I sure hope Life Insurance Awareness Month accomplishes its intended mission.

This year it is perhaps more important than ever, as the industry tries to climb out of a hole created by a disastrous first half of 2009.

U.S. sales of individual life insurance dropped 20% in the second quarter, while year-to-date sales declined 23%, according to a report by global financial services rating agency A.M. Best Co. The decline represents the steepest six-month drop in nearly 70 years.

Yikes.

But there is reason to be optimistic that the tide could be turning when third-quarter results are released. More than half (61%) of respondents to a very recent online poll by our sister publication, National Underwriter Life & Health, indicated they believe sales will “start to show signs of life” by year-end. Another 6% predict sales will “come roaring back” while 32% believe sales will “still be falling.”

While I can’t imagine sales being as dire in July and August as they were in the first six months, it is September that could prove to be a pivotal month in any sort of recovery. And Life Insurance Awareness Month may very well have plenty to do with it.

Perhaps you are skeptical that LIAM could have that kind of effect. If figures mentioned by Brian Ashe, CLU, during the “Leveraging LIFE to Build Your Practice” seminar at the recent NAIFA meeting in Orlando are any indication, LIAM is more effective than you think for those who promote it.

Ashe, a former MDRT president and past chair of the LIFE Foundation, told attendees that State Farm – which sells more life insurance policies than any other company – increased its sales by 37% during Life Insurance Awareness Month in Sept. 2008. New York Life – which has more MDRT members than any other company – saw a 20% sales increase in Sept. 2008. Ashe said that represented the largest increase in company history.

Is it a coincidence that State Farm and New York Life are the two largest users of LIFE Foundation materials that promote LIAM?

My hope is that you are taking advantage of the tools available at www.lifehappens.org to help you start conversations with prospects about the importance of life insurance. Even doing something as simple as wearing one of those “Life Happens” rubber bracelets, as suggested by one of the panelists at the seminar in Orlando, can frequently be a conversation-starter. Just hope you’re ready with your elevator speech.