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Closing Annuity Sales: The First Appointment

Closing annuity sales is the point of the exercise, and every professional knows the euphoria of a perfect presentation and close. Some salespeople believe it is the hand of destiny ushering them through the signatures, to the button-up, the handshake, and the drive home where they bask in the good fortune of finding that “low-hanging fruit.” The true professional spends the drive home replaying a different visual, a series of familiar steps that lead inevitably, unerringly to a new client for life. One salesperson gets lucky, the other gets validation.

The perfect presentation and close takes on a Zen-like quality, like the sound of one hand clapping. There is no sale, no close. There is a problem that finds a solution, a fear that finds comfort. All reasoning, all motivation comes from the client. Aristotle nailed it 2400 years ago: “The fool tells me his reasons, the wise man persuades me with my own.”

Now that you’ve given your first pair of Safe Money Seminars and collected a couple dozen appointments, here are some defining dos and don’ts. When precisely executed, my three appointment process of closing annuity sales will assure not only sales, but new clients for life. For example, do remember that all prospects walk into your office (or await your arrival at their home) with important core emotional values - wants, fears, hopes and dreams. Don’t jump into your pitch. If you insist on jumping into your pitch, save yourself the trouble and take a loaded revolver, get in the bathtub and blow your brains out. You’ll earn roughly the same commission.

The FUD Factor

Instead, do observe the FUD Factor. All people have fears, uncertainties and doubts that haunt subconscious caverns and, unless confronted, render their host incapable of making decisions. These FUDs not only define their host’s sense of self but also dictate how they relate to their money. Mr. and Mrs. Prospect are their fears, uncertainties and doubts as well as their money - all in varying yet fuzzy degrees. You must use your first appointment, your get-acquainted session, to deliberately and profoundly connect with these inner emotions.

How? Never lead with statements when you can lead with questions. Ask questions -- well-crafted, provocative, incisive questions -- and don’t be so eager to tell your story that you neglect to hear your prospect’s story. These are your money moments. The more time you spend soaking in the FUDs of your prospects, the more they will respect your advice, then help you craft solutions to their liking. The more they will think it was their idea.

And pay attention to body language, words they choke on, core emotional issues and outright fears. People are motivated by fear and greed, but fear will move them to action faster and with greater resolve than greed. Key in on the boogeyman, what keeps them up at night, what haunts their dreams. Most people need a psychiatrist more than they need a financial advisor. Fact is, a financial advisor is not very good at closing annuity sales until he or she becomes a good psychiatrist.

Three Questions

My favorite leading question is simply, “Where are you from originally?” When asked sincerely, the question gives them permission to take an autobiographical stroll down memory lane. Their eyes take on a nostalgic glow. There is a scant grin as they drift back in time recalling their childhood, their parents and siblings, schoolmates, the home they grew up in, what things were like in those days, and the passport that led them into adulthood. Your job here is to clam up and listen. Take notes like a freshman. You’ll discover bedrock values along with irrational beliefs, paralyzing fears and whimsical dreams. This exercise has nothing to do directly with closing annuity sales or getting to their money... but everything to do with getting to know who earned their money. The value of their assets is less important that the values that created them.

Next I say, “Tell me about the work you did before you retired.” A person’s identity is largely defined by their occupational history. What they did for a living is who they are. Their need to find a sympathetic ear to acknowledge career accomplishments is on equal footing with their need to trust someone to respect what they’ve accumulated along the way. Talk of work often leads voluntarily to talk of IRAs and 401(k)s, but this is not an invitation for you to pounce on their nest egg. They’ve been waiting all their lives for a financial advisor to just listen to them. Use conversation extenders like, “…and you feel this way because?” or “…and that experience is why you’ve kept your money in CDs all this time?” Get to the blood, sweat and tears that went into earning their nest egg.

Then I say, “Now then, John and Mary, tell me why you asked for this appointment and maybe the two or three most important things you’d like us to talk about.” They usually have a list of items to go over from your Safe Money Seminar, but if at this point they look at you like a deer in the headlights, try an alternate question like, “Tell me about the best financial move you ever made.” Many people will seize the opportunity to gloat over victories. Surprisingly often, however, they’ll volunteer their worst financial moves in painful detail, blow by blow, reaching deep to expose feelings that cry for emotional connection. This is when you know at a primal level that nothing in your arsenal for closing annuity sales equals the fire power of getting your prospects to tell their story.

A Few Wows

Your ratio of them talking to you talking should be about 5 to 1 or, in an hour, 50 minutes them to 10 minutes you. Remember, in your Safe Money Seminar you asked them to bring copies of last year’s tax return, life insurance and annuity policies, and brokerage account statements. Since the first appointment is not about the diagnosis (finding what's broken), nor the prescription (closing annuity sales), you’ll use the little time you have to ‘Wow’ them as much as possible. For example, if their tax return shows ,000 to ,000 in interest income, it’s a safe bet they have roughly 0,000 in bank CDs paying 3.5% to 4% interest. You quickly do the math, glance up from the documents and say in nonchalant doctor speak, “And you’ve got, what, about 0,000 in bank CDs?” They verify the dollar amount for your notes and think, “Wow, how does he know that?”

Finally, you conclude the meeting. The simple message here is that, like any good doctor, you have not attempted any diagnosis and are far from prescribing any cure. The operative word here is “research.” It will take you a week to research their current portfolio and/or assorted financial documents and identify areas that are not reaching their highest potential, not serving their needs, or outright broken and need fixing. Set the return appointment for the same time, same place, one week from today. Of course, you’ll need to keep their documents for your research which, incidentally, reinforces the element of trust and assures their return visit. Then stand up, shake hands, look them in the eyes and thank them for sharing their lives with you.

You have done more toward closing annuity sales than anything you could have told them.

About the Author: Gary Le Mon is a wholesale distributor of fixed indexed annuities for Allianz, American Equity, Sun Life Financial, and ING. Author and developer of the Safe Money Seminar, a financial planning seminar for Seniors, Gary serves as guest speaker on behalf of agents and agencies nationwide. He is coach, mentor and motivator to over 700 general agents in his insurance marketing organization, InsuranStar Marketing. See also

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