Here’s another installment in our effort to bring time-tested sales and marketing articles to the eyes of new readers.

The original version of this article ran on April 5, 2013. In this one, Brad Anderson shares veteran producers’ favorite starting gambits. 

The middle of a sales conversation is usually great. And ending one?

No sweat.

The problem lies in getting the ball rolling in the first place.

How do you get a prospect to not only start listening to you but also take what you’re saying seriously?

We’ve asked a wide-ranging group of expert producers to share their best opening lines — for life insurance, annuity, exit planning and disability insurance prospects — with us.

Here’s how they’ve been successfully starting conversations for years — and why each believes their approach works.

 

Guy E. Baker

For the life insurance prospect: 

“Mr. Prospect, if it is this difficult for you to deal with these issues, with all the experience and ability you have, what would it be like for your family if you weren’t able to help them? What if you didn’t come home tonight because of a fatal car accident? Or you bumped your head and suffered a stroke? What then?”

Guy E. Baker, MSFS, CLU: The best approach is to acknowledge these are tough times and maintaining a fiscally sound budget is of the highest priority. “However,” I might say, and then ask the series of questions. [Then I would add], “For just a few dollars a month, you can guarantee your family would be able to survive these tough times, whether you were able to provide for them or not.”

Death and disability are a reality. Stuff happens. We did not cause the problems. But we can sure solve them. We have to remember why we do what we do. We may be their last advocate. No one can guarantee they will be able to bring home a paycheck next week. But we can guarantee that if they can’t, because of illness or death, we will deliver on the promises.

Gagne

For the annuity prospect: 

Do you want to run out of money before you run out of time, or do you want to create a plan that will provide income to you for as long as you live?

Gregory B. Gagne, ChFC: The message we bring is one of prospect self-reflection. Allow the prospect to pick the answer. We think the answer is obvious, but the prospect may have never given the idea any thought before you bring it to their attention.

 

When does your next CD come due?

Bobb A. Meckenstock, CLU, M.B.A.: I began asking this question in the 1980s, and still, to this day, it is a great opening question.

Fowler

For the exit planning prospect:

Out of curiosity, do you have an exit plan for your business? One day, because of death, disability or retirement, you will exit your business. Do you have a plan to take your money out of the business on a favorable basis?

Tom Fowler, CLU, LUTCF:There are numerous ways to penetrate the business market. I use lifestyle prospecting. I listen to conversations with an open ear for business owners. When the time is appropriate in the conversation, I ask [the question]. If you ask this question, you are showing interest in them and their business. Most people like to talk about their businesses, and you’ll probably be the first person who ever asked this question.

Barton Ronn

For the disability insurance prospect:

 How long can you afford to go without a paycheck? 

Sherry K. Barton, CLU: Agents are not being trained to ask [this question]. This simple phrase opens the discussion for disability income. I tell agents to remind clients that nothing works if you can’t! This refers to a disability, an illness or an injury that is preventing you from working. This policy will be there with money to feed your family, make your house payment and keep your lifestyle going. Talking about disability to our income earners is simply talking to them about what this product can do. New agents in the business need to be exposed to the product and find the company that issues disability. I have told new agents to write a plan on themselves, which teaches them how to run the illustration, the benefits that can be included and what the cost will be.

 

I wanted to reach out to give you the opportunity to say ‘no’ to me, in case you are not comfortable moving forward.

Ann Baker Ronn: One of my biggest challenges is clients procrastinating. They see no sense of urgency to take care of protecting their largest asset, which is their ability to earn an income! I am working on handling this type of situation. I started using a very forward approach, emailing and asking the client or prospect if they want to move forward or not. It has worked in some cases. The email is worded like this: “I wanted to reach out to give you the opportunity to say ‘no’ to me, in case you are not comfortable moving forward.” This is an excellent way to determine the seriousness of a client or prospect.

Ashe

For the disability insurance prospect: 

“Would it make a big difference in your lifestyle if you didn’t have $200 a month for your expenses?” (Reply from prospect: “No.”) “Would it make a big difference in your lifestyle if you didn’t have $4,000 a month for your expenses?”

Brian H. Ashe, CLU: One of my favorite presentations goes like this. Question: “Would it make a big difference in your lifestyle if you didn’t have $200 a month for your expenses?” Answer: “No.” Q: “Would it make a big difference in your lifestyle if you didn’t have $4,000 a month for your expenses?” A: “You bet — that would be huge!” Reply from the advisor: “Well, if you give me $200 per month (disability premium), I’ll make sure you get $4,000 a month if you’re sick or hurt and can’t work. Does that sound like a fair deal?

 

“Do you have half a health insurance plan? Who pays you if you are sick or hurt?”

Thomas E. Heinecke, CLU, RHU: I want to try to help the client meet other needs, such as the need for an income if they do get sick or hurt and are unable to work. Illinois Mutual, for example, has some promotional pieces that ask the question, “Do you have half a health insurance plan?” They then go on to state that health insurance makes sure that the doctors get paid, the hospitals get paid and the pharmacists get paid. The question, then, is who pays you if you are sick or hurt? This approach has at least opened some doors to a discussion about disability insurance.

Mathieu

For the LTCI prospect:

 Have you ever had a parent in a long-term care facility, and if so, how was it paid for?

Stephen N. Mathieu, CLU, ChFC, RHU: We ask every prospect and client who is 50 years old or older to tell us about their plans as to how they would handle an LTC situation. We ask if they’ve ever had a parent in an LTC facility, and if so, how they were able to pay for the care. This question can be uncomfortable to answer, but it forces clients to face up to the facts.

 

“How’s your current health, and are your parents still alive? Have you had any personal experience with the costs associated with long-term care? Are you aware if you eventually need any type of long-term care, there are only three funding choices for you to consider?”

Mark S. Jones, LUTCF: We ask these three very simple questions and follow with appropriate responses. “How’s your current health, and are your parents still alive?” Healthy people in their 50s and 60s often live into their 80s and 90s, and genetics can play a key role. “Have you had any personal experience with the costs associated with long-term care?” Their true knowledge base is exposed fairly quickly. “Are you aware if you eventually need any type of long-term care, there are only three funding choices for you to consider?” First, some sort of government-funded plan, such as Medicaid, or your family members. How reliable is that option? Second, a personally owned LTC-type insurance policy — which places the owner/insured in control. Third, self-insure — the use of your personal assets. If self-insurance is the preferred choice, the follow-up question then becomes, “Which assets will you liquidate first?” 

—-Read 24 Great Sales Jokes on ThinkAdvisor.