by: Mark D. Milbrod, CLU, CLTC
At the start of training camp in 1961, Vince Lombardi walked into the locker room of the Green Bay Packers and said to his team what would become one of the most iconic quotes in sports history… “Gentlemen, this is a football.”
Vince Lombardi was a Hall of Fame football coach, an NFL executive and the head coach of the Green Bay Packers during the 1960’s. He led the team to three straight and five total NFL Championships in a seven year span. His namesake, The Vince Lombardi Trophy is awarded to the winner of The Super Bowl each year.
The iconic words spoken by him were all about getting back to fundamentals. Without them, regardless of what profession you are in, we can easily lose site of our core values. Our industry is one that sees many changes but as that change happens, it is often a very slow process. The life insurance industry is analogous to a large ocean liner. In order for that ship to make a turn, it’s a slow, tedious process. Changing course normally takes years to complete. Today, however, we are seeing huge changes happening virtually overnight.
As we continue to live in our pandemic stricken world, we, as insurance professionals, have been given an amazing gift. Carriers have adopted new procedures in underwriting utilizing various technologies. We are able to provide needed insurance products for our clients without a physical exam, blood draw or urine sampling. In addition, we are able to procure very large face amount limits, as high as $5,000,000 in some cases. To not seize this opportunity is doing our clients a tremendous disservice.
But the larger lesson that we should be learning from the current situation is the fundamentals of what it is we do for a living. We provide life insurance. Life insurance can be defined in many ways and when we all first started in the business, we were most likely making the sale sitting across a kitchen table.
We spoke to young couples who had just started out in life. Perhaps they purchased their first house and we talked about the “what if” scenario. Will you have enough money to pay off your mortgage? We would fast forward a few years and that same couple were now starting a family and that “what if” changed. Now we are talking about providing the extra income for their families to continue on and not be uprooted from that house they built into a home. Or better still, making sure that college funds would be available if that “what if” scenario happened.
On the brighter side, there are also living benefits such as cash value based products that grow into supplemental retirement plans with the potential of tax-free income. I can vividly recall those kitchen table sales and the many lives that were changed by that stroke of the pen. It was always a good feeling when I left a house at 10:00 at night knowing that we just insured the husband who had a wife and two kids that relied on him to keep the lights on.
On any given day, we see carriers releasing charts and graphs showing how competitive their particular products are. We see the IRR calculations, the interest fluctuations, etc. We see complex sales ideas showing financing techniques, white papers and tons of interpretations to justify these techniques. Don’t get me wrong, there are many situations where the esoteric stuff is appropriate and works just fine. But the basic “core” life insurance sale seems to be taking a back seat.
The life insurance marketplace is still one of the most underserved consumer bases out there. If left on their own, consumers can turn to the internet and purchase commoditized versions of life insurance. There are plenty of websites out there attracting these consumers. But the reality is that that they will simply not buy or not buy enough life insurance. They do need someone to guide them through the purchase. After all, life insurance is a product that is “sold” and not bought.
The power of what we do is truly amazing. Today however, I believe that many agents have lost sight of the simplicity of the life Insurance sale. We get smothered by abstract ideas and sales concepts that take away the true meaning of who we are. We are Life Insurance Agents. Be proud of it.
As I am writing this today, there has never been a more important time for us as insurance agents to rise to the occasion and take a step back and soak in the basic fundamentals of selling life insurance. The COVID-19 Pandemic has everyone thinking of their mortality. Protecting their families is paramount and that is evidenced by a recent LIMRA report indicating that term life sales for Q1 were up 8% with many carriers reporting double digit increases. When I started in the business, some of the old time veteran agents in the office would talk to “the new guys” and tell us that we would never understand this business until we delivered our first death claim. You really can’t understand that until you have done it. Those words, as I learned years later, were so true
In my career that spans over 30 years, I can honestly say that there has never been a time that life insurance has been as important as it is now. Combine that with the ease of obtaining it through the various non-medical platforms that we are seeing and we truly have an opportunity to go back to those fundamentals that Mr. Lombardi framed so well.
“Gentlemen (and Ladies), this is a football…”
Let’s not squander this unique opportunity and do what we do best.