2011 Life Insurance Market Survey: Power over Procrastination

Everyone procrastinates on something in their lives: the dishes you set in the sink to wash later, the faucet that’s a little drippy, the car that was due for an oil change a few hundred miles ago. But while failing to unload the dishwasher won’t cause you too much trouble, saying “I’ll do it later” when it comes to purchasing life insurance could make a world of difference.

Of course, we don’t need to tell you that. According to ASJ’s 2011 Life Insurance study, however, your clients do need to hear this message: 54 percent of agents reported that client procrastination was their biggest challenge when it comes to selling life insurance. We spoke with several life insurance agents and experts and came up with six ways to overcome this, the No. 1 objection to selling life insurance.

1. Share real stories.


Helen Hogan, a financial advisor with Sunset Financial Services in New Jersey, said one of the best ways to show people the value of life insurance is to give them an example of someone who’s been affected by it — or someone who needed it and didn’t have it.

“I’ll share a story about someone who died healthy and died young, even died suddenly,” she said. “Believe it or not, people don’t think they’re going to die.”

By sharing real stories, it helps to show that death is a possibility — no matter how young and healthy the client is. It also shows the real difference having life insurance can make, and how that policy can protect the beneficiaries

2. Run the numbers.

Joe Templin, managing director of Unique Minds Consulting Group, said he hears many recent graduates say they just want to have fun with their money for the first few month after their graduation, then they’ll commit to insurance. But Templin knows there’s no better time for someone to purchase life insurance than when they’re young and healthy, so he might try a fun response to an objection like that.
“Right now you are used to eating Ramen and drinking bad beer, so don’t update your lifestyle too much and get on the right track,” he might say to a young prospect.

Hogan works with younger clients, as well, and she constantly reminds them that insurance is the least expensive when they’re young and healthy.

“What I’ve done with younger folks is show them a million dollar policy, and then I’ll add 15 years to it and the difference is outrageous,” she said. They end up paying so much more over time.”

By simply showing the cost difference in buying now versus buying later, Hogan said, you may be able to close the deal.

3. Get a commitment.

One of the most common phrases that prospects use when procrastinating on a life insurance purchase is, “I need to think it over.” Glenn Stevick, assistant professor of insurance at The American College, said that’s fine. Sometimes this phrase might be a diversion to avoid making a decision, but Stevick said more likely than not the prospect really does need to think it over.

“Maybe the person is very analytical, and they truly do need to think about it,” he said. “They may be concerned with price, not sure they’re getting the best value or have a family member or financial professional they want to speak to.”

Stevick said the first thing you should do in this situation is get to the heart of the matter and find out why the prospect needs time. Get them to be as specific as possible, so you can answer the real objection. If it’s a financial issue, then you can answer that specific concern. But if it’s just time they need, give it — as long as you get a commitment on a time to follow-up.

“Always get a call-back time, a commitment for when it would be all right for you to call them back,” he said. “That way, when you call you can say, ‘When we spoke last time you said you’d be ready to make a decision by Tuesday.’ ”



4. Do your homework.


Thorough fact-finding is part of any insurance agent’s job. But it can also help you overcome the procrastination objection. 

“Nothing like finding out that one of your buddies was killed or almost killed in a car wreck and left two kids with no future to put the fear of God into someone and get them to buy life insurance,” Templin said. “Hopefully this doesn’t happen, because it means there are kids who are going to be behind the financial eight ball.”

But Templin brings up what could be a major asset in life insurance sales. If you know a prospect’s history, particularly what might have interested them in talking to an agent in the first place, you can better understand where they’re coming from.

Hogan makes this kind of personal fact-finding a key part of her sales process. She always asks what prospects want life insurance to do for them, then follows up by asking if people have had any experience with life insurance, whether personal or through a close friend or family member. This usually brings any relevant personal stories to the surface.

“If people were in any way impacted by that person’s life, if they were close enough to see … maybe their cousin had to sell their house. They would have had to see the financial impact of that death, and I think they are more receptive,” she said. “They see the cost that dying can create.” 

5. Talk about the past, not the future.

Agents sometimes ask prospects, “What would your family do if you died tomorrow?” But many people have a hard time considering their own deaths, particularly one that is off in the future. That’s why Hogan and Stevick both ask, “What would your family have done if something happened to you yesterday?”

Hogan said people relate to this question much better than to the tomorrow question, and has found it to be a more effective way to get prospects to open up about the possibility of their death.


6. Watch your words.


Stevick cautions that, as much as people like to buy, they don’t want to be sold to.

“As soon as you come in with that hard closing statement, they know they’re being sold to and they back off,” he said.

At the same time, you have to close at some point, so tread lightly.
Stevick also suggests replacing the word “insurance” with the phrase “risk management” when you’re communicating with prospects.

“Insurance is kind of a dirty word,” he said. “Risk management includes auto insurance, home owner’s insurance, life insurance, a living will. So if I can tell a person what we’re trying to do is set some of the things that would keep you from building wealth aside so that you can start building wealth, that sounds great to them.”

Another benefit of using the risk management approach is that it lumps life insurance in with homeowner’s insurance and auto insurance — products that most people consider necessary and would never think to go without. 

Keeping clients accountable


There are any number of reasons why people delay life insurance purchases. But according to Templin, the main reason that people procrastinate on buying life insurance is that no one is holding them accountable. 

“No one is making the person realize the need,” he said. “It is the sort of thing that a person can say ‘I’ll do it tomorrow,’ and tomorrow becomes five years.”

As agents, it’s your job to hold prospects accountable and help them overcome the temptation to procrastinate. After all, the dishes in the sink eventually pile up, the car oil light eventually flashes and the pipe on the leaky sink eventually bursts. But the only way a prospect will know that it’s time to buy life insurance is if you tell them.  «

Heather Trese is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to the Agent’s Sales Journal. She has written on insurance industry topics for a number of years.


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