How to Sell Disability Income Insurance with Conviction
by Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D.
Sometimes life throws you a curve. Planning for the unexpected can positively impact your ability to recover after a tragedy. Insurance, a risk reduction strategy, is one safeguard that helps maintain financial stability.
My life changed in an instant six years ago. On our third wedding anniversary weekend, my husband, Mark Leder, and I, went on a bicycle ride. It was a custom-made day for a ride on the bike trail - no wind, rain or threat of storm. We were riding the trail for about ten minutes, when suddenly, my husband heard what sounded like a gun shot. He slowed down and looked ahead to his right. Then he saw it - a large tree on its way to the ground. "STOP!" he yelled, but there was nothing I could do. Instantly, I was crushed by a 3 1/2 ton tree, energized by entangled live electric power lines. Knocked unconscious, I lay there paralyzed from the waist down.
After 4 ½ hours of surgery, I woke up in the intensive care unit and was told I had a broken back and neck and sustained a spinal cord injury. I was grateful to be alive!
After five days in intensive care, I was transported to the Dodd Hall Rehabilitation Center at The Ohio State University, where I spent five weeks. At the center, I learned skills for daily living such as bathing, dressing, and transferring in and out of a wheelchair. Six weeks after my injury, I returned home from the hospital. My business income ceased and expenses increased due to my need for personal care assistant, home modification, an adaptive van, adaptive office furniture, medicines, therapy, doctor visits, medical supplies and medical equipment. For the next two years, I went to physical and occupational therapy three days a week, learning how to maneuver in my wheelchair, drive a van with hand controls, and function without the use of my legs. Day by day, my strength and skills improved.
I never expected to be permanently disabled - no one does. On that fateful day, I rode my bicycle with safety in mind and was wearing my helmet (which saved me from brain injury). My injury certainly couldn't have been predicted. Sometimes life just happens. Situations that are out of our control get the best of us. Recovery from a disability is faster when finances are available.
At the time of my injury, I had disability income insurance through my state teacher's retirement system. I had been a university faculty member 11 years prior to starting my speaking business, and my insurance policy was still in effect.
Disability income insurance was as valuable to me as my helmet. Within three months after my injury, my income was partially replaced. I was better able to focus on my physical recovery, rather than on a financial disaster. My lifestyle was altered due to my spinal cord injury; however, funds were available through my monthly disability income insurance checks to enable me to pay my medical bills and monthly living expenses. My biggest asset, my ability to earn a living, was insured.
My husband's level of stress was lower, knowing the safety net of disability income insurance was there to keep us buoyant. He had enough to grieve and worry about, without the added burden of a significant loss of income due to my disability. We were able to stabilize our lives faster. Neither of us had to resort to using our savings in order to pay our mortgage and utilities.
Our relationship could've been in serious jeopardy had we incurred heavy debt and been unable to meet our monthly expenses. As a couple experiencing trauma, we had one less thing to worry about - my loss of income. I focused on my physical recovery. Mark focused on helping me recover. Our spirits were lifted and we slowly rebuilt our lives together.
Having gone through this experience, I am a champion of disability income insurance. I have learned many lessons about rebounding from a crisis and speak to audiences nationwide. I speak to corporations, organizations, insurance professionals, financial planners, and business owners about coping with change and dealing with adversity. I also talk about the value of disability income insurance.
At the time of my injury, I owned two businesses - a speaking/training/consulting company and a publishing company. As a business owner, my earned income ceased when I became disabled. It took a few years before income was generated from my professional speaking business.
Disability can result in a prolonged interruption of business activities. This can lead to a significant loss of income, huge debt, poor credit standing, a loss of business, and exodus of employees. Disability income insurance is a way to safeguard risk and provides a source of income to allow people to rebound from a crisis.
Americans are far better prepared to die than to become disabled. They've paid for life insurance, their casket, funeral plot and headstone. They know that death is inevitable. However, they don't realize the odds are they are more likely to become disabled for more than three months in any given year than they are to die. (Society of Actuaries) One third of all people between the ages of 30 and 64 will become disabled sometime in their lives. (Health Insurance Association of America) At age 32, the chance of being disabled 90 days is 6 1/2 times greater than the chance of death. (National Association of Insurance Commissioners) Before retirement age, one in seven workers will be disabled for five or more years. (Health Insurance Association of America) Almost 50% of the population between the ages of 25 and 55 do not have disability income insurance. (Business Digest, 2001) Insurance professionals must acknowledge the national statistics and share them with potential clients. The facts about the frequency of disabilities are powerful tools in a sales call. People need to take whatever actions they can to limit risks and losses. Since our most valuable asset is our ability to make a living, our income needs to be protected. It is even more critical for people who own businesses to have disability income insurance.
Disability income insurance is tremendously undersold!
Insurance professionals should sell disability income insurance with conviction. The product is unique and universally needed by those in the workforce. The more that a person earns, the more risk is at stake. Selling with conviction means selling with an unshakable belief in what you are providing. You need to be convinced that the product you have is critically important to the potential client's financial, professional and personal stability. There should be no need to use persuasion tactics with a potential client in order to make the sale. The facts about the likelihood of a disability and the calculation of what is at risk financially, should be enough information for the potential client to approve the purchase of the policy.
Help the potential client tell you what life has been like for colleagues, friends, neighbors or family members with a disability. It is likely they have a personal story to share, since 20% of the US population has a disability. Get the potential client to talk about what happened to the family as a result of lost income and increased medical expenses. Ask about those who did not plan for a potential loss of income and what losses were incurred. Many will report that families lost their homes as a result of mortgage foreclosures. A 1998 report by the Federal Housing Administration indicated that 48% of the VA mortgage foreclosures in the US were due to a disability.
Also lead a discussion about what life was like for their friends and family that had a portion of their income restored because of disability income insurance. Help them to see the wisdom in purchasing a policy from you.
People avoid thinking that bad things can happen to them. One way to help potential clients realize that accidents can happen to them is to use a medical analogy. Ask your potential clients when they had their last tetanus shot. The shot needs to be given every 10 years to prevent lockjaw, a serious disease that causes spasms of all the muscles, and can lead to difficulty swallowing. Tetanus is caused by a germ that enters the body through a cut or wound. Patients get their tetanus shots without hesitation to reduce the risk, avoid pain and illness. A shot in the arm is a small price to pay.
If potential clients are mindful of getting their tetanus shots, they acknowledge that accidents can happen. This may lead into a discussion of how injuries, accidents, and illnesses have a way of showing up unexpectedly in life. Inoculations are like insurance: both are strategies to avoid risks.
Too often disability income insurance is viewed as a luxury and many believe they can't afford it. When I speak, too many people in my audiences admit to me that they don't have disability income insurance. Many business owners don't view this product as a fundamental business expense, a part of their business overhead.
Business owners are required by state laws to have insurance on their cars, and mortgage companies require insurance on buildings. Somehow, disability income insurance gets pushed aside for the future. Insurance professionals and financial planners need to work with business owners to show them that they can't afford not to have disability income insurance. Adjustments in the business budget should be made so that funds are available for monthly premiums. It is far wiser to trim a marketing budget so the insurance premium can be paid.
It is my belief that disability income insurance should be purchased before life insurance. Insurance professionals often approach clients for the first time and sell a life insurance policy. Many neglect to put forward a plan for purchasing disability income insurance. Yet, in any given year, the likelihood of being disabled is greater than dying.
Income is the fuel that enables people to pay living expenses such as mortgages, rent, utilities, food, education, insurance, taxes, as well as save for retirement and future purchases. When income ceases, so does the financial plan. Quality-of-life and lifestyle become highly compromised when money is no longer available to meet monthly living expenses.
Business owners and those in non-hazardous occupations, such as management, falsely assume that they are immune from experiencing a disability. Statistics show that 75% of disabilities are from illnesses, not injuries. (Commissioner's Disability Table, 1986) The leading illnesses that disable people include: mental disorders, cancer, heart attack, stroke, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, arthritis, and AIDS. As a person ages, disabilities are more commonplace. A person's genetics, family history and lifestyle predict the likelihood of an illness.
Sixty percent of disabling injuries by workers in 1998 occurred off the job. (National Safety Council, 1999) Potential clients need to realize that they are more likely to be disabled away from their job.
No one is immune from tragedy. Regaining your footing after life throws you a curve is daunting. The goal is to recover - as quickly as possible. Life does go on after a disability, and the quality of life is certainly related to the severity of the disability. Recovery can be easier when funds are available to purchase products and services to make life a little easier. Every sales opportunity is a way to insure comfort and independence for the future lives of those you meet.
Tips to increase the sale of disability income insurance
¨ Share statistics about the likelihood of a disability with potential clients.
¨ Connect emotions to the information you provide potential clients.
¨ Share a story about a family you helped who had a disability insurance policy in place.
¨ Have the potential client share a story about someone they know with a disability and how they recovered financially.
¨ Use the tetanus shot analogy.
¨ Use the bike helmet analogy.
¨ Call potential clients and make appointments!
Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D. is a speaker, trainer, writer and consultant.
She was a featured speaker at our October 17th Symposium