No insurance agent in their right mind would intentionally sabotage their own sale. Nevertheless, self-sabotage — the act of undermining one’s own credibility and alienating the clients and prospects on whom we count for our livelihoods — occurs with dismaying frequency.
The many ways in which agents sabotage their own efforts range from obvious mistakes, such as blaming customers when their own products and services do not deliver as promised, to very subtle insults hidden in the things they say to customers. On the self-sabotage spectrum, it’s easy to recognize the obvious “I should have known better” mistakes that damage relationships with clients. The far more common and harmful situations occur when words and actions insidiously erode the client’s trust and the personal credibility that agents work so hard to establish.
Here are two sources of self-sabotage that cause agents to shoot themselves in the foot: “dangling insults” and the “old brain.”
The dangling insult
You would never insult a client by suggesting they are incompetent for not covering their family with life insurance or themselves with LTCI, or implying to an executive that they are negligent in not offering health insurance to employees. The very idea is inconceivable, yet it’s a common occurrence — in fact, agents unknowingly insult prospects and customers every day.
Here is a typical example. When an agent introduces their health insurance product by saying, “We save companies like yours from wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars on employee health benefit plans,” it sounds innocuous on the surface. Statements like this are standard sales-speak and are often true, but they also contain “dangling insults.” After all, if you tell a client that they are wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars, aren’t you also suggesting that they haven’t been doing their job very well?
Dangling insults are unintentional. Agents are often unaware of the negative impact because such comments are built into their mindsets and the conventional sales training they may have received. The agent thinks they are delivering a compelling message and connecting with the customer’s pain. But to the customer, it can sound like the agent is interjecting or ending their sentences with “you idiot.”
The old brain
The manner in which agents react to their clients’ responses can either open the path to open and honest communication or become a primary instrument of self-sabotage. The “old brain” is not big on interpretation and analysis. It reacts to situations with lightning speed in six ways: attacking, submitting, fleeing, reproducing, nurturing, or being nurtured.