Over the last 20 years, the life insurance industry has had a complete makeover. The agent has morphed into a financial advisor, while life insurance companies have evolved into both manufacturers and distributors of a broad range of financial products.
Heeding the call of their distributors and clients, companies have developed a variety of innovative and consumer-friendly products. In order to meet competitive demands, carriers have been forced to reduce their once-hefty profit margins. In the process of trimming the fat, many companies have become leaner and more efficient. This had an undesirable, though predictable, effect on the producer. Many of the costs that had once been borne by the companies, services that had previously been received for free, have been shifted to the producer.
To thrive in this new world, it is no longer enough to be a great salesperson. Todays superstar must be equal parts marketer, sales person and business person. In this article, I will address five critical success factors for todays agent.
Focus. While there will be opportunity for both generalists and specialists to thrive in the future, both must know their role and play it properly.
At first blush, it might seem that the generalist by definition lacks focus, but I believe this is not the case. A generalist with focus has a clear understanding of his or her role as a relationship manager–one who will diagnose and prescribe when problems are simple, and will refer where special services are needed.
The generalist needs to have a stable of specialists to whom clients may be referred. The generalist can remain focused by not attempting to dabble in areas that require additional study, and will develop and preserve relationships by always being the person who knows where to get answers.
The specialist will be known within the industry and, more importantly, among a clients legal and financial advisors, as an expert within a chosen niche. A truly focused specialist will also know when and to whom to make a referral.
A friend of mine who developed a well-respected estate planning practice makes a good example of a focused specialist. He hired and trained a young associate to handle the business that fell outside of his core business, while training the associate in estate planning. When my friend had the opportunity to develop a new specialty in structured settlements, the young associate was ready to handle the estate planning. This firm now has two different specialties, each with two specialists.
While this producer is quite adept at capitalizing on a business opportunity, he is constantly approached with various new ventures not in his specialty area, and he is focused enough to turn most of them down.
Do what you do best. We are blessed to be in a field where many of us simply love what we do. There are so many different ways in which to make a living in this broad industry, we can choose a discipline that suits our best skills. Some people are natural promoters, great at building relationships, and love speaking in front of groups, but they are best leaving technical details to others. These people are natural rainmakers–people who, through charisma and presence, attract business to the firm.
Others are great at identifying and solving complex problems, but are less comfortable and less poised at making a boardroom presentation.