September 05, 2018 9:00 AM

The competitive landscape for life insurance is prevalent and advisors need to seek out ways to differentiate their professional offerings. 

In a previous blog post, adjunct professor Steve Parrish mentioned the two major trends occurring within the insurance profession: traditional life insurance agents are becoming financial planners, and financial planning is rapidly transitioning from a sales model to an advisory model.

Below are eight helpful tips that will help you better address the financial needs of diverse individuals, businesses, and professional clients. 

1. Establish common ground

Trust is what makes or breaks a positive and lasting relationship with a client. Before you can become a trusted advisor, your prospective client needs to feel like you are someone they feel comfortable working and communicating with. Finding common ground can be as simple as asking a few questions about your client’s background story, seeing if you both grew up in the same region, or learning if you share similar hobbies or interests. Once you establish a connection, you can then start to grow a relationship with your client.

2. Develop a rapport

The most important step in developing rapport is the advisor's acceptance of the client and the client's awareness of this acceptance. Clients are drawn to professionals who build meaningful relationships with them and listen to what they want to accomplish. If rapport and credibility are developed early in the planning process, the insurance products and services the advisor later recommends will more likely be reflective of the clients' real needs and values. In developing rapport, the advisor must create an environment that promotes openness by:
  • Addressing and alleviating the concern of clients
  • Responding to the various social styles of clients
  • Structuring communications with clients

3. Mitigate correspondence barriers

During the insurance planning process, there are various barriers that can create tension between the advisor and his or her clients. These barriers can be divided into five categories:
  • Distrust of salespeople: many people have a negative image of those who sell products and/or services and avoid meeting with them for fear of being talked into buying something they do not want or need. 
  • Fear of making a decision: decisions involve risk, and many people avoid risk especially when money is involved.
  • Need for stability: consumers have a preference for familiarity, causing a resistance to change.
  • Time constraints: busy clients are reluctant to commit their time. 
  • Fear of fraud: today's financial markets have experienced fraud; making individuals reluctant to offer up their trust.

4. Communicate effectively

Effective communication is the most critical asset in the advisor-client relationship. The failure of clients and advisors to communicate fully and clearly with each other can result in improperly identified financial goals and the formulation of inappropriate planning strategies. Below are the three primary forms of structured communication:
  • Interviewing: question-and-answer communication designed to gather meaningful information.
  • Counseling: assisting clients as they explore their present financial situations, understand where they are compared to where they would like to be, and discuss an action plan to get there. 
  • Advising: involves giving specific guidance or suggestions to clients. 

5. Be empathetic. Be genuine. Be positive

Financial advisors must be themselves in their interactions with clients. Each advisor is a human being, complete with strengths and weaknesses. The helpful advisor is also sincere and genuine in attempting to help others learn how to help themselves. A constructive advisor-client relationship serves not only to increase the opportunity for clients to attain the goals that are important to them, it also serves as a model of a good interpersonal relationship. Below are the four attributes an advisor needs to aid clients:
Unconditional positive regard: to value the client as a unique individual.
  • Accurate empathy: to perceive and understand what the client is experiencing.
  • Genuineness: to be open and spontaneous. 
  • Self-awareness: to be aware of your own value systems and avoid the imposition of your own values on clients.

6. Detail the six benefits of insurance

The earliest form of life insurance dates back to ancient Rome, known as “burial clubs.” As the name suggests, burial clubs covered the cost of its members funeral expenses and assisted survivors financially.

In the grand scheme of things, investing in life insurance seems like an obvious choice. We insure our car, house, healthcare, and sometimes our phones. So it would make sense that life insurance would be a top-of-mind investment. Yet, not everyone has it.

As stated above, the primal reason for insurance is that it pays claims when losses occur. However, there are additional benefits to life insurance that your client may not know about.
  • Pays claims: supplies the financial resources that often permit a family or an organization to continue despite serious losses. 
  • Encourages peace of mind: reduces uncertainty and improves peace of mind by improving policyowners’ ability to predict their financial futures.
  • Provides a basis for credit: life insurance is used to guarantee that a loan will be repaid despite the borrower’s death. 
  • Stimulates saving: encourages family members to save so that the few who are unfortunate can be repaid for their losses through a combined savings fund.
  • Provides investment capital: since insurers’ assets are immense, their investments provide a gigantic source of capital for the economy.
  • Fosters loss prevention: insurance benefits society by fostering considerable effort to prevent losses.

7. Determine life insurance and retirement needs

Identifying the family and business purposes of life insurance is one of the first steps in determining the appropriate life insurance policy match for the client. With the needs analysis, financial planners will discover the prospect’s family situation and his or her expectations for life insurance, as well as their retirement needs.

After the necessary amount of life insurance is determined, the matter of term life insurance versus permanent life insurance is frequently the next item to resolve. Term insurance can provide the necessary capital sum upon the death of the insured, while permanent insurance meets the family’s capital needs upon the client’s death and also builds a cash value that helps address the postretirement needs of the insured and his or her spouse.

8. Educate your clients and stay educated for them

Proper guidance from financial planners requires complete and accurate information about the client’s finances. In addition, the planner must understand the client’s goals or objectives and priorities.

When clients look to purchase life insurance, they want more than just another financial representative reading terms of a contract. They prefer an expert that understands different policies and how to use them to best serve their financial aspirations. In the world of life insurance, the Chartered Life Underwriter® (CLU®) is that expert, as a CLU® designee holds the world's foremost insurance designation and demonstrates an utmost dedication to ethical service and superior knowledge of the profession. Upon completion of this program, students have the expertise to provide guidance to clients on types and amounts of life insurance, make recommendations on aspects of risk management, and expert knowledge of various insurance solutions.

Take the next step in your profession

The content of the article you just read was adapted from the course HS 300 Financial Planning: Process and Environment, which can be taken for credit toward the ChFC®, CFP®, and CLU® designations here at The College.

If you want to accelerate your career and position yourself as a qualified insurance expert, learn more about the CLU® here. Already have a CLU®? Consider earning the Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) to better serve your clients.

Download the Guide: 10 Terms Every Insurance Pro Needs to Know

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