How Agents Can Use Stories to Sell Insurance

You’re watching your favorite TV show and a commercial starts, “Did you know that [insert bland statistic]?” Your mind wanders… What do I have in the fridge for lunch today? Suddenly, your attention snaps back to the TV. It’s back to your show — the good stuff.

We love useful stats, but take a minute and think. When is your mind most engaged, not just as you’re watching TV, but during everyday life? Storytelling is a scientifically proven way to invoke logic and emotion, promote active imagination, encourage participation, and inspire action. When done right, it can also be a powerful insurance sales tool.

Your Brain on Stories

Our brains are wired to learn from and respond to storytelling, which makes sense when you consider that humans have been telling stories for about 7,000 to 10,000 years. In fact, research shows how stories can alter neural chemistry and activate seven different regions of the brain at a time (as opposed to the two when you hear data).

Data has its place, and your clients need certain information to make decisions. But when you start telling stories alongside the data, you add a new layer of connection and demonstrate how policies can play out in real life. Emotional responses drive consumers to act, thus increasing the chances of your sales pitch succeeding.

Emotional responses drive consumers to act, thus increasing the chances of your sales pitch succeeding.

Imagine you’re driving down the interstate and pass a billboard for a company advertising a solution to stop smoking. The text reads, “Smoking is linked to 80% of lung cancer deaths.” There’s a close-up picture of a person holding a cigarette and the name of the product.

Now imagine you pass another billboard a few miles down the road advertising a similar product. This one, however, has the text, “Don’t miss the important things,” and a close-up picture of an empty chair at an assembly. You see an image of a graduate crossing a stage in the background.

Which billboard would you feel more drawn to and remember better? We’re guessing the second. Although it doesn’t tell a full-blown story, the implications of the ad do, causing you to insert yourself into the scene, and evoking an emotional reaction.

Authentic Emotional Connection

You might ask, aren’t you just talking about manipulation? No. Marketers certainly do tell stories to manipulate, but what we’re talking about is using meaningful examples to illustrate the importance of insurance products and realistically show how they may play an essential role in your client’s life. We’re not suggesting that you fabricate or exaggerate stories to create an emotional frenzy.

Your mission as an insurance agent is to help your clients find coverage that fits their needs. To truly help someone, you need authentic connection, and that should be your priority when you tell stories. Don’t fall into the trap of playing feelings chess.

To truly help someone, you need authentic connection, and that should be your priority when you tell stories.

We’ll also add that statistics, unfortunately, are used to manipulate audiences just as much as storytelling. Both tools are neutral — it depends on how you use them as to whether they exploit an audience or not. We always encourage ethical selling practices at Ritter, so first and foremost, aim to connect authentically with your clients. Lay a foundation of trust by asking questions and showing genuine interest.

Storytelling for Insurance Agents

Take out that sharpened #2 pencil. It’s time to step back into freshman English and jot down some notes and ideas. Here’s how to incorporate stories into your appointments.


First, you need some stories to tell. If you’ve been in the business for a while, you likely have many stories that could be suitable. If you’re new to the business, consider using personal experiences and those of family and friends. Any example of someone benefiting from the insurance product you’re talking about could work. You could ask your clients for stories of how they’ve used their insurance. Listen, ask questions, and take notes. If you have a mentor or upline, see if they’ll let you use some of their stories until you can gather your own.

If you want to use someone else’s story, make sure you honor anonymity and as a courtesy, ask your client or upline permission before using (e.g., “Your story really moved me, and I think it could help my other clients a lot. Do you mind if I tell it? I won’t use your name.”). Refer to the subjects of your stories as “a client of mine” or “someone I know” and take out specific details, like names of doctors or hospitals.

Choose the Right Context

Now that you have some stories, think about how to best apply them. Have a story about someone using a hospital indemnity plan? Consider using that one while you’re compliantly discussing ancillary products with an MAPD client. What about a story when one of your clients was traveling and easily got care in another city? Perhaps use that one for someone interested in a Medicare Supplement.

Additionally, think about micro-context and how you’ll apply your stories during the appointment, not just what kind of appointments. Perhaps launching into a story directly after exchanging pleasantries isn’t the best strategy. Or, perhaps you do want to start off your presentation with an attention-getting story. Where you place them will depend on your style and personality and the natural flow of the conversation.

Approach storytelling with tact as well. If a client is telling you a story, build on that story with questions and empathy, not cutting in with your own story… “Well, I know a client who…” Such one-upmanship can minimize your client’s contribution and make it seem like you don’t care or aren’t actively listening.

Story one-upmanship can minimize your client’s contribution and make it seem like you don’t care or aren’t actively listening.

Structure Plot in an Arc

Now on to the nitty gritty — the elements of a good story. You likely know them already, even if you haven’t seen them spelled out since high school. Instead of getting into exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution, just remember this limerick when building your story library:

Your client is in disarray,
You equip her to go on her way.
When she meets with some foe,
She fights with gusto,
And you were there to help win the day!

Your client is the hero of the story, and you’re the sage, or guide, helping them along the way with a good insurance policy. They come up against a challenge, defeat it, and then, return home safe and victorious.

More of a visual learner? Follow the form of the classic Freytag’s Pyramid:

Freytag's Pyramid

Your story doesn’t need to be (and shouldn’t be) long, but you need to introduce the character, build the action, reach a climax, relax the action, and resolve and conclude the story. If you dedicate a sentence or two to each, you’ll still only have a five- to 10-sentence story of manageable length. Not only do you want to keep it short for your own sake of remembering it, but you also want to keep it short for the sake of your client’s attention span. This is a no ramble zone.


Now, practice telling your stories. This might seem goofy, but if you want your stories to seem natural, you need to rehearse them. Write them down, read them, subject your spouse or friends to them, tell them to yourself in a mirror — whatever works for you. While you’re at it, practice some closing techniques, too!

Examples of Storytelling to Sell Insurance

Here are three examples of stories. (These are for illustrative purposes only.) Personally, we prefer short and direct stories without a lot of flowery language. A long story with sentences like, “She looked out of the hospital window and wondered whether she’d ever walk again,” are probably a bit over-the-top for your average client. Instead, try to formulate your stories like these examples (with your own personal spin!).

Note, each of these examples have an arc. A sentence or two sets the stage and introduces the characters. The action rises (falls off ladder, contracts illness while traveling, sunset walk). The story climaxes with the hospital stays. Then the action relaxes and resolves as the insurance plan steps in and secures the client’s well-being.

Client Breaks a Hip

I had a client with this Medicare Advantage plan who was recently very glad he bought it. He fell off a ladder while trying to clean out his gutters and broke his hip. When he went to the hospital, the doctors wanted to replace the whole thing. With just Original Medicare, the cost for a hip replacement would have been very expensive for him. Fortunately, this plan kept his out-of-pocket payments within what he could manage. The drug coverage is really good on this plan, too, so he hardly owed anything on his post-surgery prescriptions. He hasn’t owed anything for all the post-surgery physical therapy either. The extra benefits, like the grocery delivery service, have come in handy, since he doesn’t have a lot of family nearby. A couple months after the fall, he called me and told me his story, thanking me for taking the time to find a plan that works well for him.

Client Gets Sick While Traveling

I have another client who likes to travel a lot, too. That’s why I recommended a Medicare Supplement to her, so she could visit any doctor who accepts Medicare while on her trips. It was a good thing she bought one, because when she visited California a few months ago, she ended up in the hospital for four days with an illness. She didn’t have to stop and worry about whether the visit would be in network. She’d already spent a lot on the trip and didn’t have the funds to also pay for an expensive hospital stay. The Med Supp took care of all that. After paying the deductible, she didn’t owe anything. Although she had to modify the rest of her trip a little, to take it at a slower pace, she was able to enjoy what was left of it. This plan really is the Rolls-Royce of plans if you travel a lot. It takes so much of the worry out — great coverage wherever they accept Original Medicare.

Client Gets Hit by a Car

I have a client with this same hospital indemnity plan that recently used it and saved a bunch of money on a hospital stay. He has a Medicare Advantage plan, which is a great plan, with a $0 premium that’s good for his fixed income, but still has that deductible. He was taking a sunset walk around his neighborhood and a driver who didn’t see him hit him. Terrifying ordeal. Fortunately, the driver hadn’t been going very fast and didn’t hit him head on. He was rushed off to the hospital and stayed there quite a while. The hospital indemnity helped relieve the financial burden of the hospital stay and covered the deductible and almost all the out-of-pocket max. He was so thankful he’d decided to pay that little extra each month and didn’t owe this huge chunk while trying to recover. His family was also grateful, since they were able to focus on his recovery and not the bill.

An Agent for Storytelling

Now you’re ready to become a sage to your clients, telling stories to illustrate the importance of the insurance policies you’re selling. As you collect stories, brainstorm appropriate context and structure. Don’t forget to practice! Once equipped with a policy that fits their needs, your clients will be ready to embark as the hero of their own stories.

Need an insurance business sage? Ritter’s ready to guide you with individualized support, resources, and technology. Register with us for free today to get started.

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