Don’t Let Procrastination Stall the Plan

Pick up any sales book and you’ll almost certainly find a chapter on motivating prospects to take action.  That’s because it’s a fact of human nature that we, as human beings, tend to stick with what we know and with the life we are comfortable with unless something significant can convince us that doing something different is in our best interest.  Because of the human penchant for the status quo, your challenge as an advisor – to get your prospect to take action on the plan you’re proposing – can sometimes seem insurmountable.

To address the challenge, your first step is to understand it.  Many advisors will tell you that procrastination is just a polite way of saying, “No thanks, I’m not interested.”  And sometimes that’s true. 

But in other cases, it means that you simply haven’t provided your prospect with enough information or presented your case in such a way that your prospect fully understands what you’re suggesting he or she do.  Maybe she doesn’t fully understand the need.  Maybe she sees the need, but she isn’t yet convinced that your proposed solution will solve the problem.  Maybe she sees the need and understands that your proposed solution is sound, but she believes that it may not be the most cost-effective way to address the problem.

An important part of your role is to ask enough probing questions so that, when your prospect “objects” through procrastination, you can actually get to the real reason for the hesitancy and lack of action.  If the procrastination is truly just a polite “no,” probing questions will uncover that and you can move on.  If there is more to the hesitancy, probing questions are the only way to uncover the real concerns. And until the real concerns are addressed, you’re highly unlikely to see your prospect take action.

Here are some thoughts on how to help your prospect overcome procrastination:

  • Start with yourself.  Work to rid yourself of any personal habits of procrastination in your own life (we all have such habits) and replace them with a bias toward action.  Your own bias toward action can be contagious.
  • Be persistent.  Notice, I didn’t write “be obnoxious.”  If the prospect asks you to get back to him or her in a month, get back to him or her in a month, and remind the prospect that he or she asked you to do so. Don’t press the prospect, but show him or her that this problem is important enough that you will persist until it’s addressed.
  • Ask questions until you understand.  If the prospect gave you an indication that he or she liked your idea last week and now he or she is balking, don’t take it personally.  Instead, ask the questions that will get to the bottom of the prospect’s unwillingness to act.  There is always a reason, even if it’s as simple as, “I just don’t really want to spend the money.”
  • Stress the urgency.  There are all kinds of resources available on the Web that will help you illustrate the importance of making a financial decision – all kinds of financial decisions, actually – as opposed to waiting.  Waiting typically involves some real and often substantial costs, and this is information that will make sense to many prospects.  So use it.
  • Remember that life insurance is an emotional sale.  No doubt, life insurance is a financial decision, but at its core, it’s also very much an emotional decision.  This is a product that is designed to protect the people the insured cherishes, such as his or her spouse, children, grandchildren, business partners, and employees. Understand that, and make sure that your client does as well, because few things motivate action like strong emotions.

Most importantly, don’t let this common human characteristic of procrastination get the better of you.  In fact, if you start to look at it as just one of those facts of life with which you have to contend, you will find that dealing with it can be a lot less frustrating and overcoming it a lot more satisfying.

Chuck HirschCharles K. Hirsch, CLU, is the former editor and publisher of Life Insurance Selling magazine. He continues to contribute to insurance industry publications, in addition to providing consulting and marketing services through his firm, Hirsch Communications Consulting, LLC. He can be reached at [email protected]