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Dealing With Clients Who Are On the Fence

If you are looking for a source of ideas for boosting your production numbers, you might want to take a look at Buy Your Tomorrows Today, a book by NAIFA member David Appel.

In the book, Appel, who is with Appel Insurance Advisors, shares some gripping stories about his personal life, as well as strategies you can use to attract and serve your clients. As noted by Katy Baxter in her endorsement of the book, “If you need inspiration and ideas for building a successful, protection-oriented business, look no further than Buy Your Tomorrows Today.”

A great idea for building a successful practice can be found in Chapter 6 of the book, where Appel describes how to think outside the box. As an advisor, he writes, your job begins as soon as you are introduced to a new prospect.
You should assess and evaluate what he needs and what it will take for him to want to work with you. If the prospect continues to procrastinate, you sometimes need to go outside the box, Appel writes. At the end of the day, you cannot accomplish the client’s mission if he won’t implement your professional recommendations.

A decade into his career, Appel was working with a large real estate developer who would not make a final decision about implementing Appel’s recommendations. The developer’s team of professional advisors, including Appel, had been discussing the developer’s life insurance planning for over two years. He had been examined, underwritten and approved twice, but he was still dragging his feet about buying. So Appel decided that the prospect needed something more “dramatic” to jolt him into deciding.

So he bought a giant Tonka toy truck. On the outside of the box in which the truck was packaged, Appel pasted pictures of $1 million bills, commercial buildings and other assets the prospect owned.

Appel also attached two checks to the box – one for $50,000 made payable to an insurer and the other made payable to the government to cover the taxes on the $30 million estate that the developer would leave upon his death. Appel then enclosed a note that read: “Bill, you have spent a lifetime building, growing and accumulating a very large estate and I want to help you secure this wealth for your family. There is still time to decide which of these checks is going to be signed.”

Appel had no idea how this prospect would react to his package, but after two and a half years, he figured he had nothing to lose. He soon received a call from the prospect, who had opened the box in front of his entire family and realized at that moment that he had to buy the life insurance. A child’s simple toy truck, Appel writes, made this prospect re-evaluate his decision-making process and helped him place $30 million worth of life insurance.

The lesson behind this? As professional advisors, Appel writes, “we need to sometimes do things other advisors won’t do. I could have easily walked away from this prospect after two and one-half years of frustration, but I was convinced his family needed my help. I tell you this story because, sometimes, it is easier to walk, but walking away is often the worst move you could make.”

The ‘I Surrender Letter’
In the same chapter, Appel shares another idea for getting a prospect to make you an essential item on his to-do list: Send him an “I Surrender Letter,” such as the following:

Dear Mr. Prospect:

I surrender. I am writing this letter simply because I do not know how to handle this situation. I can honestly say that in the 20-plus years I’ve been in the business of providing clients with valuable life insurance, I have never encountered a situation in which I do not know what the client wants the end game to be – having life insurance or not having life insurance. Please give me a call first thing next week so we can discuss the next steps. If I don’t hear from you by Tuesday, I will give you a call to go over this.”

Once the prospect receives this type of letter, Appel writes, it is amazing how many times you will receive a call from them, wanting to implement a plan you thought would never be finalized.


Ayo Mseka is editor-in-chief of Advisor Today, the official publication of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors. Contact her at [email protected] .

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