10 Key Insights for Landing the Annuity Sale

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An important part of your job as a financial professional is educating the public on the value of annuities and the ways they can contribute to a financially secure retirement. I feel that once you start that initial conversation, you’ll find that most people are receptive and ready to hear more. Here are ten insights that can help you catch the attention of annuity buyers and ultimately close the sale.

1. Understand Current Trends 

A clear view of current trends in the retirement and annuity landscape will take you a long way toward finding and closing an annuity sale. Being on the forefront of changing views and circumstances lets you determine how best to navigate the waters and perfect your approach with current and prospective clients.

For example, a big focus today is the need for guaranteed income in retirement. With fewer company pension plans and increasing life expectancy, retirees face a growing gap between income they can count on and expenses they expect to face after they stop working. Annuities can offer predictability, no direct downside market risk, and the potential for guaranteed income — attractive benefits to clients searching for ways to leverage assets and build a more stable and quality future.

2. Rethink Retirement

After the 2008 market crash, many Americans found that their financial foundations were not as sturdy as they once thought. With risks like longevity and inflation affecting the retirement income calculation, many consumers are looking for ways to supplement their income, accumulate assets and cover basic living expenses in the future.

Many pre-retirees may be looking for greater long-term financial security and accumulation. According to a report, nearly half of all annuity purchasers are now under the age of 60.1 This group is often proactive in researching solutions and products and commonly seeks out guidance. Nearly 50% of all traditional fixed annuity buyers and 45% of all fixed indexed annuity buyers initiated the sales process themselves.1

3. Sharpen Your Prospecting Hook

In today’s highly competitive business world, you need a great hook to capture a prospect’s attention. A successful pitch does not include anything about your practice or services. It focuses on the potential clients and addresses a problem they may be facing. You are not pitching a product just yet; you want to get your prospects thinking about their goals and concerns and to spark interest in why they should speak to you. For instance, the question, “Do you have enough money saved to be financially secure for life after you retire?” can get the wheels turning and be a great catalyst to starting the conversation about the benefits and features of an annuity.

4. Don’t Over Think It

Prior studies have demonstrated that purchasers of annuities would be very likely to purchase another annuity IF they were approached by their financial professional. Don’t over think it and risk missing the obvious. Many times financial professionals neglect to ask a policy owner if they would like to add to an existing policy or learn about a new type of annuity benefit offered in the marketplace. Also, I firmly believe that you should never be afraid to ask for referrals. You will want to avoid being nonspecific by asking them if they know “anybody” who might benefit from the same services. Rather, keep it simple for them and narrow the scope.

5. Master the Conversation

Listen more, talk less. Sounds simple, but being an active listener can be challenging. A successful sales relationship hinges on your personal relationship with the customer, so it’s imperative to take time to build trust and a positive rapport before jumping into any detailed discussion.

Make sure you clearly hear all your clients’ goals and objectives. For instance, do they want to protect what they have, be assured a guaranteed income flow in retirement, or pass money on to their beneficiaries?  Or, do they want access to multiple investment options, have full market exposure to have the highest growth potential, or complete liquidity? You will be able to answer these questions by actively listening during your initial fact finding meetings and are able to create a financial snapshot for each individual through their input, thoughts and concerns.

6. Bust the Myths

You most likely have come across misconceptions and misunderstandings when discussing annuities with your clients. These myths often get in the way of a sale and it’s important to dispel any fallacies head-on with proper communication and clear explanations. Some people feel annuities are too complicated and contain hidden fees and charges. You may also encounter beliefs that annuities may not be tax efficient, are illiquid, or are simply not safe. It is your responsibility to help educate each individual, because well-informed clients are confident clients and will often be more satisfied with their decisions.

7. Sell Solutions, Not Products

Most customers respond to problem resolution or how a solution can meet needs and provide benefits. For example, while some annuities offer no direct downside market risk to your money and the opportunity to create guaranteed income for life, it can be more effective to set the stage in relatable terms. If your clients are concerned about losing money due to a potentially unstable market or afraid they may outlive their savings when they reach retirement, you can show a solution that provides peace of mind and no direct downside market risk, while offering an opportunity to grow their assets. Show how supplementing a retirement plan with an annuity can help them in a language they can understand and that feels personal to their situation.

8. Assess Client Experience

An important key to expanding your annuity business and your practice in general is to understand your current customer base and why they continue to rely on your expertise and advice. This can be accomplished with a simple survey, but a conversation can be even more informative. The feedback you should collect includes how current clients view your relationship, how they felt you listened and helped map out a plan, as well as what they think of the performance of their portfolio. It will also be beneficial to cover their opinions of your marketing techniques, communication frequency and approach, and the types of products and services you offer that meet retirement goals. Gaining insight into their views will help you pinpoint what is most valuable about you and your business, and perhaps suggest habits you need to revise.

9. Understand Customer Behavior

While each person is different, getting in the mind of the average customer can help you be a more successful and effective professional. One important aspect of many consumers today is they like to explore a topic before making a decision. Whether it be by reading information online or speaking to friends and family, know that many clients will want to have an active role in their education and decision-making.

Customers will also make decisions based on comfort. This means painting a clear, personal picture for each client that shows their issues and goals, their options, and the solution each option could produce. Mapping out information and showing how an annuity can meet various needs can create the framework necessary for clients to make educated decisions.

10. Fine-Tune Your Marketing

Growing your business and improving brand awareness takes effort and marketing yourself effectively will give you an edge in the marketplace. It’s helpful to know who your most probable annuity clients are so you can customize your approach and fine-tune your message. Professionals who sell the most in the fixed indexed annuity arena identify consumers with medium-risk-tolerance between the ages of 50 and 59. Many high-volume sellers commonly have clients who use other retirement sources such as savings, money market accounts, CDs and bonds. The seller’s prospective annuity clients may also need a known income stream, want a guaranteed rate of return, income tax deferral, or death benefit for beneficiaries. Successful annuity marketers know their customer base, understand the need, and whether an annuity is the right tool to solve the problem.

1 U.S. Deferred Annuity Buyer Attitudes and Behaviors, LIMRA, June 2012.

Rod Mims is SVP National Sales Manager at Athene. He is a results driven business leader with 25 years of sales and sales leadership experience at several financial service organizations, with broad distribution experience including Independent Marketing Organizations, bank, wirehouse and independent broker/dealers.

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