Annuities and life insurance are just tools. Tools are not inherently bad or good. It’s how people use them that matters. It’s time to work together to restore confidence and respect to our products and our industry.

Opening the minds of some prospects — and the public in general — to the advantages of annuities and permanent life insurance as a foundational element of an effective financial plan can be an uphill battle. The energy required to overcome the inertia of today’s financial “conventional wisdom” can be enough to beat down the most resilient of us. Countering the flow of misinformation from popular financial entertainers and the deeply entrenched “financial industrial complex” is a lot like drinking from a fire hose.

How does the average safe money advocate stand a chance against such odds? How on Earth can we get our message in the hands of those who need it most when our entire culture seems to be against us?

The answer is simple. You do it the same way you eat an elephant: one bite at a time.

Get educated

Knowledge is power. The more you know, the better you can articulate your position and persuade others to listen to what you have to say. Trying to be everything to everyone is a recipe for failure, but commit yourself to becoming an expert at something. Set a realistic goal like one hour per day reading something from your desired area of expertise. (Make it valuable information, though. Garbage in, garbage out.)

Keep an open mind

If you really want people to listen to you, you have to be willing to try to understand all sides of an argument. Just taking an uneducated position on something and digging in for all it’s worth will label you as another stubborn blowhard. You must actually listen to objections and others’ opinions. Don’t just wait to talk. Know the difference between fact, assumption and opinion. Most people are more receptive to your opinion when you’re honest about sharing it.

Do the right thing

Of course, the right thing is often open to argument, but keep it simple for yourself. Would you recommend this course of action to your grandmother? Do you own these products yourself? Right or wrong, our industry has acquired a reputation for selling what’s best for the agent first. The sad truth is, sometimes it happens. You know it; I know it. Don’t be that guy. Think long-term. Build trust. Don’t give the other guys more ammunition. Help yourself and our industry rebuild our reputation.

Remain in control

If you’re like me, you will eventually find yourself in a debate with someone that you will never convince. Remember, you’re asking some of these folks to admit they have put following the pack ahead of thinking for themselves. That’s hard for some to do. Stay positive. Ask questions. Be respectful. Remember the saying, “Never argue with an idiot. He’ll drag you down to the floor and beat you with experience.” I’m not suggesting everyone else is an idiot, but sometimes your best move is to move on. It’s amazing how many people suddenly become more interested when I tell them, “This product is probably not for you.”

Be likeable

People are far more open to listening to someone they like. If you’re likable and you always leave your clients in a better position than when they met you, then the word will get out. Keep your promises, and treat others as you would want to be treated. Treat even your detractors with respect. Make them work to dislike you. It’s easy to dismiss someone as a nut if they’re also a jerk. Show you care. Get out into the community and do good things for people.

Don’t give up

We all have our down days, but changing perceptions is a marathon, not a sprint. Small changes over time can create big results, but you have to stick with it. The fact is that we have right on our side. Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, CDs, annuities and life insurance are just tools. Tools are not inherently bad or good. It’s how people use them that matters.

It’s time to work together to restore confidence and respect to our products and our industry. We can and will overcome all of the misinformation, misconceptions and distrust one bite at a time.

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