Insurance The Brightway

ITB with Brian Ahearn - The Art of Influence in Growing Your Insurance Agency

August 17, 2023 Rick Fox Season 1 Episode 16
Insurance The Brightway
ITB with Brian Ahearn - The Art of Influence in Growing Your Insurance Agency
Show Notes Transcript

One of the world’s most renowned consultants joins us on Insurance The Brightway (ITB) to teach you the fine art of influence and persuasion when it comes to your business.

Rick Fox welcomes Cialdini Method Certified Teacher Brian Ahearn. This popular author and Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE will help you see powerful everyday opportunities that can change your agency forever.

Enjoy this special edition of the ITB podcast wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts today!

ITB is a weekly podcast brought to you by Brightway Insurance, the insurance franchising leader coast-to-coast.

#InfluenceAndBusiness #ITB #BrightwayInsurance

Rick:
Welcome back to another episode of the ITB Insurance, the Brightway podcast. I'm the host Rick Fox. And today, uh, I'm excited. Uh, I count this guy, not only as a friend, uh, I was thinking about it before we recorded that, like, I keep saying this about my guests, but that should tell you the people I'm reaching out to, to get on the show. But I think of Brian as one of those. Insurance folks and really, really gets a kick out of helping people. So excited to have Brian Ahern on the show today. Brian, welcome.

Brian Ahearn:
Thanks for having me back, Rick. I've been looking forward to the conversation.

Rick:
Me too. I always look forward to our conversation. So Brian, I'm going to give you the quick bio because he's a humble guy and he might not do it himself. But Brian is the chief influence officer at Influence People. He's a LinkedIn learning author. He's a let me see if I get this right. Chaldini. Is that right?

Brian Ahearn:
Yeah, you got it right.

Rick:
I got it right. OK, Chaldini, Method Certified Trainer and. When we get to him talking about that, there are very, very few of those around. That's a big deal. A member of the National Speakers Association and prior to all this, more than two decades in the insurance working at State Auto. So a huge resume. An author that has books. I'm actually, if any of you are watching, I'm holding up one of his that I've read. This one I'm holding is called Persuasive Selling for Relationship-Driven Insurance Agents. So Brian's gig is to help people hear the word yes. And I'm hoping that throughout this podcast, he'll give you some of that insight and tease you enough that you'll wanna go grab these books. I'm telling you, this one I have, I've got it like bunny-eared and I've got highlights. It's powerful stuff that he talks about and that he writes about. So before we go there again, Brian, appreciate you being on. I know you're busy. I know... I know you got a lot on your plate, but I appreciate it, my friend. Tell us how you got here.

Brian Ahearn:
Well, I started my career in the insurance industry. Didn't know anything about it. Turned out to be a great industry in addition to a great career. I met my wife on the first day, so that was awesome. But during my travels, I was a personal lines underwriter, commercial underwriter, moved into the sales department. And really, Rick, I thought early on in my career that sales was a bunch of BS. You know, as an underwriter, you get beat down and you think

Rick:
That's right.

Brian Ahearn:
all the agent wants is the lowest price. And then

Rick:
And then

Brian Ahearn:
I started.

Rick:
the agent tries to sell you the underwriter on what a great risk it is when you know it's crap.

Brian Ahearn:
Yeah, absolutely. So underwriters need to understand influence every bit as much as salespeople.

Rick:
That's very true.

Brian Ahearn:
But during that transition into sales, I came across the work of Dr. Robert Cialdini and the light bulb came on. I mean, immediately I recognized first and foremost what he's talking about. This psychology is the underpinning of all selling. It's why certain approaches either work or why they don't. I appreciated the fact that everything he talked about was based on research. So this wasn't fluff or motivational speaking. It was hard science. And then the third thing was his stance on ethics. So I really appreciated that he talked about how to do it in a non-manipulative way. So I got involved using the material through a series of circumstances, ultimately came in connection with Robert Cialdini, the company that I had worked for, which was State Auto, now Liberty Mutual, brought him in to be a guest speaker and agents raved about it. I ultimately went through some training, went through the certification, began using his methodology to help insurance agents. And I had an eye on the future. I knew that it's what I would do with the rest of my career. So about five years ago, I left the company, and now full-time, I work with independent agents, I work with companies, I speak at association events, that's my target market, trying to teach them, what does the research show, how do you apply it so that you can enjoy more success at the office and happiness at home?

Rick:
Well, Brian, again, thank you for the work that you do and for your attitude. I've just, again, I said it before, but it's important to continue. Like my, the reason we do this show is to help people. And I genuinely love this industry and I genuinely love to support everybody in it. And then the people that I get on the show, I say this almost every time because my guests all fit the same mold, which is you're out here. you know, fighting the good fight to help insurance folks get better at their craft. And I just love that, man. I think it's great. So I don't want to just like word for word, verbatim, like go through one of your books or sort of your theory on this. But let me tee this up. So anybody out there that's in sales and a lot of salespeople, I'm raising my hand as one of them, has a very large ego around how good they are at sales. can always get better. Those of you that know me know that my kids are, two of my kids are college bound athletes. They don't get to a certain point and then just go play. They still train, they still like watch and like watch tape. They read. It's the same thing for sales. And Brian brings sort of it, like you said, the science of it into this. If you think you're good, there's no one out here that can't learn. from the way that Brian looks at sales to be even better, get more yeses, make more money, which some of us are driven by as it relates to sales. So Brian, I'm gonna tee you up with, and I don't wanna get into all of it, but I think the number is seven, but you have like seven principles that you sort of like base everything on. Maybe we sort of, you give us a high level of the seven and dig into a couple and. and let people kind of get used to kind of how that works.

Brian Ahearn:
Sure. First, I'll say everybody listening will intuitively understand what I share because it describes human behavior. But wisdom is the application of knowledge. And that's where the rubber meets the road and how you put that into practice. So the first principle that we talk about is liking. Everybody will get this. We prefer to say yes to those we know and like. Right? So much easier to say yes to those that we look at and have some relationship with. Next, we talk about reciprocity. Reciprocity is that obligation we feel to give back to people who first give to us. And then we talk about this principle of unity. And unity, like those first two, is a relationship builder. It's much deeper. Unity is about having a shared bond or a shared identity. My dad being an example as a Marine, didn't matter if he knew the person, if they

Rick:
Ha

Brian Ahearn:
were

Rick:
ha.

Brian Ahearn:
a Marine, deep, deep connection. So those are the first three, they're great for building relationships. The next couple are very good for dealing with objections. First one we talk about is authority. We prefer to act on advice from somebody who is a trusted expert, someone who has wisdom. And then the next one we talk about is consensus or sometimes called social proof. What are other people doing? And the more that those people are like us, the more likely we are to follow their lead. And our final two principles are very good to motivate people to action. because sometimes you have people who like you a lot, they aren't unsure about what to do, they're just dragging their feet. And so we talk about a principle called consistency, which says we feel an internal psychological pressure, but also external social pressure to be consistent in what we say and what we do. And then finally, there's scarcity. We value things more if we think they're less available or they're becoming rare. That FOMO, fear of missing out.

Rick:
Yep.

Brian Ahearn:
So those are seven principles that are big drivers of human decision-making.

Rick:
So I love this for starters, because I love to challenge people. And my challenge, which I started with, and I'm going to continue to emphasize here, is my challenge would be anybody listening in, I think I'm a better salesperson than you are. I just flat out do. That's just the way I'm wired. And people that are hearing me are thinking the same thing. They're thinking, no way, I'm the best. But if you start to build on just because you have some people who are just naturally, you know. charismatic or people want to be around them or all of the things that are possible about your just the way you're built. But now you start adding some of these principles into that. And maybe if you go through that list of seven and you think, now I'm pretty good at that. Oh, that one's interesting. Ooh, there's one. Even just the improvement on one of those principles makes a huge difference. like this is what I'm going to do this year to win. Then you can really move the needle. I mean, I've seen people that have gone through this kind of thing, gone through Brian's learnings and his books and use that. And I see gigantic, monumental growth into being even more influential and being influential is how you get the word yes. So. Brian, let's dig into a couple of them, just a little deeper, so I'll let you choose.

Brian Ahearn:
Um, let's go with liking first. The book is about relationship driven insurance agents and liking is all about relationship. Everybody, as I said earlier, will intuitively understand that it's easier for someone to say yes, if they know them and like them. But Rick, the key is not about me getting you to like me. Now, if I do that, certainly yes, will come easier. But the real key to this principle is that I use it. to come to know and like you. And

Rick:
Mmm.

Brian Ahearn:
the same things that will cause you to like me, for example, if we find out things we have in common, or if I pay you a genuine compliment, those things will make you like me more. But the key is, it will start making me like you. And the reason that's so important is, I'm gonna guess that you and all of your listeners have what we'll call a BS meter. You can tell

Rick:
Oh yeah.

Brian Ahearn:
when someone is genuine, right? We see the look in the eye, hear the tone of voice, we read the body language, and we can tell if someone really likes us. And so the more I get to know you and like you, and you sense that with all of your senses, the more likely it is that you will say yes, because you're thinking, gosh, Brian seems to like me and I trust him. And the good news is because I like you, Rick, I am gonna work harder for you. I'm gonna look

Rick:
Yes.

Brian Ahearn:
more for those solutions. We have created what I call a virtuous cycle. by me approaching this just a little different. It's the mindset of, I wanna get to know and really like the people that I work with. And I will give you a very quick story on this.

Rick:
Yeah.

Brian Ahearn:
Somebody who's a client from 2019, outside the insurance industry, it was hearing aids, but I stayed in touch with this person, we formed a friendship. That's the reason my wife and I took a two week vacation in Europe because he invited us to his wedding. So having... Having these relationships goes beyond just selling a product. It's about forming relationships. And I don't look for that relationship to pay me back in any way, but who knows? I mean, he may refer me to people, any kind of any number of good things could happen from it. But it started with me genuinely saying I want to get to know and like this person because I'm going to be working with them.

Rick:
Well, this industry is full of people that have really keen, almost cynical BS meters that they have built in. And that is not specific to insurance, but I'm just vouching for our industry of being that. And what's very interesting, I think very few of our listeners, well, some of them, because they've heard you and I talk in the past, but very few of them would be thinking about that in terms of... I want to like the person that I'm building a relationship with, that I want to hear the word yes from. If you think about it, that's completely opposite of the way I hope they like me, which is the typical like, I hope they like me and say yes. We get into that thing. This goes to what I think is the biggest problem in our industry, especially in this hard market right now, which is this race to the bottom on price. If you take both sides of this relationship, so I do want you to like me. I mean, that is important because if you don't like me, you're not going to buy from me, done. But I also want to get to know and like you because it takes the BS out. And it also takes out this, this overarching sentiment that I've got to have the lowest price. No, I have to have the best value and value comes within that relationship. Is that right? Am I thinking about that the right way?

Brian Ahearn:
Absolutely. The deeper that relationship is, the more that person understands that you're looking out for their best interest, then when you can come and say, you know, what I'm putting on the table here is not necessarily the lowest price because that's not going to be the best value. You're going to miss out on A, B, and C if you go that route. This, Rick, is what will actually provide the protection you need at a price that fits your budget.

Rick:
And when you're in a rough market and you know, like, so a lot of, you know, I'm in Florida, Florida homeowners is absurd right now. Like that. We just heard about a guy who got a renewal lives on the water, big, big house. So take that in 88,000 a year for his homeowner renewal, $88,000 for his insurance. Um, that's a tough one to sell any way you slice it. The only shot and take that one off, but just the typical, Hey, that your rates are going up 40%. We have a relationship, so let's talk about it. Where the agents that have raced to the bottom don't have a relationship, that 40% is gonna piss that person off and their first call isn't going to be to you. It's gonna be to your competitor. So we say the word relationship, we almost throw it around in folly these days, it feels like. But what Brian's doing here is taking us back to the core of what it means to build a relationship. So... The principle of liking the person you're working with, I think is huge. Give me one more.

Brian Ahearn:
The principle of consistency, I think, within the sales process is one of the, if not the most important principle, because it's really predicated upon questions. So to remind people, the principle basically says, we want to be consistent in what we say and what we do. The problem is a lot of people don't engage the principle because they're telling people what to do. If I tell you what to do, Rick, if you were a customer, a client, and I said, you know, Rick, I need you to get me your loss runs and I need to get X, Y, and Z. Maybe you'll do it, maybe you won't. But if I ask you, hey Rick, in order for me to do the best job possible, would you be able to get me your loss runs and X, Y, Z by Thursday afternoon? And you're nodding your head right now. And so

Rick:
Yes.

Brian Ahearn:
once you start nodding

Rick:
Natural.

Brian Ahearn:
and you say...

Rick:
I just wanted to, yes, yes.

Brian Ahearn:
And think about this, once you've said yes, there's something in most of us that gets triggered that doesn't want to first and foremost, let ourselves down by not doing what we say, but looking bad in the eyes of the other person. I'm sure every listener could think of a time or two where they were invited to a special event, and then for some reason they had to back out, and they had to call their friend and say, And whenever I ask an audience, how did you feel at that moment? I hear words like awful, guilty, terrible. And even though their friend understood and the reasons were legitimate, it shows how we feel when we don't live up to our word. But the key for an insurance agent or anybody else, a parent, is to stop telling and start asking. Because once you ask and you get the affirmation, the trigger has been flipped and that person will work harder to live up to their word. Now, not everybody will do what they say, and we

Rick:
Right.

Brian Ahearn:
can all think of some people who never do, but the vast majority of people live by that because first and foremost, they wanna feel good about themselves. I love this, and I hope you think

Rick:
I love

Brian Ahearn:
that

Rick:
this

Brian Ahearn:
we can

Rick:
and

Brian Ahearn:
start

Rick:
stop telling

Brian Ahearn:
thinking

Rick:
and start

Brian Ahearn:
about

Rick:
asking.

Brian Ahearn:
it.

Rick:
If you took

Brian Ahearn:
Thank

Rick:
nothing

Brian Ahearn:
you.

Rick:
else but that away from this episode, you're winning. So I think,

Brian Ahearn:
Thank you.

Rick:
Brian, let me tie this back into your book. So again, I'm looking at persuasive selling for relationship driven insurance agents. I love this book. I think that anybody in this industry, doesn't have to be an agent, can learn from this because what's funny about our industry is even if you're not a, and I'm doing the air quotes, a producer, you're still in... you're still looking for yes, you're still influencing behavior and decisions in our in our industry. Like, you know, we not we talked about it with the underwriter, you know, that relationship is important to it to get the carrier. So, Brian, give me this. How do. Okay, so like, I'm listening into this, not me, but someone is listening and they're saying, Okay, I like this, but I want I I'm so busy or I don't know where to start. Is it to read one of the books? Is it to read both of the books? Is it to connect with you? What's the best way to dip their toes in or take a step into the shallow end of the pool if they've never really done this kind of self-training thing before?

Brian Ahearn:
Well, there's I mean, people are different. So there are several options for people, certainly buying the book and reading it is a great way to do it. Some people say, you know, I just don't like reading that much podcast.

Rick:
Right.

Brian Ahearn:
So they're

Rick:
Yep.

Brian Ahearn:
listening to this podcast. If they went out to my website, I've been a guest on more than 150 podcasts. So there'd be ample opportunity to start listening and just have the stuff sink in deeply.

Rick:
Yes, yep.

Brian Ahearn:
Certainly, there are videos that are there. There are other. books that I have, if somebody says, you know what, I'm in selling, but I just don't like reading about selling. I've got the book that's a business parable called The Influencer. So there's lots of opportunities. There are the courses on LinkedIn. So all of those, somebody could self-administer. If they wanna go deeper, then yeah, we talk about having me work with their organization and put on a single day or multi-day workshop to really ingrain these concepts. But... your point that's how they can dip their toe in the water any of those options.

Rick:
So I love this and what we do in this industry so much is like, I'm guessing some of you are listening to this podcast right now, driving somewhere or winding down for the night, not in the middle of your day because you're so busy. We're so busy that what ends up happening, and I do this, I always feel this way when people go to conferences as well, back when conferences were a much larger deal and you went to all of them. But you get all this great information. get back into your daily grind and it gets put on the back burner. So what I would recommend, like again, we tease this with Brian because there's so much good information. Him and I could sit here and talk for three hours, but you know, between the LinkedIn learnings, the podcasts, the videos, and like I said, a great sort of dabble into it and figure it out is to read one of these books. And I'm not trying to sell Brian's books, because Brian's doing just fine selling his books on his own. But what I'm trying to do is give you ways to improve the way you attack your day. And not just get by and think you're a good salesperson, but like my son, get that basketball in your hand and go dribble. Go shoot. Go get better at your craft. And there is never a bad thing. And you said the word there real quickly. sort of in passing, Brian, but whether you're selling, whether you're a parent, I mean, all of these things are for life. They're life lessons, but they will absolutely, and I think the one I love the most of the principles is consistency. Because you can't do it once, and you can't come in and come out. So you have to plan around the way that you can focus on getting better. And that just my most recent rant was about hitting the rest of the year with your top five things to focus on. Maybe one of them is personal growth as a, and fill in the line, seller, producer, CSR, parent, whatever that is, these books are that important. So Brian, you mentioned a bunch of ways that they can get, give me the details. Like what's the website? Should they follow you on LinkedIn? Like what's the connection points?

Brian Ahearn:
So those would both be the best ones. If you follow me on LinkedIn, first guarantee is when you reach out if you don't put a personal message. But even if you do, you're going to get a personal response from me. Because

Rick:
Excellent.

Brian Ahearn:
it's social media, so I'm social. I will have some interaction with you. Once you're connected with me on LinkedIn, I post a lot of content.

Rick:
Yep,

Brian Ahearn:
Because

Rick:
a lot. I can vouch for that. A lot of good content.

Brian Ahearn:
I blog weekly. I repost older blog posts. On Fridays, I'm reposting podcasts and other media. So like almost every single day, there's something out there for you to learn from. Of course, if you go to my website, which is influencepeople.biz, that's where you'll be able to find all the podcasts, all the blog posts, the videos, the things like that, that will help you start dipping your toe in, as well as links to Amazon for each of the books.

Rick:
That's great. Yeah. And like I said, I've read the book. I have it in my stack of, I've got about five books here that I just have there. And even just seeing it sit on its side and see the title of it, it reminds me of some of these things that we've talked about. And the two that you used are my two favorite examples. It's that reverse liking thing. And I say reverse only in that we have all, we've been trained to make them like us. And then, in anything in life, consistency is like at the foundation of all those things. Okay, Brian, you've answered this on podcast with me before. I'm going to ask you again. We'll see if it's different or not. And it's the time capsule question, right? So I'm going to take this next bit. We're going to record it. We're going to bury it. Somebody's going to dig it up. What is Brian Ahern's one big piece of advice for the insurance industry?

Brian Ahearn:
Because it's a relationship business, the best way that you can keep it at is to invoke the principle of liking as we talked about. If you aren't doing that and you fall prey to transactional, digital or whatever, it will no longer be that relationship business. And I'm a firm believer that people still want to do business with other people.

Rick:
That's it. Bingo. Nailed it. They do. And we want, they want ease of use on things that aren't important. Like I need to get a piece of information to you. We don't have to have a 20 minute conversation on that. But be proud of who you are as insurance people because what we do on a daily basis protects people from all of the mayhem out in the world. So Brian. As always, I love our talks. I would love to just like continue, we'll do it again, you know, in a few months. But if you get a chance, actually, I'm not even gonna say if you get a chance, everyone go connect with Brian. The content on LinkedIn is crazy good. The books are amazing. He's my guy. Brian, thanks for being on. As always, I appreciate you. And I hope to see you very soon.

Brian Ahearn:
It was my pleasure, Rick. I look forward to the next time we talk.

Rick:
Thanks everybody for tuning in. I appreciate all of you for listening. I appreciate all the messages I get on LinkedIn. Keep them coming. Make sure we're connected on LinkedIn and give me a direct message. And if you could go subscribe to this podcast wherever you get your podcasts. And if you like it, give me a review. Thanks again to Brian A here and our guest. Go to Amazon to get his books or his website, influencepeople.biz to check out all of the additional content and we'll see you next time.