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Protection for the Protectors: Positioning Permanent Life Insurance

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We now know that permanent life insurance is best positioned as protection and more – a death benefit vehicle, first and foremost, followed by a potential cash value vehicle that can be used as a multi-purpose financial planning tool.

Clients typically think of life insurance and investments as completely separate things. They’re confused when you talk about them both together. Investments involve risk, and insurance mitigates risk. Aren’t they mutually exclusive?

When it comes to talking about permanent life insurance, clients typically hear something totally different from what the advisor intended.

You say: Life insurance is a multi-purpose financial planning tool.

They hear: Life insurance is a complex financial planning tool you can never hope to understand. Want to buy some?

You say: Permanent life insurance is an investment in your financial future.

They hear: No, it’s not. It’s protection for my family.

You say: You can use the cash value to help fund your retirement.

They say: At the expense of my family?

You say: The tax advantages can help you grow your assets over time.

They say: That’s what investments are for… what about my family?

Instead of trying to shift your client’s way of thinking right off the bat, switch yours to focus on protection. After all, that’s their biggest concern. And it’s the one thing that makes life insurance unique while, at the same time, the benefit your clients most want. They want to hear about protection before growth.

How do you do that? Here’s an opening that really works with target audiences:

“Permanent life insurance can be a smart addition to any financial plan for investors who want more ways to protect their family, minimize their taxes and grow their money over time.”

Most crucially, permanent life is an addition to their current financial plan. Most prospects are already investing. They may already have some protections in place. This is something they can do in addition. Avoid the temptation to oversell permanent life’s importance by making it sound like a must-have. To them, it’s not.

The next step is to touch on the three things that potential clients are most looking for when it comes to a product like permanent life insurance.

  1. Protection for their family
  2. Minimizing their taxes
  3. Growing their money over time

These three benefits are the core of your messaging. Once they’re interested, this is how to explain what permanent life can do in addition to protection. And you can summarize what permanent life can do with three principles:

  1. Live more
  2. Keep more
  3. Build more

Here, we’ll discuss the principle of “live more.”

Live More

The first principle of “live more” focuses on the largely unexpected living benefits of permanent life.

So what can you say about these benefits? Unlike term life insurance, permanent life helps clients live more for today by protecting themselves and their family against life’s unknowns while providing ongoing access to their money when they need it.

Cash access isn’t something that most people expect from an insurance product. It signals to them that permanent life might give them more than they originally thought it would — that they’re not only protecting family, but also themselves, in case they ever need that money in an emergency. This also helps explain what’s different about permanent life insurance relative to other types of insurance or investment products.

Insurance’s primary purpose is protection, but this helps explain how permanent life offers more, which is essential to getting people to keep listening.

As we’ve seen, the words you use to talk about these “live more” benefits are critically important. Let’s dig into some of the details.

Life or death benefit

Of course, life insurance is purchased to support beneficiaries in the event of death, but no one likes to be reminded of their own mortality. Instead of talking about death, keep it positive and describe the value of the benefit: protection and safety.

You say: Death benefit

They hear: Death

What to say instead: “Financial security benefit for your family.”

You say: When you die

They hear: Die

What to say instead: “When you can no longer provide for your family.”

Quantitative research confirmed that “financial security benefit” is the best way to reframe the idea of a death benefit with both consumers and third-party advisors.

Careful with the beneficiaries

Talking about the beneficiaries themselves is tricky. It’s easy to sound too informal and corporate, but it can also turn clients off if you’re too personal. If you want to describe beneficiaries in a more personal way, keep your language plain and simple.

You say: Heirs

They think: Rich people’s kids

You say: Loved ones

They think: Overly sentimental

What to say instead: “Family”

‘Access,’ not ‘loans’

When speaking to clients about cash value, talk about access, not loans. Our research showed you should avoid talking about cash value as a “loan” at all. Since it’s their money in the policy, they don’t think you should charge them if they need to use it, which is what “loan” implies to them. Instead, by focusing on access, you make clear they can get to it if they need it — without signaling that there may be a fee.

You say: Loan

They think: Why should I pay interest to an insurance company when I’m just dipping into my own money?

What to say instead: “Access to cash value”

Cash or money

When talking about access to money, remember that this is a secondary benefit to them. The main reason consumers buy insurance is as protection for their family. So when you talk about living benefits and access to money while the client is still alive, be sure you use serious examples of why they might want to use the money. People tend to reject the implication that they would reduce their family’s protection for something frivolous like a vacation, but they were more receptive to examples of major life expenses.

You say: Vacations and weddings

They think: This is serious. Talk about serious needs.

What to talk about instead: “Access to your money for your mortgage, a child’s college expenses, or a more comfortable retirement.”

Permanent life insurance is for clients and their family, which means they can access their money throughout life if they need it while knowing their family is protected no matter what. As their life evolves, they can use the cash value to help pay for their mortgage, their child’s college expenses or simply to live more comfortably in retirement. So whether clients are saving for retirement or want to leave more behind, they can use their money in the way that’s best for themselves and their family at each stage of their life.

For more information on adjusting your language to better position permanent life insurance, see the interactive white paper.


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