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Client Conversion

One agent shares how she gets her P/C clients to think about life insurance.

By Michele Bupp

Camille Van Ham says she joined the business “only” three years ago and can’t put many acronyms after her name “just yet.” But don’t let the humility of this 25-year-old fool you. She is as well spoken and as enthusiastic about her livelihood as someone 15 years her senior. In fact, she has a knack for taking a routine appointment with a property and casualty (P/C) client and turning it into a life insurance sale—without skipping a beat.

This reporter should know because I put Van Ham to the test—I played the role of prospective client against her sales prowess. For instance, when Van Ham self-assuredly and kindly inquired about my assets, I shot back one-word answers or worse, “I dunno” (not unlike what you hear sometimes). Still, she never lost her cool through the 10-minute repartee. With each vague or dismissive answer I gave, she seemed to become nicer and more confident. As much as I tried to refute her points, I couldn’t help but want to know more.

And isn’t that just what you hope happens when you follow your next qualified lead or call on your current P/C client to sell life insurance? There are probably many times when you’ve wanted new, fresh ways to smoothly pivot a P/C discussion to a life insurance or financial-planning discussion—and not lose the client’s interest along the way. Van Ham may have just the style you’ve been looking for. Here, she has boiled down her strategies to four steps:

1. Start with liability. A good time to bring up life insurance is when I’m explaining the liability covered by an automobile insurance policy to a client. I say something like, “Your insurance pays for $100,000 of your liability. If you have assets greater than this, we need to secure them. If someone sued you, you could lose everything you have. Did you know that annuities and life insurance are the only things that can’t be touched? So, should we look at some of these options?”

2. Try new homeowners. When a new homeowner asks for home insurance rates, I say, “This might be a good time to look over your insurance portfolio to make sure all is in order.” I commonly hear the response, “I don’t know what I have, but I’m sure it’s OK,” or, “I don’t need any more coverage.” That’s when I pull out our “Financial EKG” that takes a snapshot of the client’s situation. I share the results with him right away, and he recognizes his need for more protection.

3. Include Uncle Joe. Frequently I’m told by one of my clients, “My Uncle Joe (or some other family member or friend) gives me investment advice.” Instead of disparaging Uncle Joe, I say, “That’s great. Is he in the financial-services industry?” Almost always Uncle Joe is not a financial-services professional. I reply, “Why don’t I draw up this plan, and when we meet again, invite Uncle Joe to our appointment? I’ll explain it to you both.”

4. Don’t let the conversation end with, “She’ll remarry.” I introduce the subject of life insurance when I’m selling disability income insurance to one of my small-business clients. I begin with, “We should talk about what you want to happen to your business after your death. Do you want to close your doors or would your wife run it for you?”

This gets him thinking. The worst refusal for life insurance I heard was from a client I knew pretty well. Even though his wife was a stay-at-home mom of three children under 10, with another on the way, he firmly said, “I don’t need life insurance. She’ll remarry.” He wasn’t kidding. I tried humor to make him see the importance of the situation, saying with a smile, “I know how attractive a single woman with four young kids is. (He and I chuckle.) And if she has little to live on, don’t you think she’d look like a financial burden to a promising suitor?” That got him.

Van Ham is so comfortable with her sales abilities that she admits to feeling as if she’s “been in the business a lifetime. I’ve grown up with it,” she states. And, that’s not so far from the truth.

Following college graduation, she joined her father, Jimmy, who has run his own P/C firm—The Van Ham Agency in the Chicago area—for three decades. Today, father and daughter work side by side selling multiline and life products, and planning the financial futures of their clients.


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