Six Things Brokers Should Never Say
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I haven’t written one of these rips in a while, so I thought as an end of the year celebration I’d bring the “six phrases” series back and the first roast will focus on my personal favorite: brokers. I am thinking particularly about those who sell insurance, but these thoughts extend more broadly than that
Six phrases brokers love to say…but shouldn’t
I recently bought a few insurance policies. Here are some ridiculous statements that were made. I am burnt out from dealing with insurance agents.
1. “You can never have too much insurance.”
Ooooh yes you can!
If it makes you so broke you can’t afford to eat, then that would qualify as a situation where you have been sold one too many whole-life policies.
I have zero valuable jewelry. Outside of my laptop, everything I own is valueless kid toys and junk I bought for $25 at a yard sale. It was like talking to a wall trying to convince my agent that I didn’t need a jewelry clause on my policy – and guess why – because removing it meant he took a cut on commission!
2. “$100 a month? That’s not going to get you much.”
Skilled negotiation tactic: Make the person feel like they’re cheap. That way, they’ll want to buy something expensive from you.
If the carriers you represent are not in line with the person’s budget, for goodness sake, refer them to another agent whose would be. Or a financial planner who can help them find some fat in the budget to trim and put towards insurance.
3. “Your earliest open slot on the calendar is three weeks from now. Any chance you could meet earlier.”
And you forgot to add, “So that I can squeeze that premium you’re about to pay me into my Q1 earnings quota?”
Let’s look at this logically.
I have a business and four kids. My clients are my #1 priority during the day, and at night my kids are my #1 priority. If you’re asking for a minute of my time and you’re not in either category, it has to be on my schedule, not yours.
If I rearrange my schedule for every person who wants to sell me something, I am either sacrificing my income or my health.
Isn’t that what you’re trying to insure?
What good am I to you, Mr. or Mrs. Insurance Premium, if I go broke because my clients leave me, or I have a massive stroke due to the stress of trying to accommodate everyone?
Am I more insurable then?
If you care about people as much as you say you do, then give them their space and let them have their balance. It’s not the prospect’s job to make your life work – it’s the other way around.
4. “You’re 40? You look like you’re in your 20’s!”
Ah, the old “insurance backslap.”
Not that I mind hearing it, but it is insidious. As an insurance agent, you are privy to knowing how old people are. Nice to compliment someone on their looks, but it’s an all too obvious attempt to curry favor.
Another form of this is, “How are the kids? Everyone okay?”
I can see it if we hadn’t talked in six months, or if I told you all four kids came down with a stomach virus at the same time (which happened last week, by the way). But dude, I just talked to you two days ago. Such an obvious attempt to keep me on the phone. It reminds me of that old sales training adage, “Don’t let them off the phone and they’ll eventually buy from you.”
5. “We can get you insured today if you want.”
Are we in a car dealership? It bears all too striking a resemblance to statements like, “And you can drive it right out of the lot, I’ll get you the keys today. It’s yours for $30,000.”
It would be one thing if I had mentioned that I was about to embark on a career as a professional hangglider next Monday. Statements like this are an obvious attempt to prey upon our fear of something catastrophic happening and just feel…weird.
6. “I just sent you an email. Your underwriting results are in.”
I hate getting impromptu phone calls. Especially during the workday. If you’re not Antonio, my client, or my kids’ school, I’m not answering.
I had one agent who would call me, leave a voicemail, and then email me within two minutes of each other. I was preyed upon. I would respond to his email the next day, and then what do I know but the next thing, he’s calling me again about something else.
It’s hard when you work on commission but try not to be too phone happy. Be observant about how to person responds to you. Take the hint.
What I wouldn’t mind hearing insurance agents say more
Now that I’ve told you what I don’t like to hear agents say, here are some statements that would make me feel that they have some integrity.
1. “My license number and you can verify my regulatory history with the state commissioner whose website is www._____.”
Yes, they can find it online themselves. But offering it upfront show you’re legit. I had an agent flip out on me when I asked him for this and that alone made me wonder if he’s on the most wanted list.
Don’t assume the person doesn’t suspect you’re a scam when they don’t know you. You’re a step up from the people selling timeshares. Total transparency upfront will set you apart.
2. “Here is a list of documents you’ll need to provide for the underwriting process.”
I recently bought a policy and found it kind of strange that the agent didn’t ask me for my Social Security number. I guess it was just the type of insurance I was buying (or something), but it made me question if I were dealing with a real agent or not.
3. “How would you like me to communicate with you (time of day, email, text, how often)?”
There may be generational differences that result in communication preferences not aligning. Don’t assume, just ask.
4. “How often would you like to review this policy to ensure it’s still a fit?”
Every insurance policy someone sold me, not one agent ever asked me this question. And by the way, neither has my estate attorney.
And not one of them has ever contacted me to:
- Review my policy;
- Ask me if my health status is the same;
- Ask me how my business is going; or
- Ask me if I need help with any of my relationships with other vendors such as accountants, attorneys, etc.
In this LinkedIn survey I asked my network what percentage of the time the agent serviced the policy properly after the sale. The results were abysmal.
As a broker, you are given a glimpse into valuable information about a person’s health, family, income, and more. Do you realize the incredible difference you could make if you were to see a policy as that – a representation of a person’s life – rather than just a check?
Or do you only just want to hear from me if/when I need to up my policy?
5. “You have two different options for mode of payment: monthly or annual. Here are the differences in total payment.”
You’re talking about such a small reduction amount, but it shows you’re honest. <1% of agents have ever said this to me.
6. “If you’re sending me confidential documents, here is a secure link. Don’t send them directly unless your email is encrypted.”
I can’t even believe how many agents have no secure means of receiving confidential documents. You’re in the risk management business and you don’t know how easy it is for someone to hack email?
7. “Do you require accommodations for our call (dim lighting, no flash imagery, close captioning)?”
I ask this before all meetings with new people and I get an overwhelmingly appreciative response. It makes a great first impression if you ask someone how they want to meet with you.
8. “What pronouns do you prefer?”
Given 1% of the population is trans, you’re more likely to get a non-response or hear the typical cis-gender response. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask. And you should ask this of everyone you meet with, whether they be a prospect, vendor, possible employee, etc.
Where are the blockchain people when you need them the most?
I’ve been through insurance training programs, and I can see how the industry wound up being what it is. I am sick of seeing all the good financial advisors get the door slammed in their face by people who need them for no other reason than the rotten, stinking reputation that all the jerks in this industry create for them.
Clients are overcharged and underserved. Insurance is ripe for disruption. I would love it if one of you bitcoin/blockchain/fintech people would come up with a way to automate this whole thing so I could avoid these agents altogether.
Can we get an InsuranceDao going on, or something?
Anything at all?
Buying insurance to protect my kids = unbelievable feeling.
Having to deal with insurance agents = an annoying game of cat and mouse.
There you go, I just declared war on the entire insurance industry. If anyone agrees, post a comment about how to disrupt the insurance industry because I want to hear them.
Happy holidays, insurance agents!
Sara Grillo, CFA, is a marketing consultant who helps investment management, financial planning, and RIA firms fight the tendency to scatter meaningless clichés on their prospects and bore them as a result. Prior to launching her own firm, she was a financial advisor.