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It’s Time to Sell the Problem

For more success in closing sales, spend more time exploring client issues during the factfinder.

By Marc A. Silverman, CLU, ChFC, CFP

This is an age-old question for agents: Do you sell problems or do you sell solutions? If you were to ask a hundred agents that question, I think the universal answer would be, “We sell solutions to problems.”

Most of us have been classically trained by large life insurance companies to look for a problem and then find a solution. We have been taught that if the pain of solving the problem is less than the problem itself, the client will generally take action to solve it. Ben Feldman was famous for saying, “The premium is not the problem. The problem is the problem. The premium is the solution to the problem.”

In his wonderful book, Why People Buy, Guy Baker says, “We really sell problems, not solutions.” If you take time to think about this statement, you will come to the conclusion that a sale is generally an adversarial situation. You are trying to get the buyer to do something that he doesn’t want to do. The buyer is hesitant to do anything unless he feels motivated to solve the problem. So, you should spend the majority of your time focusing on the problem, not the solution.


In search of a problem
If you were to spend the majority of your time with the client on the opening and the factfinder, you would have much more success closing sales. You need to understand where the buyer is coming from—his point of view. Ask yourself, “How are my openings?” and “How much time am I spending getting to know my client?” If you fall short in these areas, you need to spend more time developing rapport with the client. One way to build that rapport is to spend more time asking clients how they feel, rather than asking for the hard facts.

While still in school, a sales professional taught me an important lesson: For someone to buy from you, he must know you, like you and trust you.

If these three elements are not present, it makes doing business with you more difficult, if not impossible.

If your goal is to find a problem to solve, then you need to do a great factfinder; that means being well prepared before you meet with the client. Create your own factfinder, tailored to the type of business you do. But make sure there is a balance of “hard” and “soft” questions. Hard questions are the standards such as name, address and date of birth. Soft questions include ones such as: What is important about money to you? And, when do you plan to retire? These open-ended questions lead to great discussions. You can solve problems by listening very carefully to the client.

If you spend a lot of time developing the problem through your factfinder, the solution seems to happen automatically. But don’t stop at just one solution; you should outline a number of solutions to solve the problem. Then, you must make the client realize that the pain of doing nothing is far greater than the pain of doing something. If the price to solve the problem in the client’s mind is less expensive than the problem itself, the client will choose to solve the problem.

Value added
As an agent, you must add value to what you do for clients if you want them to purchase from you. Let’s face facts: Life insurance and investments are really a commodity today, and clients can buy these products from anyone. As an agent, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Why would someone want to buy from me?
  2. What differentiates me from the rest?
  3. What value am I adding for the client that will make him want to do business with me?
  4. When you identify a problem for a client, offer him multiple solutions and add value into that mix. Then you’ll be on the way to creating a client for life.

Marc A. Silverman, CLU, ChFC, CFP, is principal of Silverman Financial, which he founded in 1989. He is a member of Miami-Dade AIFA and past chair of MDRT’s Top of the Table. He can be reached at 305-670-7088 or through his website at


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