Improve Your Customer Service with the Soft Skill of Negotiation

You may have a similar level of experience and variety of products in your portfolio, so why should a client choose you over the other guy? Your excellent soft skill of negotiation!

When you hear the word “negotiation,” you might think of high-pressure situations, like country leaders brokering a trade deal, or negative connotations, like a seedy businessman manipulating a dishonest deal. But negotiation, when done well, can be a very useful soft skill in your everyday life as an insurance agent.

To hear the full episode and learn more about negotiation, listen here:

What Are Soft Skills?

You might not be familiar with the term ”soft skills,” but they refer to a set of personal qualities, behaviors, and social philosophies that enable you to interact effectively and harmoniously with others. Synonyms include “people skills” and “emotional intelligence.” Possessing good soft skills is the key to providing excellent customer service.

A strong connection and sense of trust can be the deciding factor when choosing an insurance agent. Building soft skills really sets you apart from your competitors. Another agent might have a versatile portfolio and a great sales pitch, but they might lack the soft skills of active listening and patience that seal the deal.

Possessing good soft skills is the key to providing excellent customer service.

Examples of soft skills that will play an important role in your customer service include:

  • Empathy
  • Active listening
  • Clear verbal & written communication
  • Adaptability
  • Patience
  • Negotiation

Improving soft skills won’t only help with clients, but it will also improve your rapport with colleagues, community members, family, and friends.

Putting aside assumptions about country leaders and seedy businessmen, negotiation is simply a strategic discussion aimed at resolving an issue or reaching an agreement that both parties find acceptable. Sounds like what you already do in client appointments, right? It may seem straightforward on the outside, but negotiation has many steps to it.

Four Steps to Successful Negotiation

Although we can approach negotiation in lots of different ways, here are the four major steps to take for a successful interaction.

1. Prepare

First, gather information about the other party and prepare your goal and approach.

Before your scheduled meeting, learn as much about the client or potential client’s needs and lifestyle. If it’s your first appointment with them, this part may happen at the beginning of your initial meeting. That’s OK. Ask clients to fill out an intake form or have a list of questions you’d like to cover during the beginning of the first appointment. Start considering which plans might be the best option prior to meeting.

Additionally, go into every appointment with a structure and strategy, and include negotiation as part of that strategy. Establishing a process to follow beforehand will help you achieve your goal of finding coverage that fits the individual’s needs and make a sale. It may sound silly, but write down an outline of the appointment (or utilize a template you generally use). Not only will this help you seem more polished and professional, but it will also keep you from forgetting something important.

2. Establish Open Discussion & Trust

Negotiating well requires that you actively listen to and understand the wants and needs of the other party. But before that happens, you need to build rapport and trust with the other person.

Establish a warm and open connection when you first meet a potential client. First impressions go a long way, and if you are genuine in your actions and intentions, it will help build trust and better the chances of a sale.

First impressions go a long way, and if you are genuine in your actions and intentions, it will help build trust and better the chances of a sale.

People want their shopping experiences to feel personal. Remember, it’s not an interrogation; it’s a conversation. Research by Epsilon indicates that 80 percent of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer more personalized experiences.

In Person

When meeting in person, establish trust with certain verbal and nonverbal behaviors. Offer a firm handshake, make eye contact, nod your head when the other person speaks, engage in small talk, and ask questions. Adding these personal cues to an in-person interaction is easy, but when it comes to email or phone calls, it’s more complicated.


If you’re writing an email to someone or calling them on the phone, building rapport is just as vital as it would be in person. In the email, don’t be afraid to throw in an occasional emoji. Don’t go too crazy; keep it professional. A smiley face at the beginning or end of a message can make it seem more personal.

Consider starting the email or text with some small talk, like asking how that person is or what fun things they might have planned for the weekend. Try to remember personal details about them so you can ask follow-up questions next time you see them. If you have trouble remembering details, write them down in a notebook so you can reference it before messaging or meeting with them.

3. Employ a Negotiation Strategy

Once you’ve gathered all the information you need and established trust, it’s time to present some plans you think would be a good fit. We recommend “some plans” for a reason. Enter the concept of the multiple equivalent simulation offer (MESO). Instead of making one offer, utilize the MESO negotiation strategy and make multiple offers with several variables.

This strategy fits perfectly into a sales appointment because coverage is not one size fits all. A client may benefit from different plans in different ways. If you only present one option that has a hard “yes” or “no” answer, your client may feel trapped or pressured to make the “correct” decision when, actually, multiple choices could benefit them.

Using the MESO strategy is more likely to get you the result you want — a sale. By presenting the client with multiple plan options, you give the client the autonomy of choice. It’s important to explain why these options are a good fit; inform your client so they can be confident in making an educated choice.

Using the MESO strategy is more likely to get you the result you want — a sale.

Maybe your client is giving some push back, because they heard about a plan that their buddy Joe has and it works great for him, but as an expert in your field, you know there are plans that are a better fit. That’s where the trust from earlier comes into play. By being open and laying out all the information your client needs to make an educated choice, you appear more trustworthy in their eyes. There’s no hidden agenda; they should know your goal is to find them coverage that works for them.

4. Agree & Implement

Once you’ve mutually reached a decision, it’s important to implement the follow-up steps. How and when does the client enroll? Are there extra steps or meetings that need to be set up? Would they like another appointment to talk about ancillary products? Taking action to follow up shows that you value your client, once again strengthening trust between the parties.

Make sure your client is clear on the steps you plan to take and any follow-up actions or communications (e.g., “Just wanted to let you know that your new OTC benefits card is in the mail!”). If you haven’t mutually reached a decision and they want some time to decide, be sure to schedule a follow-up appointment or call. You don’t want to have the client leave without setting up a time to touch base again.

High-Quality Customer Service

Negotiation plays a huge role in providing a high level of customer service to your clients, but the plan choice is ultimately the client’s decision. Your job is to guide and present them with the vital information they need to make an informed decision. Negotiation isn’t about who is the loudest in the room, it’s about finding a solution that both parties agree on and benefit from.

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You’re not alone when it comes to your preparation and sales strategy. Here at Ritter Insurance Marketing, our staff is always ready and happy to help. Besides our blog, we offer many resources to agents, like free eBooks and guides, The Ultimate Agent Resource List, ASG Podcast, and our educational web series, Knight School. On top of that, when you register with us for free, you’ll receive personalized support and access to powerful technology.

Editor’s Note: This post is based on an episode from our ASG Podcast. We have modified content from the original recording. To listen to the full episode, visit

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