The File Note: How to Increase Your Closing Rates to 9 out of 10 in Life Insurance Sales
At the conclusion of my previous guest post – “Making Every Initial Meeting with a Prospect Successful” – I mentioned that if I could point to one thing that increased my closing rate to 9 out of 10, it was the file note. This in effect acted as a pre-presentation vehicle and I believe it motivated people to really look forward to our next meeting and my eventual recommendations.
Here’s how to start using the file note to increase your life insurance sales.
#1. Dictating the file note
First, I want to touch on my dictation method of preparing file notes. In my previous life as a public servant, I was involved in dictating letters, reports, submissions, and so on. So, dictation came easily to me. I only mention this because when conducting my workshops and personal mentoring I found that a large number of advisers had little experience, if any, in written communication skills – at least in preparing a file note like this.
While I always suggested they develop their own method of preparing file notes, adopting the following practice should help give them direction.
Develop a template which has an opening paragraph along the following lines:
MEETING WITH (Name)
On (date) I met with (name) at (location) on referral from (name). During the meeting I asked (name) a number of questions and these questions and his/her answers are set out below:
In a past guest post I made a suggestion about making up a template of all your questions and then in your preparation process selecting from the questions those you would need for a particular meeting and cut and paste them to your fact-find document.
In the file note process after you have done the introductory paragraph just mentioned, you cut and paste the same questions to your file note document plus their answers under each question, leaving enough space between question and answer.
This method has proven easy to adopt as I’ve seen in my workshops and personal mentoring. People don’t expect a literary exercise in a file note – just enough detail to remind them of the main points of the discussion and informal enough to allay any fear of pressure at the next meeting.
While my file note was an abbreviated summary of the meeting, I was always very clear in recording those comments which would eventually form a recommendation. This is because their answers to my questions highlighted to me the “needs” requiring attention which at that time they were probably unaware even existed.
#2. Sending the file note
I sent the file note off with a covering email along these lines:
“(Name) as mentioned at the conclusion of our recent meeting I am now attaching my file note summarising our discussion. I would appreciate it if you could check the details for accuracy to make sure that what I heard was what you said. If any alterations are required, could you please let me know as soon as possible as my suggestions at our next meeting will be based totally on the content of the file note. If you are happy with the summary, would you be good enough to print off the last page, sign and date where indicated, and return to me as your confirmation to proceed with the preparation of my eventual recommendations.”
In relation to that last page, I usually concluded each file note along the following lines:
“We concluded our meeting on the basis that I would get a file note back to (name) at the earliest opportunity and once the details are confirmed I would arrange our next meeting.
I agree that this is an accurate account of what was discussed on (date of meeting).
(Name) Date: __/__/__ “
I discovered that when people agreed to their needs in my file note – and in fact actually signed off on those needs – they were not going to argue or raise objections to my eventual recommendations at presentation time because they had already agreed to them in principle.
At the time of confirming the next appointment my staff (or me if I made the phone call to confirm) requested that the person re-read the file note in advance because various items within the file note would form the basis of the agenda for that next meeting.
I found that process saved me an awful lot of summarising comments at the commencement of the next meeting and it allowed me to get into the nitty gritty of the discussion at the earliest opportunity.
#3. Formatting the file note
In keeping with my earlier comment about a literary exercise, I do feel it is important that the file note has a “flow” so that there is consistency in the format. So, after the introductory paragraph I always focused first on the “employment” questions and then moved to the required “personal” questions.
With business owners the opening questions related to the business situation – for example: The name of the business? How long has the business been operating? What is the modus operandi of the business? Who are the equity holders? Number of employees? etc.
I then moved into specific questions that would highlight the need for keyperson insurance, partnership insurance and the like, and then into the personal area with questions not dissimilar to those asked of employed people.
In summary it’s important that there is a “flow” in your formatting that will ensure the information recorded ties in with your eventual recommendations. In other words, all questions relating to employment are listed together as are the personal questions.
Also, there will be situations during the initial meeting that may require you/them to take further action. It is important that you record in the file note your/their undertaking in that regard, so that they are fully aware of the next step in your particular process. I used to call these “action points”; for example, if there was a comment about something that I had to follow through with, I would mention “RC to action; or (name) to action”. This then acted as a reminder for both parties to follow-up on their respective action points.
It’s also very important to have a concluding paragraph within the file note indicating a “where do we go from here”-type comment.
Once the file note was forwarded, we had a process in the office where I would diarise to follow up within a certain period of time, usually one week, unless the file note was received within that timeframe. The follow-up was always done by me personally over the telephone.
I never took the next step in the sales process until I received the “sign off” or verbal confirmation on the contents of the file note. I was not prepared to spend any more time on the case without that confirmation.
As an aside with business owners, I would sometimes end up waiting two or three weeks for confirmation of the file note either in writing or verbally. As a business owner myself I had no difficulty with that. Whenever I had an important document to read, I would usually set it aside for a specific time during the week or even on a weekend where I could go through the document uninterrupted and give it my full attention.
#4. The importance of retaining the file note
Besides the logical necessity for retaining file notes there were two other reasons that highlighted the importance of retention. First, the file note becomes a “permanent record” for your future relationship. In addition, if there is the possibility that one day you may be transitioning your clients to another adviser, they will find that their preparation for introductory meetings will be made that much easier by having the opportunity to review previous file notes.
Second, the file note acts as a “tool” for preserving business should the occasion ever arise where a policy might be in danger of lapsing. For example, in our office we always had a “code red” process for action when such an occasion might arise.
I would first call for an updated schedule of the client’s insurances and then take the time to go through the most recent file notes, especially the file note that related to the particular policy in question. That way, when I followed up on the matter, I was very well prepared in order to discuss why the policy was taken out in the first place, and if that purpose still existed, why the policy ought to be retained.
In summary – the file note is a powerful tool.
For me the file note acted as a “pre-presentation” vehicle. It allowed people to review a conversation where in many cases they had shared with me their innermost thoughts, and more importantly gave them the opportunity to question the validity of those thoughts. Also, once a person became a client, the practice of always sending file notes after review meetings continued throughout our relationship.
I believe it is important for the Financial Adviser to introduce the topic of death into the economic equation of their prospective and existing clients’ lives – to talk about the high cost of dying rather than the high cost of living. Their accountants or lawyers never raise the topic. But when you send these people a file note covering this very topic, they will respect your views rather than see you as a disturbance.
I realised over time that there was something about people reading what they had said to me that confirmed their commitment to achieve what they said was important to them. In fact, I found that the reaction to my file notes was more one of their looking forward to our next meeting and how I was planning to deal with their particular situation.
Tap into the 40+ years of experience Russell Collins shares in his book on the importance of developing communication skills which people will both understand and act upon; skills that will enable you to achieve an extraordinary level of success and will give you the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives on a daily basis.
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