Some soft skills to drive hard dollars

By Jim Ruta | May 13 2014 03:09PM

Are there any “tricks of the trade” that can help me be a more effective life insurance agent?The best sales people know the practical rules that help them build better relationships with people. The rules have nothing to do with technical competence. They are good business manners that help you subtly influence people.

These simple rules still help me. I know they can help you.

1. People usually forget almost everything about your meeting except how they felt when you were there. They may forget your name and the products they bought. But, they will always remember if they felt good when you were there.

2. Don’t park in their driveway or in front of their business. Smart agents park on the street or away from the good spot in their parking lot. Stay out of the way and make it easier for other guests (or customers) to come and go.

3. Set appointments on the quarter hour. It automatically sounds like you won’t be there so long so it’s easier to accept. It’s also easier to remember.

4. Plan to be early for appointments. That way, when you are late, you can still be on time. Tardiness is a subconscious deal-breaker for many prospects. It speaks to trustworthiness. If you are unavoidably late, be sure to call well in advance.

5. Confirm appointments but help clients save face if they’ve forgotten. Call much earlier and say, “It looks like I may be 5 minutes late for our appointment at 2:00 pm today. Is that still OK?” With today’s traffic, five minutes is reasonable so that won’t harm you but you are really reminding them that you are coming.

6. Dress better than your usual client or prospect. Research today says that unless you are wearing the expected “uniform”, you and your advice won’t be as well accepted.

7. Sit across a corner not directly across a table from your prospect. Show you are “with them” not “against them”.

8. Conduct home sales meetings where they eat. That’s where families make big decisions.

9. At the beginning of meetings ask: “Obviously you had a reason for agreeing to meet with me today. Would you mind telling me what it is?” You get their top priority this way.

10. Leave appointments sooner than you could have. Staying too long makes you look needy.

11. “You can’t fool kids and dogs.” Be friendly with them. People love that. They’ll love you.

12. If you want clients to be enthusiastic about your product, you have to be enthusiastic. If you want them to feel urgency, convey urgency in your demeanor and presentation.

13. To impress a client, do something special for their children or spouse. This makes clients feel good and look good.

14. People take account of your shoes. Keep them clean and shined and you’ll impress more.

Think this is “hokey”? That’s the last rule. Hokey always works. These rules are the practical application of emotional intelligence. Follow them and you’ll be more successful.

How do I handle basic life insurance protection if that’s all a prospect wants?

Life insurance planning is just balancing the economic losses experienced by beneficiaries by the loss of an income. We give it fancy names like “risk management” or “estate planning” but it’s actually simple. Protect basic life insurance needs, and most Canadians will be better off than they are.

Life insurance covers three main estate cash needs. Cover them and consumers eliminate that gnawing worry that their affairs are not in order. You give them greater peace of mind. “Peace of mind is quality of life”. Here are the three basic needs:

1. Everyone should have as much permanent insurance as they will need to pay Final Expenses when they die – there is no cheaper way to pay for them: Funeral costs are usually first on this list. Don’t be fooled into believing that’s a $10,000 event either. Personal experience shows it reasonably costs twice that amount. Unpaid income taxes are before anyone else gets anything. Other expenses include legal, accounting and probate fees. They can be substantial depending on the size of the non-insurance value of the estate. Unpaid medical or long-term care costs can also add up. Factor these in with your prospects help. And, if they don’t plan on dying soon, inflation-adjust this sum for the permanent coverage they will need when they actually expect to die. If that’s 30 years hence, their actual final expenses due to inflation will be several times today’s total.

2. No financial obligation should last longer than the person who created it. Clients can choose to bury any or all of their financial obligations along with them. Include the ones they choose.

3. Capitalized Survivors’ Income. The greatest financial loss is the loss of family income at death. Most families need all of the lost income to maintain their standard of living. Despite all the planning formulas, a good rule of thumb is seven to ten times gross income to provide this fund. For a $100,000 income, buy $1 Million of coverage. This accounts for most possibilities.

There are four “optional” life insurance fund possibilities to suggest. Consumers can account for their “RRSP Income Tax Liability” on death so they can leave a bigger family legacy. The nobility in their family can start with them. They may create an “Emergency Fund” of six to twelve months income to pay for large unforeseen household expenses. Some people add a “Children’s Educational Fund” to cover post-secondary education or opportunities. Finally, a “Charitable Bequest Fund” helps those who want a community legacy.

Consider yourself an “Estate Fund Options” broker. Present options for prospects to consider. Let them choose their needs and then help them fund it with Life insurance.

Clients will always be wrong about the amount they buy. No one knows the day of need. They can either be wrong so their survivors have too much money or wrong so that they have too little money. They can choose what sort of ancestor they are. (Ask me for my simple one page Estate Funding Questionnaire if you need one.)