The Power of Empathy in Life Insurance Sales

Transparency and knowledge are necessary elements of life insurance sales, but they’re not enough to help you connect with your prospects humanly. The power of empathy can materially change that. 

During a life insurance presentation, you have to sell your products, your company, and yourself. That’s tough to do in a 30 to 60-minute presentation. The most successful insurance agents know how to weave empathy into their sales appointments (and what can happen if they don’t).


Definition of Empathy in Business: Why It’s Important

The Problem With Not Demonstrating Empathy

Unleashing Empathy in Your Sales Presentation

Empathy as the Path to Stronger Business Connections

Definition of Empathy in Business: Why It’s Important

What is the definition of empathy? What’s at the heart of empathy in business? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes empathy this way:

“The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.”

While empathy sounds a bit like sympathy, there is an important distinction between them. Sympathy means to have pity, sorrow, or compassion for someone else. You might think of sympathy as viewing someone’s emotions and feelings from the outside. 

With empathy, you’re stepping into their shoes and feeling all the same things they are. Empathy helps you build a stronger connection with your customers. 

Leading With Empathy in Business: Building on Lessons from COVID

Before the pandemic, businesses were just starting to explore and experiment with technology in sales and marketing. Other than the pressure to be competitive, there wasn’t much pressure to invest in technology or change sales strategies. 

It soon became apparent businesses couldn’t keep their doors closed for the long haul. Strategies had to change. And fast. During that time, customers’ thoughts shifted away from the things they wanted to focus on what they needed. Post-pandemic, sales teams had to adapt. Engagement is no less important now that the virus is better under control.

A primary way to keep customers engaged is to lead with empathy. Showing empathy tells customers you care. Empathy, along with a low-contact sales strategy can be quite effective.

While the impact of the pandemic is largely behind us, we’ve learned just how important empathy is to our customers whether they’re going through a time of crisis or not.

What does empathy mean to today’s life insurance customers? 

It means recognizing their concerns, understanding their unique needs and challenges, and showing genuine concern for their overall well-being. The cookie-cutter sales approach simply won’t be effective in today’s market. 

Empathy makes for the start of a well-connected, meaningful business relationship. Today’s customers expect personalization in every form of communication. Empathy in communication makes them feel heard, seen, and valued. A detailed communication strategy that incorporates empathy will be well-received by contacts.

How Empathy Helps Increase Retention

Exploring life insurance options can be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for your clients. They’re excited to buy it because they know they need it. Completing the purchase will give them peace of mind. 

At the same time, they start thinking about what the end of their lives will look like. There’s nothing exciting about that. They worry about having a chronic or terminal illness or getting into a life-altering accident. 

What’s more, they start thinking about the loved ones they will be leaving behind. How will the rest of the family get along without them? 

Will they be able to make ends meet with the remaining income? Will there even be enough money to cover the funeral or burial expenses? 

Just as you do, your customers want to enjoy living in the present, yet they realize the urgency of planning for an uncertain future. 

Customers who see you making an effort to empathize with their fears and concerns will begin to trust you. The more trust they have in you, the more loyal they will become. 

Empathy Makes You a Better Salesperson

While empathy goes a long way towards creating stronger connections between you and your customers, it also has a positive impact on your career.

As you hone your empathy skills, your mindset will automatically become more customer-centric. You’ll become inherently better at reading facial expressions and body language. 

If a customer’s expression changes in the middle of a conversation, it signals a time to interject with a question about what’s on their mind. It’s a way of drawing out customers’ hidden needs so you can address them right away. 

Above all, by setting the stage with empathy, you’ll be creating a judge-free atmosphere where there is mutual respect. It’s the type of environment that not only reduces pressure and tension but sets things up ideally for the customer and you.  

The Problem With Not Demonstrating Empathy

So many things are top of mind before an agent goes into a life insurance sales presentation. 

Have the following questions gone through your mind as you strive to improve your sales process before a sales appointment? 

  • What do I know about this prospect that will help me close the sale? 
  • Is my presentation ready? 
  • Do I understand the technology well enough to ensure a smooth presentation? 
  • Do I know the product well enough? 
  • Am I prepared for any objections the client may pose? 

These are all important aspects of selling, and most experienced agents do these tasks well. What agents haven’t been taught well enough is how to connect and interact with prospects and customers. That’s where empathy comes in. 

What happens to a sales presentation where empathy is absent? 

From the prospect’s perspective, the process merely feels transactional. That’s not going to give your prospects the kind of warm, fuzzy feelings you want them to have as you wrap things up.

The last thing you want is for the appointment to feel like buying a pair of socks at the local department store. When you establish a good rapport with customers, they can count on not being treated as a policy number after the sale. 

Even worse, you run the risk of upsetting or annoying your prospects. If they don’t have a good feeling about you when it’s time to close the sale, they’re bound to go looking for answers somewhere else. 

It may help to remember that something generally triggers someone to start thinking about life insurance such as:

  • They or someone they care about got into a bad car accident
  • Someone they care about got seriously injured
  • A loved one has spent time in a hospital dealing with a serious illness
  • A parent or grandparent had to be admitted to a nursing home or assisted living facility
  • Someone they know gets turned down for a life insurance policy
  • A friend or relative didn’t have enough money to take care of a burial or funeral service
  • They have too many debts and they’re worried about burdening their family if they die
  • Someone told them about how great it was that a loved one left them a life insurance policy

These are all valid concerns. A little empathy goes a long way when a prospect is wrestling internally with life’s uncertainties. 

By incorporating empathy and giving the presentation a human touch, you can assure prospects that while you can’t eliminate their pain, a life insurance policy can take care of the financial stuff. 

Virtual presentations are becoming the norm. Is it possible to show empathy when the prospect is miles away? Yes.

When you do a virtual presentation, you have the benefit of seeing your prospects on the screen. You may not catch every facial expression or body movement, but you should still be able to get a sense of how they’re feeling. 

And, you can always check in with them periodically to make sure you didn’t miss anything. 

With a virtual presentation, you can show empathy by using screen-sharing to help them understand how various policies work and the benefits they provide. You can also use screen-sharing to highlight real-life stories of other customers you’ve helped by selling them life insurance.  

Personal interactions accented with empathy can significantly influence someone’s decision to buy a life insurance policy. The lack of empathy won’t go unnoticed.  

Unleashing Empathy in Your Sales Presentation

Unfortunately, empathy doesn’t come naturally or easily to everyone. Whether empathy is your strong suit or not, it helps to have a plan. 

First, while you may be ready to get into your presentation right away and sail right through it, you may need to be aware of your pacing. At certain points in the presentation, you may need to slow things down and really listen to your prospects. 

When you feel the time is right, you might ask if they’re ready to move on. The idea is to move at their pace. You can still make mental or written notes that may help you later in the presentation.

Patricia Watson, a psychiatric expert from the Texas A\&M College of Medicine offers the following four attributes to incorporate into your presentations:

  1. Create a judgment-free zone. You may have your own personal feelings about what a prospect tells you. However, let them know by your words and actions that their feelings are valid, and you are in no way judging them for their feelings and beliefs. 
  2. Take the prospect’s perspective. You can do this by making eye contact and nodding your head. You can respond by saying things like, “I get what you’re saying” or “I can’t imagine…”. If you’re not sure you’re reading them right, you might restate the issue to make sure you’re on the same page. 
  3. Voice the emotion they’re relaying to you. For example, you could say, “I’m sure that was a sad time for you” or “That must have scared you immensely”.
  4. Communicate understanding as best you can. You might say, “I understand where you’re coming from” or “I get it”. 

Be Aware of Your Tone of Voice

Your tone of voice is the way you speak to others. Tone involves your volume, pitch, and rate of talking. It also involved your choice of words. The wrong tone can come off as you’re attacking someone even if your message is well-intended. 

Use a calm, neutral tone of voice, much like a therapist would. Prospects will feel less guarded when you can make them feel comfortable and accepted. 

Learn More About Empathy in Business

How can you learn more about empathy in business? There are plenty of resources in the world to help you understand how empathy works in the insurance field. 

Read books and articles on empathy in business. Take your cues from other business professionals who have used it successfully. 

Here are a couple of books to get you started:

You could also look for seminars or workshops on empathy in business to attend. Perhaps you’ll learn enough about empathy to teach a class yourself. 

Empathy in Action

A good first step is to start brainstorming about specific ways you can show empathy to prospects and clients. 

Here are some easy things you can do:

  • Send out birthday cards with a personal note.
  • Send holiday cards. Surprise them with some of the less card-giving holidays like Independence Day or Thanksgiving (and thank them for their business).
  • Send them a virtual message reminding them to review their life insurance policy and ask if they’ve had any major life milestones since your last meeting. 
  • Offer to schedule a virtual meeting, especially in the winter when people are worried about spreading germs during in-person meetings.
  • Create messages that explain confusing insurance terms and jargon.
  • Share resources about health, meditation, exercise, etc. 

Most of all, be reachable. Make sure prospects and clients know how to reach you, and always return their calls and messages at your earliest opportunity. 

Empathy as the Path to Stronger Business Connections

As an insurance professional, you’re in the business of protecting people, their wealth, and their livelihoods. At the end of the day, people like to buy from people they like and trust. 

The journey to that destination is challenging at best. Overall d to your prospects involves more than treating them like a policyholder. It’s about understanding their needs, empathizing with them, and creating a memorable presentation that resonates with them.  

The time and effort you put into developing empathy in business skills will certainly pay off.