In light of this I recall the results of research done some years ago that should provide cause for concern. In studying policyholders’ behavior toward policy persistency the researcher noted that preferences were not based upon deeply held beliefs. Typically, policyholders believed life insurance was “something one has to have,” but could not explain exactly why. While few being surveyed had reasons for dropping the policy, neither did they have strong arguments for keeping it in force. In the words of the market researcher, “buyer attitudes not rooted in beliefs are precarious.”
Needless to say, no one likes to be positioned precariously when in a client relationship. In fact, even the suggestion of the absence of policyholder beliefs implies a lack of professionalism in creating the sale. I am also certain that it could be argued that beliefs may have been established at the time the policy was purchased, and the survey was simply a reflection of the poor memories people have about such things as life insurance. Beliefs and the memories we attach to them have to be nurtured, though, which is why we return to church regularly, salute the flag and look at the family photograph album. It matters little whether people forgot or never understood in the first place–the position is still precarious and deserves our serious attention.
This particular place of research has been helpful to me in identifying something that has been troubling me for some time. Despite significant increases in our business, I have felt that something important has been lacking. Even though I have long been retired from active work in the field, I still attend a lot of industry meetings. I enjoy keeping abreast of what is happening in and to our business. At most if not all of the meetings I attend the missing ingredient is conviction. Only rarely do speakers bare their soul regarding their conviction about the value of life insurance and the service we render. To take for granted that everyone understands the basic beliefs that undergird our business is tantamount to declaring that we or our policyholders need no further nourishment, or even worse, to saying there is nothing of value to recall.
Most of what I hear from platforms today deals with how a person should buy life insurance rather than why. Tax-sheltered schemes or even arrangements like split dollar are not reasons to buy–they are simply a means to pay a premium. I would be the last to downplay creativity, for finding the premium dollars is still very important. But to the extent our preoccupation with such things crowds out basic beliefs that will remain long after the tax laws have changed, we will remain precarious.
One of the reasons I am such a strong believer in the LIFE program is that in a way it is like our own photograph album. In it are pictures of families and businesses that have survived and can face “tomorrow” because of the miracle of life insurance. They fortify our belief that we can do something no other business or profession can do.
Luckily, the home of my Australian friend was spared by a last-minute shift in the wind, and the photograph album came back home. The firestorm in the form of change that has swept across our industry in recent years may have scorched a few of our memories, so perhaps it is time to recall some of them as we position for “tomorrow.”