What insurance agents can learn from great leaders in history

By Justin R. Brown

Bankrate Insurance

When you hear the names Steve Jobs and Martin Luther King, Jr. (or Sara Blakely, whose name you may not recognize), the words “persistent, passionate and visionary” should spring to mind. The words “insurance agent,” however, probably seems a little out of place when talking about these great leaders in business and history. But there are more shared traits and skills between these individuals and successful insurance agents than you might think.

Steve Jobs “The greatest artists like Dylan, Picasso and Newton risked failure ... and if we want to be great, we’ve got to risk it too.”

Steve Jobs took a huge risk when he dropped out of college and started building computers out of his garage, but he believed in his idea and was willing to take a chance and make mistakes along the way. Self-made individuals have to use the mistakes and failures of the past and turn them into learning moments.

Successful insurance agents must risk rejection when conducting a sales pitch to a potential client. If you don’t make a successful sale, ask yourself afterward where you went wrong and try to learn from it so you can make a more persuasive pitch next time.

“How does somebody know what they want if they haven’t even seen it?”

Like Jobs did when he was dreaming up new products to sell, think about what you would want as a potential client. What would sound good to you as a prospect? What would you like to hear when buying insurance? Jobs was always thinking outside the box and coming up with something bigger and better than the competitors’ products because he asked himself what kind of gadgets he would like to use and went from there. Create a unique selling proposition that sets you apart from the competition. Jobs’ motto — “Think different” — clearly worked for him, and it can work for agents, too.

Take a chance because, sometimes, someone who is fresh in a field and doesn’t already know all of the tried-and-true tricks of the trade has the ability to come up with something that works even better — and that nobody has ever thought of trying before.

Sara Blakely

“Believe in your idea, trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to fail.”

Sara Blakely may not be a household name, but she is the founder of Spanx and the youngest self-made female billionaire. When selling any product, whether it’s insurance or Spanx, you have to believe in your idea and trust your instincts. All successful salespeople have probably heard the word “no” more times than they would like to admit. If they had given up the first time they were rejected, they would have given up on the chance to be successful and missed out on all future opportunities.

Blakely went to college in Florida and was tired of wearing hosiery in the hot and humid climate. But she liked the way the control top of the pantyhose made her body appear firmer and more streamlined, so she began to experiment. Her success in developing the prototype undergarment came about by trial and error. She began by cutting off the legs of the pantyhose, which didn’t work because the legs kept rolling up on her, so she tried again. Blakely didn’t let her initial failure — or the failures that followed — stop her from continuing to try and come up with something better.

Blakely initially tried many investors and was rejected many, many times, but she believed in her product and wanted to help women. She never gave up, and now she has a net worth of $1 billion.

When you’re rejected by a potential prospect, you can’t personalize it or internalize it. You have to be persistent and come up with solutions to your prospects’ objections and reasons why they won’t accept your offer. Try not to take no for an answer and remember that not all protestations from your prospect are impossible to get around. Keep trying.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

“If you can’t fly, then run; if you can’t run, then walk; if you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. was not only one of the most influential agents for social change in America’s history, he was also well known for the way he could tell a story. His words, cadence and stage presence moved the hearts and inspired the minds of millions. Although his speeches were well written, he also memorized them and delivered them in such a way that even the silences between words had an effect. He forced people to hear between the words and listen to what he was saying, even in the silence. King’s particular brand of delivery “sold” his ideas for equality and civil rights to his audiences.

If you listen to King’s careful word choices and his cadence in his speeches, you can apply that same method to pitching insurance to potential clients. Choose your words carefully and really understand — and believe in — what you’re trying to sell. Presentation is key when making a sale, so draw the potential client in with your words and make them want to know more about what you have to offer.

It was a long, hard road for King, but through hard work, determination and passion, he was able to transform a small movement into a nationwide crusade. Hundreds of thousands of people who heard him believed in him and committed to following in his footsteps.

You may not be the top sales person right off the bat, but don’t be discouraged. Find what works and what doesn’t, and apply what you’ve learned to your next try. Becoming the best takes commitment and perseverance.
Like Jobs, Blakely and King, believing in yourself, having passion, never giving up, thinking outside of the box, having a commanding presence and being a good speaker are all qualities that can be applied to becoming a successful insurance agent. Like Jobs, don’t just do things better, do them differently and stand out. Take a risk and create a unique selling proposition. Think about what you would want to learn about insurance if you were on the other side of the conversation, and then tell your prospects that.

With enough drive and passion, you can do anything you set your mind to do. Like Blakely, a lot of successful people start with nothing more than an idea. Put your skills and intelligence to work and never give up. Everyone has to start somewhere — insurance agents, marketing gurus or new business startups.

Remember to have confidence and command the conversation, whether it’s on the phone or in an important meeting. It can come from the way you carry yourself or the cadence of your voice, but your delivery can entice your audience to want to truly listen and hear what you are saying. It may seem like what you’re doing is just a small ripple in an endless ocean of other people’s successes, but as King said, you can do small things in a great way, and that can make all the difference between a mundane life and a successful one.