how she is acting as she speaks.”

Perceptive listening in insurance sales

So how could you apply perceptive listening specifically to your role as an insurance producer?

Perceptive listening is asking the right questions. The most effective way to become a perceptive listener is by asking quality questions.

Whether it's due to a lack of preparation or nerves, too many insurance producers ask terrible questions.

Questions like:

  • Who are you with?
  • How much do you pay?
  • How has your experience been with your current company?
  • What would we need to do to earn your business?

These types of questions create little engagement.

To be a perceptive listener, you need to ask questions that make the prospect pause and think.

Questions like:

  • “What is your proudest moment in business?”
  • “What has been the biggest obstacle you have overcome.”
  • “What has been your best experience with……?”
  • “How would you feel if this were solved?”
  • “How have you dealt with…..?”
  • “How have you successfully used…..?”
  • “Why is that a problem?”
  • “Can you clarify what the means?”
  • “What did we agree upon today?”

Come up with a list of your own power questions that set you apart from other agents and allow you to listen perceptively.

Perceptive listening is silent

Have you ever sent a text or email with a smile on your face only to have the recipient respond back in a defensive posture?

Why is that?

It’s because emails and texts do not involve listening with your body.

Perceptive listening is much more than written or spoken phrases. Perceptive listening involves body gestures, the intonation of voice, and eye contact. None of those things can be observed through the written word or simply the words that are being spoken.

When you are with a prospect or client, observe how your client is moving, their eye contact, and their body language. It is most likely saying much more than the actual words coming out of their mouth.

Not only will silent listening allow you to better observe what your prospect is really saying, but also make the prospect feel heard.

Perceptive listening is digital

The last piece of perceptive listening is a new concept for most insurance agents.

How are you listening online? Better yet, are you listening online?

The amount of information an insurance producer can obtain through online channels is mind-boggling. In years past, to gather information on a prospect, you may read some company brochures or scan the prospect’s office or home for rapport building tools.

Today, just by being a perceptive listener online, you can learn all of this information and much more through some basic research and planning.

Perceptive digital listening can be done through websites, discussion forums, product or service reviews, social media sites, blogs, and anywhere else your prospect may be visible.

In “Duct Tape Selling,” John Jantsch mentions 5 types of online listening that help you use this digital data to boost your sales.

1) Listening for connections–Sales are about the connection you make. Social channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram are a great way to build your connections. In fact, just a couple weeks ago, I booked an account by listening to a need mentioned on a social media channel.

2) Listening for buying signals– As you build your connection list, observe what your potential clients are discussing online. What do they like, what do they not like? Taking part in a social media group or starting your own is a great strategy for perceptive online listening.

3) Listening for changes– Monitor your online networks to look for changes. This can be done with your current customers and potential clients. Changes can come from within their industry or outside, but by keeping tabs on the changes you will be able to seize opportunities.

4) Listening to stay informed– Life and business changes fast, especially in today’s world. Being in tune with your prospect’s interests and their industry is vital. Prospects today want experts that understand their specific situation and challenges. To stay abreast of your prospects needs, use online listening to stay informed.

5) Listening to add value–As you become a student of perceptive listening, you will become a master at aggregating and filtering information to add value. Imagine coming to a prospect with specific solutions before they have even told you what that need?

The bottom line

Great insurance producers sell with their ears, not their mouth.

Perceptive listening will take your business to the next level. It’s the best sales tool you own.

  • Perceptive listening puts you in control by asking questions that challenge your future ideal clients and clients to think.
  • Perceptive listening shows that you are fully engaged with your clients and future ideal clients.
  • Perceptive listening creates opportunities to add value and build deeper relationships.

The best insurance producers ask the best questions and listen not with the intent to reply, but with the intent to understand.

Brent Kelly is Vice President of The Sitkins Group. He helps independent insurance agencies sell more, retain more, and earn more through the ProFit Experience. You can email him at [email protected]

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