Twelve-step programs are well known as an effective method to address substance abuse, dependency and addiction problems. These programs are comprised of a set of guiding principles that, in essence, serve as an outline for a course of action for recovery. With that being said, it’s time to address a common affliction with annuity agents that needs its own 12-step program. It’s called having an “annuity addiction.”

When you call yourself “Stan The Annuity Man,” and name the company the same thing, that would seem to be feeding into an annuity addiction. However, I am a person who is very tech driven and tracks all calls and meetings and have found that over 34 percent of all prospect interactions over the past few years have ended with me not recommending an annuity after evaluating the suitability and appropriateness of the prospect’s specific situation. That seems to run foreign to the “always be closing” addictive mentality that the annuity industry seems to foster and promote.

In the spirit of full disclosure, and to shut down the “haters” from the start, I stopped drinking over eight years ago so I know a thing or two about this addiction subject. However, with some agents, I see the same patterns of addiction and the justification process of how annuities are sold. Let’s take a look at a synopsized and annuity customized version of this 12-step method, and what you can do to solve the problem and live a life free of “annuity addiction.”

Admitting that you cannot control your addiction to annuities.

The first step to solving the problem is admitting that you have one. Take a look back at your client/prospect interactions and honestly assess how many times you recommended to someone that an annuity solution doesn’t fit. There is no way that every single person you meet needs an annuity, or needs to transfer the annuity that they currently own to another annuity. I am of the belief that this “one size fits all” mentality with some agents is actually an addiction. An addiction to sales, an addiction to money, an addiction to the closing process, an addiction to qualify for the next trip whatever the case, it’s an addiction that is unhealthy and possibly not in the clients best interest.

Recognizing that something that is not an annuity is OK.

I’m a true “burn the boat” annuity guy and only recommend annuities. I don’t even sell life insurance or long-term care in order to remain focused solely on annuities, and refer those cases out when that is the appropriate solution. It’s OK for the solution to not be an annuity, and for you to walk away from a recommendation. Don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole to get the sale as I occasionally see when agents improperly sell confinement care “doublers” as a replacement for real long-term care coverage. The future litigation on that will be ugly.

Use a sponsor to help you through the tough times.

There are a few “old annuity codgers” that I am always touching base with to run ideas by and tap into their valuable years of experience. And no, I’m not talking about your annuity wholesaler at your FMO of choice. Regardless of how good you think you are, I would advise reaching out to someone you trust and that you see doing good, clean business to mentor you on an ongoing basis. Swallow your ego for a second, because you will never regret implementing this mentoring plan.

Learning to live a new annuity life with a new code of behavior.

Just like alcoholics who decide to stop drinking, “annuity addicts” can also take this leap of faith by not selling the sizzle or hot bullet points of an annuity strategy, and instead focus on the realities of the contract. Eventually, your client is going to find out the truths about the annuity, so why not just start there from the beginning. FMOs should pay attention here as well, and stop pushing agents to the product of the month, or the one that has the most back-end bonus or override payment.

Helping others who suffer from the same annuity addiction.

I get hundreds of calls every month from agents, which gives me the opportunity to have realistic conversations about how annuities should work within a portfolio and how they should be presented and sold. The vast majority of annuity agents I speak to are good people that are trying to do the right thing for the client, but sometimes are haunted by “not measuring up” from a sales standpoint. It’s important for all of us annuity agents to create our own agent support groups to hold each other accountable and to offer support in the sometimes tough world of sales and running a small business.

Continue to take personal inventory.

Like all addictions, to overcome them you have to take life one day at a time. As an annuity agent, you also have to take each client/prospect appointment one at a time as well. It’s important to hold yourself accountable for each recommendation and make sure that your “annuity addiction” doesn’t supersede the goals of the client.

In the sales driven world of annuities, it’s sometimes hard to not be distracted by the next “shiny thing,” the next incentive trip, or the super-agent that is supposedly breaking all sales records. Relapsing into your annuity addiction can happen, and is somewhat predictable in the current go-go environment. It’s important to remain aware of the problem, so you can combat the ongoing negative influences.

We all agree that annuities are fantastic transfer of risk products, and consumers are always going to want the contractual guarantees and benefits annuities can provide. Make sure that you are not tarnishing these great strategies with an unproductive “annuity addiction” that you can control by implementing just a few accountable steps.

For more from Stan Haithcock, see: