Needs analyses and face-to-face contact greatly improve the odds of closing life insurance sales, according to a new study from LIMRA.

The association insists that half of U.S. households admit they need more life insurance, while only a fraction are moved to act on it -- 22% “seriously shopped” for life insurance in 2011, and of those households, 54% made purchases.

But the sales gap in life insurance is nothing new; rather, methods on how to encourage buying and shrink the gap are now topical.

“What surprised us was that only 43% of consumers received a needs analysis from the sales rep they met with about buying life insurance. Our research shows that consumers who received a needs analysis were considerably more likely to buy than consumers who didn’t,” said Cheryl Retzloff, senior research director, LIMRA Markets research. “Moreover, producers who recommended an amount to buy to their clients not only had more clients close the deal but on average those clients bought 60% more coverage.”

LIMRA’s new study also found that life insurance shoppers who meet face-to-face with sales reps are the most likely to buy. In fact, if there was any face-to-face contact during the shopping process, more than seven in 10 bought.

Recent LIMRA studies have similarly emphasized the need for exceptional communication and personalized attention, and this study drives the point home again, finding potential life insurance consumers who use only the Internet to shop are the least likely to buy -- 36%. Additionally, consumers who started shopping on the Internet and then met with a sales rep were 1.5 times more likely to buy than those who only shopped online.

Despite those improved odds, initiating contact with consumers, instead of letting the Internet reel them in, continues to be an essential tactic. The study asserts the fact that, unless experiencing life triggers, “many consumers won’t initiate the process on their own. One quarter of life insurance shoppers consider life insurance because sales reps or financial advisers initiate contact or suggest the need.”

-- This article first appeared on Insurance Networking News.