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Remember the power of life insurance to power your sales

By Jim Ruta | March 31 2015 10:00AM
The stigma of selling life insurance stops me from doing more of it. How can I get over it?

Doctor Ruta here. From your symptoms, I believe you are suffering from SOS - the Shame of Selling life insurance. It’s a serious condition that not only impacts your ability to earn an income but also affects your community. When you have life insurance SOS, everyone suffers.

This condition has affected the life insurance business for many years. When no one wants to sell life insurance, too few people buy it. That leads to those ten terrible words we see too frequently at the end of obituaries, that gut-wrenching phrase that proves life insurance SOS is alive and well – “A trust fund has been set up for the children”.

It’s a financial services industry thing really. Life insurance advisors “invented” the financial planning industry only about 30 years ago in the US. While I don’t question the sincerity of the founders, I believe they were motivated in part because of life insurance SOS.

The life business has been in demise ever since. The trouble is that the basic problem doesn’t go away because you hung a new moniker on it. You just bury it.

I have no dispute with financial planning or financial planners. It’s all good. I’m just concerned about the marginalization of life insurance selling to the detriment of consumers. I made this point at “The Financial Show” in Toronto recently and got strong consumer support. Consumers know life insurance is necessary. They want the opportunity buy it too. The story of the value of life insurance needs to be told regularly if we want Millennials and others to be connected to it.

The good news is that you can inoculate yourself from life insurance SOS. Before it becomes chronic, research the stories of those whose families have been saved – literally saved – because of life insurance coming to the rescue. Find a way to be on hand when a proceeds cheque is delivered to a widow and orphans. See their relief as they realize they will survive.

Then, look around to see the impact of no insurance on survivors. Watch for lost hope and the compromises that have to be made. The fear.

Life insurance does not replace a loved one. But as my daughter told me when her mother died unexpectedly, it made the most terrible of days, less terrible – survivable. There was hope. There’s no quantifying that value. You’ll discover, as I did personally, that families really do ask “Will we be OK?” In her case, it was just an hour later.

Proper life insurance saves families – real people. Professional life insurance advisors are lifesavers. You can be a life and lifestyle saver when you sell life insurance.

Remember this any time your life insurance SOS flares up to minimize the symptoms and dramatically reduce their severity. Do it often enough and you will build up an immunity to it and cure life insurance SOS. When you cure it, everyone will get better. This is why we call life insurance selling a noble business. It’s not just for you.


Usually, when I leave a message for a prospect to call me back, I wait forever. Then it’s awkward to call again and keep the ball rolling. Is there a better way?

There is. Always “retain the contact initiative” in client and prospect communication. When you do, you maintain control of the relationship and can make things happen. If you hand off the initiative like you do with a message for a call back, you give up control and lose the initiative.

As the instigator of the client relationship, management of the relationship is up to you anyway. Don’t abdicate that responsibility with weak messages. Retaining the contact initiative means leaving yourself the option of calling back, writing back or dropping in again on your schedule and your convenience. You don’t want to set yourself up to wait for them to remember to call you, find your number or address, remember why you were calling, prepare for the call and then execute. It’s expecting a lot from someone without your motivation for the contact.

So, be very careful in your contact management because it’s very easy to lose the initiative. It’s not so easy to get it back. I believe losing the initiative comes from an over-developed and unnecessary sense of politeness. It seems like the right thing to do – call and leave a message and wait. Perfect, right? Not so much.

Calling someone and leaving a message saying that you called and leaving a call back number is just asking for trouble. “Hi Bob, it’s Jim Ruta. Please call me back at 905.333.8882” is like the kiss of client contact death. Never leave the ball in their court if it’s important to you to keep the ball rolling. Doing that irretrievably hands them the initiative. Then, all you can do sensibly is wait.

You have to wait for them to want to call and then decide to call. Contact becomes up to their schedule and interest. You can wait for a very long time, just because you’re not in control.

And you’re right, following up after you’ve asked them to call, makes you look needy or forgetful.

There’s no reason for it. You can make polite contact and still retain the contact initiative. In fact, it works great that way. “Hello, Jim Ruta calling for Bob Smith, is he available? No? Would you please tell him that Jim Ruta called? Thank you. May I ask when would be a good time to call back and reach him? OK, I’ll try then… in the meantime, if Bob gets the chance, he can call me at 905.333.8882. But. I’ll try again.”

This way the prospect may call you but you can call too. You’ve retained the initiative. When pressed for a message say, “I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to be reached on my cell in the next few hours, I’ll just call back. When do you think it would be the best?”

Do the same on email too. Keep client or prospect contact on your To-Do List and don’t transfer it to theirs. You’ll retain the client contact initiative. It’s a key skill to develop for advisor excellence.

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