The common denominator for success among successful people, no matter what the product or service, is doing the things that failures don’t do. It explains why many of those who appear to have all of the natural talent fail, while others with obvious handicaps succeed. I have learned over the last 35 years of exclusively selling disability income (DI) insurance that I do my best when I stay with the habits I employed when I first started my second career, in insurance. For purposes of this article, I’ll refer to them as techniques, rather than habits, and discuss them as a guide to the producer so they too, can successfully sell disability insurance!
It’s no secret that people don’t want to be “sold” anything. What prospects really want, is rather to be in the position where they are “buying.” Before anyone buys, they need some reasons to justify the purchase. So what does it take to have someone purchase? It takes a variety of “tools,” perhaps more so to sell DI insurance, than any other insurance product, simply due to the fact that disability insurance has more “language” considerations (e.g.; benefits/terms/formulas/definitions/conditions, etc.). On the other hand, life or annuity policies basically are justified or based on absolute values and premium, rather than the “what if” language of DI contracts. So, obviously, one of the necessary selling tools is product knowledge. They say “knowledge is power.” Knowledge doesn’t stop with just knowing your company’s product. You should also be conversant in disability insurance probability statistics and other pertinent information in order to support the sales cycle, and create the need. Some of the carriers provide charts and graphs to support your argument to convince the prospect to say “yes” after their (expected) initial objection.
What good is knowledge, if no one knows learns how “knowledgeable” you are? Therefore, prospecting is a very important part of the sales cycle, in view of the fact that you’re still bound to make some sales with enough exposure, even with a minimum of knowledge.
The basic sales tools one must have in order to be effective are made up of the following components:
3. Prospecting techniques
4. Presentation skills
5. Rebuttal skills
6. Closing skills
I will go in limited detail for just a few of the above:
Knowledge (See chart below for specifics)
Not only should you know your products inside and out, but you should also be prepared to accurately quote contractual differences between those offered by the competition and yours. When I do personal production as an independent, I usually present up to three carriers to a prospect (which gives the prospect the feeling that I’m not “married” to any one company in particular). This then generates credibility. Which carriers I present are dictated by the prospect’s occupation and objectives, since different carriers may have different definitions, etc., for that occupational class.
|Chart 1: Specifics of “Knowledge”|
|1. Sales presentation|
|2. Disability probability statistics|
| 3. Participation tables
a. Other insurance in force
| 4. Proposal configuration
a. Elimination periods
b. Benefit amount base vs. base/social
c. Benefit period
d. Definition of total disability
e. Options (FIO, Residual, COLA, ROP, AIR, CAT, etc.)
| 5. Premium
a. Level vs. step rate/graded
| 6. Competition
b. Recovery/residual/recurrent/elimination period (continuous vs. stop-go
| 7. Business applications
a. Wage continuation
c. Business overhead
|8. Tax consequences of employer-paid premium|
| 9. Advanced marketing
a. Comparison of individual vs. association/group
b. Reverse discrimination
d. S vs. C Corporation (FASB 112)
What’s wrong with a “canned” presentation? Why re-invent the wheel each time? George Whitmore, many years ago, did a one man show, “Give Him Hell Harry,” and said the same thing over and over, word for word, twice daily, every day of the week for two years (and got paid handsomely for his efforts). There’s nothing wrong using a sales presentation flip-chart. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words! Again the presentation should be based on emotion. Minimize being a “feature preacher.” You should concentrate on selling the need, based on emotion, rather than only focusing on the logic or the dollar values of the contract.
So, you got in front of a prospect (prospecting), explained the product (presentation/knowledge), but you haven’t yet “sold” the concept. Remember, no one wants to be sold, they want to buy. Based on the fact that very few prospects will immediately say yes after a presentation, no matter how good it was, you must be skillful enough to elicit their objection(s) because without, you really have no way of continuing. Now that you’ve heard the objection, do you put your head down and run? Of course not! Instead, hopefully you’ve got several good rebuttals in your bag, for anything the prospect can throw at you.
In conclusion, by employing these new found tools, you should immediately see an increase in commissions and your closing ratios for disability income insurance, but more importantly, you should feel an increased satisfaction in the fact that you have provided a very important product to your client’s welfare: Income protection, which all financial planners say, “is the cornerstone of all financial planning!”
Larry Schneider is a disability specialist with over 35 years experience and is the owner of Disability Insurance Resource Center. He is also an expert witness consultant for disability insurance claims which have been inappropriately denied and a national resource for hard to place prospects, as well as a brokerage for standard cases. One of the author’s divisions has developed a Sales and Marketing Turnkey System, made up of eight manuals and other sales aids, each devoted to one segment of the sales cycle (prospecting, rebuttals, etc.).