Editor’s Note; This blog was originally printed on February 4, 2019 on the Combined Insurance website. The author is Alli Walsh, Social Media Strategist.
1. Positive attitude
At Combined Insurance, we call this PMA: Positive Mental Attitude. PMA is a concept developed by Combined’s founder, W. Clement Stone, and it’s central to the company’s sales system-and corporate culture too. That’s because having a smile on your face and a can-do spirit can help an agent push through the fear of failure and focus on the potential to make a difference in someone’s life. While no one wants to hear “no” from a would-be customer, it’s just one of the many obstacles faced in the day in the life of a sales agent. A positive attitude is needed to overcome adversity—and it works. And besides, who wants to work with an agent who’s surly and negative?
Insurance agents work with both internal and external customers every single day. From helping a sales prospect assess their risks to getting answers from a company underwriter, they’re wearing multiple hats—and communicating constantly! Having a naturally personable disposition is great, but it’s also essential to have effective listening skills and a “way with words.” Part of the communications competency involves teamwork, too, because of the collaborative nature of insurance sales. Insurance agents are the hub of the sales process and have to manage several different pieces and keep everyone informed along the way. Thoughtful, timely and results-oriented communications help keep things running smoothly.
3. Customer service
Helping people, listening, creatively solving problems…that’s customer service! It takes more than building rapport, though. It takes putting the customer’s needs first and taking whatever time and energy is needed to ensure customers understand their options as well as feel comfortable with the sales process. And it takes using their expert knowledge to do what’s right for the people who trust them to help meet their goals—even if that means recommending products or sharing information the client doesn’t expect, like “based on your present income, you really should consider more coverage than that” or “unfortunately, you don’t qualify for plan ABC, but here’s an alternative.” As such, an agent with great customer service skills is honest, professional and attentive, always making sure their customers are satisfied.
4. Quick learning
Consider the range of products a supplemental insurance agent needs to know (everything) about. Accident plans, sickness plans, disability plans, cancer and critical illness plans…plans that meet different needs for different reasons for different people. And plans that frequently evolve! Agents need to have a deep understanding of how the products work in order to best present the most suitable product to a particular potential policyholder. They also need to be familiar with how the application and underwriting processes work, how the plans are administered and what they can do to help troubleshoot and solve customer concerns. And agents get up and running quickly! A new agent needs to learn “all of the above” while a seasoned agent needs to stay up to date and be always ready for change. This requires a student mentality, an eagerness to learn and the flexibility to try new sales tactics, usually while out in the field and on-the-go!
5. Patience and persistence
Anyone working in a sales career knows that these two qualities go hand-and-hand. Some customers are an “easy sell:” they come to the table knowing what they want and they’re ready to buy. Other customers need some convincing; maybe they know they need coverage but they’re not sure if “now” is the best time. Successful insurance agents respect that customers often need a certain amount of time, space and support in order to make an informed decision. They know how to guide (not push!) customers through the process so at the end of the day, if it’s right for the client, they eventually make the sale.