Ask The Right Questions When Selecting A Carrier

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With much change throughout the industry and with ongoing economic uncertainty, many producers are asking themselves the question, “Am I partnering with the right company?”

This question may not be as easy to answer as it appears. Most producers immediately think of some of the logical issues when reviewing potential partners. (See Figure 1.)

All of these issues, to be sure, are important. Financial strength ratings are a focal point, particularly during this environment. If youre not with a company that has solid financial strength ratings, chances are this is one of the reasons youre looking for a new relationship.

Competitive products, service and technology are all very important–they can help differentiate you in the marketplace. In fact, companies need to be competitive in these areas just to be in the game. Notice that we said the company you partner with needs to be competitive, but not necessarily the best. A company that has a top product today may not have a top product tomorrow.

Its very likely in todays environment that you can find a company willing to throw a lot of money at you. This may be attractive in the short run, but rarely makes for a lasting, long-term relationship, particularly if your new partner doesnt support your business.

Based on our recruiting experience, all of these issues are important to producers, but they are rarely “deal makers.” If youre looking for a long-term, successful relationship–so youre not reviewing companies every couple of years–you need to look beyond these questions.

To find a company thats right for you and to establish a long-term, successful relationship, you need to drill down a little deeper–ask the “Whats in it for me?” questions: How will my business benefit by partnering with this company, and what value will it provide my clients? (See Figure 2.)

Start by finding out the types of programs the company has to support you and your market. Having a product for you to sell is one thing, but does the company have marketing programs to help you sell it?

Lets face it, prospecting and chasing down sales leads is probably the least-loved part of being a producer. It can be a difficult and time-consuming task, and although its necessary, it takes you away from what you do best: sell. The more time you can devote to building or maintaining your client relationships, the better. Make sure your life insurance company partner will help you do that.

Ask about the marketing support programs the company has in place. Companies that say they have marketing support programs should have actual programs, not just marketing materials. Marketing materials hint that there may be marketing support, but you should verify this. For example, if a company says they have a CPA Program, do they simply have marketing materials or do they actually have expertise on staff to help educate you to the market and how to get into it?

A strong marketing support program should have expertise and depth. It should have specific, clearly stated goals, procedures, explanations and software–in addition to advanced case design experts who can provide support and answer questions. Does the company have a competitive case unit? Do they have expert attorneys and CPAs to support you?

The home office is your support, your pit crew. The market will change, new products will be introduced, and questions will be inevitable. If the home office support cant answer all your questions, you wont be able to give the answers your clients need in a timely manner.

Given that the marketplace will continually change, this brings us to another question you need to answer: Is the company youre considering market-driven or product-driven? A company thats market-driven works to understand the climate and the needs of the producer and their clients. A market-driven company will have products and programs developed in response to the needs of the marketplace.

For example, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act is already generating a stir in the marketplace. Since the legislation requires greater accountability in corporate financial reporting, your clients with split-dollar plans, for instance, may need to consider other policy options. What does your present company intend to do about it? Will it be able to provide you with viable solutions for your clients? Does it have programs in place to help you and your clients deal with these impending changes? Does it have a market-driven solution?

Keep in mind that youre not just doing business with a company–youre forming a partnership, a relationship. And good relationships are based on trust, involving give-and-take that benefits both sides of the table. Its something that your clients expect from you, so you should be able to expect that from the company you represent.

And dont forget that since this involves give-and-take, a good company will evaluate your sales and career goals to make sure that you are a good fit to represent them.

If you can build a long-lasting, trusting and beneficial relationship with a company that is market-driven, committed to providing solid marketing support programs, and provides effective home office support, then your business, your career, and your clients will benefit.

If not, then perhaps its time to look elsewhere. Ask the questions that matter. When you find the company that can provide answers you need, you may have found the right business partner.

Mike Cataldo, CLU, is vice president, recruiting and development for Jefferson Pilot Financial in Greensboro, N.C. He can be reached at Mike.Cataldo@JPFinancial.com. Tom Bass, CLU, RFC, is vice president, ABGA marketing, for Jefferson Pilot Financial in Greensboro, N.C. He can be reached at Tom.Bass@JPFinancial.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, March 17, 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.