Stop what you are doing. Do yourself a favor, and call your all-too-honest friend. That person that tells you how it is without sugar coating it. Now ask them if you are a good listener.
Nobody wants to admit when they are bad at something. It’s against our human nature to point attention to our faults, but the quicker you can admit your listening skills could use some work, the quicker the improvement can begin.
How does listening help? If you truly want to diagnose your client’s risks and needs, you have to understand exactly what their concerns are as well as their goals. One of most common mistakes we as sales agents make is waiting to talk instead of listening to understand.
We know what is best for our clients, right? We sit across the table from our prospect and formulate a plan to save them money and give them top notch coverage. While your client has spent that time telling you about their family, their budget, their illness, their loved ones, and their fears you are running quotes and checking providers.
If you were truly listening, you may have heard your client discuss their fear of nursing homes, or their new grandchild to whom they want to leave their legacy, or maybe their neighbor that is struggling to pay for their alternative cancer treatments.
Not listening to your clients will cost you more than money, it will cost you the referral, the relationship, and the retention.
Here are the top 5 tips to improve your listening skills:
- Eye Contact. According to Jodi Schulz from the Michigan State University Extension, “a person can communicate with their eyes and never say a word? Our eyes show emotion, build connections and indicate interest.” Maintaining eye contact tells your clients that they have your full attention.
- Seek First to Understand. Straight out of Stephen Covey’s playbook, make sure you actually understand what your client is trying to communicate to you. Actually use the phrase, “Let me make sure that I understand exactly what you mean.” Then you repeat their comments in your own words. Your client will appreciate your thoroughness and there will be no room for error in communication (remember what they say about assumptions.)
- Remove Digital Barriers. Computers and tablets undeniably have their place in your agency- but not at your consultation. Putting up a screen between you and your client can easily cause concerns about your attentiveness. Are you answering emails, on social media, texting? Keep the electronics out of the equation until it’s time to fill out the applications.
- Take Notes. Speaking of removing screens, keep your note taking old school. When a client is telling you about their finances, health concerns, grandchildren, etc., make sure you are taking visible notes to show your clients you are interested in learning about them. When you think about a question you need to ask, write it down to remember instead of interrupting their flow.
- Don’t Present the Solution While They are Telling You the Problem. This is the classic “waiting to talk” problem we discussed. No one enjoys being interupted, your clients included. Allowing your clients to talk and tell stories allows you to build the relationship required for you to become their trusted advisor. Your interruption gives the impression you are in a hurry, and you may be making a diagnosis (there are those assumptions again) without all the necessary information.
So during your next appointment, keep these 5 tips in mind. Be intentional and work towards listening with the intent to understand and not the intent to respond. Your clients, and your commission checks will appreciate it.