Advanced Marketers Move Sales Ideas From Birth To Rollout

By

Naples, Fla.

Sales professionals in the field are always clamoring for new ideas to help them plan for their clients. Today, the task of developing an idea, researching it and presenting it to the field falls more than ever to advanced marketing professionals in the home office, according to presenters at this year at LIMRAs advanced sales conference.

Advanced marketing professionals say that most of the new sales ideas they get come from their own field representatives, but add that after careful examination, the newest ideas brought to their attention are often concepts that have been around for some time.

“Theyll come to you with a brand new idea, but its not really new at all,” said Paul Samuels, vice president of advanced sales at Western Reserve Life Assurance Company, during a breakout session at the meeting.

“There have been changes in tax laws, changes in demographics, but a lot of the new ideas are not really new,” he explained.

For example, Samuels said many agents refer to 412(i) plans as a hot new idea, but in reality, “they have been around for a long time, its just the landscape thats changed.”

When an agent presents a new idea for consideration, Samuels asks: Is this a result of a new ruling? Or, is someone looking at part of the tax code in a way it was never intended? Samuels feels that about 95% of the new ideas he reviews are the latter.

This is why, as many advanced marketing attorneys say, the role of the advanced markets professional is to act as a gatekeeper and provide the first line of defense against sales ideas that abuse current tax laws.

Once an idea is brought to the table, the advanced marketing professional “is the lead person to analyze the risks–what they are and how do we mitigate them?” said Deborah ONeil, a vice president at AXA Financial, New York.

While researching a specific sales idea, ONeil recognizes that most ideas have some degree of risk. “If you go forward [on an idea], you have to think about how you want to minimize the risks,” she said.

“If we see something that we know doesnt work, were not going to do it–but we do recognize that there is risk associated with everything we do,” added Samuels.

Once the research on an advanced marketing concept is done, and it is deemed to be a viable idea, the next step is to “quantify the riskwhats the premium coming in, and if were wrong, whats it going to cost us?” said Samuels.

Moving forward on an idea then requires the consideration of which product to use. ONeil stated that this can be a difficult step due to the long development cycle for products in the industry.

In the event the appropriate product is not already part of the carriers portfolio, the development of a new product must be considered. In addition to pricing a product, adding the administrative systems and developing marketing materials, getting state regulatory approvals for this new product can delay the companys time to market.

In this case, when new product development is being considered, “you may want to use another carriers product,” explained Samuels. The right product for the concept may even already be available to the field through an existing selling agreement, so its important to explore those options, he said.

But probably the most important part of taking an idea to market, ONeil explained, is getting “a buy-in from everybody in the home office. Make sure you keep everybody in the loop.”

Since many of the advanced marketing sales ideas are so complex, Samuels added, it is important when working with other departments to “make sure you find someone in that department who really understands the concept and work with that person as the point person throughout the process.”

According to ONeil, the legal and compliance areas are of particular importance, since compliance is looking closely at National Association of Securities Dealers and state regulations, while legal is looking at tax issues.

Another issue that may come out of the legal department is the determination of whether a credential requirement is necessary for field agents to market the idea and what that requirement should be, ONeil explained.

“There are a lot of sophisticated concepts agents dont understand,” added Samuels.

Finally, once the sales concept has been researched, developed and approved, a rollout to the field is needed to get the concept into the hands of the agent–where new business can start to be generated. Most agree that the rollout is a continual process. “You need to be out in the field on a regular basis,” said ONeil.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, December 8, 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.