christmas-decoration_fJMy-NcOIsn’t that what it’s all about? Stuff !!!!!! I recently read that this holiday season is supposed to be one of the biggest ever for retailers. Something to the tune of $965B. So while we rush out on our families on Thanksgiving afternoon to get a jump on those Black Friday deals and trample our fellow shoppers for that “deal,” let’s take a step back and think about things for a moment.

With the commercialization of the holiday season, the true meaning of the holiday season has definitely been lost. But that’s an entirely different topic for another day. That number up above is staggering. Materialistic things are purchased with the notion of making the recipient happy. But I can guarantee that the large majority of “gift givers” are not thinking of the ultimate gift that they can give to their families, which is financial security if something that were to happen to them. Of course, I’m talking about life insurance.

It’s a tough sale to start talking to clients about life insurance during holiday time, but what is interesting is that family is on the minds of people most during this time of year. I’m not saying to run out and buy a life insurance policy, wrap it with pretty paper and bows and leave one under the tree in place of all the good “stuff.” What I am saying is that the topic needs to be brought up. If people are spending all of that money on gifts for the ones they love, wouldn’t it make sense to take a small amount of that to make sure that regardless of what happens, there will be financial piece of mind to make sure that all of the important things such as a home, food and other essentials will always be there. And guess what, there will still be money left over for the fun stuff.

Because of the leverage of life insurance dollars, it doesn’t take much to provide large legacies. Of the total amount of expected retail sales this holiday season, can you imagine how much life insurance can be purchased with just ½ of one percent of that figure.

Today’s marketplace provides for some of the most diverse products that we have seen in years. There is Traditional Term, Whole Life, Guaranteed Universal Life, Indexed Universal Life as well as unique Long Term Care solutions. All of these products address the needs of our clients in many different ways. Whether it’s a spouse providing income continuation, a parent providing funds to provide for their children or a grandparent leaving a legacy, each product sale comes with the real value; financial security.

So just keep in mind during this holiday season when families are on the minds of most, it’s not just about those diamond earrings, the X-Box or the iPad, its more than that. It’s about giving the most thoughtful, loving gift of all…Financial Security.

Just some thoughts to ponder during this holiday season.

What Is Legacy

what_is_LegacyMiriam Websters dictionary defines the word Legacy as follows:

1: a gift by will especially of money or other personal property
2: something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past

That’s how they see it and that’s how most people understand it. But how does it relate to our everyday life as Insurance Advisors? A life insurance policy is an instant legacy that can be used in so many ways. It can be looked at as the continuation of income provided by a father or mother to replace the income they would have provided if not for a tragedy of some kind. It can also be used to pay off a mortgage and provide for a college education. That’s life insurance in its most simple form. But let’s look beyond that for a moment.

In a large majority of planning scenarios that we come across, we find that parents (Gen 1) are monetarily helping their children and grandchildren more and more. It’s simply harder today for their children to have what they had. It’s more expensive to live, incomes are dropping, college costs are soaring and the future does not look financially bright. Via life insurance, namely Second-to-Die Life insurance, we are seeing a large increase in sales that Gen 1 is looking to secure a lasting legacy so that their children & grandchildren are protected long after they are gone.

Small annual gifts are being utilized to leverage large legacies through life insurance proceeds. The legacies provided under the life insurance policies are certainly meaningful. There are psychological implications to this sale as well. A parent, knowing that their children are provided for so that they can have a comfortable life is a good feeling for most. Especially when you factor in grandchildren, who are usually the apple of the eye of most grandparents. Knowing that you can be responsible for a grandchild’s college education, paying for their wedding or the purchase of a new house is something of a lasting legacy. People want to be remembered and what better way to be remembered then to leave a legacy that can do so much.

In fact, there are some grandparents buying Joint Life Annuities with themselves and their grandchildren as the joint annuitants. Every year on the grandchild’s birthday, a new annuity payment is made to them. It’s a pretty interesting idea to know that every year when the check comes in, it’s from your grandfather or grandmother. A far cry from the $5 bill that was in the birthday card we would get in the mail as kids. And what’s interesting, because the joint annuitant is so young, it doesn’t cost a lot of money to set that up and will last a lifetime.

Bottom line, it’s a good idea to include the Legacy conversation when talking to clients, especially their Attorneys and CPA’s. They know what the client’s desires are and in a lot of cases their Gen 1 clients want to help their children and grandchildren. As we near the end of the year and tax season is around the corner, you might want to start some of these conversations now.

I’ll leave you with this. I came across an old Greek Proverb and thought it was fitting as it relates to this topic…

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

If you think of all your clients and prospects, you should yield lots of forests in the years to come.

Building The LTC Bridge

LTCBridgetheGapBy now we have all heard the argument for Long Term Care Insurance. We know how important it is and why our clients should have it. The irony is that 95% of the people that should have it don’t, and if a Long Term Care event happens, 95% or all of what someone has built over their lifetime can be gone before you know it.

So, why aren’t we selling more of it? The truth is that it is a very emotional sale and most people will back off for many reasons, but primarily because it is too expensive and people would much rather spend that money on other things. There are a host of other objections/excuses that are thrown out to us, such as:

  • “I’m in good health. I’m going to live a long time and won’t need it”
  • “No one in my family as ever needed it”
  • “I’ll drop dead suddenly and not need any on-going care”
  • “I can give away our assets and have the government pay”
  • “I can invest the money and make out better “
  • “My medical insurance will pay”
  • “My kids will take care of me”
  • “I’ll deal with it when the time comes”
  • “I’ll put some extra money away”

Do any of these sound familiar? I’m sure they do. What many people don’t realize is that when something does happen, and statistically 6 out of 10 people will require some degree of long term care in their lifetime, it is often financially devastating to the family. Aside from the emotional toll, savings, retirement plans and homes can be lost.

There are a number of ways to help protect against the financial threat of Long Term Care. Obviously Traditional LTC Policies are available or the Blended Life Alternatives, such as MoneyGuard. But the product that has been growing in popularity is The Life Insurance Policies with Long Term Care Riders (LTCR’s). These are available on a GUL or IUL chassis. What makes these so popular is the fact that unlike a traditional LTC policy, the premiums are guaranteed to never change and if you never go on claim, there is a death benefit ultimately paid to a beneficiary.

These are great policies to sell to clients in their late 30’s and 40’s. The rates are so inexpensive now that it pays to take care of this planning scenario today. But the bigger picture is that these clients have parents who are in their 50’s, 60’s and even 70’s. Does that generation have adequate assets to protect them (or their families) from the threat of a Long Term Care event?

Simply stated, we are living longer today. With advances in modern medicine, conditions that had previously caused “sudden deaths” are now resulting in prolonged life that impairs health to the extent that there is a potential need for long term care. The “older age” segment of our population, which is considered to be 85 and older, is the fastest growing age group in the country. In fact, over 50% of that age group is receiving some form of long term care. By 2035, it is predicted that the over 65 population will double to approximately 77 million. Furthermore, when it comes to provided care, over 75% of the daily care hours are provided in home by family members.

So, when we look back at some of those excuses people have for not buying some type of long term care protection, who will be affected most by those inactions? The answer is, those clients today that have parents in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Would it not make perfect sense to bring the topic up to them since statistically something is going to happen to their parents in the foreseeable future? By planning now, you can help Generation 2:

  • protect against potential loss of future inheritances
  • protect against fire sales
  • protect against lost wages while caring for a parent
  • assure the dignity of loved ones
  • and most of all, mitigate or eliminate the financial burdens associated with the emotional strain of caring for a loved one during a prolonged illness.

Most advisors think they are not in the LTC Market with clients that are in their 30’s and 40’s, but they really are. It’s all in how you perceive it. Not only can you help them plan now for their own future while the costs are low but you can Build a Bridge to assist them with an event that can potentially impact them more profoundly, their parent’s long term care event.

Want_vs_NeedsLife Insurance is definitely not something that people want to buy. There is something about pondering one’s mortality that turns people away, and rightly so. After all, who wants to talk about dying? Not a fun subject in anyone’s book. As Insurance Advisors, we have a knack of clearing rooms when the infamous question comes up…What do you do for a living? If we say we sell Life Insurance, the conversation can be real short, and often is.

But let’s face it, what we do is so powerful and few people can truly state that what they do changes lives. But we do! When I first started in the business, I was told that I would never understand the power of what we do until I delivered my first death claim check. There is no statement more true until you have done so. So let’s talk about WANT v. NEED. People (all of our clients and prospects), want certain things. They want…

  • Their families to be safe
  • To have enough money to not struggle
  • To be successful in their careers
  • To provide for their families so they can enjoy life

Sometimes the WANTS are materialistic in nature. New Cars, Big Houses, Large Screen TV’s, the latest Smartphone, Video Games, etc. are often on the list. These things fall under the category of their families enjoying life, and there is nothing wrong with that.

But if we step back a moment and think about the dreaded WHAT IF Scenario, will all these things be there ? What if the major breadwinner of a family dies early before they were able to provide all of these things? What happens to the families? Will they have enough money to not struggle, can they go on and enjoy life? The truth is, the average family doesn’t really have the means to continue on financially since they rely so heavily on that major breadwinner to maintain all of the things that are often taken for granted.

A few years ago when Hurricane Sandy struck, I think we were all reminded of the ”things” that we all took for granted like the ability to walk into a room, flick on a light switch and go about our everyday lives. For some of us, that simple pleasure was gone for a couple of weeks.

Using Sandy as the barometer for life’s disruption, let’s go a few steps further and think for a moment of that major breadwinner suddenly being out of the picture and the WANTS now being in jeopardy. Now let’s assume that there was little or no life insurance in place. What happens next? I’m sure we can all agree that the lives of the survivors would be turned upside down to say the least. All of the WANTS listed above can be gone in a blink of an eye when it could have been easily avoided.

Now, let’s shift to NEED. In our scenario above, a means was needed to secure all of the WANTS. Life Insurance could have maintained the integrity of the WANTS. The Financial Security Blanket provided by the Life Insurance can help that family go on and achieve the WANTS in life. We all know that money can never replace the emotional loss, but we live in a world that Financial Security is key to moving forward and allowing us to pursue our WANTS and DREAMS. Whether it’s Income Replacement, Mortgage Protection, College Funding, etc., we all need to take a step back and realize that what we do is so powerful and truly change lives.

WANT v. NEED. It is a Harsh Reality, but in order to protect the WANTS, we NEED to have Life Insurance.

I apologize for the lecture but September is Life Insurance Awareness Month and in the spirit of that, it’s always good to take a step back, put things into perspective and reiterate how important we are as an industry and by the stroke of a pen, we have the power to change lives.

ask_me_about_underwritingA day in the life of a Brokerage General Agency is anything but boring. We work with many types of cases from a large cross section of producers. Some look to us for product while others look for concepts to bring to their clients.

Regardless of the approach, in the end, it all comes down to underwriting. Underwriting makes the difference between closing a piece of business or not. Granted, underwriting starts at the field level and there’s something to be said for the old adage of “Under Promise & Over Deliver.” That is probably a more profound statement when it comes to life insurance sales. If you are with a client that has issues such as Diabetes, Build, High Blood Pressure or a Motor Vehicle Report as tall as the Empire State Building, why would you quote Preferred Best??? But that happens more often than not and we encourage our producers to ask the right questions and give them special tools to be used at point-of-sale to allow them to set the expectation level of the client to real life premium levels at the point of sale.

In today’s marketplace, it’s all about knowing where to go when you have a case that falls below the normal radar screen. Carriers today have changed their underwriting methodologies and have liberalized their guidelines for many impairments that a few short years ago would have been viewed negatively in terms of underwriting. This is due to many factors, but primarily to the great deal of data that is available in the world of medicine today. With modern advances and treatments that are increasing individual mortality, it is only fair that the underlying guideline for these impairments be adjusted.
We are seeing a number of changes being made across the industry that are positively affecting underwriting decisions. Something as simple as Cholesterol Limits, Blood Pressure Control or Family History liberalizations have had significant impact. On a larger scale, there have been great strides in underwriting cases with more complex issues such as Diabetes, Coronary Disease and even Cancer. It is not uncommon today to see Standard to Preferred Offers with some of these types of cases.

We work closely with Dedicated Underwriting Teams at our carriers and know how to leverage those relationships on your behalf. Although they each have their own internal underwriting guidelines, we know where to go to get you the best offers for your clients.

Let’s be realistic. There are just some cases that no matter what you do, they’re just not going to work. But what I will say is that when you have a case that you have had poor underwriting experience with or a new case with some questionable health issues, it is worth a phone call to see if we can help you navigate through a case and possibly be able to make something happen. Most new brokers we work with mention clients that they have that “are not insurable.” When we put it through our litmus test, often times, those same cases are insurable. As a matter of fact, those cases are the ones with the Diabetes, Cardiac or Cancer histories that can get those Standard – Preferred offers. It all comes down to underwriting…

After all, Underwriting is the Real Case Maker!

4th-of-july_my5mRM_LNo, that’s not a typo. That’s what I meant. Independence Day is upon us, but with all the freedoms that we celebrate, it is fitting to talk about the freedoms that we can provide for our families, our heirs, our Dependents.

There is nothing worse than witnessing a catastrophic event that can wipe out all that we have worked for our whole lives. Too many times, we see this happen to our clients, friends and others and it all comes down to poor planning. We live in a time where there is so much discussion about outliving retirement funds, what to do in the event of a long term care event, etc. As advisors, we have the ability to discuss a myriad of products and planning techniques with our clients to assure that they have done the proper planning to protect themselves (or their Dependents), against unforeseen life events.

What can we do to fill in the gaps? The short answer…A LOT.

Life Insurance – of course, the simple answer is Life Insurance. This has always been there to help Dependents get back on their feet. It can provide so many things; continued income, college educations, provides life long income for survivors, estate liquidity and the list goes on.

Long Term Care Insurance – providing a policy that will help offset the costs associated with a health care event requiring nursing home or home health care needs. This can be accomplished on an individual basis or under a Blended-Life design.

Disability Income Insurance – providing the replacement of one’s income with benefits should that person be unable to provide income due to some type of health impairment.

Income Annuities – for some clients, we can provide them/surviving spouse with an income that they can never outlive.

The above list is the more traditional approach for Dependent planning. But in today’s marketplace, we can go many steps further…

Living Benefits have become the popular trend in our industry and if you are not taking advantage of them, it’s going to cost you potential clients. Living Benefits enhance the traditional planning methods outlined above and ease the burdens on their Dependents. Here are some of the Living Benefits that you should be implementing with your clients:

Long Term Care Riders – LTCR’s can be added to Life Insurance policies and will allow your clients to access their death benefits should they have a life event requiring Long Term care needs. Although they come with different access definitions (e.g. indemnity v. reimbursement), the end result is the same, an ability to use a life insurance policy as a means to ease the burden on Dependents. They are even available on a rated basis for those that could normally not qualify for an individual LTC policy. Now, when a client objects to buying life insurance because “they won’t benefit from it,” in this case they can. This is a powerful tool to use and a great innovation to a standard life insurance policy.

Chronic Illness Riders – similar to the Long Term Care Riders, these benefits allow early access to death benefits for permanent types of illnesses. Once again, easing the strain on Dependents.

Guaranteed Income Riders– through the use of new annuity product designs, these riders can guarantee income to annuitants based upon the high watermark values of a contract. This allows individuals to receive a higher guaranteed income, regardless of market conditions that can deplete values prior to retirement.

Disability/Unemployment Plans – for those of you in the term marketplace, there is a policy available to pay premiums and possibly convert a policy to something permanent in the event of a permanent disability. Further, in the event of the insured becoming unemployed, premiums can even be paid for up to one year of unemployment.

Living Benefits have taken the traditional approach to selling our products and taken them to a new level. These benefits are designed with an underlying theme for you to bring to your clients…easing the burden on their Dependents.

So, as we celebrate our country’s independence, eating our hot dogs, hamburgers and watching fireworks, let’s think for a moment about how we assist our clients in protecting what is most important to them and…

 

HAVE A HAPPYDEPENDENTSDAY!

what-is-life-insuranceSeveral years ago, while attending an industry meeting, I was listening to a speech. During which, the speaker was talking about the industry as a whole and the importance of what we do for a living. He then proceeded to read the following to the group:

A life insurance policy is just a time-yellowed piece of paper, with columns of figures and legal phrases, until it is baptized with a widow’s tears. Then it becomes a modern miracle, a sort of Aladdin’s Lamp.
It is food, clothing, shelter, education, piece of mind.
It is the sincerest love letter ever written.
It quiets the crying of a hungry baby at night. It eases the heart of a bereaved widow. It is the comforting whisper in the dark silent hours of the night. It is a new hope, fresh courage and strength for the widow to pick up the broken threads of life and carry on. It is an education for the sons and daughters (a chance for a career, instead of the need for a job). It is a father’s parental blessing to his children on their wedding day.
It is the function of a father’s hopes and dreams for his family’s future. Through life insurance he lives on. There is no death. Life insurance exalts life and defeats death.
It is the premium we pay for the privilege of living after death.

Although it is a bit dated and arguably a bit corny, it is powerful nonetheless. This piece was written back in 1929 by Jack J. Leterman, who established the first John Hancock Agency in the state of Virginia. As a 25 year plus veteran in the industry, I was extremely taken back by these words and have had them framed in my office ever since. I take any opportunity to share these words with as many life insurance professionals as possible.

What we do is so unique and powerful. These words are the core of what we do and I believe today, more than ever, it is so important to spread the importance of these words to our clients. This is what life Insurance was intended to do but as we all know, it has become so much more than that.

Not only does it accomplish the most simplistic form of protection to surviving spouses and children such as, Income Replacement, Mortgage Protection, or College Funding. It provides solutions to a host of other, more complex problems facing our clients today. Whether we use Life Insurance to provide liquidity for heirs of larger estates, provide Supplemental Retirement Income, funding Buy/Sell Agreements, Key-Man Protection, etc., we are positioned to use this powerful product to find solutions to these, and other planning challenges.

We live in tough economic times. With uncertainties surrounding us, it is a great feeling to know that we can provide so much in the form of “piece of mind” with a simple stroke of the pen. The words above are over 80 years old, and the core principles behind them say it all… What is Life Insurance?

men-from-mars-678-247-1Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus…That’s surely a blast from the past. A piece of pop-culture, a book from the 1990’s that basically stated that common relationship problems between men and women were the result of fundamental physiological differences. In short, these differences, according to the author, concluded that each gender could be understood by how they responded to stress and stressful situations. In order to harmoniously live with and understand each other and enjoy a successful relationship, we, as men, have to understand what makes the female watch tick. So what is the relevance of a bestseller from the 1990’s in our financial world?

Here are some facts:

• In the next five years, private wealth is expected to grow from $14 trillion to $22 trillion. And women will control an estimated two thirds of it.
• Women are the primary breadwinners in 40% of households with children.
• When couples interact with a financial advisor, the “man” is the primary contact in 58% of those relationships.
• 70% of women leave their advisors within one year of their husband’s death.

Does that get your attention?

What’s two thirds of $22 trillion? OK, point made. There’s a great deal of opportunity there. But how do we as financial advisors open the door? That’s where the Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus principle kicks in. If we don’t understand the physiological triggers of the gender that will control over $14 trillion in wealth, how can we possibly earn our respective share of that market?
In order to further demonstrate the importance of the influence women have, here is a brief listing of the growing number of women’s groups that exist today:

American Association of University Women (AAUW)
American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA)
Association for Women in Communications (AWC)
The Center for Women’s Business Research
Financial Women’s Association (FWA)
General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC)
League of Women Voters of the United States (LWV)
National Association for Female Executives (NAFE)
National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO)
National Council of Negro Women (NCNW)
National Organization for Women (NOW)
National Women’s Business Council (NWBC)
Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP)
Women in Technology International (WITI)
Women’s Sports Foundation

As you can see, women have taken a huge role in shaping the financial future of our country. With this strong presence, you can see where the need for financial products arises. The problem is that most advisors don’t know how to properly cater to women. When it comes to working with a financial advisor, a common complaint is that women are either ignored or overlooked during the process. Feeding into traditional gender roles is a huge mistake. As evidenced in the earlier facts, women represent a dominant role as breadwinners and as major decision makers. So traditional, stereotypical conventions have to be thrown out the window.

In addition, women want someone who they believe is transparent, honest and open. They want someone who is reliable and someone who they can trust. Communication on an on-going basis is also key. But most of all, we must respect and acknowledge her role as a financial decision maker. There is no need to over complicate the process. It is simply adopting these simple principles and understanding the basic physiological triggers that can be found on Venus and you know what, there’s no need to take a spaceship to get there.

"Mark's Barks Blog - Under The Hood"We have all heard that phrase when it comes to buying a used car. The car may look nice on the outside, it could be shiny and look great but what’s under the hood is what really matters. Will it run well? Has it been in an accident?, etc. These are the things that truly matter and will determine whether or not you are really getting a good deal and that the car will last.

The same is true for most anything we buy, even life insurance. If you do a search for term insurance, you will see a list of carriers a mile long, listing products in order of price, from the lowest to the highest. Most agents gravitate towards the cheapest price, but have you checked under the hood and really kicked those tires? Is cheaper necessarily better? The least expensive is not necessarily the best choice. Here are some criteria to consider when selecting a carrier and more importantly, a product…

Are the policies convertible and if so, what are the provisions?

Some products don’t even allow conversions, which severely limits your client’s options down the road.  If conversions are allowed, up to what age/policy year can you convert? Some have age limits and some simply allow conversions for a finite number of years.  Lastly, what can you convert to? “Top-Shelf” products or selected less competitive offerings?

How does the carrier historically treat policy holders?

Some carriers have horrible customer service track records and that lack of service can become a direct reflection of you since you sold them the product to begin with.

What are underwriting expectations?

You need to know underwriting guidelines/expectations.  For example, let’s say you quote a Preferred Plus and during the exam it is uncovered that a parent died of cardiovascular disease prior to age 60, essentially moving your client out of the Preferred Plus range.  All things being equal, seek out a carrier that does not treat that unfavorably.  All carrier guidelines are different.  This holds true for other criteria such as Build, Driving History, Cholesterol Readings, etc.

Overall financial strength of carrier

Know the ratings and overall financial strength of a carrier.  A particular carrier may be a little higher in cost, but their ratings can be much higher, offering a better value to the consumer.

Term insurance is one thing and some will argue that term insurance is simply a commodity and cost should be the only driving factor when purchasing those products.  But when it comes to selecting a carrier for Permanent Insurance, it is even more complicated.  Things like the financial health of the carrier, underwriting criteria and policy service are important, but permanent products cannot be spread sheeted for price alone.    Whether you are selling Whole Life, Current Assumption Universal Life, Guaranteed Universal Life or Indexed Universal Life, you need too look at a number of factors beyond price.  Here are the some of the things you should be looking for:

Dividend Rates

When buying Whole Life policies, it is important to know how the carrier credits their dividends.  What goes into the formula and how will future performance be affected by lower than illustrated dividends?  Has the carrier historically supported their policies and are the projections realistic?

Loan Rates

For most permanent products, it is expected to take income from the products at some point in the future.  With that in mind, you will typically take advantage of withdrawing to basis, then borrowing, so that the money coming out of the policies will be treated in the most tax favored way.  Be aware of Variable Loan rates v. Fixed Loan Rates and how they can adversely affect the policy.  Variable loan rates often allow you to illustrate larger streams of income but in reality the consumer is negatively affected.  Use more realistic assumptions and be mindful of the loan spreads between products.  You may show less income on an illustration but the expectation is more realistic.

Guaranteed Death Benefit v. Limited Guaranteed Death Benefit

Guaranteed Universal Life (GUL) Sales often show long term Death Benefit Guarantees, but there is little or NO cash value to speak of.  There are some Universal Life products that offer limited Death Benefit guarantees, often to the insured’s life expectancy and beyond.  In addition, there is cash value associated with the product and in some cases, very high cash value.  Although the GUL may be less expensive, consider a product that may be marginally higher in cost with a limited death benefit guarantee and cash value.  The client may want to take that route since they have more options.    There are also Indexed UL contracts offering full death benefit guarantee options along with the upside potential of earning high cash values.

Features & Benefits

Know the features and benefits available with all products, especially if you are spread sheeting.  Subtle things can separate you from your competition.   There are so many types of added features that can be attractive to your clients.  As an example, some carriers offering Survivorship GUL have a feature that within certain windows of time, will allow your client to receive ALL of their premiums back regardless of any policy cash value being present.  That can and does make sales and there is typically no cost associated with it.   It’s just a matter of knowing it is there.  Other features such as Long Term Care, Chronic Illness Riders and Income Protection Options are other examples of the types of features that are available.  There are also other features such as Charitable Giving riders that give an extra 1% of death benefit to a named charity without additional cost.

As you can see, there are so many ways to improve how you are perceived by your clients, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.  Just because a product is less expensive, doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best option for your client.  Explain the policy features, the carrier’s financial strength and the overall value behind what it is they are buying and you will separate yourself from the competition and they will appreciate you more.

Just like buying that used car, kick the tires and look under that hood.  Know what it is you are really selling.  You will be surprised at what you see and the value you provide will last for miles and miles.

 

 

"Mark's Barks Blog - Keys To Success"For years, agents say that they are in the “Business Market,” but what does that really mean? Are they taking the right approach? Are they truly in that marketplace?

When approaching a business owner, what are you asking? The same questions that they have been approached with 100 times before…Do you have a plan in place if something were to happen to you or one of your partners? Do you have a 401(k)? What are you doing for retirement? Do you have a Succession Plan?

These questions will typically go in one ear and out the other so quickly. Why, because they know it (you) will cost them money, which is not the intent of any business owner. A different approach and conversation starter should be…. When is the last time you had a proper business valuation? Business Valuations are the cornerstone of beginning the process towards uncovering the answers to these and many other questions in a non-obtrusive way. Instead, you are coming in under a consultative role, and in the process, uncover areas of weakness where they are exposed to severe tax consequences. Essentially “saving” them money in the long run. The true sales opportunities will organically come to the surface.

The reality is that most times, businesses don’t have a valuation in place or they simply have a number in mind that has been derived with no real methodology behind it. Without a proper valuation, business owners open themselves, or should we say, their heirs, to a host of planning nightmares.

An undervalued business interest can result in huge tax liabilities and/or business succession and continuation issues. In some cases, through strategic alliances, it is possible to provide an initial Business Valuation without cost to the business owner. It is important to align yourself with firms that can provide access to these platforms. This will significantly increase your value proposition to your current and prospective client base.

By offering this initial “no-fee” service, it is hard for a qualified prospect to say no. Once this first level service is provided, a number is generated that is either:

  • Exactly what the client thought their business was worth
  • It’s less than what they thought, or
  • It’s higher than they thought

Regardless of the outcome, there is a planning opportunity that awaits you. You now have a road map that will lead you to the planning stages and implementation of products to solve a number of planning issues that will likely be uncovered during the process. And from a financial underwriting standpoint, you’ll know exactly what they will qualify for before you even get to the application stage.

Now let’s take a look at some of the opportunities that can be uncovered…

Buy-Sell Sales
Often times, there are partners involved in the business setting. Once determined, the conversation ensues about the implementation of, or the review of a current formal agreement.

Key-Employee Retention
During the process, Key Employees are identified and the effect of the loss of that person can potentially have on the business. Strategies can be implemented to protect the business in a number of ways, through death benefit if that person prematurely passes and/or the design of “golden handcuff” type of benefits that can be used for retention of that employee. Perhaps a Deferred Compensation Program or an Executive Bonus §162.

Succession Planning
You can uncover the need for Succession Planning to assure the continuation of that business for the next generation. This is a very important element that comes up often during the process.

Estate Equalization
Perhaps there is a family business that only some of the children are involved with. The father of two siblings wanted to make sure that both of their children would inherit equal shares in the family business. The problem was that the one child has been working with his father over the last five years and had significantly grew the business while the daughter wanted nothing to do with it. As you can imagine, this would cause a lot of bad blood in the family. In our example, Estate Equalization sales allow for a life insurance policy to be purchased on the life of the father so that his daughter would receive her equal share of the business without causing friction between the two siblings.

Personal Financial/Estate Planning
The largest asset that a Business Owner has is their business. Now that you know what it’s worth you can transition towards the personal needs of the individual including Income Continuation, Estate Planning, Retirement Planning, etc.

There are many other ways that a Business Valuation can uncover many sales opportunities. These are just some of the possibilities. The real question is how are you approaching the business owners? Are you truly in the “Business Market?”

By asking the typical questions that have been asked over and over again, it is just not as effective as asking When is the last time you had a proper Business Valuation? If you start off with this approach, not only will you open doors, but you will have the key.