"I need to think about it"
By Chris Conklin
Insurance Insight Group
"That sounds great. I need to think about it. Why don't you leave all the information, and I'll get back to you."
Are there any more dreaded words you could hear while selling a fixed indexed annuity (FIA), or anything else for that matter?
This is the third in a series of articles on FIA sales objections. The first article provided four ways of addressing objections to the surrender charge. The second article provided six ideas for how to answer questions about how much money a client can expect to make in an FIA. This third article addresses perhaps the most daunting objection of them all.
I think we all know what "I need to think about it" really means. It means, "I have an objection, but I'm not willing to tell you what it is." Thus, we are fundamentally dealing with either the client's lack of trust in us as an advisor, or the client's embarrassment over the reason not to purchase, which is what makes this objection so difficult to overcome. Thanks to this vague objection, we are in a hole and need to find a way to dig out.
Uncover the real objection
Our objective at this point should be to continue the conversation, build trust with the client, and uncover the real objection. One of the best techniques I have found is to ask my client the question:
"On a scale of one to 10, how do you feel about this product?"
Usually, the answer is something between "five" and "nine." Now, we are getting somewhere, because my client has just revealed that, in some way, he considers the product less than ideal. Rather than immediately trying to discover the issue, I will follow with, "Okay, so let's start with the good things, the reasons you put this in the upper part of the range. What do you like about this product?" Then, after he has talked through those items and I've written them down so that I can point them out later, I will ask, "Now, tell me the reasons you don't feel it's a 10." He will usually then tell me the reasons, and I can then work through those objections. After all, he may not feel that any other financial product is a 10, either.
Now instead, let's suppose that my client gave an answer of "10." Of course, I am genuinely surprised that someone would consider the product a 10 and not want to buy it right away, so that surprise will show pleasantly on my face, which is good. I will poke around a bit to determine if indeed my client truly feels the product is a 10. If so, then I usually can surmise that the problem is not really a product issue, but a relationship issue.
Uncovering the relationship issue
The relationship issue is difficult to uncover and is also not easy to overcome. The relationship I am talking about is not the relationship between my client and myself -- no, the issue is that my client has a relationship with his existing financial provider, and for whatever reason, he feels that the purchase I have proposed will hurt that relationship.
I can usually verify this by making a hypothetical proposal, like this one:
"Let's suppose that tomorrow you go to work and find out that your boss has just given you a $50,000 bonus -- totally unexpected, with no strings attached. Where do you feel would be the best place to put that money, this product, or where you have your money today?"
The beauty of this question is that it exposes the relationship issue, because the newfound money would not be money that his existing relationship is expecting to receive. No matter how my client answers, it reveals something.
If he says, "I would put it the FIA," then I can ask, "What is the concern about putting some of his existing money in the FIA?," and, at this point he will probably talk about the relationship.
If he says, "I would put it in my existing accounts," then I can ask how his existing accounts are superior to the one I have proposed, given that he said mine is a 10, and at this point, he will probably reveal his real objections to the FIA.
Addressing the buyer beware objection
If these approaches are not getting me anywhere, then it could be that my client truly feels that the FIA sounds wonderful, that he generally trusts what I am saying, and that he does not feel that he would be breaking a relationship if he moved his existing money to the FIA. But, he may have a natural caution signal going off in his brain that says, "Check out what this guy is saying before you jump in."
I don't blame him. While almost no one knows how to speak Latin, most folks know that caveat emptor means "let the buyer beware."
The problem is that, once the appointment is over, the client is often not motivated enough to really check out the product I have offered, and even if he does, he is likely to find one of the many articles in the popular press that are critical of FIAs. Therefore, it is essential for me to give him copies of articles from reputable publications that are favorable to FIAs. If you look out for these articles or search for them online, you should have no trouble finding plenty that validate that FIAs offer real benefits and strong protection.
I will give them to him and say something like:
"Let me give you these helpful articles. Feel free to read them at your leisure and call me with any questions."
While my client may or may not read them later, their mere existence immediately helps to reduce his level of wariness.
If my client still wants time
Hopefully, we have now exposed and worked through all the issues, but my client still may want some time to sleep on the decision. I have no problem with that, since this is an important decision; it is his money, and I truly want him to feel comfortable before purchasing.
What I will ask, however, to be respectful of both his and my time, is that we simply prevent the need to set up another appointment on this by filling out the paperwork right now. Annuity paperwork is typically very simple, and we can fill it out in just a few minutes.
Amazingly, over that few minutes while we are filling out the paperwork, his objections and concerns can melt away. There is something about actually starting the process -- even if he is not committed to it -- that mentally leads him to committing.
Then I can ask my client:
"Would you like me to submit this paperwork right away, hold it until we can talk by phone in a day or two, or leave it with you?"
If I leave it with him, I will seal it in a stamped envelope addressed to me. It is well worth the cost of the stamp. That envelope will sit on his desk essentially calling out to him until he drops it in the mail.
I also assure him that even after he has committed to the transaction and it has taken place, he will still have a period of at least a week -- the free look period -- to undo everything.
Summary of this approach
The bottom line is that the "I need to think about it" objection is very tough to address. You need to have a well-rehearsed plan in order to work through it successfully, or you will get derailed. My suggested plan is:
- Uncover the real objection with a question like, "On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you feel about this product?"
- Uncover the relationship issue by asking about a found money scenario.
- Address the buyer beware objection with favorable third-party articles from reputable publications.
- If my client still wants time, at least have him fill out the paperwork.