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Portfolio > Economy & Markets > Fixed Income

Balance The Emotional Scale For Career Professionals

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The worksite disability income insurance sale can bring together 2 highly charged (and sometimes emotional) issues: personal finances and the potential of losing the ability to “bring home the bacon.”

To make the sale even more difficult, not all career professional groups regard the employee benefits enrollment process similarly. Some, the “Nervous Nellies,” choke at the thought of reviewing their benefits package and financial security, while the “Cool Cucumbers” think they have it all figured out. Anticipating and understanding the potential emotional responses can help in crafting an approach that relaxes Nervous Nellies and creates a sense of urgency among Cool Cucumbers–all without triggering a communications breakdown.

According to the 2006 MassMutual Benefits Barometer Survey: Disability Perceptions, conducted by Harris Interactive, career professionals have a range of emotional responses and anxiety levels when faced with the prospect of being disabled and unable to work.

While it wasn’t surprising to see that many people accept the possibility, many still reject the probability of being disabled. According to the results from more than 1,000 career professionals in the accounting, legal, advertising and engineering fields, there is a measurable range of the perceptions, potential reactions and common reasons for not purchasing disability income insurance. The end result was spread across an emotional scale that factors in degrees of anxiety and emotional response.

As you approach the worksite sale, understanding and preparation can go a long way.

In contrast to other respondents, advertising and marketing professionals were most anxious about their future financial situation and the prospect of being disabled. Tagged as Nervous Nellies, 66% of this group report they would feel a lack of financial security, while 26% indicated they would be unprepared emotionally if they suffered a disability, and 41% would be worried that they would never be able to work again.

Engineers and accountants earned the Cool Cucumber designation and are positioned on the opposite side of the scale. Only 35% of engineers report they would feel a lack of financial security, and just 27% of accountants worried that they would never be able to work again. In fact, engineers were the most likely of the professions to own supplemental or individual disability income insurance and were optimistic about recovering and getting back to work.

Sandwiched between these groups are attorneys and executives in professional services, including information technology and financial services. Attorneys are described as “On The Fence.” On the one hand, they intend to get well and return to work (82%), while on the other hand, many also say they would have anxiety toward their future financial situations (70%) and would feel like a burden to their families (44%). Joining this group in the neutral area, and best described as “Grounded,” are executives in professional services. This group’s responses were neither overly anxious nor optimistic, as compared to other professionals.

Financial resources seemed to be the biggest factor in determining optimism along the emotional scale. For example, when examining the Nervous Nellies in advertising/marketing, it found their anxiety grounded in a lack of financial resources and stability. This group was least likely to say they would rely on stocks, bonds or mutual fund investments (44%) or a home equity loan (40%). On the other hand, the less-stressed-out attorneys had a large variety of resources from stocks and investments (63%) to home equity loans (61%).

Most career professionals said they recognize the extra sense of financial security that supplemental or individual disability income insurance offers, but many don’t currently have it or plan to get it because they think their odds of needing it are small. At the same time, a clear disconnect was revealed about what motivated professionals who already have the coverage and what might motivate those who don’t.

To help people make the connection, consider the role emotions can play. The MassMutual survey suggests that people rationalize buying decisions based on facts, but make buying decisions based on emotions and feelings. It’s vital to let your clients know you’re interested in discussing their needs, and how you present your pitch should take into account how they make their emotional decisions.

To initiate such a discussion, I start by asking a simple question: Do you need your income? No matter the answer, this question can be used to engage prospects and prepare them to consider the role disability income insurance can play.

Cool Cucumbers may be the most skeptical and say they don’t need supplemental or individual disability income insurance because they don’t need an income, have it all figured out, or the chances of actually needing the protection are too remote. The reality, I find, is that most do not have a plan established should they lose their income for an extended time due to a sickness or injury.

For those who have group long-term disability coverage through an employer, most are unable to explain how the plan works or what benefit it pays. To break through, this group may benefit from envisioning or talking through how their lifestyle would be impacted if they were forced to live on their group plan, and hearing about the need to protect their accumulated assets.

This exercise could include an analysis of how the group LTD plan works and the potential limitations of these group plans. Also discussed should be which expenses would be covered and which areas may not. At this point, the conversation is about helping them see accurately their current situation, the exposure/risk associated with a disability and the impact of their decision to secure additional coverage or not.

Also, since you’re starting with a simple question that has a variety of answers and providing follow-up information to help them see a strategy, you can avoid alarming nervous advertising/marketing executives. To keep this group focused on the strategy, it’s best to establish some easy ground rules. First, I let them know there’s a limitless supply of novice questions they can ask. Next, I let them know I realize that sometimes thinking about personal cash flow can be overwhelming, and some surprises may pop up when we review their situation. It’s my intent to make sure that their net income when disabled is as close as possible to their net income while healthy.

People who are anxious or uncomfortable talking about their cash flow typically do not focus on statistics. I find they are less concerned about product features (what it is), but rather what it does (product benefits). If this is the case, the conversation should focus on having the prospect tell you in their own words how they would pay their bills if they were sick or hurt and could not work. Follow up by asking how not having an income over the next 1 to 10 years would impact their lives. Start them thinking about what they would like to do without.

Next, by reviewing a simple worksheet together, you can demonstrate that you understand their individual situation. When they can see the numbers in front of them, the process becomes less daunting. Plus, they can take the worksheet with them to review later with their spouse, if necessary. I try to avoid overwhelming people with sales literature. If they request additional material, I direct them to an online resource center for more information. Many times after taking individuals through my presentation, they decide to move forward in securing the supplemental coverage on the spot. When this is the case, we simply complete a paper or online application.

Can tapping into the emotional sale with career professionals help you grow your worksite business? The answer depends on your ability to reach people on an emotional level and communicate your message with confidence and passion. Newer agents may feel they need to do a better job to make sure people understand what the offer is before they object to a meeting. Again, disability income insurance needs to be sold, so if you experience a worksite marketing situation where a few people just don’t have the time to meet with you, let them know there is a specific window to either “accept” or “decline” the offer. You need them to make a thoughtful decision and to take action either way

Setting expectations upfront helps solidify the sale. Make sure your worksite clients understand their coverage, their opportunities to “buy up” and all supporting services that accompany their policy, including toll-free service telephone lines and assistance programs. Again, it is important for them to understand that they must take action within a certain timeframe.

Once employees become policyholders, be sure to contact them annually to review their policy and determine if any changes need to be made to their coverage to accommodate their changing needs. Keeping in touch can also provide an opportunity to establish an ongoing dialogue and share information on other products and services you think would be appropriate for them to consider. If you’re able to educate them once, you may become an advisor for the next financial protection product decision.

Finally, with a bit of preparation, knowledge and experience, you can soon be on your way toward reducing the anxiety level of worksite “Nervous Nellies” and making “Cool Cucumbers” sit up and take notice.


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