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Sales key: Understand what's really important

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Early in my career, I found it easy to blame others for why people would meet with me but didn’t become clients. My excuses were: “The other advisor must have gotten involved,” “They just need time to think about it,” “I’m sure they will give me a call back when the time is right,” “If they would just listen to me,” “They think I’m too young,” and so on. After stopping and thinking about it, I finally figured it out. The reason they didn’t become a client was me.

Tom and Heather didn’t want to lose any more money in the stock market, so safe alternatives seemed like a logical solution. After meeting with them a few times, we signed the paperwork and the process was moving forward–until I got a message they wanted to hold off until they looked at a few other options. Instead of doing the blame game, I picked up the phone and called them. I asked them to come back in. Perhaps we didn’t clearly communicate on some issues, and if they decided not to move forward, I would honor their wishes and close their file. They agreed.

The mistake I made was not taking enough time to fully understand what was important to them. Sure, I had all of the statements and a data-gathering form and knew they did not want to lose any more money. But simply knowing they didn’t want to lose money wasn’t enough. As silly as it sounds, I asked them why they didn’t want to lose any more money. I learned they wanted to leave money to their daughter. I asked why that was important to them, and they explained their daughter was disabled, and they wanted to make sure she was provided for if they were gone.

Remember to spend plenty of time asking what is important to them during the discovery process. Expand upon their answers and ask at least three follow-up questions. Give them time to think about the questions. Don’t forget to ask each partner as well and give them each time to express their goals and wishes. Once an advisor fully understands what is important, then life-changing solutions can be put in place.

Tom and Heather continued to move forward with our firm. But it was only after I took more time to listen and ask additional questions. We still implemented the plan to help them avoid stock market losses but also set up a great life insurance policy to provide for their daughter as well. In the end, we all benefited a lot more by understanding what was important.

Nolan Baker is an investment professional and founder of The Retirement Specialists, home of The Retirement Guys. Visit or e-mail Nolan at [email protected].


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