Secret to Successful Communication

I read somewhere that Stephen King, who has to be considered one of the most prolific authors in history, wrote something every day. Christmas, New Year’s…and yes, even Thanksgiving. He would sit down in front of his computer and write, regardless of the circumstances in the outside world.

In attempting replicate this habit and ingrain it for myself, I am writing today. (Yes, in fact, I wrote this on Thanksgiving morning).

Having a quiet meal at a resort on Maui this morning, for some reason I began to think about the differences in people and how they interpret and communicate information. Some people are “straight line” communicators – they want to know only the relevant details and need to get to the point. Extraneous context is a waste of time for these folks and many times, becomes an irritant.

Then there are the “story-tellers” – no detail is too small and the amount of context they need and/or provide is vast. The feeling here is that you can never get the full point of the story if you don’t know everything involved.

I have not researched this nor am I an expert, but I would assume that most people fall somewhere in the middle of these two categories, with a habitual lean to one side or the other. So I began to wonder…what is the best way to quickly identify which style is most apparent for those you are communicating with? And wouldn’t it make sense, once you know which way someone “leans”, to adapt ourselves to that style?

Then it hit me – there is one and only tried and true method of identifying style: listening.

The true art of listening has been lost for most of us – the noise in today’s world makes it very difficult to focus. But I would submit that we can get better and by getting better, communicate more freely and build stronger relationships personally and in business.

Listen and adapt – simple, but not easy. That’s why most people will never do it.

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving means so much to so many and it has always been my favorite holiday. While it should not take a special day for any of us to express our gratitude, this day is always wonderful because at it’s core, we are asked to do one simple thing: Be grateful.

So as each of us celebrates Thanksgiving in our own way, I am grateful:

For the friends and family who have helped me and become a key part of my life.
For the business associates and partners who share the desire to make a difference.

Sounds like a corny exercise, but I would encourage each of you to make a list of all of the things for which you are grateful. It’s funny how in a world so focused on the acquisition of “things”, it all boils down to the people who really make a difference.

Giving thanks can be the most fulfilling part of our lives – regardless of the date on the calendar. Thank you for reading.

Question Everything

Sitting here on a resort balcony in Maui, considering the beauty all around me – so what do I do?

You got it…I checked my email!

Hyper-connected is probably a word best used to describe me but I’m really trying this week to disconnect as much as I can. However, in my email, I received a question to a blog post I had written a week or so ago.

It was a good question, but I didn’t know the answer – which made me consider the power of a good, thoughtful question.

Sometimes they can be technical in nature, sometimes a bit more conceptual. But the one thing that a good question does is make people take the time to THINK.

It’s really not as easy as it used to be to think. We are so connected to the internet and our gadgets that we feel like we can simply react immediately and have our back up information ready to go at a moment’s notice.

But taking the time to think about a question and consider alternatives is powerful. And in sales, the art of asking good questions can lead to success.

If you are looking for a differentiator in your market, start with the types of questions you are asking. If you can make people think, they will buy (courtesy of Jeffrey Gitomer).

Why?

Just saw a story on the local evening news:

A 36-year old man died suddenly, leaving a wife with medial issues and 5 children behind. He had NO life insurance.

The local community held a benefit to raise money to help the family, but being in the life insurance business, this type of event happens all too often and makes me absolutely crazy! How is it possible that a family has 5 children and don’t at least buy some term life insurance to protect the income of the major breadwinner?

The answer is a wake up call for EVERYONE in financial services: it’s likely because no one bothered to ASK them to buy life insurance. Unfortunately for many of us, we aren’t willing to go buy something like this on our own – the old saying, “We must be sold what we need” comes to mind.

It should be our personal mission to never let this happen to anyone. Educate your clients and give them an opportunity to say “No” to your idea. Most of them will say “Yes”.

10 Things About Life Insurance

There is a lot of information out there about life insurance. Some good, some maybe not so much. These are the basics that everyone should know:

  1. INCOME TAX FREE - Life insurance death benefits are paid income tax free.*
  2. ESTATE TAX FREE - Using third party ownership (an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust or ILIT), death benefits are not includible in your taxable estate.
  3. TAX DEFERRED GROWTH - Buyers of permanent life insurance with an eye toward growing their cash surrender value should know that the cash inside the policy grows tax deferred.**
  4. FIFO - Money that is paid into a life insurance policy (within the “Modified Endowment Contract” or MEC limit) and later withdrawn is received “First In First Out” or FIFO. Your after tax premium dollars are the first to come out when using a life insurance policy as a cash flow vehicle.**
  5. LOANS - Policy loans are not taxable while the policy is in force. You can access cash from your policy without paying current income tax. Only when the policy ceases to exist, while you are alive, in income tax due.**
  6. GUARANTEED PREMIUM - If you buy a level premium term plan (10, 15, 20 years, etc.) or a Guaranteed Death Benefit Universal Life (GUL) plan, nearly every company in the market guarantees that the premium and benefit amount will not change during the level premium period.***
  7. GUARANTEED DEATH BENEFIT - If you buy a level term plan or GUL, the amount of death benefit is guaranteed by the company not to decrease.
  8. GUARANTEED RENEWABLE - The insurance company cannot change or cancel your coverage, even if your health, lifestyle or hobbies dramatically change. If you purchased a plan without a premium guarantee or are beyond the guarantee period, if it possible for your premium to change, but not the benefit.
  9. AVOID PROBATE - Life insurance proceeds paid directly to a named beneficiary avoid probate costs, delays and will not become public record.
  10. NEVER AN UNPAID CLAIM - There is no record of any legitimate life insurance claim that went unpaid in the history of the industry. Take comfort in knowing that your beneficiaries will be paid.

*Always seek tax advice from competent tax counsel.
**It is important to note that accessing cash value from a GUL plan will likely change the length of the guarantee.
***It is important to continually review your life insurance coverage. GUL plans can be sensitive to the timing of premium payments and regular monitoring is encouraged.

Play To Your Strengths

Driving down I-35 earlier last week, a thought occurred to me about the challenging year of 2013. Most challenges occur because we are attempting to do things that we are either not currently adept at doing OR that we are not suited to doing in the first place.

Examining the first concept, if we are making changes and attempting to do things in our business or personal lives that are realistically possible and aligned with who we are, we are on a path of continued improvement. BRAVO! These are the types of challenges that we should continue to meet head on, embrace and improve on who we are and what we are capable of doing.

The second concept, however, is where the real heartburn exists for many of us. Especially in our business lives, we spend entirely too much time trying to pound a square peg into a round hole. Instead of finding creative ways to leverage our successful products and relationships, we build products not suited to our current markets and that move us away from the core of what made us successful.

Improving on weaknesses is something we all should strive to do every single day. But we need to recognize and stay committed to the core strengths that make us valuable in the first place. I think I would call this “staying in alignment”.

A True Health Insurance Story

Spoke to a close friend of mine today & he sent me the following from his experience on the ObamaCare website. This is the actual transcript from the chat conversation and I’m publishing it here because it makes me laugh…and shake my head in disgust at the same time:

[8:03:09 pm]: Thanks for contacting Health Insurance Marketplace Live Chat. Please wait while we connect you to someone who can help.
[8:03:13 pm]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
[8:03:47 pm]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
[8:03:53 pm]: Welcome! You’re now connected to Health Insurance Marketplace Live Chat.Thanks for contacting us. My name is Quanza. To protect your privacy, please don’t provide any personal information, like Social Security Number, or any other sensitive medical or personal information.
[8:04:20 pm]: Quanza
How may I help you?
[8:04:24 pm]: CALLER
I can not set up an account — I have tried 10 times with three different email addresses
[8:05:21 pm]: Quanza
Thank you. One moment please while I look that up.
[8:06:00 pm]: Quanza
Thanks for your interest in the Health Insurance Marketplace. We have a lot of visitors trying to use our website right now. This is causing some glitches for some people trying to create accounts or log in.
[8:06:34 pm]: CALLER
ok I will not get sick or hurt until you can fix the website
[8:07:44 pm]: Quanza
I apologize for the inconvenience.
[8:08:11 pm]: CALLER
what should I do? Will you tell me when its ok to try and create an account?
[8:08:48 pm]: Quanza
Thank you. One moment please while I look that up.
[8:10:40 pm]: CALLER
is there another option to get rates? Are you a real person or automated?
[8:12:09 pm]: Quanza
You can still fill out an application even if you haven’t created an account.
[8:12:44 pm]: CALLER
how? is there a way to get [premium rates without going through this entire process?
[8:14:00 pm]: Quanza
When your application is completed, you will see what financial help you may get and then you may select and enroll in a Marketplace plan.
[8:14:38 pm]: CALLER
where do I go to fill out an application if I can not set up an account?
[8:15:51 pm]: Quanza
Thank you. One moment please while I look that up.
[8:20:23 pm]: Quanza
You can complete an applicationby phone, in person, or by mail.
[8:21:38 pm]: CALLER
where do I get an application to mail? can I download it? can you email it to me? where do I send it once it is complete?
[8:23:08 pm]: Quanza
Thank you for your question today. It will take me just a moment to review and respond to your question.
[8:24:15 pm]: Quanza
I’m sorry; I am unable to mail the publication you requested at this time. You can view, print, or download publications and fact sheets by visiting Marketplace.CMS.gov.