Soft Skills – Positioning the Life Insurance Narrative

Industry consultant, author and former adviser, Chris Unwin, shares the benefit of his  experiences in two articles that focus on positioning the life insurance narrative for clients and prospective clients…

Setting Out Your Stall

In the first of two articles considering elements involved in positioning the life insurance narrative, Chris Unwin talks to advisers about the concept of ‘setting out your stall’ in advance of the conversations that follow…


If you have a market stall – be it for clothes, crafts, food or any other products, then you will get there well in advance of the market opening to the public in order to set out your stall and make it as attractive as possible to your potential customers.

This concept is just as important for a risk adviser when they meet a potential new client for the first time. The perception you create in the mind of the person you are meeting for the first time in that initial ten minutes is absolutely crucial, and you always need to remember that perception is reality in the mind of the person doing the perceiving. It doesn’t matter whether you think they are right or wrong in their perception – if that initial first impression is a negative one, then it’s almost certainly game over, even at this early stage of the engagement.

So what does setting out your stall to create a favourable first impression involve as a risk adviser? One of the most important characteristics of a quality risk adviser is his/her ability to put themselves in their clients’ shoes, to understand what is going on in their heads and to do whatever is necessary to put them in a positive frame of mind.

To this end, there are four specific boxes in which you need to put a tick during this introduction stage of a first client meeting. These boxes I am referring to typically represent negative thoughts that are in the client’s head when they sit down in front of you for the first time, since we as human beings tend to assume the worst and hope to be pleasantly surprised. The negative perception created by the media coverage of our industry also tends to add fuel to this fire.

Ticking the boxes

The first box that you need to be ticking is “removing as many unknowns as possible”. When somebody sits down with you for the first time, the questions in their head will typically be:

  1. What’s this person going to be like?
  2. What’s it all going to involve?
  3. How much is it all going to cost?

The answer to the first question will depend upon that first impression that you make in the opening five minutes of the meeting and remember that if this first impression is a favourable one, then it is merely a necessary building block on the way to doing business but, if the first impression is a negative one, then you’re probably already too far behind the eight ball to make a comeback! Some of the things you can do to facilitate a favourable first impression include:

  • Show interest in your client
  • Be enthusiastic
  • Be yourself
  • Smile

As far as the answer to the second question is concerned, then obviously the presentation of the FSG will go some way towards this, but it is important that you regard the FSG as a sales tool rather than a compliance document i.e. focusing primarily on the range of services you can offer rather than on how you get paid, which brings us nicely on to the answer to the third question. If you have moved to a fee based remuneration or even a hybrid commission plus fee based remuneration, the key is to get on to the front foot right up front and, rather than addressing whether a fee will be payable, you should be addressing which fee structure will be applicable to this client.

The other three boxes that we need to be ticking up front are:

  1. Allaying Fears
  2. Dispelling Myths
  3. Creating Expectations

Something like the following script will go a long way towards putting a big tick in all three of these boxes:

“Before we go ahead and find out what your objectives are, I’d just like to mention a couple of things about how I go about doing business which I believe, fortunately for you, are somewhat different to the norm. Firstly, I’d like to make it quite clear that I am NOT interested in one off sales – what I am looking for are long term business relationships. Are you comfortable with that?

“Also, given the range and the nature of the areas we will be discussing, would you agree that it all becomes fairly meaningless unless we get together on a regular basis – maybe initially every six months until your financial houses are in order and then maybe once a year may suffice, because if we don’t get together on a regular basis, then you can’t keep me abreast of any changes in your circumstances which in turn means I can’t keep you abreast of any new ideas or strategies that may become relevant in your changed circumstances. So it is, if you like, a condition of becoming a client of mine that we do get together on a regular basis – are you comfortable with that?”

Having got the client’s agreement to regularity and continuity of service (which is exactly what they were worried they were NOT going to get), you have now created a perfect springboard for getting their agreement to the principle of REFERRALS as follows:

“Now obviously, as a direct result of that, the more clients I take on, the more time I need to spend looking after those clients and providing them with a quality service and the less time I have left for expanding my client base, which I haven’t quite finished doing yet – hence my meeting with you today, right?

Therefore, I do tend to rely almost exclusively on my existing clients to recommend people to me who they think would appreciate the same quality of service, on the assumption of course that you yourself are only going to become a client of mine provided you recognise that there is a quality service to be had – agreed?

Ok, so assuming that you also recognise that you are not unique in being able to benefit from that service but that other people you know could also benefit, would there then, under those circumstances, be any reason why you wouldn’t be happy to recommend other people to me?”

The Importance of Pre-Positioning

In this second article, Chris Unwin, talks to advisers about the potential to create a paradigm shift in the way their clients view their ‘personal protection packages’ rather than their ‘insurances’…


In a previous article I talked about the concept of “setting out your stall”, which was all about creating a favourable first impression in that first five or ten minutes when meeting a potential new client for the first time.

In this article, I’m going to explore how we can create a paradigm shift in the way our clients view their “personal protection package” – which up until now you may have been calling their “insurances”! This is just one example of how important it is that we are consciously avoiding the use of terminology that creates a negative perception in the minds of our clients, thereby giving us the opportunity to turn what has historically been a “grudge purchase” or at best an “expensive necessity” into a “fantastic opportunity” for our clients.

There are three things we need to be pre-positioning with our potential new client early in the engagement process:

  1. The role that protection plays in a wealth creator’s financial plan
  2. The “wants analysis” as opposed to the “needs analysis”
  3. The “percentage concept”

So let’s first have a look at how we position protection within the context of our client’s financial plan:

The role that protection plays in a wealth creator’s financial plan

The first thing we have to understand is WHY protection MUST be the first cab off the rank in a wealth creator’s financial plan. To this end, I would recommend using a ‘terminology tool’ on yourself, which you can then in turn use on your wealth creator clients.

Would you agree that ANY investment strategy designed to accumulate wealth for your client in the future involves, by definition, making plans with your client’s income on an ongoing basis? Clearly the answer to this question is yes.

Therefore, as a professional financial planner, how can you justify making plans with your client’s income on an ongoing basis BEFORE (or even worse WITHOUT) doing everything you can to protect and secure that income as best you can on an ongoing basis and, importantly, how do you think that practice might be viewed in a court of law? Wouldn’t you say it virtually amounts to the very definition of “professional malpractice”?

So the first step I suggest you take in positioning protection within the context of a financial plan for your wealth creator clients is to use this ‘terminology tool’ when outlining the range of services you can offer as per your FSG.

The “wants analysis” as opposed to the “needs analysis”

Now let’s check out the relative benefits of a “wants analysis” versus a “needs analysis” and how to pre-position it.

For a long time in my advice practice I, like most advisers, did a needs analysis on my clients for their personal protection requirements. More often than not this process relied upon the ‘fear factor’ and painted the ‘what if’ scenarios which typically involved the ‘back up the hearse and smell the roses’ methodology, thereby turning the personal protection package into a grudge purchase made with very much a ‘just in case’ attitude on the part of the client.

Then one day I had a ‘light bulb moment’ and realised that nobody derives any real enjoyment from talking and thinking about what they NEED, but conversely they get a lot of enjoyment out of talking about what they WANT, and from that moment on, I never did a needs analysis on a single one of my personal protection clients – I did a wants analysis instead and this revolutionised my business.

We need to recognise that it is our clients who are the experts when it comes to knowing what they WANT – not in terms of levels and types of cover (that is OUR area of expertise), but when it comes to FINANCIAL OUTCOMES in certain specific ‘what if’ situations, and it is our job to help our clients verbalise what financial outcomes they would WANT in those specified ‘what if’ situations, and this is what the questions we ask on the Fact Find at the discovery phase should be designed to do.

Once you have bought into the concept of the ‘wants analysis’, it is essential that the pre-positioning of the ‘wants analysis’ forms part of your “setting out your stall” (see previous article). In order to enable your potential client to relax, it is essential that you establish and get agreement on the purpose of the meeting you are about to have. In my case, this led seamlessly into a simple outline of the rest of my initial advice process and the basis for my recommendations. This pre-positioning of the ‘wants analysis’ went like this:

“My mission today is NOT to get you to tell me what it is that you would need to survive financially in certain ‘what if’ situations – I’m really not interested in that. What I AM on a mission to do is to help you tell me what it is that you would WANT in terms of FINANCIAL OUTCOMES in those same ‘what if’ situations, because once I know what financial outcomes you would want, I will be in a position to use my expertise to put together my recommendations for appropriate types and levels of cover that are specifically designed to achieve those financial outcomes you have told me you want and hopefully within an affordable budget. Does that all sound reasonable?”

The “percentage concept”

Lastly, what would you consider to be the biggest obstacle you have to overcome in getting your clients to buy appropriate types and levels of cover? I would suggest it is always going to be the cost – after all, if your clients could have appropriate types and levels of cover for nothing, then how much resistance would you encounter?! So anything we can do to lower the bar when overcoming the price barrier is hugely beneficial for all parties. So let me share with you something I call the “percentage concept” and how I pre-positioned it with my clients.

I found the best time to introduce the percentage concept was when I got to the superannuation section of the Fact Find. When arriving at this point, I suggest you ask your client the following three questions:

Question 1: “What percentage of your income is currently being allocated to securing your income for AFTER your working life?” For most employed people, the answer to this question right now is 9.5%.

Question 2: “What percentage of your income is currently being allocated to securing your income for DURING your working life?” This is an accurate description of what your client’s Personal Protection Package is designed to do, that is to secure your income for yourself in the case of illness or accident and for your family in the event of your death. The answer to this question for most people is 0% and for others it is nowhere near 9.5%.

Question 3: “Tell me, which of these income streams – AFTER your working life or DURING your working life – is more important to you right now?”

What I would do at this point is to say: “You may be interested to know that over the last 12 months my new protection clients have typically deemed it appropriate to allocate somewhere between 4% and 5% towards securing their income for during their working life. Do you think that might be an appropriate allocation of funds on your part?” What a powerful question, as it means that most people are allocating around half the amount of money towards the MORE important income stream as they are towards the LESS important income stream – sounds pretty reasonable to me!

From this moment on, whenever the ugly spectre of cost rears its head, you can revert to the percentage concept rather than the dollar figure and given the importance of the perception we are creating in the mind of our clients, rest assured that the percentage figure will ALWAYS be perceived as less than the dollar figure.

If some of the content of these two articles has resonated with you and you feel you would like access to a wider range of simple, practical and usable client engagement tools, then check out some additional upskilling opportunities from Chris Unwin such as:
1) Online Workshops, two of which are risk advice specific and the other two are focused on more generic soft skills. Each one offers 6 or 7 hours’ worth of content segmented into bite size sessions and you have unlimited access to the content for a period of three months, so you can self-educate in your own time and at your own pace.
2) One on One Coaching (face to face or online) – this enables you to get personalised coaching on targeted content specific to your particular needs.
3) The Risk Workshop – Chris’s book “The Risk Workshop” lays out a detailed 12 Step Process for your client engagement in the risk advice space.
“The Risk Workshop is spot on in terms of delivering much needed value for advisers, to help them both elevate the quality of their life insurance conversations with clients, and to successfully build the value of their practices.”
Peter Sobels, Director, Riskinfo.

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