Back to the Basics of Selling

As limra’s technology research director, I spend a lot of time looking at how the industry could better leverage technology—in particular, social media and mobile technology—to grow our business. With life insurance ownership in the U.S. At an all-time low, it is vital we break through and reach these uninsured or underinsured Americans. The fact is, more than two-thirds of Americans actively use social media. And, more often than not, it is through a mobile device. It is important that we communicate on the platforms that people are using. Can you imagine relying on faxes—like we did years ago—in this day and age?

People assumed that when limra suggests that companies leverage social media and mobile devices to increase field productivity and to reach the consumer directly, that we were suggesting that the messages we communicate should change. Based on our research, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

According to limra’s research, the “life triggers” that propelled consumers to purchase life insurance remain the same—like starting a business, having or adopting a baby, changing marital status or buying a home.

And while many Americans gather their news and information using the Internet, three-quarters of Americans who bought life insurance over the past two years did so because a sales professional met with them face-to-face. But how do you get to that face-to-face meeting?

Consistently, our research has shown that most people are more likely to purchase life insurance if they are referred by a friend or family member. Yet, in our 2011 Life Insurance Buyer/Nonbuyer study, half of consumers who shopped for life insurance said they were willing to give a referral but nearly a third were never asked. This is the difference between getting to a new client or not.

Once a producer is in front of them, our newest data suggest that if there is a Needs analysis presented, three quarters of the people will buy life insurance. Not only are they more likely to buy, but on average they buy about twice as much. Yet, nearly six in 10 consumers who met with a producer in the past two years didn’t get a needs’ analysis.

Beyond the basics of selling, there is an inherent trust issue between consumers and producers and the companies they represent. Consumers are very wary of producers and the process—avoiding it if at all possible. Overall confusion and lack of trust are the biggest reasons. Once they meet with a professional, 73 percent end up buying life insurance. Why? Those we surveyed said they bought because they trusted their agent/advisor. So the key is getting producers to engage and to build trust.

Limra’s research reveals that there are specific things that producers can do to build that trust.

I like to call it the three tenets of “Behavior Economics”:

• Listen—Do a thorough job of factfinding—find out who your customers are and know their goals and dreams.

• Teach—Sit down and, in a simple manner, explain the products—avoid using industry terms—show them which products would be best for them. Give them three choices: good, better or best.

• Become a trusted advisor—Develop ongoing relationships with your customers—keep in touch and periodically review their financial plans with them to ensure they are up-to-date on what they need.

At its core, our industry’s purpose is to help people attain financial security and I believe we can make a difference. Today’s increasingly complex financial marketplace requires consumers to be more financially savvy and our industry must do more than sell—we must educate and motivate.

Todd A. Silverhart, Ph.D., Corporate vice president and director, LIMRA Technology in Marketing and Distribution Research and Markets Research, is responsible for directing LIMRA’s technology research program and its markets research program.



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