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Disability InsuranceThis article first appeared in the October 2012 edition of Health Insurance Underwriter magazine on page 33.

Have you noticed? The rules of insurance selling have changed.
Even car dealerships are abandoning hard sell tactics in favor of warmer, friendlier strategies. That’s because proficient sales professionals understand an important truth: Clients don’t want to be sold; they want to purchase. It’s a subtle, yet significant difference. To purchase is to be in the driver’s seat – controlling the pace, assessing the options, and handpicking the product features. To purchase disability insurance is to be educated and empowered.

How do you put an insurance client in the driver’s seat? Admittedly, selling insurance is a little more complex than offering an ice cream sundae or selling a car. Many insurance consumers have no idea how to take charge of a disability insurance purchase process. However, that’s not important – what is important is that you know how to put them in charge.

The first step: Never, ever apply the Golden Rule, “Treat others in the way that you would like to be treated.” It sounds good on the surface, but there’s one key problem with this philosophy: Your customers may not want to be treated the same way you want to be treated.

Case in point: John is a gregarious, spontaneous disability insurance producer. He got into the insurance business because he loves people and he loves socializing. John assumes that his new client, Dr. Alexia Endo, enjoys the same treatment he does. So, he invites her to an educational luncheon he is hosting for 50 doctors and dentists. While greeting his guests from the podium, John publicly invites Alexia to the front of the room to tell the group about her dermatology practice. In John’s mind, he’s doing Alexia a huge favor. After all, the room is full of professionals who could refer patients. John loves it when his colleagues present him with these lucky opportunities!

How does Alexia feel about the unexpected publicity? She is mortified. Unlike John, Alexia has a formal communication style. She would never risk humiliation by speaking to a group without prepared comments. She strives to be accurate and precise at all times, and speaking on the fly doesn’t support those goals. Alexia declines the invitation and leaves the luncheon early because she is embarrassed. In the following months, Alexia feels uncomfortable with John and, ultimately, she finds a new agent.

What just happened?
John failed to realize that he is a “socializer” and Alexia is a “thinker.” He relied on the Golden Rule when he should have applied the Platinum Rule. And, he put Alexia in the back seat instead of the driver’s seat. Are you guilty of the same mistake?

The Platinum Rule
According to best-selling author Tony Alessandra, the Platinum Rule is: “Treat others the way they want to be treated.” Again, there’s a subtle, yet significant shift. By applying the Platinum Rule, insurance agents can put the client into the driver’s seat. Agents who practice the Platinum Rule:

  1. Observe and identify the client’s dominant personality style: relater, socializer, thinker or director (Source: Alessandra’s Behavioral Style Summary).
  2. Understand the client’s underlying behavior patterns, priorities, fears, desires, and decision drivers based on the dominate personality style.
  3. Adapt the sales presentation to facilitate the most productive sales scenario for the client.

How to apply the Platinum Rule to the disability insurance sale

The “Socializer” Client

Profile: Open and direct, fashionable, stylish, fast/spontaneous decision-maker, fears loss of status, seeks recognition, becomes bored easily.

 

DI sales strategies:

  • Socializers are emotional decision-makers who respond best to stories.
  • Focus on the “recognition” hook – emphasize that paycheck protection will gain appreciation and respect of family members and colleagues.
  • Keep the presentation tempo fast and interesting. Don’t focus on the numbers, focus on the relationship.
  • Tell them who else purchased DI and how it enhanced their status.
  • Plan to close in the first meeting. Socializers make decisions quickly and spontaneously.
  • Cultivate your ongoing relationship with dinners and customer appreciation events. Try to put socializer clients into the spotlight.

 

 

The “Director” Client

Profile: Direct, efficient, structure, fast/decisive decision-maker, fears loss of control, seeks productivity, leadership, is irritated by inefficiency.

 

DI sales strategies:

  • Directors respond to a combination of statistics and life stories. They fear loss of control, so tell stories about those who have lost control due to disability.
  • Focus on the “control” hook.
  • Cover what DI is, how it works, and how much it costs. The director needs a clear understanding of the product to proceed.
  • Use cost comparison worksheets to logically compare the price to other insurance products, such as home and auto insurance.
  • Present quickly and efficiently.
  • Plan to close in the first meeting. Directors make decisions quickly and don’t like to waste time.
  • Follow up right away with quotes and with the policy.

The “Relater” Client

Profile: Open and indirect, relaxed, friendly, slow/considered decision-maker, fears confrontation, seeks attention, does not like to be rushed.

 

DI sales strategies:

  • Relaters respond best to life stories. They are emotional decision-makers.
  • Focus on the “fear of confrontation.” The relater really doesn’t want to struggle with difficult circumstances.
  • In the presentation, cover how DI can affect the relater’s personal circumstances.
  • Ask, “What would happen to your family, your home, and your lifestyle if …?”
  • Slow down the pace and allow plenty of time questions and conversation.
  • Don’t be irritated if the relater doesn’t close in the first meeting. Relaters don’t like to be pushed.
  • Focus on building the personal relationship after the sale. Relaters are loyal to their friends.

 

The “Thinker” Client

Profile: Indirect, formal, conservative, likes structure, has a slow/systematic pace, fears embarrassment, withdraws when uncomfortable, strives to be precise and accurate, makes slow and deliberate decisions.

 

DI sales strategies:

  • Use facts and statistics to convince the “thinker” of the need for paycheck protection.
  • Establish expectations with a pre-appointment letter that spells out the steps of the DI process.
  • In the presentation, cover what DI is, how it works and cost justification. The thinker needs to justify the investment.
  • Use cost comparison worksheets to logically compare the price to other insurance products, such as home and auto insurance.
  • Present slowly and allow time for questions.
  • Don’t plan to close in the first meeting. Respect that thinkers need time to deliberate.
  • Schedule one-on-one meetings to nurture the customer relationship after the sale.

Caring enough
Before you can achieve the three steps above, you have to ask enough questions and observe enough behavior to accurately assess each client’s situation and communication style preferences. In our electronic environment of constant interruptions, this isn’t easy, but it is worthwhile.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Your clients will know you care when they hear you ask thoughtful questions, they see you reflect on their answers, and they feel your empathy. However, if you really care, you need to go one step farther and put the client in charge of the disability insurance purchase. When you purposefully adapt your selling style to facilitate a more productive client experience, the sales roadblocks fall away. A client in the driver’s seat navigates the sale. You just have to pay attention, follow the lead, and treat the client the way he or she wants to be treated.

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