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How Asking the Right Questions Resulted in a Big Case

A few years ago, I closed a permanent life insurance case with a $1 million premium. It was one of the largest policies of my 27 years in the industry. On top of that, the sale was to a client who initially had little or no interest in learning about the benefits of life insurance.

It started with a referral to a young married couple who had no children. The husband had worked for a small company and he was able to retire when he was only 38. Although he had always managed his own money, he and his wife needed some financial guidance. 

One of their top concerns was the taxes they were paying on their portfolio. These were taxes that they were paying on their investment income. I responded to this concern by demonstrating how a life insurance policy is not subject to taxation on the build-up of the cash value of the policy.  

The couple also was concerned with the market fluctuation of their portfolio and the risk of loss. I responded by demonstrating that life insurance policy performance was not tied to the market, and that the guarantees offered by the insurance policy helped place some of the risk on the insurance company.  

I also showed them the value of a death benefit for charitable and estate planning purposes as well as how life insurance could help protect their assets. 

I didn’t tell the husband directly that I thought he needed more life insurance. But I knew if he had further understanding of the policy structure and what the coverage could do for him and his wife while they were still living, he would want to investigate it further. 


A Greater Understanding

I could see the further we went down this path, the more intrigued and engaged about life insurance he became. At first, he didn’t understand life insurance and its potential to work for him and his wife, but eventually he did. 

In the majority of large cases I have handled, most of my clients initially don’t understand how life insurance works. At my agency, we believe there are 60 direct and indirect benefits to life insurance. In this particular case, out of all of those benefits, I homed in on only the benefits this couple found most appealing.   

The key to solving your clients’ problems is asking the right questions. I believe 90 percent of your sales are made in the opening interview. For me, it’s not about the close; it’s about the open.

Here are some additional effective questions I have developed throughout the course of my sales career and I use with my prospects:


1. What questions do you have for me? When I first meet with a new client, I always start with this question. That opens the door for me to read the client.


2. How long have you been married? This helps me to know if we are dealing with “your” money or “our” money.


3. Who do you rely on for financial advice? This is one of the most important questions. The answer to this tells me how committed they are to their current advisor.


4. What do you believe is the best investment? This is an opportunity for me to get some introspection as the client tells me what they really want when they answer this question.


5. What do you like to do when you are not working? This question is important to find out their values. This also lets me know whether they give money to charities, which may lead to discussing charitable planning at our next meeting.


6. What would you like to do to make successful progress? The client will give you a road map when they answer this question.


7. What are your expectations of me? What do you want me to do for you? These are the most important questions of all. I have strategies and ideas to help the client, but the client’s answers to these questions help me focus on what the client wants.


What Clients Want Vs. What They Have

One of the biggest mistakes I usually encounter is that sophisticated clients are making unsophisticated financial decisions. I first go through the questions I listed previously so clients can tell me exactly what they want. I take their answers and marry them with their current financial picture. This is where I often see a contradiction — what clients want and what they have can be completely different. 

And that is what I found out about this couple. To help minimize their risk and tax issues, I found out what they wanted first, and then focused on these issues to add more value to their lives. Whether or not they needed life insurance wasn’t even a question. The clients wanted everything that I showed them — they just didn’t know that life insurance would help them get there. It is all about what the client wants, not what I want for the client.  


Phil Bodine, founder and CEO of Verdeo Financial and Insurance Strategies, based in Granite Bay, Calif., has been affiliated with Ohio National since September 1991. He is a 19-year Qualifying and Life Member of the Million Dollar Round Table and Top of the Table. Phil may be contacted at [email protected] .

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