Filed Under:Agent Broker, Agency Management

Your 'presence' is critical to the insurance sales process

7 factors within your control and what to do with them

How do people perceive you? (Photo: Stephen Coburn, Fotolia)
How do people perceive you? (Photo: Stephen Coburn, Fotolia)

Editor's note: This article is the third in a series on how to "Bake the cake: The 6 P's to insurance sales excellence."

“Presence” or how you present to a potential client is a critical component of the sales process.

In this article we will define the factors outside of your control (that you simply must accept) and we will also look at those factors within your control and what to do with them.

In her book “Executive Presence” author Sylvia Ann Hewlett shares a very candid outlook on: gender, race, age, language & appearance and their impact on how people perceive us. (If you read last week's article, you know how much I endorse reading, add this one to your reading list). Three of these are out of our control (and the book does a fantastic job of discussing them in great detail).

Let’s examine those factors we can control:

1. Your appearance

This subject probably falls under the “I’ve been told one thousand times” category. If that is the case, why do so many people fail at it?

The first key is recognizing your audience. In the summer of 2017, I did a speaking engagement for my Fraternity at The University Of Maryland College Park. I showed up in my standard business attire: suit, ironed dress shirt, no tie (I almost never wear a tie). I was the only person dressed this way.

More specifically, I was the only presenter dressed this way. I was overdressed. To accommodate, I took my suit coat off for the presentation and literally “rolled up my sleeves.” I adapted to my audience and my surroundings. It's valuable to know who you are meeting with and what their expectation level is.

2. Authenticity

It's also important to be authentic. In 2004, I had a boss who was (and still is) one of the best darn sales people I have ever met or worked for. He had planned an equipment demonstration in our office and invited some of the company's most valuable clients. That morning he came into the office wearing a mock turtleneck and sport coat. I asked him where his tie was and he said “I never wear a tie, it’s not me, it’s not authentic.” 

Related: 22 reasons why salespeople don't close more sales

Sales is about earning trust. You cannot earn a sale if you first don’t earn trust. Authenticity goes a very long way to earning trust. At the opposite end of the spectrum, I have a friend who has been self employed for over 15 years. I have only seen him without a tie on once in all the years I have known him. I asked him about it. He told me he does not feel “dressed” without one. That is his authentic self. Your appearance must be professional and it must be authentic.

With the subject of language, there is a lot of ground to cover. Yes, you want to be authentic, if you are from the south there should be a “southern charm” to your voice. If you are from New York or another northern state, there tends to be a certain “punch” to how we speak (I say “we” because I grew up just outside of New York City and lived there until I was 18). Once we acknowledge these elements, it is time to look at the words we use.

3. Be simple

Sales people tend to overwhelm their clients with industry jargon or big words to sound important. If you use an industry term quickly explain it. It is important to remember  that the explanation should be “matter of fact” and not appear that you are being condescending. It takes practice, so practice.

Related: Your prospects don't speak the laguage of insurance. Translate for them

4. Avoid slang

“Ain’t ain't a word cause ain’t, ain’t in no dictionary.” Get the point here? Good.

5. Avoid crutch words

We'll get into this aspect more next week. Look at your daily language. Better yet, record a 5 minute presentation of yourself. Do you overuse “like” or “so.” Do you say things like “at the end of the day” or “the bottom line?” Stop it. Take the time to think about simple language you can use to replace those words and upgrade your ability to speak.

6. Body language

Do you stand tall with your shoulders back? When you sit, are you leaning back in the chair? Are you slumping in the chair? Stop playing with: your hair, your jewelry, your pen.

7. Put down the phone

Don't even take it out. If you have a potential emergency, advise your client (when my wife was 9 months pregnant with our daughter, I told clients that if my phone vibrated I would look at it, in case she needed me). They will respect you greatly for telling them in advance,

Next week, we will discuss presentations (and why: (a) most of them are terrible; and (b) why you probably stink at them).

Related: 14 ways to sabotage your sales career

Mike Shelah is the founder of Mike Shelah Consulting. An admitted “LinkedIn geek” Mike loves talking: LinkedIn, sales & emotional intelligence to anyone who will listen. Mike is a frequent podcast guest, speaker and occasional guest on Fox 45 in Baltimore. You can contact Mike at 443-808-1670 or


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