The insurance industry has a love/hate relationship with fashion. When a new style of product comes out on the market, some companies and advisors adopt it early. Others look down their noses at it at first, but adopt it later, especially if all the cool kids are “wearing” it. I can relate — I thought platform shoes were ridiculous, and now I have a Carrie Bradshaw starter kit in my closet.

It is interesting to look deeper into the reasons we are so obsessed with product style, particularly the “permanent” kinds, like whole life, variable, indexed and universal. Is a dividend better than a market return? Is an index better than an interest rate? Just like in fashion, that can be very subjective, looking different in the light of a good or bad economy. It really depends on the eye of the beholder.

However, I am not so sure the buyer is beholding anything. As professionals, we see the details; all they see is someone pitching life insurance. Dividends, interest, market returns and/or indexes are used to show how costs could be reduced or value increased. Sometimes the “little black dress”* called term insurance becomes the fallback position when the prospect still says “no.” Then we are left feeling a bit frustrated, claiming the world just doesn’t understand life insurance and needs to be educated.

Consumers don’t want to be educated about life insurance. They want to know enough to make smart decisions. Our “closet clutter” makes it harder for consumers to feel smart. A recent study by Maddock Douglas found 73 percent of people think “the variety of possible insurance options is overwhelming.”

If we are to stay relevant as an industry, we must focus on what is most important to consumers and be willing to entertain the idea that product style is not on the list. If anything, they may be comparing the benefits of buying life insurance to not buying it.

Today’s consumer makes choices differently. Yesterday’s consumers relied almost solely on professional advice and advertising as sources of information. Today’s consumers rely more on evidence found online and from people in their communities and their social networks. If we don’t stay relevant, tomorrow’s consumer will rely more on him/herself (DIY).

See also: How to connect with a new generation of life prospects

So how do we get our relevance groove back?

Ask yourself three questions:

1)      Do you find yourself talking more about products or about problems your prospects need to solve?

2)      If the answer to #1 is “problems,” then are you focused on the right ones?

3)      If the answer to #2 is “yes,” then how do you know you are focused on the right ones?

The most important aspect of those questions is the “how do you know?” Good research answers that question. If you have no access to good research, there are other means to challenge your thinking and get at the answer.

Try this:

A)    List your top five favorite clients.

B)    Contact them and ask them for 30 minutes of their time because you are curiousabout something.

C)    Ask these questions and just listen, without judgment and without trying to sell anything.

-          When we first began to talk about your situation, what were the things that were on your mind that made you open to the discussion?

-          What various options were you considering at the time?

-          Describe the moment in our conversation that made you say to yourself “Okay, now I know what I need to do!”

-          How do you feel now about those same issues?

Write up notes for each client, compare them and look for commonalities. You could gain insight that could take your business strategy in a whole new direction.

In the end, the choice of product matters least when you focus on what matters most.

 

*For those who are wondering, the LBD is girl code for something that never goes out of style.


For more from Maria Ferrante-Schepis, see:

Fiduciary standard: Burden or innovation opportunity?

DI language: You kiss your mother with that mouth?

IT blame: The innovation copout