Selling Future Benefits May Cost You Sales Today

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You are committed to making your clients futures better, but if you sell that benefit, you will lose sales. Americans do not relate well to the threat or benefit of future occurrences.

Heres my evidence: Do you know people who smoke cigarettes? They can read the warning on the package and certainly they have heard that smoking leads to lung disease, heart disease and a potentially nasty death. Then why do they still smoke? Because they get pleasure today, right now, and they willingly trade a few seconds of present pleasure for an ugly and early death.

Need more evidence about human behavior? The Center for Disease Control tells us that 61% of Americans are overweight. Ill wager that most of them know that cheesecake is high in fat, and leads to increased weight gain, high cholesterol, potential hardening of the arteries, heart disease, and an uncomfortable early death. Yet our population consumes thousands of tons of cheesecake annually because we readily trade a few minutes of pleasure right now, for a potentially debilitating future.

What does this have to do with selling? When you understand how people behave, you make more sales.

As financial advisors, you sell products that provide a benefit in the future or help avoid a future detriment–but I just proved to you that the future is a weak motivator. Americans want to know “what can you do for me that feels good NOW!”

Is it any wonder that your prospects say, “Ill think about it,” or decline very important insurance coverage? You walk away with no sale thinking that your prospect “just doesnt get it.” No, its you who “just doesnt get it.”

Your prospects are not logical–your prospects are present tense, pain-avoiding, pleasure-seeking homing devices. Show them how they can avoid discomfort or have pleasure today and you have a sale.

This may seem difficult for you because your life insurance, your long term care policy and your health insurance coverage are all for protection of some future occurrence. How can you possibly frame the benefit of these products in the present?

Heres how this works when speaking with a prospect:

“Mr. Smith, are you ever concerned that if something should happen to you, how your family will fare?

“How often do you have that thought?

“How does it make you feel?

“Do you need one more thing to worry about?

“Would spending 15 minutes to eliminate that worry be a worthwhile investment of your time?”

In this scenario, I do not sell financial protection against his death; I sell the end of his worry right now. He gets an immediate payoff from the policy–peace of mind. Thats a benefit your prospect can digest because its now.

If you think I may be off the mark, consider why you got out of bed this morning. Did you do it because of you were dreaming of earning $100,000 today and the excitement of that conquest had you hop out of bed at 5 a.m. ready to go? Be honest. If you look closely, you see that you got out of bed for one or more of these reasons:

1. To avoid the discomfort and worry of having your house foreclosed on if you dont pay the mortgage.

2. You set some appointments and people will be upset with you if you dont show up today.

3. Its what your parents told you to do, and they would be dissatisfied with you and that would make you feel bad.

4. Your spouse is depending on you, and youll feel like a heel if you dont bring home some cash.

You got out of bed today strongly motivated to avoid discomfort in the present. To avoid present discomfort is the most powerful yet subtle motivator. It is responsible for most human activity everyday.

If you manage agents, put my theory to work. Instead of the top agent winning a new red Corvette to drive for one year, give them all red Corvettes and after two months, tell them anyone not meeting quota will lose the car. The threat of loss in the present is far more powerful a motivator than the motivation to gain.

Now that you know what motivates your prospect to act, stop talking to them about the future or building word pictures. Give up explaining how that group of mutual funds will give him or her a more comfortable retirement. Stop telling people that they really need long term care protection because 43% of everyone over age 65 spends time in a nursing home. While these are interesting logical appeals, prospects really dont care. They want to know how you will make them feel good today, or more importantly, take away discomfort.

So your challenge is to take 30 minutes right now. List each of the products and services you sell and list what pain those products and services can help your prospect avoid, or what pleasure they bring TODAY! Then develop new sales scripts around those current payoffs and make sure that the word “will” is never used again in a sales presentation. The word “will” precedes a future payoff, and from now on you sell only current payoffs. Every time you have the urge to say “will,” say “does” instead.

If you cannot figure out how to speak about your products as a current benefit or detriment-avoidance tool, youd better give your prospect some cheesecake.

, CPA, CSA, RIA, MBA, is president of NF Communications, a Walnut Creek, Calif., firm producing marketing systems for financial sales professionals. His e-mail is lklein@nfcom.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, August 25, 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.