by Allan D. Gersten

What’s next after you’ve identified a life insurance prospect and found a life product that fits their needs? All too often, advisors drop the ball by expecting the client’s positive response to their proposal. “I need to think about this,” says the client. “I really wasn’t prepared for that size premium.” More often than not, it takes a hard-hitting message to help clients meet their challenges. The message may be disturbing, but it will never be nearly as distressing as failing to do our very best for every client.

Sometimes a sale seems to slip away even after the client acknowledges the need for the coverage and recognizes the benefits of the proposal. Why is it happening? What’s needed is a hard-hitting message that captures the essence and benefits of accepting your advice. And that’s what prospects are looking for. If they don’t find it, they don’t buy.

If you think it’s easier said than done, you’re right. It takes skill and insight. Some years ago, an associate raised funds for a history museum sponsored by a large fraternal group. Most prospects lived in distant states and would probably never visit the facility. Using direct mail, prospective donors were offered an elegant medal to be presented personally by the organization’s head, plus their sculptured likenesses permanently displayed in the museum. A goal of 25 was set. However, in a brief time, 72 were subscribed at $100,000 each.

The sales task is always the same — capturing the client’s imagination. What skills are needed to inspire clients to take positive action on a solution? A thoughtful give-and-take between advisor and client is necessary before the client can make a positive decision. Today’s life insurance buyers expect to participate in developing the most appropriate buying decision. But, as every advisor knows, the discussion can go far afield and become counterproductive. That’s why the advisor must keep the process on track so that it achieves a positive resolution with the client fully appreciating the benefits.

Advisors must separate themselves from competitors by bringing clients a fresh perspective that captures their attention. Listening and relating with the client are critical, and can be important in understanding clients’ make up and the values that can motivate action. To action. Here are three ways to do this:

Relating and Understanding

Probing questions can stimulate client’s insight, bringing meaning, focus, and clarity to the discussion. It takes hitting a nerve for clients to move forward with a sale. Few salespeople seem to recognize that this process is essential in working with each and every client.

Teaching and Adjusting the Presentation for Each Client

It takes a special ability to be objective in laying out the problem and solution for clients in a way that’s sensitive and relates to their needs, position, and viewpoints and allows them to embrace the solution. Advisors who develop this skill will separate themselves from the average life insurance salesperson.

Be Direct and Control the Discussion

The advisor needs to stay focused on the objective throughout the discussion. Using professionalism and guiding the interview with an even hand are what it takes to achieve a successful result.

It is important to be comfortable addressing a client’s economic and financial views. This may be the most difficult task of all for advisors since it deals with attitudes that many avoid out of fear of upsetting and possibly alienating clients.

It’s only natural that many clients are cautious or even pessimistic about the economic picture. Advisors should point out the other side of the coin: there has been economic growth, a soaring stock market, and an improving employment picture. Disneyworld is more popular than ever; new cars are flying out dealers’ doors; and the market for luxury items has never been stronger. The cup is more than half-full!

But the same cup can also be viewed as half-empty, which is why it’s essential to call attention to underlying uncertainties. This includes factors, such as the escalating national debt, low interest rates, higher taxes on dividends and interest, and higher living costs. These factors have a punishing effect on savers and retirees, as well as workers, business people, and investors.

It may not be pleasant to raise these issues with clients who are looking for good news. But, the client will have difficulty recognizing the need for conservative investments to save money and shore up family security unless they come to terms with a volatile monetary and fiscal environment, potential inflationary pressures, and mounting municipal and state deficits.

The Best Way to Approach and Solve a Client’s Problems

Discussing real world issues with clients helps them recognize that, like it or not, this is the environment in which they live and work — the one in which they will retire. And more than anything else, the one in which they want financial security for their family.

Out of all this comes the opportunity to focus on a client’s problems. These might include the following:

• Spousal income, family legacy planning

• Estate planning liquidity, asset diversification

• Business continuity planning

• Key person benefit planning and executive planning

• Loss of income or disability and long-term care needs planning Taking each issue separately, go to the next step by having discussion with the client this discussion:

• Is the need or problem short-term or long-term? What are the potential results of allowing the problem to exist?

• What has been done to begin to address the need? The information can sometimes be used as a lever to move into complete solutions.

• What are the results of actions taken thus far? Talk about cost of not taking a full or improved solution. What is the cost do not having a full solution? The next step is finding the funds to meet the various needs. Everyone involved should participate to obtain a commitment and buy in so that a client is on the way to achieving family and personal financial security. Advisors often unintentionally short-change clients by failing to engage them enough so that they fully comprehend the problems facing them and the value of the solutions required to overcome them.


Allan D. Gersten, CLU, CFP, ChFC, is chairman of First American Insurance Underwriters, Inc., an insurance brokerage that specializes in supporting agents in all 50 states with life insurance, longc term-care, and annuity products from more than 30 insurance companies. Gersten has been in life insurance sales since 1969 and can be reached at 800-444-8715 or