What business are you in?

Since you are reading this article on Agency Nation, my guess is that you are likely to respond, “The insurance business.” While that’s a good answer, I think it’s a bit short-sided.

You are in the relationship business and you happen to sell insurance products and services.

Studies have shown that effective influence is 87% people knowledge and only 13% product knowledge.

Reflect on that statistic for a minute, almost 90% of your ultimate success is not determined by what you know, but how you can relate what you know with the people you want to influence.

What does this mean?

Well, I believe it means several things, but ultimately it begs the question, “How can I effectively communicate, connect, and influence my clients and future clients?”

We live in a world with rapidly changing technology. You already know this.

Chatbots, artificial intelligence, and other digital enhancements are growing at exponential rates.

However, even in today’s world of digital disruption and InsureTech, the ability to develop high-level relationships with your future ideal clients and current clients will ultimately determine your results.

It’s easy to get caught up in technology fever and miss the point. Technology should enhance your best relationships, not replace them.

Let me be clear. Not every client desires and deserves your full time and energy. As I wrote in a previous article, 20% of your clients in your agency likely make up 80% of your agency’s revenue.

These 20% of your top clients deserve your undivided attention. They also desire a relationship based on sound risk advice and proactive services.

To provide a top-notch experience for your best clients, you must be able to communicate, connect, and influence at a high-level.

Communication and connection skills will separate the average from the world-class insurance professionals.

Becoming a world-class communicator takes time and effort. While some people have a knack for getting along with people, I truly believe that communication is a skill that can and must be developed.

So, what are some of the skills insurance professionals can begin to develop today to develop stronger relationships and grow their book of business?

Let me share three that you can begin to implement immediately.

1. Confidence

Confidence may seem more like an attitude and less like a skill, but confidence requires courage. It also requires hard work to develop the confidence necessary to be the best version of yourself.

I have never seen a highly successful insurance professional that didn’t have confidence in four key areas.

1. Confidence and belief in your agency

No independent insurance agency is perfect, but if you don’t believe you work for the best agency in your marketplace, you will lack confidence. You should be proud of your agency. Pride breeds confidence.

2. Confidence and belief in your insurance companies

You represent multiple insurance carriers and products, but you likely have a higher level of confidence with certain carriers than others. You must have full confidence in your carrier’s ability to serve and protect your clients. Trust breeds confidence.

3. Confidence and belief in the value you provide

What is the value you bring to the marketplace? What sets you apart? If you can’t clearly identify how the client is better off after doing business with you, you will lack confidence and your client will see right through you.

Do you have a clear and compelling message? Do you have at least five points of differentiation (outside of great service, good people, multiple markets, local presence and long history) that make you stand out?

If you are unsure of the true value you provide outside of transactional insurance sales, your lack of confidence will show. Value breeds confidence.

4. Confidence and belief in yourself

I have seen many insurance professionals fake it and make it in the first two areas. Some even on the third area, but this last area can’t be faked.

The most important sale you will ever make will be the one you make to yourself.

Confidence comes from knowing you are worthy and provide exceptional value.

Confidence comes from belief, but also by investing in your growth and development. In what areas to you need to grow and develop to add more value to those you serve?

I love this quote from leadership expert John Maxwell who states, “If you don’t place a high value on yourself, rest assured, the world will not raise the price.”

Self-belief breeds confidence.

2. Authenticity

Great insurance professionals are not robots. Every person has a unique skill set, background, and passions that drive them.

If you are an agency leader, you must “coach” each member of your team differently. Yes, it’s important to implement an agency culture and sales process, but to maximize your talent, every producer needs to be authentic.

Successful insurance professionals don’t try to pretend they are something they are not. This is a challenging skill as it requires every professional to develop a higher level of self-awareness.

While some people are extroverted and take over a room, others succeed by being a perceptive listener. It requires that you ask the question, “Where am I at my best?”

To connect with others effectively, insurance professionals need to be comfortable with themselves.

What are some of your unique strengths and abilities.

Where do you stand out?

Focus on your strengths vs. trying to fix weaknesses.

As speaker and author Dan Sullivan states, “If you spend too much time working on your weakness, all you do is end up with a bunch of strong weaknesses.”

What strengths will you develop?

3. Preparation

There is no excuse for a lack of preparation. You play like you prepare. Too often insurance professionals show up to the big game with little to no practice.

I learned a great lesson as a 17-year-old kid on the importance of proper preparation.

In high school I was a successful basketball player, at least for a small town. My best attribute was shooting the ball. The summer before my senior season, I was invited to a prestigious basketball shooting camp. I was excited to maximize my best basketball skill.

After a long first day of practice and drills, we were finishing dinner when my coach stated that we needed to head back to the gym to shoot another 150 shots before we called it a day.

Grudgingly, I headed back to the gym and started my 150 jump shots. I was tired and ready to go home so although I got through all 150 shots, my form and intensity was less than 100%.

As I finished the last of my 150 shots, I walked over to my coach and told him I was done. He looked at me puzzled and asked me a question that I have since asked myself and others many times.

He said, “Were those game shots, or practice shots?” I didn’t even have to answer and I headed back to the court to shoot 150 “game shots.” You play like you practice.

I see this over and over with insurance professionals. They show up to the game without game practice. One of the concepts we teach at The Sitkins Group is the idea of “low-risk” practice.

Most people don’t like to practice or rehearse in their office with a team member.

It’s uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing.

So instead of being awkward and unprepared with a colleague, we do it front of our future ideal clients and best clients. Think about that statement for a moment.

If you have a call or meeting with a future ideal client don’t you owe it to them to be at your best?

The best communicators prepare for every situation. They work as hard (if not harder) in preparation as they do in real situations.

Unfortunately, most insurance professionals never fully prepare, at least intentionally, for the next team meeting, sales appointment, phone call, or email. Instead, they show up hoping they can simply wing it.

Preparation is a skill that must be mastered for any insurance professional to have success become a high-level connector. Relentless preparation separates the high achievers from everyone else.

You can either dribble the ball off your foot during practice or when the game is tied with a minute to go? Which do you prefer?

Where will you begin to implement “low-risk” practice?

Bottom Line

Former President Gerald Ford stated, “If I went back to college again, I’d concentrate on two areas: learning to write and speak before an audience. Nothing in life is more important than the ability to communicate effectively.”

As I stated at the beginning of this article, almost 90% of influence comes from the ability to connect with people and build relationships.
How much time are you developing your communication skills?

Becoming a better communicator takes initiative, courage, and skills. No one gets better by accident. It takes desire and intentionality.

That starts with developing these three basic skills of communication.

  1. Building confidence
  2. Exhibiting authenticity
  3. Relentlessly preparing

The top insurance professionals understand that insurance is the outcome of what you do, but it’s not what you do. This is and will always be a relationship business. Don’t miss the point.

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