What to do when your sale is on the brinkArticle added by Steve Lewit on March 7, 2013

Steve Lewit

Buffalo Grove, IL

Joined: February 27, 2008

My Company

We’ve all been there. Applications signed, everyone happy, client goes home, and the next day, there’s a message on the answering machine: “Uh, Steve, we’ve been thinking here overnight and, well, we’re not sure we’re doing the right thing. Could you put a hold on those applications?”

It may not happen often, but it does happen. And, in this instance, what was at stake was a pretty sizeable sale — $800,000 — that I had gone home feeling pretty good about the previous evening. Now my sale was on the brink.

Fortunately, the message they left did not close the door on me with an outright, “Steve, we’ve decided to go in another direction,” or “Steve, we’ll call you in a week or two after we’ve had time to think about this,” so I was able to set up another appointment.

In this article, I’ll tell you what happened, what I learned, and how it may help you in similar situations.

In my world, I am always concerned about buyer’s remorse. Everyone has buyer’s remorse, no matter who they are or what they purchased. Normally, I handle that hazard right after the applications are signed and just before my client is leaving. I’ve written about this in previous articles, where I said, “Jim and Liz, I really appreciate your business, but when you’re driving home today, you’re probably going to look at each other and ask if you did the right thing. That’s called buyer’s remorse and everyone has it. If there’s anything you’re not happy with, for example, the fees on your income riders that we discussed and you did not like, I’d rather put a hold on everything right now than get a call on my answering machine tomorrow morning. Do I need to worry about that?”

As I said earlier, in most cases, that does the trick and I rarely get cancellations or problems. However, there are always exceptions, such as the one I'm presenting now.

So, my clients come in to talk. We have the $800,000 split into two annuities — $500,000 and $300,000 — both slated to deliver income in three years when they retire. Their absolute number one goal is to make sure that they have enough income for the rest of their lives.

Liz says, “Steve, Bob is OK with everything we’ve done. I’m the problem. I'm not sure if we are better off tying our money up in annuities or just having you manage it, keeping it fluid in case things change in the future.”

She then goes on to tell me the pros and cons of annuities versus managed money and makes it apparent that she has spent quite a lot of time thinking about all this.
Now, although I am certainly an expert in my own system, I am human, and every time she brings something up, I step in to try and explain the whys and wherefores of the issue she is bringing to the table. So, she keeps bringing up stuff and I keep talking about stuff. At the moment I realize we are going round and round in circles and that, little by little, with every circle, I am losing part or all of this sale, the light finally goes off in my head. I am working too hard.

The client should be doing most of the work, not me. Something is wrong — I am being pushed and pulled. I’ve lost control. What did I miss?

When I get into a place like this, as we all do at times, I get myself back on track using what I call a STOP system. STOP is an acronym for:

S – Stop doing whatever I’m doing

T – Take a few deep breaths

O – Open up to a new possibility

P – Proceed only when I am clear on what to do

So, I STOP and ask myself what I missed, and I can’t believe the answer! It is the most important core principal of my selling system: that emotion drives decisions.

Think about it. I’m going around in circles, explaining the details of annuities, surrender periods, safety of insurance carriers, the proper balance between risk and safe money and on and on. How much emotion is there in that? None. So I take a different approach:

“Liz, perhaps we can look at this a different way for a moment. Everything you’re asking me is very important and, as you know, everything has its pros and cons. Perhaps, however, there is a bigger question right in front of us that we aren’t looking at. Let me put it this way: When you put your head on the pillow at night, what is it that you want to worry about?”

Liz says, “Well, I don’t want to worry about anything.”

I say, “I understand. Now, when you came in to see me, you said that you didn’t want to worry about your income; that you and Bob wanted to retire in three years and wanted to have as much fun as possible. And to do that, you said you needed as much income as possible.

So, here’s the choice: First, you can have your income created from red or risk funds invested in the market, and I'm pretty confident that you will end up OK. Or, you can have a good portion of the income you want created from annuities, in which case I can guarantee that you will be OK and that income will be there for the rest of your life. Does that make sense?”

Liz nods her head in agreement.
“So,” I continue, “here’s the question: When you put your head on the pillow at night, will you worry if your income is coming from market money that might not be there, especially during the years when the value may decline? In other words, will you be OK with that concern, possibly looking over your shoulder with every expenditure you make, or would you prefer to have substantially less worry by having your income guaranteed and coming in every month like clockwork?

If you are OK putting your head on the pillow, confident but not sure you will have enough income from market funds, and are willing to endure that stress knowing you will gain more flexibility, then you should choose that route. If you will feel better and enjoy your life more when you put your head on the pillow knowing that your income is guaranteed — although with less flexibility — then that is the route you should choose.

So, the real choice is which worry do you want to have in those quiet times when you are thinking about all this?”

Liz is quiet for a moment, but then circles back to her questions rather than considering her emotions.

When she does that, I say, “Liz, once again, I know those questions are important to you. If we could just back burner them for a moment and look at it through the lens of your quality of life and what you want to worry or not worry about, I think that will help you make the wisest decision for you.”

Liz agrees, thinks about it for a moment, and says, “If I look at it that way, then the answer is a no-brainer. I just don’t want to worry about not having enough income.”

I say, “Which means … ”

Liz says, “Which means that I really should keep the $800,000 in the annuities and get on with it.”

I say, “So, based on that, where do we go from here?”

> Liz says, “Oh, just leave it the way it is!”

I say, “So, when you two go home today, is this going to eat at you until you leave another message on my answering machine? If so, let’s just call it quits here and keep the funds in the market.”

Liz says, “Thank you, Steve. I’m really OK. No more phone calls; I promise you that.”


The value of having a selling system is that, when you find yourself in trouble, as we all do, you can backtrack and determine where you went wrong. In this particular case, as good as I am at my system, I somehow got caught by my clients’ questions and walked myself out of the system. However, by stepping back, by going to a STOP, I found the road I needed to follow to do better for both my client and myself.

A true selling system has predictable results. I hope the system you are using is giving you what you expect and want on your sales calls.
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