It's a given that you want to propose
the most suitable product for
your prospect's needs. When she
raises objectives like "guaranteed income"
and "security," you know that fixed annuities
may be a good option for her.
But you face the challenges of complexity,
outdated prejudices and inaccurate
information, which can make clients suspicious
or nervous about the products. It's
your job to debunk, educate and empathize.
You can do this by asking pointed
questions-and listening to the answers.
Here is what you're facing: in a 2010
Allianz Life Insurance Company of
North America study titled "Reclaiming
the Future: Challenging Retirement
Income Perceptions," it was found that
almost 54 percent of Americans aged
44-75 were uncomfortable with the word
"annuity." Yet, of 3,200 people surveyed,
80 percent said they would prefer a 4 percent
return with a guarantee against lost
value compared to an 8 percent return
that faces market risk.
Interestingly, the study found that 53
percent formed their opinions about fixed
annuities as long as 20 years ago, with 64
percent of them not having researched
fixed annuities since then. Only 27 percent
were aware of innovations in fixed
annuities in the last decade.
It's best to ask up front, "How do you
feel about fixed annuities?" If she says
she knows nothing, you know you need
to educate her. If she says she's afraid
that if she dies, the insurance company
will get all the money, you can set her
straight about that or any other voiced
concern. Her frankness makes your job
However, if she doesn't give much away
and says, "I'm pretty comfortable with
them," don't be fooled; that may not be
your cue to go straight to proposing a
Be ready to offer a detailed-but
clear-explanation of the product. A prepared,
memorized script is helpful. However,
I don't do all the talking. Throughout
my fact finding, I ask, "Am I making
sense?" With the right questions, you can
draw the prospect's concerns out into the
open and address them on the spot.
But be prepared for mixed messages.
Instead of directly expressing concerns
about the market, the prospect may say,
"Wow, things have really been crazy."
That's your signal that you need to
address that concern head-on.
Also, prospects likely won't tell you
they don't understand how fixed annuities
work. That's why you need to be clear
from the start. I will often tell the prospect
that it is rare for the general public
to be knowledgeable about such a complex
product. You want to make sure the
prospect knows that if she doesn't understand,
then it's your fault and you need to
do a better job of explaining.
Another way I anticipate prospects
emotional responses is to match my
selling style with their buying style. I'm
a conceptual person, but I have a client
who is very analytical. So, I bring in a colleague
who thinks analytically to help
bring the client into his comfort zone.
As you work to do a stand-up job of
explaining the details of the product and
anticipating worries, be prepared to tailor
your answers to her circumstance.
For example, you know your prospect
has a 15 to 20-year time horizon until
retirement and that she is financially conservative.
Point out to her the features of
the product and why you feel it is suitable
for someone in her situation.
Point out that she has said a guaranteed
income for life to cover basic needs
is critical to her. Then, address how fixed
annuities can meet those criteria as they
offer guaranteed income contingent upon
the claims-paying ability of the issuing
company. If she comprehends and agrees,
it will be easy for the client to understand
Early in my career, I didn't stress enough
to a prospect the features of a fixed annuity
for his circumstance. He was a retiring
police officer and we discussed the
option of placing his police pension in a
fixed annuity. He opted out of this product
because of the costs involved. I failed
to discuss the value behind the costs and
how that value could meet his needs in a
way that his company pension couldn't.
The result? He missed out on a product
that would have addressed his needs
So, you think you've done a great job of
addressing concerns, laying out a complicated
product's features in a clear, concise
manner. But when you've made your
closing statement, the prospect says, "Let
me think about it," and you're floored.
That's your signal that you haven't done
as good a job as you thought you did of
unearthing objections. There are still
some unspoken matters, and it's time
to be more direct. Here are some of the
things you can ask:
• "Is there anything I've failed to
• "Do you have any nagging doubts
about the product that I can do a better
job of explaining?"
• Ask directly if her concern is about the
product, the company, the market or
you. Lack of confidence in those topics
is typically the reason why a prospect
will opt out of a fixed annuity.
• Also, I don't tell the prospect I'll call
her next week. Instead, I ask her point
blank: "What's keeping you from making
your decision today? Is there something
you're uncomfortable with?"
• "What other concerns do you have
that we need to talk about?"
If you don't ask these questions, she
won't tell you what's on her mind, and
she may miss out on a good option for
her retirement plans.
Remembering to be mindful
that concerns are typically
based on emotion; here is how
you address concerns about:
The product. People don't
like to admit that they don't
understand. They feel small.
Be willing to admit that you
may not have been as clear
as you could have, and try
to explain the product's features in a
The company. Give a brief history of
the company's security and its experience
in the product. Don't overwhelm, but say
enough to alleviate the prospect's fears.
Bring supporting documentation with
facts and figures.
You. It's tough when you ask someone,
"What's keeping you from moving
forward today?" and the answer is
"You." Think of times when you have not
returned to a hairdresser or a mechanic
because you were displeased with the
quality of service. You never expressed
your dissatisfaction, right? It's hard for
most of us to vocalize why we're unhappy
with a company. But, if you are the service
provider, wouldn't you like to know how
you can improve?
To get to the heart of the matter, it can
be helpful to ask, "Are you already working
with a financial professional who you
By listening to your prospect and putting
her at ease, you can overcome many
concerns. That's not to say that every
prospect becomes a client. There are
times when you need to accept that the
sale isn't going to go through and move
on. But you will have more success if you
have a conversation, rather than give a
You are helping to protect people's
financial futures. You are making dreams
possible for them and their family. That's
a noble cause. You want to project confidence
and empathy, and asking the right
questions to uncover concerns will bring
you closer to that goal.