The foundation for successful health insurance sales is trust – and if your prospect doesn’t trust you, it will be very difficult to close the sale. Building a circle of trust is an essential part of client engagement for any successful and profitable insurance professional. The negative perceptions of insurance producers, often associated with the stereotypical used car salesmen, only emphasize the importance of building trust with certain clients.

When agents rush to the close, it can undermine the trust-building process. Establishing a trusting relationship is the first step in effectively engaging the client so that they can openly discuss their health history and financial needs with you. Whether you call them customers, clients, or buyers, you must understand and acknowledge that they are all individuals who bring their own biases, opinions, attitudes, and knowledge and perceptions to this exchange – particularly in a world where health reform has left many clients feeling confused and uncertain.

In order to form the foundation of your circle of trust, there are three critical techniques you must learn.

Technique 1: Ask the right questions

It may seem simple to ask a question or two, but many agents can improve their pitch by improving their questions. Rather than hurling your sales spiel at prospects with lightning speed, ask intelligent, respectful, and meaningful questions in a sensitive and nonthreatening manner. Rather than blurt out, “So, are your interested in this product?” consider probing questions that begin with “what,” “why,” “where,” “when,” and “how” in order to begin a dialogue with your prospect.

Be a friendly detective. Find out why they are looking, what they are looking for, their current and future needs, and their past experience with insurance and other agents in order to establish yourself as a trusted advisor who they can rely upon to recommend the right product for the right reasons.

Try such questions as:

  • “Why did you want to meet with me today?”
  • “What does your ideal relationship with your health insurance agent look like?”
  • “What type of coverage would your ideal health insurance plan provide?”
  • “What’s the one thing that you want to make sure we accomplish today?”
  • “Have you ever had a bad experience with an insurance agent? Can you tell me about it?”

These questions – and, more importantly, the answers to them – will help uncover the secrets that will reveal your customer’s core needs and wants and whether their expectations are reasonable and match your product offerings. If this is not the case, you have the benefit of recognizing that early on and saving time for both of you by moving on to the next prospect.

Technique 2: Listen

It’s not very effective to ask questions and simply wait your turn to ask another question. You have two ears and one mouth, so use your resources properly and listen twice as much as you talk. Really focus and gather information and intelligence. In the end, you will have essentially built your own customer profile of the person with whom you’re meeting, allowing you to satisfy their needs and, in turn, make the sale.

We all know that people love talking about themselves and their needs. This proclivity for self-revelation is your chance to learn and evaluate what, if any, of your products might be suitable for this customer.

While you’re listening to the client, be sure to also observe them closely. Watch your prospect’s posture, eye contact, facial expressions, and mannerisms to gauge their level of engagement in the process. If they appear distracted, it may be better to reschedule the meeting.

Technique 3: Be empathetic

Without an ability to show empathy, you will have limited success with your clients. If being empathetic does not come naturally to you, try practicing by imagining what it’s like to be the other person.

You can use such statements as “I can imagine how you are feeling,” or “I understand this may be a difficult choice to make” in various situations. It’s the process of relating to the person – not the sales target – that will allow you to leverage your potential for successful interactions.

When talking with your client, show them that you understand their needs, their budget, and their expectations. If they say, “Health insurance is way too expensive and I can’t afford it,” you scan ay you understand their concerns and will only offer them products that meet their criteria. If you don’t have any such products, be sure to tell them that, as well.

For you to be a great health insurance agent, clients need to trust you and feel confident that you will be looking out for their best interests. Asking the right questions, carefully listening and learning, and demonstrating your ability to be empathetic are all essential for establishing a circle of trust with your clients, which must exist to achieve consistent sales. It’s not an instant process; it requires hard work and dedication. But if you adopt these techniques, it will lead to increased trust – and enhanced sales.

Terry Hawkins is a motivational speaker and developer of such training programs as S.E.L.L. Your Way to a Successful Life. She can be reached at terry@peopleinprogressglobal.com.