By Maria Ferrante-Schepis, M.B.A., CLU
Beyond the spreadsheet:
Getting to what really matters
The insurance industry has a love/ hate relationship with fashion. When a new style of product comes
out on the market, some companies and advisors adopt it early. Others look down their
noses at it at first, but adopt it later, especially if all the cool kids are “wearing” it. I
can relate — I thought platform shoes were
ridiculous, and now I have a Carrie Bradshaw starter kit in my closet.
It is interesting to look deeper into the
reasons we are so obsessed with product
style, particularly the “permanent” kinds,
like whole life, variable, indexed and universal. Is a dividend better than a market
return? Is an index better than an interest
rate? Just like in fashion, that can be very
subjective, looking different in the light of a
good or bad economy. It really depends on
the eye of the beholder.
However, I am not so sure the buyer is beholding anything. As professionals, we see
the details; all they see is someone pitching
life insurance. Dividends, interest, market
returns and/or indexes are used to show how
costs could be reduced or value increased.
Sometimes the “little black dress”* called
term insurance becomes the fallback position when the prospect still says “no.” Then
we are left feeling a bit frustrated, claiming
the world just doesn’t understand life insurance and needs to be educated.
Consumers don’t want to be educated
about life insurance. They want to know
enough to make smart decisions. Our “clos-
et clutter” makes it harder for consumers
to feel smart. A recent study by Maddock
Douglas found 73 percent of people think
“the variety of possible insurance options is
If we are to stay relevant as an industry,
we must focus on what is most important
to consumers and be willing to entertain
Maria Ferrante-SchepiS, M.B.a., cLU, is managing principal, the idea that product style is not on the list. If anything, they may be comparing the benefits of buying life insurance to not buying it. Today’s consumer makes choices differ- ently. Yesterday’s con- sumers relied almost solely on professional advice and advertising as ources of information. Today’s consumers rely more on evidence found
online and from people
in their communities and
their social networks. If
we don’t stay relevant,
will rely more on him/
So how do we get
our relevance groove
Ask yourself three
1) Do you find your-
self talking more
about products or
your prospects need to solve?
2) If the answer to #1 is “problems,” then
are you focused on the right ones?
3) If the answer to #2 is “yes,” then how
do you know you are focused on the
The most important aspect of those questions is the “how do you know?” Good research answers that question. If you have
no access to good research, there are other
means to challenge your thinking and get at
• List your top five fa-
•Contact them and
ask them for 30
minutes of their
time because you
are curious about
•Ask these questions
and just listen, without
judgment and without
trying to sell anything.
• When we first began
to talk about your situation, what were the
things that were on
your mind that made
you open to the discussion?
• What various options
were you considering
at the time?
• Describe the moment
in our conversation
that made you say to
yourself “Okay, now
I know what I need
•How do you feel
now about those
Write up notes for each client, compare
them and look for commonalities. You
could gain insight that could take your business strategy in a whole new direction.
In the end, the choice of product matters least when you focus on what matters most.
*For those who are wondering, the LBD
is girl code for something that never goes
out of style.