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“Will you be there in the morning?”

That familiar question doesnt reflect only the worries of innocent damsels who are being wooed by handsome young suitors.

Weve all asked it, at one time or another, when were considering hitching up with new partners, be they mates, employers, health care providers, or financial providers. We want to be sure the other party means to “be there” in our future, to abide with us through thick and thin.

Today, with the recession officially declared to have started last March, the will-you-be-there questions have shot into high gear.

In the past few months, not a workday has gone by that I havent received calls from agents about this very trend.

Many tell me that insurance prospects have become reluctant to buy because they are afraid the proposed policy wont pay. Others are concerned the insurance company wont last, or that the coverage, service and future options will erode.

Some vendors are growing gun-shy, too, my callers say.

Some people term these will-you-be-there worries “prudent.” These individuals believe they have become older and wiser, because they “now know” what can happen. Theyll use “more caution in the future,” they add, enunciating each word very slowly.

All that sounds very rational. But it omits the obvious: Many clients are acting more from fear than anything else. It is reality-based fear, to be sure, but its still fear.

Youve heard it yourself: Buy that new LTC policy? No, Ill wait until the economy picks up. Fund a new annuity? No, its not a good time for that. Take out some disability insurance? Heck, I may not even have a job next month.

Its not that clients dont have financial product needs or the money to take care of them, I am told. The thing thats in the way, callers insist, is worry about the recession.

Heres a suggestion: If you want to free yourselfand your clients and vendors–from the proverbial rock and hard place, you need to recognize that fear is not a solution.

What is a solution? Try meeting fear with facts.

Let me illustrate with a page from the history of annuities. Back in the early 1990s, when the recession was in full swing, prospective annuity clients were singing the same blues as todays prospects. They had seen banks go down, insurance companies fold, and layoffs galore; they just didnt want to buy.

Professionals in the business told me they didnt know what to do at first. The fear they encountered was paralyzing.

Then, they broke throughby meeting the issue head on. As one put it: “We talked with our clients about the worry. Then we pointed out the ratings of our insurers. We showed the companies long history in the market. We highlighted the guarantees in the contracts. We showed the renewal rate histories on fixed annuities (when we could obtain them).”

Many others did the same, meeting fear with facts in their own way.

In the process, several said, they met their own fear, too–the fear that their own business might go down along with the recession.

The approach did not produce nirvana. After all, some shops did close. (Whos kidding whom? Recessions are tough.) But a lot of them–the majority, in fact–survived.

Without question, todays recession is different from that of yesteryear. The political, legal, social, ethical, etc. climates are different, too. So, yesteryears solutions may not work. Lets concede that.

Still, a downturn is a downturn is a downturn. Business slows and you need to find ways to stoke it back up. There is nothing unique about that.

In such a climate, an axiom from the late British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, could point you in the right direction. “Facts are better than dreams,” he said.

In other words, after you and your client identify the fears, address the issues with credible information about your proposal, products and providers.

This is the Information Age, after all. Your clients and vendors want, need, and respect having such detail. It helps them make informed decisionsand that helps you break through the nightmarish dreams that fear induces.

Freely translated: Build answer sheets, resource lists, pro and con charts. Bone up on the strengths of your companies and their product histories. Point to your own staying power, and that of your local community, too. And give the sources for your information, as well, so the curious can verify on their own.

But dont imprison the presentation in minutiae. Rather, stick to accurate facts that enlighten.

This wont guarantee that you, your products, and your companies will absolutely be there in the morning. But it certainly will provide clients with a better framework for evaluating your plan.

It will also foster forward thinking. That last is quite important. As the late novelist Aldous Huxley is said to have remarked: “The smallest fact is a window through which the infinite may be seen.”


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, January 7, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.


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