“Listening”– The One Crucial Sales Skill That Every Agent Can Improve

A popular misconception of sales agents is that they think they have to speak to sell.

Even if every word uttered is invaluable information to a prospect, every person has a threshold of how much information they can take in and retain.

After that threshold of too much ‘insurance agent talking’ is crossed, people get tired and bored. Because of that, they’ll feign interest if they are polite. More likely, they’ll walk out along with your hopes of making that prospect a client.

What would stop them from pretending to listen or walking out? Being heard, being listened to, being a component of the sales process other than the buyer and not being told how to think and feel.

That’s why listening – active and reflective listening – is an equally critical skill that every agent can improve.

But rather than subjecting you to another article on the importance of listening, I’ll do you one better. I’ll show you three exercises that will make you a better listener, and in turn, a better sales closer.

Grab a partner to help you with these. Unlike online trainings, practicing listening skills requires a live human being. Just like an insurance client meeting, and just like your job.

Listening Exercise #1: Paraphrasing

Have your partner recite a three- to four-sentence paragraph. It can be about anything but it has to be about something – meaning it has to have a point. Maybe the person wants to talk about their favorite restaurant or favorite TV show. Whatever it’s about, you cannot know in advance.

After they are done speaking, your job is to paraphrase everything you heard using different words than the speaker. For example, use different adjectives, nouns and verbs that have similar meanings to the words your partner used. Do your best to paraphrase the paragraph in the order it was originally stated.

When you are done paraphrasing, ask your partner to grade you on a scale of 1 to 10. Grading criteria includes remembering the central message and using different words.

Listening Exercise #2: Repeating

Similar to the above exercise, have a partner recite a simple paragraph. Instead of paraphrasing, your job is to recite every word verbatim.

If you can’t get all the words on the first (or tenth) attempt, shorten the length of the sentences. Find your skill level for repeating and work up from there by extending the length of sentences. It helps if your partner has the words written out so they can pinpoint exactly which words you correctly and incorrectly stated.

Listening Exercise #3: Emotion Identification

This listening exercise can be the hardest of the three. Or it can be the easiest if you are a skilled non-verbal communicator.

Sit or stand directly in front of you partner. Ask them to recite a few sentences about something they are passionate about. Your first job is to listen to and comprehend their sentences. Your second job is to identify the emotions attached to each of their sentences. Hint: Pay attention to the non-verbal communication they use (i.e. hand gestures and facial expression), as well as voice tone and speed.

Your third and final job is to reflect back to them what they said, what it meant, and how they felt about it. It’s important that you use your own words. Then ask your partner if you reflected their message and their emotions correctly.

The point of these exercises, especially the third, is to hone your reflective listening skills. Being a reflective listener means the person speaking is being understood clearly and fully.

Understanding a person not only makes them feel more valued, it also provides you with information that may help you match a policy with a stated need.

It’s a win-win situation.

John McCarthy
Managing Editor, Leads4Insurance.com


Related Articles:

Amazing and Easy Three-Step Selling System

How to Instantly Win a Prospect’s Trust

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