A recent LIMRA briefing confirmed many of my personal observations about life insurance sales. According to LIMRA’s May 2012 Research Briefing*, 14 million U.S. households bought life insurance in the past two years. Conversely, the industry lost sales to an almost equal number.
Twelve million potential prospects ended up not buying life insurance after spending considerable time and effort. And their prospective agents invested significant time, as well. LIMRA calculates $4 trillion in additional sales if these prospects had bought only the average amount of insurance sold to recent buyers. Bear in mind, many of the customers’ issues and concerns causing this non-buyer mentality are not agent-related. Money — especially in this economy, plays a huge factor in spending.
LIMRA classifies the 12 million non-buyers as shoppers who had issues or concerns, which, if addressed, could have turned them into buyers. LIMRA research confirmed what Genworth’s 2011 and forthcoming 2012 LifeJacket Studies show: people are influenced by the relationships they develop, the life triggers that propel them to make a decision and how often they interact with their agents and advisors. What we can look at here is how to alleviate issues that may interrupt the buying process.
I call it the RIFT principle:
- Relationship building
- Trigger response
Every time you don’t practice these principles, you may create a rift between you and your existing or prospective clients. That rift could result in diminishing respect and trust.
Relationship building strengthens existing relations and creates new ones.
We were pleased to learn that the majority of the Genworth 2011 LifeJacket Study respondents surveyed, 69%, said they trust their own advisor/agent. Thirty-four percent said a recommendation from a friend or family member would, and does, help in building trust with the advisor. However, the agent who is cold-calling a stranger won’t have the advantage of established trust.
Interest in your client must be genuine and make an impact.
Each client is different. Different interests. Different financial situations. I have been able to build meaningful relationships, for the large part, by taking a genuine interest in my customers right from the beginning. At that first meeting, if you are at the customer’s office or home, look around. Pay attention to the pictures and collectibles. Ask about them and learn more. Customize your responses.
Both women and men have diverse personal interests and hobbies that you will want to learn more about. By investing a little time and imagination to learn what your customer or prospect likes, you can make a lasting impression. I work with a wholesaler who loves fly-fishing. I went to an Orvis store, bought a set of three flies for $12 and sent a personal note. It changed the tone of our relationship dramatically. Another contact collects watches. I shared a link to a site all about watches and we have since maintained a nice connection.
Frequency — regular communication and personally checking in at least annually — is important.
The LifeJacket Study showed us that 69% of consumers wanted contact within one year from their advisor or agent. Additionally, 66% of LifeJacket Study respondents stated annual reviews and frequent communication helped build trust with their agent/advisor. Social media, like LinkedIn as well as quick emails and regular newsletters help make keeping in touch effective, yet unobtrusive.
Triggers require rapid response.
LIMRA’s May research briefing found that 4 in 10 life insurance shoppers are most influenced to shop for life insurance by life events that create the need for coverage. However, LifeJacket research has revealed that many consumers don’t respond immediately to their life events, such as the birth of a child, a change in marital status, a home purchase or the loss of a loved one. Surprisingly, these “trigger” events showed a significant lag time of six to 15 months from the trigger event to actual purchase or a change in coverage. The LifeJacketStudy showed the most dramatic gaps were:
- Birth of a child: 10.5 months lag time
- Death of a family member or friend :10 months lag time
- Marriage: 13.5 months lag time
To turn your non-buyers into buyers, revisit those sales opportunities. Applying the RIFT principle to those existing prospects and using them to cultivate new ones should become part of your daily routine. It might be interesting to track your successes using the RIFT method. I am sure you will see an uptick in sales.
*LIMRA Briefing was published in May 2012. Information is based on results from LIMRA’s 2011 U.S. Buyer-Nonbuyer Study. A sample of 2,777 consumers was interviewed.
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