Consumers are no longer willing to settle for a product just because a life insurance professional says it's a good choice. Most customers these days aren't necessarily looking for products at all.
"Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants, so long as it is black."
This famous quote by Henry Ford reveals his strategy for mass producing the Model T and launching the great industrial juggernaut of the early 20th century. For almost 100 years, this attitude also defined the baseline strategy of most life insurance sales organizations.
"The customer can have any product or service they want, as long as they let us tell them what they can have."
However, the technological advances of the past 20 years - not the least of which is the way our entire culture has been transformed by the Internet - has turned the tables; the customer is beginning to take charge and drive sales conversations. Because today's more sophisticated customers have a sense of power and entitlement, they are likely to be fully aware of the options and solutions available to them. They are no longer willing to settle for a product just because a life insurance agent says it's a good choice. Most customers these days aren't necessarily looking for products at all.
Instead, they are interested in finding solutions that will help them achieve a specific outcome. For this reason, life insurance professionals must stop thinking about simply pushing products. The way to close more business today lies in first being sensitive to the customer's needs and then adopting a flexible, creative approach to customizing products and solutions that will help customers achieve their desired outcome and meet their needs.
At Legacy, our experiences have helped us identify six key rules to help our partner's get out of their typical selling box, and learn how to work with customers and help them achieve their goals:
- Stop thinking about what you can sell the customer and start focusing on how you can help them reach their goals and meet their needs.
By thinking in terms of helping the customer meet their needs, you will avoid getting locked into a product mentality and maximize your ability to stay both flexible and creative.
- Think of your product as only one aspect of the value you can provide to your customer.
It seems that almost overnight, the philosophy of selling has shifted from a focus on products or services to a focus on consultative interactions to create outcomes and meet needs. Highly successful life insurance professionals today want to be valued for their expertise, experience, and ability to collaborate with customers and design customized solutions to deliver specific needs and outcomes. The product or service is definitely a part of the solution, but the highly successful life professionals will also work with the customer to uniquely position and deploy that solution to produce maximum benefits, which adds extra value for everyone.
- Get used to a longer sales cycle.
The nature of this more creative, collaborative process may necessitate a longer sales cycle than you are accustomed to, even for products that might be simplified issue life insurance. For the simplified issue senior market or mortgage protection market this may mean spending an hour or more instead of 30 to 45 minutes. You need to allow time to really get to know the customer and understand their situation and determine their needs.
For the fully underwritten life insurance policy or FIA this might require several conversations spread out over a few weeks or in some cases, even a few months. You also need to devote more time to asking questions, processing answers, researching solutions and developing customized recommendations. The longer sales cycle generally leads to a higher trust level between you and the customer; it also very often leads to bigger deals that close at higher margins, with a higher potential for developing into long-term relationships that drive greater revenues year over year.
- Focus on discussions about genuine concerns, and steer away from cookie-cutter solutions.
The customer must feel absolutely comfortable throughout the sales process. Unfortunately, some life insurance professionals may feign interest in the customer's needs and goals just long enough to steer the conversation in the direction they need it to go to position the solution they already want to offer. Customers won't tolerate being manipulated like this. Once they sense that you are setting them up so you can deliver your preconceived solution, without spending the time to listen to their needs and understand the outcomes they hope to achieve, they will withhold their trust and become more resistant.
- Tell the truth, even if it means telling customers what they don't want to hear.
This is a hard practice to follow, but it may be critical to helping you develop the kind of credibility with the customer that will pay off in the months and years to come. As a rule, life insurance professionals are competitive, and they work very hard at winning new business. However, never let this desire to win tempt you to promise something you can't deliver, or, perhaps worse, agree to a solution that won't really produce the outcome the customer needs, even if the customer asks for it and even if it will make you a lot of money. Without a doubt, the customer will remember your integrity the next time you call on him/her, if you tell the truth right up front.
- Know when to assert your expertise and when to defer to the customer.
As a qualified life insurance agent with the experience within your industry, there will be times during the sales process when it is not only appropriate but important for you to respectfully assert your expertise when recommending solutions. Usually, these times will come towards the end of the process, after you've built a strong relationship with the customer and have patiently, carefully developed a thorough understanding of the outcomes the customer desires, their needs, and the options he/she prefers.
Ultimately, though, the customer is the expert on his/her needs and the solutions they feel most comfortable with. After you have made your recommendation, you must be willing to trust the customer to make the choice that they feel is best for them. If you have maintained your commitment to be flexible, creative and collaborative during the rest of the process, you can usually trust the customer to make the choice that works out best for both of you.
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