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How the Right Communication Skills Can Help You Stand Out from the Crowd, Look Like an Expert, and Maybe Even Sell Life Insurance to Bill Murray: A guest blog by Erin Ardleigh

Welcome to First Thursday! On the first Thursday of each month, Corporate Speech Solutions features an expert that has a skill or expertise that will enhance your professional skill set. Today, we’re joined by Erin Ardleigh, President of Dynama Insurance, an independent insurance brokerage that emphasizes transparency and education as part of the insurance planning process. As an insurance salesperson, Erin has found communication essential in bypassing the negative stereotypes that often accompany sales, and in connecting with her clients. Today, she shares some of the strategies that she’s found the most helpful along the way. 

I say “insurance salesperson”…

Let me guess what comes to mind: “pushy”, “slick”, “fast talker”. Maybe you think of the stereotypical, unrelenting salesperson, such as Ned Ryerson, the schoolmate turned insurance salesman intent on selling life insurance to poor Phil, Bill Murray’s character in the film, Groundhog Day.

Well, I have to admit, I’m an insurance salesperson. As the founder and president of an insurance brokerage, I have to contend with the negative stereotypes that many people have about my industry. In my uphill battle to distinguish myself and earn my clients’ trust, I’ve found that communicating clearly and effectively is crucial to my success. I’ve worked with Jayne Latz to improve my elevator pitch, public speaking, and overall communication skills. Here are the tools that have helped me the most:

Listen, REALLY listen: This sounds simple and obvious, but so few people truly do it. I try to start a meeting by asking a few questions, listening to the other person, and learning what is important to them.  I love to hear my clients’ life stories – how they built their businesses and what their kids are up to – and they love to talk about their passions. Listening helps build a relationship, and lets people know I’m not there just to push a product at them.

Speak clearly and slowly: In my industry, there are a lot of product names, technical terms and acronyms. It’s easy to confuse a client with all of the ‘lingo’. My team never uses acronyms, even if we think the abbreviation is obvious, because we want to be certain that our client understands us. For example, long term care insurance is never just “LTC”. We speak slowly when using technical terms and give our clients time to write notes if they like.

I’ve traveled extensively, and it’s made me realize just how quickly New Yorkers speak! When I’m talking with someone that speaks English as a second language, I am mindful of the speed of my speech and the enunciation of my words. I’ve adopted the same approach with clients, since insurance really does seem like a foreign language to many people!

When addressing a room, Jayne taught me to always take a slow, deep breath first, to smile, and to pause and count to three after saying my name and before saying my company name. I want my audience to hear my name and company name clearly so they can follow up with me!

Be aware of your body language: If you’re focusing only on your speech, you’re missing a big part of effective communication. Most of us have distracting habits that we are not aware of: some people put their hands in their pockets, or nervously click a pen, others sway while standing and speaking. Having Jayne film me while I gave my elevator speech was an eye opener. I have the habit of using my hands a lot while I am speaking. Jayne helped me to use gestures to accentuate my message rather than distract from it. I make sure that my message is consistent, through both verbal and non-verbal communication.

In business, we all need to communicate effectively, which takes training and practice. I think every business owner would benefit from communications coaching. I, for one, am committed to continually improving my verbal and non-verbal communication skills.

Now, if only I could bump into Bill Murray!

Erin Ardleigh is the President of Dynama Insurance, an independent insurance brokerage offering life, health, disability and long term care insurance as well as complimentary reviews of existing policies.  www.dynamainsurance.com

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