Listening is the cornerstone of most relationships, whether it’s with your partner, family, friends, business associates or your insurance clients. Listening well can build rapport and confidence while failing to listen can cause misunderstandings and schisms.
In the insurance business, great listening will help you build long-term, trusting relationships that grow your business. It can even translate into higher immediate sales if you do it right, allowing you to ferret out insurance needs that a client may not even realize they have.
The following are four surprisingly easy listening techniques that you can begin practicing today.
1. Reflective Listening
Reflective listening is defined in different ways, but for the sake of this article, it means this: repeating a speaker’s keywords or phrases back to them as they are talking. This is most effectively done sporadically (so it’s not annoying) and with a low, even tone during the natural brief pauses or slowdowns that occur during most conversations. Here’s an example:
YOU: How can I help you today?
CUSTOMER: I’m looking for insurance for my two cars…
YOU: Two cars…
CUSTOMER: But I only need full insurance on the newer one because I know the older one isn’t worth that much.
YOU: Not worth that much.
If the speaker picks right back up, keep jotting down and reflecting what they’re saying. If they don’t, that’s your cue to check and summarize your understanding (see below).
Reflective listening is an effective technique for two reasons: it helps your customer to feel heard, and it helps keep you focused on what they are saying.
2. Summarize and Check Your Understanding
While reflective listening is about using your client’s exact words, during a summary, you can rephrase some and add in your interpretation to see if you understand the root of their concern. Summaries can be done throughout the conversation whenever it seems like you’ve finished with a chunk of information. Here’s how you might use it with the example above:
YOU: So it sounds like you’re looking to insure two cars but aren’t too worried if something happens to the second older car. Is that correct?
An affirmative reply means you can move on with the conversation. Any other reply means you’ll want to re-summarize and recheck to make sure that your clarified understanding is correct, like this:
CUSTOMER: It’s not so much that I’m not concerned about the second car—we definitely need it in our household. I’m just afraid we won’t get much if it’s totaled. We had that happen once and the insurance payout was so small, we basically got nothing.
YOU: So you’re looking for insurance for two cars and would like to have good coverage on the older car, too, since you do need it in your household. Is that right?
Now that you know the reason behind the special mention of the older car, that can help steer your choices about what insurer or policy to recommend. And now you can continue with another open-ended question such as:
YOU: OK, so far my list includes insurance for your two cars, including making sure that you have good coverage on your older vehicle. What else can I help you with during our conversation today?
Repeat the summarize-and-check process until you know each of the broader categories they’d like to discuss, then you can begin drilling down into the details you’ll need to get them quotes.
3. Final Summary
Once you have all the details you need to prepare a quote (or you’ve already given one), it may seem like you can say goodbye and hang up. But wait! You’re not done yet.
You probably have some kind of to-do list in mind—either following up with a quote, tracking down additional information, checking back in six months or a year, etc. This is where you can do a final summary that covers your entire conversation, including your action steps.
YOU: To make sure I’m not missing anything, here’s what I’ve heard: you’d like quotes for auto coverage for your two cars, and want to be sure to maximize the payout if your older car is involved in an accident. You’d also like me to send you a quote for your home that takes into account the high cost of new construction in your area. Is all of that correct?
Doing a final summary like this allows you to clear up any misunderstandings and confirms to your client that you have a clear understanding of what they want and need, making them feel heard.
4. Invite Final Questions
The last part of good listening is to once again invite your client to speak. “What questions do you have about what’s going to happen moving forward?” or “What else can I help you with today?” Sometimes an entirely new line of inquiry will open up, which could mean more sales. Other times, they’ll demur. You’ll know your conversation is over when they no longer have anything to say.
At Hometown Quotes, we are invested in listening to the insurance agents who benefit from our timely, prequalified insurance leads. If you have feedback for us or questions about any of our services, we invite you to call us at 800.820.2981 or visit hometownquotes.com.