Patrick B. McCormick

Theres no question that consumers have embraced the concept of one-stop shopping. People lead busy lives, and the ability to buy groceries, pick up a prescription, and deposit a check all under the same roof are definite time-savers.

Similarly, more insurance carriers are stocking their shelves with a diverse collection of insurance and investment products. The question is, can you translate this plethora of offerings into a one-stop, value-added shopping experience for your clients?

Here are three rock-solid ideas that can help you use the multi-line approach to stand out from the crowd, create loyal customers for life and build a stronger business:

1. Deliver best-of-class products. When you made the choice to become an independent agent or advisor, you gave yourself the freedom to shop around for best-of-class insurance and investment products for your clients. The fact that youre not beholden to any particular insurance carrier is a powerful advantage.

No company can be all things to all people. An insurance carrier that offers exceptional life insurance coverage may not have long term care products. Or, a company that leads the industry in fixed annuities may not be at the head of the class when it comes to immediate annuities.

Your clients want and expect you to sift through the various product offerings and find them the best possible value–a custom-fit product from a company with financial strength and a reputation for outstanding customer service.

Never underestimate the power of your independence. Make sure your clients understand that you have a choice in the products you offer. Your industry expertise allows you to research and evaluate companies and products so your clients dont have to.

Dont hesitate to ask your carriers to demonstrate how their products and services stack up against the competition.

2. Diversify to help reduce risk. If you offer investment products, chances are youve given your clients the “dont put your eggs all in one basket” speech. But have you taken the same precautions for your own business?

Adding a diverse line of products to your shelf creates an “insurance policy” of sorts that allows you to withstand economic volatility and adapt to an ever-changing marketplace. For example, when low interest rates decimate your annuity sales, you have the ability to continue meeting and exceeding sales goals by shifting your attention to life insurance or other lines.

Simply put, building diversification into your business reduces your dependence on any one product line, which, in turn, reduces your risk.

3. Help your clients understand what theyre buying and why. Does the 35-year-old father of three sitting across from you truly understand the difference between term and permanent life insurance? Do the retirees who want your help investing their nest egg in mutual funds know the difference between the aggressive growth and fixed income asset classes?

You add value to your client-advisor relationship when you help your clients understand which insurance and investment products best meet their unique risk tolerances and current life situations (i.e., newly married or just retired), and which are most appropriate for helping them fulfill their hopes and dreams for the future.

When your clients walk away from a purchase not only understanding what they bought, but also knowing that they made the right choice, you eliminate buyers remorse and build customer loyalty.

You neednt do it alone, however. Most insurance and investment companies offer attractive, compliance-approved marketing materials that you can use with your clients: brochures, worksheets, client presentations, and online quote and illustration tools, to name a few. Call your carriers to find out what client-approved educational tools are available.

So, if youd like to add products to your shelf, first find out what your carriers can do to help you introduce new sources of revenue without adding employees or infrastructure. The best companies should be able to provide the infrastructure that will support your introduction into a new product line–excellent wholesaling support, product expertise, marketing campaign materials, easy-to-use Web tools and a program plan.

Second, find out if they can streamline your connection with them by giving you one point of entry to the company that assures a similar quality of experience no matter what type of product youre selling.

The challenge isnt filling up shelf space, its creating an easy-to-sell experience for you–one phone number, one wholesaler and once-and-done sales support for every product you sell. And, of course, technology that makes the sales process quick and easy.

Youve worked hard to establish your client relationships. Chances are your clients appreciate the convenience of being able to buy a variety of insurance and investment products from you–someone they know and trust. Its important to choose insurance carriers that you know and trust–carriers that not only deliver quality products but also the quality support that translates into lower costs and increased sales.

Patrick B. McCormick, CLU, is senior vice president of Sales & Distribution for SAFECO Life & Investments in Redmond, Wash. He can be reached at patmcc@safeco.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, April 14, 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.