*This article is for financial professional use only, not for use with the general public.*
Being an independent agent certainly has its perks, but doing everything solo can be a challenge. We’d like to introduce a new series where we feature one of our valued agents and showcase one of their most recent cases. This will give all of us a chance to learn from each other while also feeling like we’re part of a community.
Without further ado, we’d like to introduce Jeff Greenwell, an outstanding agent with a knack for FIA sales.
My name is Jeff Greenwell. I am the owner of Smart Retirement Solutions in Indiana. I have 20 total years of experience selling life insurance, Medicare products, annuities, and investments.
Back in the 90s, I worked as a Series 7 broker for Prudential, MetLife, and Transamerica for about 3 years. I currently hold my Life and Health license in IN, IL, KY and FL. I also hold a Series 65 (IAR), although I don't currently use it. I would prefer to stay with guaranteed solutions as long as the law doesn't require me to have it.
I was a captive agent until last December when I went permanently independent, and I will never return to captive unless someone offered me a truckload of money.
I have grown my annuity business about 50% per year for the last 4 years. Last year, I sold about $1 million, and this year, I expect to pass $2 million. This may sound like a lot, but when you consider the amount of people we see each week, it can add up very fast.
How I start the annuity conversation
I love selling Fixed Index Annuities (FIAs). They are the perfect solution for many people, because they offer the best combination of interest growth potential with zero market risk.
I generally open up my annuity cases with existing clients. I start with life insurance and Medicare, and then I’ll introduce annuities. This process allows time for fact finding and building a relationship of trust. Do the right job for them in the beginning, and it makes the transition easier.
I usually say something like:
“I’m glad I can help you protect your assets with this policy. The other area where I can be helpful is growing more interest on your safe money or protecting your money from stock market risk. Do either of these concerns apply to you?”
If you have earned that client’s trust, they will usually share the information. Sometimes, it takes time to make this transition. Don't expect miracles on the first appointment.
My most recent FIA case
My most recent case was the classic “slow close” approach.
I first met Debbie when she was 60 and her husband was 65. She was a referral. I came to write the supplement for her husband, and she mentioned that she also needed life insurance. I wrote her a Final Expense policy and made them clients.
Debbie called me a year later to rollover her retirement plan when her employer changed. At this point, I have 3 policies in the house.
She called me 2 years ago to tell me she was getting a divorce. After 40 years of marriage, her husband found someone else. I worked with her attorney to provide the asset information on her IRA and life insurance values. The case lasted almost 3 years.
Two months ago, Debbie called to say she was turning 65 and would need a supplement. I wrote her RX and supplement and asked if the divorce was final yet. She said yes and that she was going to have some funds that she could put to work to help secure her retirement. She wanted to retire next year and be comfortable. I immediately scheduled another time for her to come back and look at options.
This was 5 years after I first made her a client.
Two FIA strategy options for Debbie
Debbie wanted to create a $1,000/month income starting immediately. She had $250k to work with.
Troy from Broker’s International and I prepared two strategies to consider:
Strategy #1: A combo of a 5-year immediate payout of $1,000 for 60 months AND an Athene annuity with an income rider to begin in year 6.
This strategy would meet her income needs but would be less flexible for future emergencies. This option provides the maximum certainty and lifetime guaranteed income. It also has a 1.2% annual income rider fee.
Strategy #2: An Athene Performance Elite 7 annuity with a systematic 5% annual withdrawal payable monthly for the entire $250k amount. This provides maximum future flexibility, but it does not guarantee a lifetime income.
I advised her that she would need to monitor her annual statement to make sure shes’ not running out of money. This approach has ZERO fees along with some of the best performing indexes in the industry.
I recommended the Athene product, because it only has a 7-year surrender period, and it allows 10% free withdrawals starting in year one. Debbie will never pay a fee or charge unless she surrenders more than 10% in the first 7 years.
So, I presented these options to her and tried not to promote either one. However, she could tell that I could not hide my enthusiasm for Strategy #2.
One of the major suitability concerns is liquidity. I discovered that I was only working with half of her money, which works out perfectly to provide her plenty of emergency fund liquidity.
I began the meeting by asking Debbie what she wanted to achieve with the money.
I gave two very clear strategies:
Lifetime income guaranteed and certainty OR
Flexible income and higher performance, but no lifetime guaranteed income
Then, I recommended the products to fit the strategies. Using this process, there were really no objections, just a few questions. She decided the strategy that she wanted. I only helped her pick the product.
Objections will occur when I have not done the proper need discovery on the front end or have not established a clear strategy that I can explain well.
Submitting the app
I used the Broker’s International e-application for this case. Since this was my first e-app using their software, the appointment lasted 2 hours.
To this day, I still have no idea which option would have paid me the most commission. That is never a consideration for me. I try to discover the person's needs and intentions (know your customer!) and build a solution that fits those needs the best.
My commission on this case was 5%, or $12,500. Many annuities pay more than 5%, but I use the Athene product a lot because it is a good fit for most people.
I never calculate the commission before selecting a product.
Always work in this order: needs, strategies, products.
Lead with the need and win. Lead with the product and lose.
A few notes from the team at New Horizons: If you are interested in selling annuities, please contact Kirk Sarff at email@example.com. If you are already selling annuities, please take advantage of our partnership with Broker’s International. The awesome team there will help with product selection, illustrations, questions, and concerns. Please contact Ryan Witte at RWitte@BILtd.com if you haven’t already.