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Vital Discovery Questions
Sales professionals must always know the direction that they are heading, and the questions that they ask determines that direction...
So let’s say that we set the scenario and we have a client; I have a conference room, I have two huge white boards that I’m constantly putting up material on, a family is sitting in front of me, and one of my team members (because as you know from possible prior recordings or some of the readings that I’ve produced) I rarely ever have an individual appointment with one of my clients or prospective client without one of my team members available to participate in the conversation and record to all the data.
So a term I use lots of times is Tandem Appointments, I do not believe in individual appointments, I believe in tandem appointments, where I am sitting with a team member and the prospective clients.
Before we rush in to asking the client a whole bunch of questions, the first question that we need to ask them is “Mr. Prospect can we go ahead and have your permission to ask you a few questions that would be valuable to our visit?” That’s it, it’s just a simple asking for permission type of question. I’ve never been told no to this question. Any sales manual will tell you that you should ask questions that immediately get the prospective client saying yes, but you do have to ask for permission to kind of give them a heads up. So at that point I’ll actually take out a piece of paper that I’ve developed these questions on and then I begin softly probing with the following questions.
“Mr. and Mrs. Prospect, do you recall when was the last time you updated your will?” Side note, sadly they’ve not only not recently updated their will, they’ve never even developed their will. So they usually say “well I don’t have a will.” It’s at that point that I have to explain that that’s not really true. It might be true that they never developed a will, but in the state of Louisiana you cannot die without a will, you can only die without YOUR will. So we discussed the importance of the will. We asked them if you do have a will, do we have a copy of that will on our file, because my office needs to have that on record.
We move on to the next question “Mr. Prospect when is the last time you updated your living will?” or what some people call a medical directive. So the previous question was updating your will, your statutory will, and so this question is updating your living will.
That will bring up the question do you have a living Will? You explain to them what a living Will is; you explain to them that is the most respectful thing that they can do because the bottom line is if they don’t have a living will, they are forcing family member and loved ones to have make a decision if they become incapacitated, and if they are on life support and they don’t have two doctors that are reasonably of the belief that they can ever increase the quality of that person’s life, having a living will is essential. By having that living will, the person that is incapacitated gets to control the situation. Obviously a living will must be signed when an individual is of sound mind and body.
So then we move on, we transition to the next question. “If your last pay check was your last pay check, where would your family or loved ones be financially?” Man is that a good question. Once again, if your last pay check was your last pay check where would your family or loved ones be financially? When you ask that question, let it sit out there, because they need to think that through.
Here is a side note--prior to Hurricane Katrina and 9/11, the average household had only about 3 ½ months of spendable income available if they had received their last pay check. What I’m trying to infer with you right now, is that if it was only 3 ½ months of income that they left, it is probably only about 1 ½ months now, it’s not more discretionary income these days, its actually less. That is a really critical question.
Next question, “Do you have a 401k plan with your current or previous employer?” It’s a simple yes or no question. Most of the time I discourage yes or no questions; in this case it was unavoidable. There are a whole bunch of 401k roll-overs that out there sitting with previous employers, where the former employer is not even sitting with that group anymore, and those 401ks are available to be rolled over into your company’s insurance program.
The next question I’ll move on to is, “Have you taken advantage of your Roth IRA opportunities?” A very simple one page application, you explain to them what a Roth IRA does for them, how it works, what are the tax consequences.
“Are your life insurance beneficiaries on your existing policies currently reflecting how you feel about those relationships?” First of all, the question is some-what assumptive, you’re going to find out whether or not they have coverage, and you’re going to find out where they are at with their current relationships. Why? Because obviously any professional insurance practitioner must not only ask the tough questions, but he or she must be accurate with the beneficiaries.
The following question may or may not be asked, depending on how they answered the previous questions, and that question is, “Which companies do you currently hold your insurance plans with?” Now some of you out there believe that you have to make a living off replacing other company’s policies, and that’s a little sad because the reality is rarely do we need to replace life insurance policies. Primarily the reason why is rarely our families, our business owners are over insured. So if I discovered that someone has a $1 million life insurance need and they already has $200,000 of life insurance coverage, they still have an $800,000 dollar need that we can fill.
Here is a side note, say your prospect has a New York Life, a Guardian Life, or Northwestern Mutual plan, and these plans are 7, 8 or 9 years old. One needs to really look at your ethics if you’re going to decide to replace those plans. A plan that will premium offset in a short period of time. Don’t touch it. Don’t touch it. They should be encouraged to keep the coverage; you can still manage that policy. Even though it’s not yours, fight the good fight, keep your integrity, document your files, it is just a part of their plan that they already have in force, period. What’s my next question, yep you got it, “Do we have a copy of these insurance policies on our file?”
Then we move on to the next question. “Mr. Prospect, talk to me about your CD’s or your savings accounts, who do you have those with?” Simple question, let them talk.
Here is a side bar--these questions are not going to be asked as rapid fire as I am going through them now. What you should always do is have this list of questions in front of you. Another thing is you don’t have to be perfect--what you have to be is authentic, what you have to be is sincere, you have to ask for permission and you have to ask these questions and just read these questions from the sheet. You don’t have to have any of this so memorized, that you are mechanical. We are going to ask you to have a script to follow. We are going to ask you to work with them. We are going to ask you to teach with them, not teach at them. Don’t preach, teach. Again don’t preach, teach.
So after they tell you about their CDs, their savings accounts, ask them “Do we have that on file?” All the while your faithful team member should be in the appointment recording this data, all of the while you are not looking at a computer screen, your eyes are on the client. Never should a computer monitor be between you and the client, big, big mistake.
Next question “Mr. Prospect, tell me about the real estate that you own?” Usually they’ll talk you about their home. Go one step further and ask them if they own any real estate that they own that they don’t live in because that’s going to change the assets whenever we do a financial needs analysis at the end, once again, we have the follow up questions. “Do we have these real estate contracts copied and in your file, do you have an executor or executrix to manage your affairs in the event of your death?” They are going to tell you yes or no, if they tell you yes, fantastic. “What is their name, may we have their contact information?” and you move through the conversation.
The next question is what I call a practitioner question, key question and that is “Mr. Prospect, what is the name of your CPA or accountant, your attorney, your doctor, your most trusted friend?” Get all of this contact information onto their file, you can see that these questions are covering a lot of area.
This next question will actually cover you. “Mr. Prospect, are there any family members or individuals in which we should not discuss you financial matters with, unless accompanied by others that you trust?” Bottom line is I, as an insurance practitioner, can not be put in a sticky spot, a spot where my office gets a weird call or weird visit, from someone asking weird questions, about my client who is either terminally ill or has died. It is a said reality about human beings, but after 26 years in the business it is a question that I want to know. I don’t only want to know who I should talk to, I want to know who I should NOT talk to.
So, these 15 or 20 questions will serve you extremely well in opening some quality dialogue with your client, so that you can give the best possible service for these people.
I hope this is helpful, if you practice it over and over in your car, hear a question, rewind, say the question out loud, hear the questions, rewind, say the question out loud.
“We must make our habits, and then our habits will make us.”
“Repetition is the mother of skill.”
I’m a strong believer in having a script and knowing your lines. Improvisation is for the unprofessional, improvisation is for the sadly over confident individual who believes he or she can just wing it.
You know the great Robert Montgomery Knight, head basketball coach of the Indiana Hoosiers once said “Everybody wants to be National champions, and no one wants to come to practice.” Our clients deserve better, you have the ability to practice and provide that quality to them. You are it, you are the person that can give them better, will you commit to better, and will you commit to practice. I strongly encourage you to practice these questions because it will definitely give you the confidence needed in those discovery conversations. No matter what insurance company you represent, I promise you this, if you have one discovery conversation before noon and one discovery conversation before 6pm, each business day, you will realize more of your dreams and goals than you ever thought possible. It will be impossible for you not to be recognized in your company by learning these words, getting extremely familiar, being authentic, being enthusiastic, controlling all of the other interruptions in your life and focus just on the client. Remember marvelous performance is never accidental, marvelous performance is always intentional.
Peace, love & gumbo!
Marvin LeBlanc, LUTCF, CNP
As always, please post your own insights here on the blog or contact me directly at Marvin@MarvinLeBlanc.com. I’d be honored to hear from you, either by email or let’s set up a 15 minute phone chat. You’ll be glad we did.
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