Early in her career, Shizuko Ozaki, an MDRT member since 2003 from Tokyo, Japan, had a client who thought of her as a daughter. When the client cancer and was hospitalized, she visited him often but wasn’t able to do so the week he died. The client wrote Ozaki a letter asking her to take care of his wife.
“I cried when I read the letter,” Ozaki said. “I can be one of the top salespeople in my company, but my mission is to be there more for the client after the sale.” She now makes sure to visit the wife every year.
As a financial advisor, you will be called by clients and their grieving families when faced with an unknown and scary future. What’s the best way to talk with a grieving person and work with the family? Jane E. Blaufus, CLU, offered these tips in her 2016 MDRT Annual Meeting Focus Session, “Courageous Conversations”:
- Listen and use a loved one’s name. Grieving people want to talk about their loved ones and share stories about that person.
- Be patient. Making even simple decisions can feel difficult for someone grieving.
- Understand no two losses are the same. Don’t say you understand what they’re going through, even if you might have been through something similar. Instead, try saying, “I cannot begin to know what you are going through, but I can empathize with you as I have faced some challenges myself.”
- Stay connected. Often there is a flurry of activity to help in the beginning, but grieving continues for much longer. Keep reaching out.
- Don’t just offer to help; do something. Bring them a meal or take them to lunch.
Look out for clients and their families
If you don’t hear from the beneficiaries soon after their loved one dies, don’t hesitate to contact them. Not only do you need to give them the death benefit check, but you also can make sure they understand how to invest it. “When there is money around, there are vultures around,” said Anthony Matthews Jones, BSc (Hons), QFA, of Wexford, Ireland, who found that out the hard way.
Jones, an MDRT member since 2008, recalled when his client’s wife died, leaving behind two children, ages 10 and 12. Out of politeness, Jones waited six weeks to talk with the husband about how to best invest the death benefit. By the time he talked to him, though, the husband informed him that he had already been contacted by his accountant, and the husband invested with him instead. Jones found out later the investment was not a good one, and all the money was lost.
“Now when we bring the death benefit check to clients, we ask then what they plan to do with it,” Jones said. ”Never be afraid to visit a client; you may be the one person they’re happy to see.”