When you think of words to describe a salesperson, several adjectives might come to mind: friendly, outgoing, or energetic, for example. The word “introverted” isn’t likely to be high on that list. So how do introverts carve a career path for themselves in insurance sales? The most extreme introverts draw energy from alone-time, and the thought of approaching strangers with a sales proposition is likely far from enticing to them.
As senior editor of insurance-forums.com, I posed this question to our readership. I assumed that they would overwhelmingly agree that introverts have no business being in the industry. After all, how can someone who is afraid of people do things like prospect, call strangers, and try to close a deal? From answering client questions to outlining the best plans, it feels like agents and brokers are basically always engaged in a conversation of some sort.
To my surprise, many readers vouched for the positives of working in insurance as an introvert. Among them, the ability to really listen to and hear a client, the tendency to seek understanding, and the ability to be thoughtful. Our members noted that, if anything, an introvert would be challenged more by the marketing aspects of the job than the sales aspects. Others noted that the success of an introvert in insurance depends on the client – if the client is easily taken in by a big personality, an introvert will struggle.
Our readers also shared a few tips on how to overcome a case of shyness, and a few reasons why being an introvert is a good thing. Their advice follows:
1. Fake It ‘Til You Make It
According to one agent, it’s “pretty hard to sell something when you’re not talking to someone.” There’s nothing wrong with rustling up a bit of bravado when you’re cold-calling or scheduling appointments to meet with people. Remind yourself that through networking and practice, you’ll get better at meeting new people and becoming more confident. You’ll also have more career opportunities open up. Nothing generates confidence like a big career win!
2. Remind Yourself of the Benefits of Introversion
Being an introvert isn’t always a bad thing in sales. One agent notes, “if a client is more thoughtful and intelligent, a smart introvert will be at an advantage.” Instead of being the center of attention and the life of the party, an introverted salesperson can come off as more thoughtful and attentive to one particular client’s needs. One agent notes, “Extroverts sometimes talk too much and lose the sale.” So don’t think of yourself as at a disadvantage, just because you’re an introvert.
3. Exercise Your Listening Skills
Extroverts are great at one thing – talking. Introverts are great at the opposite – listening. One agent from our forum noted, “Maybe you should ask Joe Gandolfo. He says he’s an introvert, almost failed the aptitude test for insurance salesmen. Didn’t stop him from selling over $1 billion in life insurance… in a single year. Think of it this way… any good salesperson should be a good listener. Might this tendency be more prevalent in an introvert or an extrovert?” So if at first you don’t succeed, make like Joe Gandolfo and persevere. Remember that listeners are more in-tune to what a client is really saying.
4. Plan Your Approach
A little prior planning can prevent those awkward silences that come with not knowing what to say. One agent suggests, “if you plan out the conversation you’ll use on a call, it will help. You can also think of a few witty statements to use. Write a script and plan for a q&a section afterwards.” Sticking to a script can help nervous agents get rid of the jitters, and can help to minimize surprises.
5. Mimic Your Client
If you’re not sure how to act around a client, some agents suggest mimicking a client’s behavior. One agent notes that the most successful salespeople take cues from clients and adjust their personality or behavior as they deem appropriate. “If they like the rain, you love it. If they love Obama, you’d like to shake his hand. If they hate marshmallows, you’d like to see them outlawed.” Additionally, using key questions to get the client talking while you stay quiet, such as nodding and taking notes, can help ease a nervous introvert’s anxiety.