12/17/2012 3:45 PM ET|
How to read your insurer's mind
Sure, that agent is telling you he's looking out for your best interests, but what are his nonverbal signals really saying?
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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Resist emotional appeals
A knowledgeable, helpful agent can be a true ally. However, Rae Jones, the author of "How to Buy Insurance," says some agents are not above making a direct appeal to your emotions to gain an advantage. They may try to make you feel guilty by asking how your children would survive if you suddenly died and left them without life insurance.
"I have seen it all," says Jones. "I have seen 'I am selling you life insurance and you need to buy it because you do not want to die and leave your family with nothing. Do you want to see your wife and kids out on the street? Your house will go into foreclosure.'"
Agents who use such tactics do not have your best interests at heart, she says. "They are not looking out for you and your family. They want the commission. . . . As soon as people get wrapped up in their emotions, the salesperson has the advantage."
Pay attention to the voice
In addition to hearing what your agent is saying, you need to focus on how he or she says it, advises Driver. A sudden rise or drop in volume could mean the agent is hiding something.
"Over 90% of people, when they are being deceptive, have a change in their voice," she says. "All of a sudden they are being inaudible."
Keep them on their toes
The best agents help you buy policies you truly need. Reading body language can help you determine if your agent is on your side. One of the best things that can happen during a meeting with your agent is if he or she stands on tip toes while explaining the benefits of your policy, says Driver. That means your agent is extremely happy and positive.
"This is defying gravity," she says. "This is someone who is extremely excited. They believe in their product. This is genuine happiness, genuine enthusiasm."
Look for crossed arms
If your agent's arms are crossed during the discussion, it could be a good sign, says Driver.
"When you cross your arms, you use your right and left brain," she says. "You right brain is creative; your left brain wants to play it safe. People who cross arms will stay on difficult tasks 30% longer. Crossed arms could be a blessing. They could be finding a solution."
Driver says an agent with crossed arms may be trying to figure out how to work within your budget or give you a smaller premium.
Some consumers have trouble standing up to high-pressure sales techniques. They need to stick to an agenda to avoid being led astray.
"I see a lot of people buying insurance they don't need," says Jones. For example, "They are buying flood insurance when they are not in a flood zone."
If you come prepared, even an accomplished mind reader won't be able to sway you from your goal. Make a list of the things you need in an insurance policy and bring it to your meeting with your agent.
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This is about sales techniques, not insurance- you could end up with a car, a refrigerator, or a house because someone did these things. Also, a smirk may indicate something other than contempt- a stroke or nerve damage for instance. Anecdotal, rather than statistical, but better to not jump to conclusions.
As for the shrug, well...if you ask a question like "Will this policy cover what it says it covers?", you should be prepared for your agent to be thinking "Yes, but not necessarily what you THINK it covers (or should cover)." Consumers have very few responsibilities when it comes to insurance, but they include things like paying your bill, reading your policy and asking questions if you have them, and giving your company timely notice of a claim or potential claim.
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