Sex, lies and … disability insurance?

The fibs men and women tell others can help you stop both genders from lying to themselves about DI.

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” — Sir Walter Scott (1771 – 1832)

Some things are timeless. When it comes to the art of deceit, scientists, psychologists and pollsters throughout the ages have pondered the question of who lies more — men or women? As you might expect, results vary significantly from study to study. After all, even in studies about lying, people don’t always answer questions truthfully.

Another thing that makes it challenging to study this phenomenon is that it’s hard to define lying. How do you know when someone is telling an outright lie or merely exaggerating? For instance, one series of studies compared students’ reported grade point averages with their actual GPAs and found that up to one half of them exaggerated their GPAs in job interviews. But they were calm and confident in their statements, and researchers believe their deceit was more about goal-setting and healthy overconfidence than about outright lying.

According to a 2010 study on this subject from the Science Museum of London, men lie about 1,000 times a year, while women lie about 700 times. And what do they lie about most? That seems to depend on their gender. Men often lie about their earnings and their height. In contrast, women will often lie about their age and their weight.

Dr. Charles Foster of the Chestnut Hill Institute is skeptical of the British survey. “I think both genders think that the other lies more,” he says. He says we all do it, and he believes men and women probably lie with about the same frequency. However, he also agrees they lie for different reasons. Men often lie to make themselves look better in the eyes of others and pretend to be what they will, or hope to become, in the future. Women tend to lie to spare feelings and make others feel better, and they pretend to be what they used to be in the past.

The DI connection

So what does this have to do with selling disability insurance? You already understand there are differences in selling to men and selling to women. One thing you might not realize is that men and women both lie to themselves, especially when it comes to the need for paycheck protection. After all, it’s easy to take life for granted. How often do you hear these statements?

“I’ll never be disabled.”

“Cancer happens to other people.”

“We’ll find a way to financially survive.”

“Social Security will take care of us.”

Sound familiar? We’ve all had these and similar thoughts at one time or another. None of us likes to think about worst-case scenarios. So instead of taking the time to objectively think through the issues and plan ahead, many people simply sweep unpleasant thoughts under the rug and hope they go away.

So how can you use this knowledge to impress upon your prospects the importance of having disability insurance? You have to create an emotional connection with each of them and appeal to the different ways their brains are wired.

Work with the lies

If it’s true that men lie to make themselves look better, try appealing to their sense of ego in your marketing efforts. Stress to them that planning ahead to protect the paycheck makes them look smart, strong, conscientious and responsible — like a good provider.

Keep in mind that men typically lie upward. For instance, they often pretend they make more money than they actually do or that they are taller than they actually are. Show them how protecting their paycheck can actually take them a step closer to that dream of making more money. And who knows? By making them feel stronger and more responsible, you just might make them feel like they’re standing a little taller too.

If it’s true that women lie to avoid hurting others, try appealing to their sense of goodwill and their nurturing tendencies. Stress to them how they might feel if they’re suddenly unable to fulfill family obligations if something should happen to earning ability. Women also notice details more than men do. Think about how you can improve the overall customer experience for women, going above and beyond to do the little things that make her feel more understood and valued.

Remember that women typically lie downward. For instance, they pretend they’re younger or lighter than they actually are. Show them how protecting the paycheck can help them continue to feel vibrant and in control — even when faced with disability. Show them how income protection can help them avoid the guilt of disappointing others. You may not be able to make them lighter, but having this safety cushion in place is sure to take a load off their minds.

It’s just common sense that both men and women should think about what might happen if they were suddenly unable to work due to an accident or illness. How long would they be able to pay their mortgage or rent? Buy groceries? Pay their utility bills? According to a LIFE Foundation survey, half of all working Americans couldn’t make it a month before financial difficulties would set in. More than 1 in 4 would have problems immediately.

But again, nobody likes to dwell on life’s negative possibilities and worst-case scenarios, so instead of facing these issues head on in a common-sense way, many men and women prefer the comfort of the lie.

That comfort only goes so far, though. No matter the type of lie or which gender tells it, psychologists say lying stresses out the deceiver physically and/or psychologically. By appealing to both men and women on this emotional level in your disability insurance marketing, you might have an easier time convincing them of the importance of income protection. Once they commit to protecting their most important asset, they have one less stress in their lives, and that should be appealing to everyone.

By Daniel C. Steenerson from the November 1, 2012 issue of Life Insurance Selling • Daniel C. Steenerson, CLU, ChFC, RHU, is the president of Disability Insurance Services, headquartered in San Diego.
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