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Growing Your Client Relationships

Cultivating your client relationships is very similar to growing a garden. Once a prospect becomes a client, the relationship needs to be nurtured and developed as his needs grow and change. One way to deepen that relationship, build loyalty and increase your value is by asking a few simple questions. 

Let’s say you have a client who bought whole life insurance to supplement the group insurance offered at work. The client is married and has two children. The spouse is re-entering the workforce after staying home with the children for a few years. You know the client’s income and mortgage payment, current age and the ages of the children. What can you do to turn this basic information into a long-term relationship?

Questions to Ask

First, let’s find out more about the spouse and the new job. Will the spouse have life insurance at the job? Will the group life insurance be enough to cover the cost of replacing the spouse’s contributions to the household if something were to happen? Since the spouse is re-entering the workforce after an absence, will the new salary add significantly to the household income, or will it be offset by increased child care and transportation costs? This is an opportunity to offer a free financial review to help the couple adjust their budget and look at some new savings opportunities.

What if the spouse is planning to start an at-home business? You can become a valuable resource by recommending insurance for the small-business owner or even suggest a simplified employee pension or SIMPLE retirement plan. Now you have two clients – an individual and a small-business owner. Retirement might seem like a long way off to your young clients, but starting early is the best way to build a nest egg. Start your conversations by asking your clients about their long-term goals and dreams. Questions like “What do you want to do when you retire?” or “What’s the one place you must visit before you die?” will help your clients envision their retirement in terms of lifestyle and activities. Another easy question is, “Where have you worked before?” The answer provides you with more information about your clients and might remind them about a 401(k) or a 403(b) plan that needs to be rolled over. By asking your clients about their dreams and goals, you can uncover ways to add value to your relationship as you help them attain their goals.

Most parents love to talk about their children, so ask what their kids want to be when they grow up, and where they want to go to college. Then ask how they plan to pay for it. Are your clients participating in a state-sponsored 529 plan? Are they setting aside some money from each paycheck? You can help your clients choose the tax-deferred education plan that is right for them and for their children.

Another important question concerns guardians. Who will take care of the children if something were to happen to both parents? Who will make the decisions about their children’s financial futures? Introduce your clients to custodial accounts and trusts and review your clients’ beneficiaries. Many people make the mistake of naming their minor children as the beneficiaries of their accounts; yet, the children would not be eligible to take control of the accounts until they are 18.

Finally, if your clients have a child with special needs, how are they planning to make sure that the child receives the care he or she needs for as long as he or she needs it? You can help your clients structure their finances to support the child without compromising future eligibility for Medicare, Medicaid and other services.

Even though your clients are young, now is the time to introduce estate planning, but keep it simple and understandable. Estate planning may cost more than young families can or want to spend now, but it is important to lay the groundwork for future discussions. Start by asking your clients if they have basic wills.

As you develop your relationship with your clients and build their trust, you can add more topics to your discussions. Talk to them about coverage to supplement their group term insurance, for instance, or how to structure their accounts to reduce or potentially eliminate estate taxes. Gradually increase the depth and breadth of your discussions as your clients’ financial portfolios increase. Remind them that most people need some sort of estate planning, even if they aren’t mega-millionaires.

John J. Favaloro, CLU, is managing director of MetLife of the Carolinas in Charlotte, N.C. He has been a NAIFA member for 26 years. John may be contacted at [email protected] [email protected].

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