Advanced Sales Areas Face Challenge Of Quantifying Efforts

By

Naples, Fla.

A problem that many advanced marketing professionals here are facing is the increasing pressure to quantify their effectiveness to upper management. With shrinking budgets across the industry, many agree that it is difficult to attain additional dollars for support functions that do not correlate directly to the companys bottom line.

The end result: Many advanced marketing areas are understaffed.

“Were all facing greater demands with fewer resources,” said Richard Edinger, manager advanced financial solutions for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Minneapolis, during a breakout session at LIMRA Internationals annual advanced sales conference.

In addition to fielding calls from producers, Edinger noted that most advanced marketing areas take on a number of other tasks, including: internal and external training, support for legal and compliance areas, specialized software analysis, and development of technical advanced marketing brochures.

A function that senior management is adding to that list is the task of associating the efforts of the area to actual sales results.

“That position seems ludicrous,” stated Glenn Nicholson, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Cincinnati Life Insurance Company, Cincinnati. The executive explained that many members of executive management throughout the industry do not fully understand what an advanced marketing unit is responsible for. As a former member of such a unit, Nicholson faced these same challenges years earlier.

Nicholson added that advanced sales “is a major contributor to the achievement of company sales goals–we cant always quantify that.”

But in an effort to quantify their efforts, many advanced marketing areas have begun tracking their activity. For Edinger, this has become one of the biggest challenges he faces today.

“In the past, if we kept the field happy that was good enough,” Edinger explained. “Now they want to see numbers and associate what we do with the bottom line.”

Edinger feels that by tracking activity, it will translate into production. This is a method similar to that taken by Rebecca Hanna, vice president of advanced marketing for GE Financial Assurance Companies, Lynchburg, Va.

At the direction of senior management, Hanna built an advanced marketing unit from scratch. Now, she faces the challenge of justifying the expense of her unit as she attempts to tie it to production results.

“We have no way to track our impact on production,” she said. So instead, Hanna tracks every call into her department–where it comes from and what its about. “Everything is tracked and put into a monthly report,” she continued. “If we cant link it directly to product, we can at least link it back to the productivity of the unit,” she said.

But adding to the difficulty of tracking every call into a unit, is the increased number of distribution channels serviced by these areas.

“All of us are confronted with supporting multiple distribution channels,” he said. LIMRA statistics reveal that the average number of distribution channels a company supports today is four, according to Edinger.

Peter Dorr feels the pressure of supporting multiple channels. The assistant vice president of advanced marketing for Ameritas Life Insurance Company, Lincoln, Neb., is never sure who will be on the other end of his continuously ringing telephone. “When I pick up the phone, I never know [which channel] Ill be talking to,” he said.

Dorr noted that when working with several distribution channels, he gets questions of “every gambit,” ranging from the most technical reverse split-dollar case to the agent “who doesnt know what an ILIT is.”

“And, were not just supporting multiple distribution channels, were supporting multiple companies,” added Edinger.

One of the problems Dorr continues to face is the fact that since he is supporting so many different producers, he never knows whether the agent he is assisting is a producing agent or not. “I may be spending 45 minutes on a call with an inactive producer, while a top producer is trying to get through and keeps getting my voicemail,” he said.

According to Dorr, tracking calls into the department is not a possibility for Ameritas Life. As part of a unit that consists of three people–another attorney and a professional he described as a “Super CLU”–his small area supports about 4,000 producers. “I personally take about 1,000 calls every six months,” he said.

And with so many channels from different companies within the same organization, collecting the data and turning it into a meaningful report “would be an administrative nightmare.”

Dorr noted that his method for proving the effectiveness of his area is to follow his “one basic rule: Once a month, I want to get an e-mail or a voicemail from a producer that I can send up to management. Something that says Thanks for helping me place that case.”

“Its an imperfect system,” he said. “But if they want us to justify our time, theyve got to give us the tools to measure it–otherwise its hit or miss.”


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, December 2, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.