Customer apathy a problem? Try a little tenderness

By David Shields

WealthMark Advisors, Inc

As legendary motivational writer and speaker Zig Ziglar said, “Logic makes people think, and emotions make people act.” Motivate your customers to act by cutting through the apathy.

We’ve all been there. You’re out on assignment, sitting at a close-to-retired couple’s kitchen table, when you whip out your trusty pen and notepad and launch into a discussion of the importance of planning for retirement.

But as you jot down figure after figure and wax eloquent on the differences between a fixed annuity and variable annuity, you notice that the couple is gradually losing interest. They begin to fidget. Their eyes glaze over. The evening wears on and then abruptly ends with the couple declining your services and showing you the door.

What went wrong? You have years of sales experience. You exhibited knowledge and confidence. Your facts were solid. What more could you have done?

Maybe, as Otis Redding famously sang, you've “got to try a little tenderness.” In other words, what your sales presentation might have lacked is emotional resonance in the customer.

Don’t laugh. The Greek philosopher Aristotle taught us millennia ago that the art of persuasion is a three-legged stool standing on ethos (credibility), logos (logic) and pathos (emotion). Each appeal serves a vital function in any successful argument. Most advertisers and marketers will tell you that pathos tends to be the trickiest one to get right. Lay it on too thick, and your presentation risks seeming flippant or melodramatic; ignore it altogether, and the same presentation becomes cold and soulless.
The problem is that many agents might hesitate to use an emotional appeal, fearing that such a tactic would come off as insincere or manipulative. But if used right, pathos can turn out to be the most persuasive element of your sales presentation. As an experiment, recall your favorite television or print ads. Chances are, they include those that made you chuckle, brought tears to your eyes or sent chills down your spine. It might be difficult to elicit this kind of response during a life insurance sales appointment, but an appeal to the client’s emotions should be attempted nonetheless.

Besides, says James O. Mitchel, vice president of developmental research at the international business think tank LIMRA, relying on facts, statistics, charts and graphs hasn’t been particularly helpful in convincing consumers that life insurance is a necessity.

“People don’t want more information,” Mitchel says. “You’ve got to present the risk [of not having insurance or a retirement annuity] so that it’s more emotional than factual.”

But how, you might ask, do I go about doing this?

Fortunately, the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE) offers a helpful online tool called realLIFEstories, which is a series of short videos featuring people sharing their experiences involving life, health and long-term care insurance.

One such video is Margaret Sweborg’s story. At 79, Margaret broke her hip after tripping and falling on the floor, where she lay for five days before a concerned neighbor found her. Luckily, she had purchased long-term care insurance 13 years earlier and consequently is now able to enjoy top-quality nursing home care. Had she not purchased the insurance, she would have had to seek inferior assistance through Medicaid and no doubt blown through most of her life savings.

During an appointment, agents can easily share realLIFEstories on a laptop or iPad to jump-start a conversation about the benefits of having (or consequences of not having) life insurance, a Medicare supplement or advantage plan, or retirement annuity. Numbers scribbled on a notepad tend to be abstract and distant, whereas the LIFE Foundation’s videos connect to the viewer on a visceral level and prompt him or her to look past a policy’s price tag.

Whether or not you use realLIFEstories, an emotional appeal should be integral to your sales presentation. As legendary motivational writer and speaker Zig Ziglar said, “Logic makes people think, and emotions make people act.” Motivate your customers to act by cutting through the apathy.