Insurance agents have reputations as pushy salespeople similar to those who sell used cars. When I originally went into the business I was fully aware of this and was resistant to even get into the industry. To be honest, the first company I worked with was guilty of feeding into this stereotype. The reason for this was that instead of trying to be a consultant and helping the client structure a plan with a group of good policies we had to work with, we only had one product. And for the most part, we would only meet with the customer once.
We were trained to be aggressive and to get out of someone's home or business with a check in hand. As my coworker would say, "Your income is in their wallet and you need to do everything possible to get it out of there." We dubbed this "guerilla selling", since we would rush in, try to make a few bucks and get out.
Unfortunately this left me with the impression that all insurance sales were like this. I was young and naïve. My 23 year old brain knew that I did not want to do this kind of sales for the rest of my career. So I got out of insurance and went into selling office supplies, then retail management.
After a few years I decided to rejoin the insurance workforce, but this time things would be different. No high pressure selling for me. For the most part, things were much better than the first time around and I noticed that many of my coworkers were of the same mind as me.
Sure, there were those agents here and there that insisted on being pushier than the rest of us. Those agents rarely stuck around for long because much of their sales did not stay on the books. One of the nice things about selling insurance is the residual commissions, but if someone cancels their policy too soon, those commissions go away.
We had veteran agents who offered to mentor the newer reps. If we had a case we were working on, we could run it by them and get feedback. The most often asked question from them would be "Is this in the best interest of the client?" In other words, "Are you helping the client or yourself?"
This gave me a much better perspective of what an insurance agent was supposed to be doing. That stereotype of a pushy insurance agent was fading from my mind.
But why does that stereotype still persist? One answer may be the product itself. Let's face it, no one really wants to buy insurance. It is a product that we buy hoping to never use. Also, it's not tangible. You can hold your policy, but in essence, it's just a promise on a piece of paper. Unlike a car or a home or a video game, you can't enjoy it (unless you enjoy the peace of mind that comes with having it).
I like to use the "saving up for" test when it comes to sales. Ask someone what the next big (or small) purchase is that they are saving up for. You will get answers like a down payment on a home or a new flat screen TV. No one saving up for Long Term Care insurance or a disability plan.
And the fact that some insurance has to be mandated should tell you something. If a state government says you are required to have auto insurance, you can infer that if they didn't there would be a lot more uninsured motorists driving around. The same goes for mortgage companies requiring homeowners insurance.
Speaking for myself, I don't want to "high pressure" someone with something they obviously don't want but most like need. With that in mind I use what I call "good pressure" selling, which means that, like a family member who is looking out for their best interest, I'm going to do my best to help someone make the best decision, not just for my client, but for their family as well.
If you think your agent is too pushy you don't have to do business with him or her. But be aware that most are looking out for you and your family. By asking questions and building a rapport we hope to earn your trust and dispel the idea of the pushy salesperson.
Chris Castanes is the president of Surf Financial Brokers, helping people find affordable life and disability insurance coverage. He's also is a professional speaker helping sales people be more productive and efficient and has spoken to professional and civic organizations throughout the Southeast. And please subscribe to this blog!