Life Stages or Life Events: A Review of Basic Needs Selling

A technique from the life insurance industry can be just as valuable for marketing financial products and services.


Last year, we introduced the idea of online behavior-based selling and then elaborated on it with proofs of concept.   This year, we want to couple that to a fundamental notion that has been around a while but appears to have been generally neglected by the credit union sector:   the principle of basic needs selling.  This is where B-to-C selling of financial products actually began, and probably where it is still going, because it’s how most people actually think about them when they buy them.

Basic Needs

The idea of basic needs selling comes from the life insurance industry.  It later spread to other forms of insurance and to other financial products.   

It works like this: (Beware, it sounds a bit cold, but it’s concise.)  In order for the life insurance salesperson to make a sale, the task at hand is NOT to first present the product, but rather identifying a life stage anxiety in the mind of the person being interviewed.  If there were no anxiety there to begin with, it is the job of the salesperson to instill into the mind of the person being interviewed.  It should feature  concerns based on actuarial risks that loved ones may not be cared for in the case of a disabling accident or their death.  When confronted with such dire consequences and a desire to provide for their family, the outcome becomes nearly a foregone conclusion.  A life insurance purchase is inevitable with the proper preparation, scene-setting, and practice. 

A similar approach applies to disability insurance, long term care insurance, health insurance, auto insurance, and so on. 

Life Events & Selling Financial Products

To paraphrase the mindset of the conditioned customer,1 "When you encounter life's events, these are the financial considerations responsible people make – i.e. the financial products responsible people use – to  live prosperous and happy lives."  

A few examples of such life stages or life events are Marriage, Parenting, and Retirement.   There are about ten in all that are suitable for development.  

Again the way it works is this:  Do NOT put products in front of anybody first.  Remember the resonance of basic needs and the requirement that first an anxiety level must develop so that a situational identification can result, and a response “like the one presented” will be invoked sympathetically in the mind of your customer.  Don’t fret! Unlike the life insurance scenario most of the time you will be working only with positive scenarios with desirable outcomes!  Well selected photography in a good design can deliver a very powerful impact.   Don’t underestimate the receptivity of people to open smiling faces in enjoyable situations and the simple clear messages associating your idea with that image.  

Life stages or life events discussions fall into collections of information; although somewhat arbitrary, they tend to be reproduced rather similarly by different authors.  There remains, however, considerable latitude for creativity.  We find it convenient to arrange financial life events information into a theme/subject/topic data structure in order to help visualize and manage it on a larger scale.   Such a scheme is also useful for creating relationships between discussions.

Presentation Guidelines:

  • Concentrate on only two or three life stages or life events.
  • The image is the most important element of composition. 
  • People are the most important parts of images.
  • Establish your thematic style and adhere to it.  Using more than one image in different locations in your site within the same thematic style is OK.
  • Text supports the image and expresses emotional content of the image - its life stage idealization.  
  • The purpose is to transmit the objectives of sound preparation for life's stages as behaviors to emulate in order to achieve similar desirable results in one's own life. 
  • Don't rely on fancy technology gadgets – you don't need them.

In the next few articles, we’ll discuss more aspects of life stages and life events and basic needs selling.  We’ll identify variations on the theme.  We’ll talk about alternative ways to package your messaging so that it seems fresh and new.  We’ll talk a lot more about vocabulary.  We’ll talk more about how to leverage the credit union advantage and how commitment to a consistent program such as life events may fit into an overall credit union marketing and sales package. 

1 This is one of those opportunities where you get to subliminally leverage the CU advantage.  CU members are these.