Fixed annuity salespeople are the “Peace Corps” of the financial services industry, and should be proud of what they do and the solutions they provide.

I get a lot of heat from agents and industry types from some of my opinion pieces because I do voice my frustrations with some of the bad things going on in the annuity industry. You can’t blame a person for caring, and my passion and outspoken nature is just an effort to protect what’s right about the fixed annuity industry. With that being said, it’s time for the fixed annuity agents of the world to fully understand the importance of their role and realize that they (we) can be a noble profession.

Selling certainty or selling guarantees?

I normally use the phrase “selling guarantees,” but was recently contacted by a 50-year industry veteran that had seen a lot of carrier carnage through the years and urged me to start using the word “certainty” in place of guarantee. He referenced past carrier issues along with a realistic outlook going forward and the more I thought about it, the more I think he is right. Once you utter the word guarantee and attach it to anything, you can always hear a grandfatherly voice in the back of your mind saying “there’s nothing guaranteed in life.” That little man on your shoulder is right, and the word “certainty” sounds better anyway and is commercially more appealing as well.

Fixed annuity people sell certainty. We sell the certainty of an income stream that you can never outlive. If you want to sound fancy, call it solving for “longevity risk.” We sell the certainty of you never losing your money and having full principal protection. We sell the certainty of a contractual death benefit that is guaranteed to grow at an annual rate to be left in full to your beneficiaries upon your passing. We sell the minimum guarantee of a policy if everything in the world goes wrong. We sell certainty. We provide certainty to a portfolio. We give people the certainty of what’s going to happen with their money. That’s what we do, and we the fixed annuity industry should be overly proud of that. 

Who else can say those types of things, and mean it. Doctors can’t. Our beloved risk-maven stock gurus can’t. Depending on where you stand on religion, the only profession that can pound the table with passion like we can is a preacher. They are truly the only ones that know the end result of their “sale” and that can even be compared to our product certainty. I know that you evangelical types have fallen off of your chair and are getting ready to yell at me, but you know the point I am trying to make. For all of you atheists out there, forget the previous four sentences! Just kidding…but you get what I’m trying to say.

The next time someone asks you what you do for a living, try this answer out: “I sell certainty.” Three very simple words, but with an impact that is unmatched in the financial services industry. After you say that, then just shut up and see what their response is. It’s the ultimate elevator speech in my opinion, and truthfully explains what we do as fixed annuity advocates. We sell certainty. If a softball question comes back like “What kind of certainty?”; then my hope is that you can completely knock that one out of the ballpark. If not, then here are a couple of hints. Principal protection. Income for life. Legacy. Long-term or confinement care. The acronym is PILL, and those four things easily synopsize what we do.

Pedigree not required

Most of us selling fixed annuities didn’t graduate from The Wharton School or Harvard, but that’s OK. Most of us went to non-Ivy League schools and didn’t have the family connections or pedigree to open career doors that are typically inaccessible to the common person. Most of us came from lower and middle America, and are trying to provide for our families and be the best that we can be. By the way, I’ll take our group any day over the Ivy-Leagued Hedge Funders out there working in the stock market casino. And by the way, I like what we do and the products and certainty we can provide they cannot.

I know that the media beats our industry down, and I have even done that myself in times of frustration. However, our “certainty proposition” is a long-term winner, and is something the tidal wave of retiring baby boomers are looking to buy into. That’s 10,000 people retiring per day looking for certainty with their money. Feeling better now? You should.

There’s no need to oversell or give in to the new “hype-brid” (aka: hybrid) return number juice to close the sale. You don’t have to show “all of the planets aligning themselves” return scenarios that is common with Internet videos and pop up ads. Most people are smarter than that, and the ones who are not, you might not want as clients anyway. If customers have realistic expectations based on fact and contractual guarantees, then they will be happy clients. Overselling hypothetical or projected returns never works well in the long run. Always sell the will do, not the might do.

In short, sell certainty, not dreams. It’s really just that simple, and a noble thing to do.

For more from Stan Haithcock, see: