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Five ways to cultivate skills to help you succeed as a salesperson

Maybe you’re not working as an insurance agent yet – but you’re thinking of becoming one. As you learn about what insurance agents do and what goes into becoming one, you’re probably seeing a common theme: Soft skills such as perseverance and an ability to connect with others are more important to your success as an insurance salesperson than prior industry knowledge.

So then the question becomes: How can you cultivate the skills of a good insurance agent? Read on for tips on developing qualities and sales skills that will help you thrive in the insurance industry – and every other aspect of your life.

  1. Practice a “growth mindset.”

    In Angela Duckworth’s bestseller Grit, Duckworth identifies the belief that people can change as a crucial component of tenacity.1 If you believe there’s no way to become less fearful of cold calling businesses or presenting to a roomful of disengaged employees, you’re not going to find a way around that. But if you believe that you are able to reduce this fear, you’ll find the capacity.

    Psychology Today recommends ways to develop this mindset, including valuing the process over the result, taking risks in front of other people, finding the silver lining of criticisms and paying attention to how you phrase your thoughts to identify negative patterns.2

  2. Find a reason to be fascinated.

    Perseverance is everything in insurance sales. But it’s tough to stick with something you’re not intrigued by. And maybe you weren’t initially drawn to insurance as a career path. If you’re reading this, though, you probably care about the reason insurance exists: to protect people financially. (That’s just one reason that military veterans often thrive as insurance agents with Aflac – protecting others is in their blood.)

    Given that 48% of employees say they couldn’t pay $1,000 or more for an out-of-pocket medical expense without going into debt or dipping into credit,3 there’s a good chance you know someone who has suffered from a medical bill that has left them unprotected. Talk with that person and learn more about the story – then keep that person in mind as you work toward your goal of becoming an insurance agent.

  3. Be an active listener.

    We’ve all been in conversations with someone who was simply present – and we’ve all been in conversations with someone who really listens. To become the second type of listener, try these techniques from a licensed therapist: limit distractions, redirect your focus if you find your attention wandering, avoid interrupting the person you’re listening to and ask questions that take the conversation further.4

    As you become a more active listener, your focus should be on the other person, not on yourself or what you’re going to say next – even if your goal is to walk out of the room having made a sale. As Dale Carnegie wrote in How to Win Friends & Influence People: “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”5

  4. Remember the Platinum Rule.

    You probably know the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The Platinum Rule flips that around: Do unto others as they would want done unto them. When we talked with successful insurance agents, they referred to this as anything from “a service mindset” to “reading people” to “becoming whoever my client wants me to be.”

    For some people, this trait comes naturally. If you’re not one of them, the first step is easy: ask. Leading with “How do you like to be treated?” might not yield a great response. But asking people questions such as “What do you like most about your work?” and “What do you need to elevate your success?” can give you valuable clues to what people want.

  5. Forget about perfection.

    Practice might make perfect... eventually. But to get there, you need to, well, practice – which, by definition, is riddled with imperfections. If you’re afraid of making mistakes, your determination will fade. Similarly, if you’re expecting perfection from every interaction you have with clients, you won’t develop the adaptability you’ll need to thrive. Keeping the big picture in mind can help you let go of nitpicky things that could hold you back. Harvard Business Review recommends asking yourself, “Is this the best use of my time?” when you find yourself dwelling on mistakes.6

Ready to take the first step toward becoming an insurance agent?