A Game Plan To Work Your Book Of Business For More Profit

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It is common for financial sales professionals at all levels to ignore the potential their books of business offer for new sales opportunities.

Whether or not they work for financial institutions, financial sales professionals need to ask themselves whether they are allocating their time optimally. My experience in insurance and investment selling in banks shows that it takes five times the effort to get business from a new customer than from an existing one.

When you work your book of business properly, you accomplish two aims: First, you generate additional sales opportunities. Second, you satisfy the service expectations of the customer.

In the financial services industry, surveys have shown time and time again that customers are less upset with results not achieving expectation than they are with poor communication about their accounts. Setting service expectations at account opening is easy. Keeping that level is a different story.

When you ask them, most sales professionals state that they do work their book of business. Some do, but many dont.

Put yourself to the test. From memory, on a legal pad, jot down your top 50 customers (households). See how far you get. If you can get to 50, jot down what services they have purchased from you and when was the last time you had contact with them.

This self-evaluation can be very enlightening. If your evaluation results are poor, its time to set up your accounts in an organized fashion so you can contact them on a systematic basis.

Getting yourself organized is a simple process, but it is not easy. It takes both time and commitment. However, the initial discomfort you experience will pay off many times both with additional sales and improved customer satisfaction.

For those who have been in business several years, the task of organizing 1,000 customers seems astronomical. When broken down into bite-sized pieces, setting up a book of 1,000 should take three to four months.

Here is a system, introduced to me about 15 years ago by Steven Burke, then with the Dreyfus Corporation. Setting up your books of business can be done either manually or electronically, depending on your capabilities and technology resources.

1. Actually count the number of accounts (households) in your book.

2. Obtain enough binders to hold comfortably all your accounts, plus three sets of alphabetical dividers.

3. Review each account and determine whether a new business opportunity exists or not. If one exists, note it on the first page of the account.

4. Prioritize the accounts from “most likely to do business” to “no chance of doing business.”

Look for customers who:

Have maturing investments or money;

Are about to retire;

Will be receiving rollovers;

Have investments that have met or exceeded expectation;

Want to pass wealth to heirs;

Are forced to take minimum IRA distributions;

Are good sources for referrals;

Want greater monthly income;

Need tax relief;

Have large liquid balances;

Need educational funding.

This process of prioritizing customers should result in several customer contacts.

5. Set up your binders as follows:

The top 20% of prioritized customers go into your first binder. This is your A book.

The next 30% is your B book.

The last 50% is your C book.

Each binder should be in alphabetical order.

Note that your largest customers may not be in your A book, because you are looking for opportunities for additional sales.

6. For each type of opportunity you have identified, develop a well thought-out calling script.

You have now established your books of business, and you have accomplished two things: who to call and what to say. Now it is time to execute.

Contact your A book six times a year, or every two months.

Multiply the number of accounts in your A book by six and divide by 240 (the average number of working days per year). This is how many daily A-book contacts you should make (see illustration).

Contact your B book four times a year, or once a quarter.

Multiply the number of accounts in your B book by four and divided by 240. This is how many daily B book contacts should be made.

Do not contact the accounts in your C book. There is little opportunity for business here. If customer expectations were set correctly at the start, they can be serviced by periodic statements, newsletters and birthday cards. If practical, using a junior sales associate or sales assistant to contact C customers is another option.

Start calls alphabetically at the beginning of each book, and when completed, start again. Even if you believe no opportunity exists when its time to call a given customer, call anyway. By checking in, you remind them you are monitoring their accounts.

After you open a new account, determine which book the customer should be in, and set the service expectation with them.

Each year, review the books. From time to time, you will find that an account may need to migrate from one book to another. This review is no more than a weekend project.

Remember: If you dont call your customers, somebody else will.

Marc A. Vosen is president of FirstMerit Securities Inc. and FirstMerit Insurance Agency Inc., both wholly owned subsidiaries of FirstMerit Bank NA, Akron, Ohio. His e-mail address is marc.vosen@FirstMerit.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, July 28, 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.