What Producers Need: Marketing And Practice Management Support

By Russ Alan Prince & Arthur A. Bavelas

With all the uncertainty surrounding many aspects of the life insurance business, producers–like never before–need to access a variety of resources in order to be successful. Resources for producer success include the following four basic areas:

*Technical–the latest strategies and products as well as case design.

*Motivationalkeeping energized and focused on being successful.

*Practice managementeffectively and efficiently running a life insurance practice.

*Marketingaccessing highly profitable clients.

Because we were interested in identifying any gaps between the resources producers want and the resources they are getting, we surveyed 266 life insurance producers. Almost half of the sample (46.6%) had annual incomes of less than $100,000. (See Exhibit 1.) Another 36.1% had annual incomes ranging from $100,000 to $300,000, while the remaining 17.3% had annual incomes greater than $300,000.

Segmenting producers in this way allows us to see whether producers of different income levels want and need different resources, and whether each group is getting what they need.

We asked the producers about support. Specifically, we probed for the kinds of support they want and asked them to enumerate the support they believe they are receiving. The results are seen in Exhibit 2 and confirm that there is a gap in some important areas.

Overall, producers know they need technical support and they are indeed getting it. Nearly all producers (94.7%) say they want technical support. Technical supportwhether it is seminars on new products and strategies or being able to access an advanced planning lawyer at the home office to walk through a caseis a requisite for producers. At the current time, producers overall (93.6%) feel they are receiving the technical support they need.

About three-quarters of producers (74.1%) want motivational support, which can run the gamut from motivational presentations at conferences to senior management kudos to any form of reassurance and reinforcement. In this area, too, there is no current gap. For the most part, the producers say they are receiving the motivational support they need (69.2%).

When it comes to practice management support, a gap does exist. Although 65.4% of producers overall are very interested in practice management support, just 39.1% say they are getting this type of assistance. From how to best use technology to time management, quite a few producers realize that they can improve the operation of their practices. The gap emerges when we note that 26.3% of those surveyed are not obtaining the practice management support they feel is critical to their success.

A gap also exists in the marketing support area. Almost all producers (89.8%) are looking for marketing support. However, less than half (41.4%) say they are receiving sufficient marketing support.

Looking at producers overall we conclude that they are getting what they need in two areastechnical and motivational support. When it comes to practice management and marketing support, however, producers say they are not getting the assistance they need.

But are there differences between income segments of producers? Do producers with lower incomes feel more or less supported than more financially successful producers? In fact, when we analyze the data by income, significant distinctions do appear. Producers making less than $100,000 annually are more likely to get the support they want (Exhibit 3), although gaps still exist.

Producers earning less than $100,000 are unquestionably getting the technical and motivational support they need. When it comes to practice management, there is a gap between what they want and what they are receiving, but it is much smaller than for producers with higher annual incomes.

Marketing support is an interesting area. Among these less experienced producers, many (85.5%) feel a considerable need for support. Many, but certainly not all, who say they are in need of support are getting it.

Like other producers, those who make between $100,000 and $300,000 annually want technical support and are generally receiving it. The same can be said for motivational support.

A gap in this income bracket appears with respect to practice management support. Just half of those who want and need practice management support are receiving it. An even wider gap exists with respect to marketing support (Exhibit 4).

Significantly, the widest gaps exist for the most successful (and possibly the most profitable) producers (Exhibit 5). Like the other producer segments, they are getting all the technical and motivational support they need. Also, like the other producer segments, there is a meaningful gap between those who are looking for practice management and marketing support and those who are able to access such support. Significantly, the largest gaps in support exist for this group.

It is quite clear that many high-quality technical resources are available to producers. Technical support is in high demand and that demand is being met, regardless of a producers relative financial success.

Technical support is “built into” the life insurance industry and is deemed critical to success by producers and carriers alike. The advanced planning departments of carriers are excellent sources of such support. Producer conferences are also excellent support technical venues. From company-sponsored events to the Association for Advanced Life Underwriters and the International Forums annual conferences, there are ample opportunities to access technical information.

Our data confirm that technical support is critical and is readily available to producers at every level of financial success.

Motivational support is also of considerable importance to producers regardless of level of success. Motivational support is also well integrated into the life insurance industry. One of the best examples of this is the Million Dollar Round Table, although many other examples abound.

Significant gaps in support exist in practice management support. Less financially successful producers need less support in this area, but as producers become more financially successful, the need for practice management support grows along with the size of their practices. The data show that more successful producers are not getting the practice management support they need. Regrettably, the insights and systems to better manage a life insurance practice are not systematically collected and passed on in the life insurance industry.

The same is the true and more pronounced when it comes to marketing support. No matter how technically proficient a producer is, no matter how motivated, no matter how well his or her practice is being run, without clients there is no practice. Clientsespecially wealthy onesare an absolute requirement to success.

Producers at all levels of income express a need for marketing support. They are frustrated that they are not getting it; the more successful they are, the less they feel supported.

In terms of marketing support, producers need high-impact programs they can integrate into their practices that result in a consistent flow of wealthier clients. Most producers want and need systematic programs to replace their current, less effective, approaches to client development. For example, there is a way to generate a pipeline of affluent client referrals from other professionals, such as trusts and estates lawyers and accountants. Without guidance, producers will revert to less effective client cultivation techniques from these centers of influence, instead of developing a consistent wealthy client pipeline.

What is evident is that producers need a number of different types of support in order to achieve their potential. Technical support, which is in high demand by all producers, is the type that the life insurance industry is built around. So is motivational support. Such support is usually forthcoming from the carriers, the brokerage operations and the broker/dealers.

In contrast, practice management and marketing support are not well integrated into the world of producers. In the future, being able to access these types of support will differentiate good producers from great ones.

A number of years ago the only way for a producer to access top-of-the-line practice management or marketing support was to hire a coach or purchase a “program” of one kind or another. Now carriers, brokerage operations and broker/dealers are stepping up to be the conduit for these types of support. This value-added orientation is becoming required in order to maintain production from producers.

Providing all necessary support services is a win-win scenario for producers, carriers, brokerage operations and broker/dealers. Producers win because they become more financially successful. Carriers, brokerage operations and broker/dealers win because they ensure higher levels of production. By helping producers be more successful, they will benefit in turn by receiving ever-greater levels of production.

Russ Alan Prince is principal of Prince & Associates, a research and consulting firm in Shelton, Conn. He can be reached via e-mail at princeasoc@aol.com. Arthur Bavelas is president and CEO of Resource Network LTD, Radnor, Pa. He can be reached at aabavelas@aol.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, February 3, 2003. Copyright 2003 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.