STOP Doing These Four Things…If You Want to Continue Selling Life Insurance

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You cannot continue selling life insurance in the same manner you’ve relied on for so long. Our client and prospect base is changing rapidly. Social media, three-second attention spans and two generations growing up in an exclusively digital world have put an end to business as usual. Our industry might be reluctant to change, but if you’d like to survive in this business, you’ll need to adapt to the trends that are changing the way people buy.

Here are four ways to begin:

1. Stop communicating to people with the ways you’d prefer.

The average age of an insurance agent is 58. How close in age are you to that number? The closer the proximity, the higher the probability that you’re not getting your communications correct. It’s time to rethink the “across the kitchen table” and “at my office” mindset, and start communicating with clients and prospects with the methods they’d prefer.

While it’s true that most people still prefer to speak with an agent or advisor in person or over the phone, that trend is changing. For those younger than age 45, more than half (51%) favor contact via email, 19% are open to video conferences and 14% would like to communicate via text message, according to the 2014 Insurance Barometer Study by Life Happens and LIMRA. If communicating via these media outlets doesn’t come naturally to you, then it’s time to reach out for help.

2. Stop using technical jargon.

Our industry is mired in technological terms. Terms such as “death benefit” and “premium” are as natural to we professionals as breathing, but most laypeople aren’t familiar with them. The recent “Get Real Already” LIMRA study found that nearly three-quarters of those surveyed could not define “permanent life insurance” or “underwriting,” while two-thirds were unsure of the terms “rider,” “guarantees,” “living benefit” and “annuity.”

Furthermore, this study indicates there are nearly 19 million “stuck shoppers” in the U.S. — those who understand the benefit of life insurance and who are willing to buy, but have somehow gotten stuck in the buying process. LIMRA found that a key factor in the stuck shopper dilemma was a lack of authentic communication. Consumers aren’t going to buy if they’re not comfortable. Instead, we need to use everyday language that puts people at ease and paints a positive picture for them. The LIMRA study says that doing this for clients acts “as a confidence builder; and, as their confidence rises, their comfort level grows.”

3.  Stop being a social media snob.

You should be using social media. You can probably come up with 100 excuses for why you don’t need to, but with two billion people using these outlets — from Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn — it just makes sense.

Social media can help you on two fronts: client retention and acquisition. First, it can help you strengthen the relationships you have with current clients when you interact with them on these platforms — just view them as extensions of the communication tools you already use, like email and phone calls. In fact, in a recent Accenture report, “How Tech-Savvy Advisors Can Regain Investor Trust,” 77% of respondents said that social media has helped them with client retention. Additionally, 61% of advisors queried in a 2011 HubSpot survey entitled “Social Media Impact on Revenue & Business Value — 8 Statistics From Financial Services,” said that they’ve landed new clients from Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter social media efforts.

Life Happens is a great resource to rely on as you start or grow your social networks, as it publishes more than 2,500 posts each year throughout all of its networks. It’s easy to follow Life Happens on its social properties and then simply share what you think your friends and followers would like to see, giving you instant content. You can access all Life Happens social media properties at www.lifehappens.org/socialmedia.

4. Stop using numbers (whenever possible).

We work in an industry steeped in numbers, and as a collective group, we respond well to statistics and percentages; however, most people don’t respond to numbers this way, and we need to recognize it. It’s time to start using stories instead. Explaining life insurance in terms of numbers doesn’t work, or at least, not very effectively. What you need to do first is to get the person emotionally engaged with a compelling story.

Life Happens has been telling realLifestories since its inception 20 years ago. These stories highlight families and businesses that, with the help of their agent or advisor, did the proper planning and therefore had life insurance in place when the unthinkable happened. We’ve always known these stories were powerful, but we’ve recently been able to prove it. By way of an independent survey, Life Happens found that people who watched the 30-second versions of these realLifestories videos as online ads were 57% more likely to consider purchasing life insurance than those who hadn’t seen the videos. This is the power of storytelling.

And just one more: Forget about No. 4 when it comes to educating clients on cost.

There is one place where a few numbers will make a big difference, and that’s cost. When we conducted our most recent Insurance Barometer Study, we found that 80% of people overestimated the cost of life insurance. One-quarter of respondents thought the price for a $250,000 term policy (that would cost $150 per year) would be at least $1,000 annually and those younger than age 25 overestimated its cost by 10 times.

If people perceive life insurance as something that’s not affordable, they’re never going to purchase it. Going back to storytelling, here’s a great realLIFE story that combines the power of life insurance with the reality of how affordable it is.

Summer was just 22, working full-time as a waitress in addition to attending college full time. She purchased a policy for just $12 a month to protect her son. Tragically, this single mom was hit by a car and killed while walking, but her life insurance ensured her son would be OK financially. You can share her story with prospects and clients at www.lifehappens.org/stokes.

Our client and prospect base is changing rapidly as technology and social media alter the communications landscape. We need to adapt and ensure we are staying in touch with our clients and reaching the upcoming generations who need our products now more than ever.


Marvin H. Feldman, CLU, ChFC, RFC, is president of the Feldman Financial Group in Clearwater, FL., and president and CEO of Life Happens in Arlington, VA. He is a 40-year Million Dollar Round Table member and was the 2002 president. He is a 32-year member of the MDRT Top of the Table and a past Top of the Table chairman. He was also the recipient of the 2011 John Newton Russell award, the highest honor the insurance industry bestows on an individual.

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