Selling life insurance products in a pandemic is difficult, but one industry veteran reminds agents not to abandon the important techniques that connect them with clients.
The most important thing is to make the connection, said Marv Feldman, recipient of the 2011 John Newton Russell award. That means a phone call, progressing to a possible conference call. Agents should be trying to connect with prospects, while doing check-in calls with existing clients, Feldman said.
Those time-tested techniques -- reading body language, or sighting a family photo as a means to spark a conversation -- are not likely to be there, explained Feldman, who spoke during a Life Happens webinar Thursday.
But that just means agents need to work harder at basic communication.
"It still requires you to ask questions … that allow the client, the prospect to talk," Feldman said. "So while the technique is not face to face, the methods that we are using are the same as they’ve always been. We just have to become better listeners. And it’s really important to listen to not only what they’re saying, but how they’re saying it."
No Script, No Negativity
Feldman does not recommend using a script for these social distancing client calls. It is important to sound conversational and make connections.
“If you have a certain area that you want to discuss you may want to jot down some notes so that you cover everything that you want to discuss," he said. "I normally have something sitting next to the phone that I can refer to. How often do I do that? Not too often, but it’s there."
Likewise, it is important not to bemoan the virus, state of the economy, politics or anything else in a negative way, Feldman said. While it is important to connect with clients and prospects, that is not the way to do it, he said.
Instead, it is good to remind people the protections offered by life insurance during a crisis. Many people don't realize the versatility of life insurance to provide money in times like the present, said Feldman, author of "Man on a Mission: How to Succeed, Serve, and Make a Difference in Your Financial Services Career."
Follow-ups are just as important as ever, he added. Scheduling a simple review of policies and coverage will sometimes yield an unforeseen need.
"It’s just a matter of asking the open-ended questions and putting the person at ease," he said.
In response to a question, Feldman said it is unlikely that insurers will require a COVID-19 vaccination as a hurdle to coverage. Trump administration officials have said they aim to have a vaccine by January as part of Operation Warp Speed.
Still, by the time 330 million people get vaccinated, it's likely that an entirely new flu strain will be a greater threat, Feldman noted, adding that he doesn't expect insurers to require COVID-19 testing either.
"I think if somebody has tested positive they are going to require something from the doctor saying that this person is no longer positive," he said.
Some long-term lessons are being learned from the pandemic, Feldman said, such as how to be more efficient. And carriers have had to adapt to a new reality. Many insurers have capped life insurance at age 70 or 75, for example.
One thing many companies are doing is offering exclusive opportunities for additional coverage or products to policyholders who bought products within the past two or three years, Feldman said.
“There are quite a few companies out there doing this to stimulate business," he said. "Go back to that company and ask, 'Do you have something like this available?'"
Otherwise, it is possible the COVID-19 emergency will soften up hard prospects. It's worth explaining to younger prospects just how much coverage they can get for the price of a daily Starbucks coffee, Feldman said.
Some prospects might not be in position to take out all the coverage they want, but might want a short-term policy to cover themselves for the next few years. Be creative and open-minded, Feldman said.
"Maybe the decision we recommend is not the decision we would normally recommend but it will get them through this short term," he said.
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Editor John Hilton has covered business and other beats in more than 20 years of daily journalism. John may be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @INNJohnH.