Booby traps have been a part of war for centuries. They involve the setting of lures that the enemy hopes will attract their opponent. When the soldier touches the lure, the hidden bomb or other device goes off, killing or maiming the unwary soldier.

Now here’s the thing about booby traps. The devices themselves are often simple. But the logic behind them is cunning. Case in point: in Vietnam, the Vietcong noticed that American soldiers liked to kick empty soda cans lying on the ground. Soon, they began leaving devices in cans so they exploded when kicked. Yet U.S. soldiers kept kicking cans.

Triggering explosions
Why discuss booby traps? Because I believe many advisors today engage in dangerous, noncompliant behavior that could blow up in their faces. Like the American troops in Vietnam, they kick the same cans down the path, even though the industry environment has changed. They keep committing the same lies, omissions and shortcuts. But the problem is, kicking those cans will likely trigger “explosions” today because regulators have much less tolerance for can-kickers.

What kind of booby traps am I talking about? There are four main types:

1. Solicitation traps in connection with advertising or other prospect solicitation techniques.

2. Disclosure traps regarding what you say and don’t say about your background and business.

3. Suitability traps made as you decide which product or products to recommend to a client.

4. Servicing traps after the sale, particularly relating to client privacy and data security.

To help you avoid these traps, this column and the three that follow will show you how to be a smart soldier during the sales process. Let’s start with solicitation.

Solicitation safeguards
When promoting yourself, do it in a way that’s fair, accurate and truthful. To save time, use company-approved materials. If you create your own, be sure to run them by your carrier.

In writing or conversation, avoid terms like “account” and “deposits” when referring to life insurance or annuities. If you do cold calling, be sure to search the national and your state “Do Not Call” registry to make sure your prospects haven’t placed their names there.

At your seminars, always clearly identify the product to be sold and identify yourself as an insurance agent. Avoid all professional designations that lack substantial educational content and that appear to be just marketing gimmicks.

Know the rules and tell the truth.