Image: Insurance © NULL,Corbis

Insurance agents can't read your mind, but they often use sales techniques to gain genuine insight into what you're thinking as they attempt to steer you toward a purchase decision.

To gain an edge, agents may interpret your body language or tone of voice, or even look for insights into your relationship with your spouse, says Morey Stettner, the author of "Buyer Beware: An Industry Insider Shows You How to Win the Insurance Game."

Stettner, a former insurance sales trainer, says it's common for agents to study ways to put you at ease and befriend you. If they meet with married couples, they're trained to identify which spouse is more open to the purchase. Gaining trust and an ally in negotiations may be as simple as remembering to nod when the receptive spouse nods. This technique is called "mirroring," and it sends a reassuring message.

"Even if one (spouse) is resistant to your method, you still have someone in your corner," Stettner says.

Insurance agents are offered countless seminars and guides to help them close sales. Dave Dee, the president and founder of the Psychic Sales Institute in Alpharetta, Ga., trains people to "ethically" read their prospects' minds as well as "implant thoughts into their subconscious and close more sales."

Trying to get good insurance quotes doesn't have to be a struggle against mind control, though. Stettner says you easily can turn the tables on people who try to get inside your head. Here are eight things you can do to become a better mind reader:

Beware the smirk

Smiles are welcome and reassuring, but a half-smile should put you on guard. Janine Driver, a sales trainer and CEO of the Body Language Institute, says you should never deal with an insurance agent who talks to you with one side of his or her mouth turned up.

That slight movement of the face "says more than you think," Driver stresses. "It is a smirk. That is contempt. Contempt is moral superiority. It is the most dangerous micro-expression you can see."

She advises you to "pack your bags and run" if you see this expression. "From the boardroom to the barroom, if you see contempt, this is a person who is going to hurt you financially, personally."

Control the conversation

A time-tested sales technique is to take control of the conversation and steer it toward a purchase without offending the client. If a smooth-talking agent is good at this, you may not even realize what is happening. Stettner says you need to make sure you are able to take part in the discussion. Politely interrupt if you must, but make yourself heard.

"Instead of being swayed by the presentation, it is important to be able to have a dialogue and ask intelligent questions," he says.

Become a human lie detector

Our bodies send signals to us about what we are seeing and hearing even before our brains have a chance to fully analyze the situation. A signal may come in the form of an elevated heart rate or a sinking feeling in your stomach. This is what people mean by having a "gut" reaction. Trust your instincts and put the brakes on any purchase that doesn't feel right.

Watch for the shoulder shrug

Sometimes "yes" can mean "no," depending on your agent's gestures. As an example, Driver cites the shoulder shrug.

"A shoulder shrug is uncertainty," she says. "When I say, 'Will the product do what it promises to do?' and the person says, 'Yes,' if they do a shoulder shrug, you have problems in paradise. They are saying 'Yes,' but they do not believe their answer. It means there is something they are not telling you."

If this happens, carefully go over the auto, life, health or homeowners insurance policy you are discussing with your agent. Make sure there is nothing about it that you will regret.

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