Middle Market Looking For Guidance On Life Insurance

By

Orlando, Fla.

Selling life insurance can be a bridge to selling other products, Rusty Hendren said at a recent conference.

Hendren, who is director of life and annuity product management with State Farm Insurance, Bloomington, Ill., said that if a customer has life insurance with State Farm, he is two to three times more likely to buy retail mutual funds from State Farm than if he just has auto insurance with the company.

Agents who sell life insurance can capitalize on this by knowing what motivates their customers, he said.

Hendren spoke on maximizing the middle market at the Life Insurance Conference sponsored by Windsor, Conn.-based LIMRA International; LOMA, Atlanta; the Society of Actuaries, Schaumburg, Ill.; and the American Council of Life Insurers, Washington.

People in the middle market today have all the information on life insurance they could possibly use at their fingertips via the Internet, Hendren said, but that doesnt mean they know what to do with it.

They still for the most part know only the very basics–that it pays when the policyholder dies, Hendren said.

“Ten years ago, customers came to us because they had no information,” Hendren said. “Now that every consumer is armed with all the information they can possibly get, they dont want to deal with it, they want a professional to make sense of it.”

Agents should be careful to remember that just because customers in the middle market dont want to be experts, that doesnt meant they dont want to feel special. So, products should not be “commodotized,” he said. “They should be unique to people.”

That said, Hendren conceded it is nonetheless beneficial to group the segments of the middle market that think alike in order to modify product development and tailor the sales process to distinguishable types of middle-market customers.

State Farm has delineated six types: established relationship valuers, conventional savers, financial avoiders, solution-needing strugglers, the leverage complacent and striving providers.

Also important for agents to know is that the life stages the typical middle-market customer goes through are evolving. People once went from being single to married with a family, on to living in an empty nest and then on to their golden years.

Today, people are staying single longer and there are higher divorce rates, Hendren said. Many people have first and second families. People are living longer and putting children through school at the same time they are caring for their parents.

However, there is one consistency between the old and new life stages, he said, “When you ask people what the most important thing is, they say family. So, no matter how life stages evolve, life insurance will likely retain its appeal as a measure of safety.”

Agents who maintain relationships with households they have already sold to can “reap the benefits of different life stages,” in the future, Hendren said.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, March 24, 2003. Copyright 2003 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.