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3 questions for greater impact

Theodore S. Rusinoff, CFP

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By choosing his words carefully, Rusinoff has developed a series of questions that address what clients have and why. With these simple approaches, he is able to gain a thorough understanding of a client’s needs and what changes caan help them in the short- and long-term. He offers a concise way of thinking about how to gather information from clients and prospects.

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I want to challenge everyone here to commit to asking these three questions to every one you meet:

  1. What do you own?
  2. Why do you own it?
  3. When was the last time you took a look at it?

Let’s take the first question: What do you own?

I am choosing my words very carefully. Notice that I did not ask “What did you buy?” You might have bought a 20-year term policy, but that was 15 years ago.

Now you own a 5-year term policy. You might have bought a policy you planned to fund heavily, but you stopped paying premiums a few years ago, and the policy is about to lapse. You don’t own an aggressively funded policy; you own a policy that’s about to die before you do. So we use this question to help frame the idea of what people really own.

It needs to be understood—called by its real name—as it stands today in the hands of the client . . . right now.

Once we get a good handle on what is owned, I want to know: Why do you own it? Again, not why they bought it, but why they own it. Not why they paid the first premium, but why they paid the last premium, maybe just a few months ago. When they bought the policy several years ago, the kids were little, but now they are all out of college.

Maybe they were married back when they bought it, and now they are divorced. Maybe they had a debt that is now paid off, or maybe they were single and now they are married and have two little kids. Why they bought it could be very different from why they own it today. So I want to know what they want this policy to do today if they passed away—simply, why do they own it?

And last: When was the last time you took a look at it?

And just paying the premium doesn’t count. I want to know the last time they really looked at it.

When people buy a car or even a new cell phone, they evaluate what their needs are; they evaluate what the market has to offer; they determine what their budget is, based on their current financial situation; and then they make a buying or leasing decision on the product that fits the best for them based on their research.

Too many times I find that clients do not take the time to make sure that what they own will actually accomplish the purpose behind why they are owning it.

When you ask them how much time they spend on buying a car or a phone, most will admit to the hours involved in the process, and most will admit to spending more time on the car or phone than on their insurance. It can get a little embarrassing, and I always follow up with a rhetorical question: Which one is worth more to you or, more importantly, to your spouse or your kids?

It’s not hard to understand why almost everyone we have this conversation with takes the time to reevaluate his or her insurance.

Understand people’s needs, and properly match things up.

I know these questions are simple, but too many times we make it harder than it has to be.

Take the challenge . . . ask the questions.

Enjoy the impact you will have on all those you connect with.


Theodore S. Rusinoff, CFP, is an 11-year MDRT member with one Court of the Table and seven Top of the Table honors, and is a Platinum Knight of the MDRT Foundation. He serves as Wealth Design Partners’ managing partner. Having spent the last 27 years in the financial services industry, Rusinoff has found creative ways to better manage insurance and investment assets for thousands of individuals and businesses all over the country.


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