We've all been there before: You have an outstanding array of insurance products at your fingertips and a strong prospect, which all makes for a seemingly ideal match. But after discussing your prospect's assets, goals, and family's needs, they suddenly balk -- and then start backpedaling. When asked why this is, you hear an oft-cited explanation: Life insurance is not a critical need. Maybe in the future -- but not now.
Overcoming objections is par for the course in the career of a top producer. But when prospects believe life insurance isn't essential -- although evidence strongly suggests otherwise -- what's your next step?
Let's look at six time-tested tactics. Master these six, and you'll enjoy far more success in assisting your clients, and give your career the added octane it just might need.
1. Understand your client's needs
First, a question: Can you summarize your client's key objections to life insurance in one crisp, accurate sentence? The quickest way to lose their confidence is by making ill-informed recommendations regarding policy type, available riders, face amount, and case design.
If you aren't connecting with your client, go back and take a closer look at your initial fact-finding session. Match the right insurance product to your client's specific needs by making sure you've utilized all of your carrier's investigative tools. Be thorough. Leave nothing to guesswork. If you need to, gently probe for more information. Something that once seemed so elementary can often turn out to be the hidden explanation behind a client's disappointing "no."
You owe it to your client, yourself, your employer, and the carrier to understand your client's needs. Remember: If you don't adequately document your client's assets, liabilities, income, expenses, marital status, and family circumstances, you may be opening the door to client disappointments and carrier delays, putting your relationships at risk.
2. Build trust and confidence
Thorough fact-finding lays the groundwork for a strong client-producer relationship. Build trust by avoiding the hard sell and conveying to your client that they are more than just a number.
To develop genuine rapport, listen to your client's every word. Watch for nonverbal gestures, which speak volumes. Ask yourself: What is this client trying to communicate about their needs that I might not realize -- perhaps because the client is not being forthcoming? When you can speak to your clients' stated and unstated needs, concerns, and aspirations, you can deepen the professional bond and go a long way toward overcoming lingering objections.
Try to make your presentation in your client's home. Studies consistently show that such a casual, disarming venue is most conducive to deepening trust and enhancing communication.
Be in the moment with your client; active listening is key.
3. Be concrete and specific
It can be far more persuasive to provide your client with concrete, specific, and measurable evidence that they need life insurance, rather than serving up bland generalities and boilerplate material. Just as a picture is worth a thousand words, you can help overcome your client's objections by providing a detailed financial snapshot that clearly captures their assets, goals, and financial exposures while also highlighting the likely rewards of life insurance -- and the risks of going uninsured. In other words, present customized solutions that meet your client's individual needs.
4. Provide compelling narratives
At its core, life insurance is simply a promise. It's not just about numbers -- it's about our frailty as humans and our responsibilities to our loved ones. When we ask clients to reflect on their mortality, it can be one of the most sobering requests they will ever receive. We need to be mindful of that every single day.
Where facts and figures often fail, personal narratives can go a long way toward underscoring the message that life insurance is a critical need. So, when speaking to your client, try to reference stories of people -- both insured and uninsured -- from your client's own walk of life.
For example, a client who is also a parent will be far more swayed by the story of a young mother who secured life insurance just seven months before her diagnosis of terminal cancer, than by a sterile pie chart that shows mortality aggregates. Where numbers fail, the human element often compels.
5. Think customer service
Always be available and eager to serve. Whether your client is an on-the-go executive and mother of triplets or an overwhelmed CPA who cares for his ailing father at home, gladly adjust your schedule to accommodate their needs. It's important to be available when it's convenient for your client and to be aware of your client's preferred learning style. If they are visual learners, a video-based presentation will more effectively overcome objections. Likewise, if they are more quantitative, use facts and figures to underscore your central message: Life insurance is indeed a critical need.
Serve your clients first, last, and always. Everything else will take care of itself.
6. Get answers and solve problems
Even the industry's most acclaimed producers don't have all the answers. It is incumbent upon you to ensure that your client understands what you are recommending in terms of products; your discussions should be supplemented with additional resources as needed. Email a key article from a trade publication, respected personal finance magazine, or daily newspaper. Send a link to a website, place a call to a third party for additional information, or fax requested FAQs that same day. Answer questions in full, but avoid overwhelming clients. Less is often more.
As your career progresses, you will be called upon to resolve a host of challenging issues. Learning how to effectively overcome the belief that life insurance is not a critical need is central to your client's well-being and to your own success. When you place yourself in your client's shoes and address their needs in an effective, professional manner, you create the ultimate win-win.
David O'Leary is the executive vice president and chief operating officer of American General Life Companies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 713-522-1111.