Working “On” Your Business Is Essential To Success

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Once upon a time in the insurance business, it was enough to know your prospect, product and price. That, and a smile and a shoeshine, was sufficient to ensure at least a decent living if not a lucrative career. Today, things are definitely different.

Now, consumers have so many choices from so many companies, and they can purchase products through so many different channels. The only way to survive in this business–let alone be successful–is for agents to effectively use their time to market their business. In fact, integrating an effective marketing system as part of a comprehensive business plan is the only way to accomplish the primary objective of any modern sales organization: to turn prospects into customers, customers into clients and clients into advocates.

An essential ingredient for success is a keen understanding of the difference between working “in” your business and working “on” your business. Working “in” your business is plugging away at routine tasks that should be automated, outsourced or assigned to hourly employees. Working “on” your business is managing critical issues such as determining your market, its needs and deciding which carriers offer products and processes that will enable you to meet those needs most efficiently and affordably.

Unfortunately, many agents dont attain their profit potential because they spend too much of their day working on low pay-off activities. Determining to work smarter “on” their business is the only way to make it successful.

Selecting A Carrier. For distributors, selecting the right carrier is a critical decision, one that can make the difference between marginal success and spectacular growth. Thats because some carriers are far better at understanding the needs of producers. Some companies are light years ahead of their competitors when it comes to using technology to ease traditional tasks, such as application processing, from agents to the company.

Carriers that understand the power of the Internet and are fully committed to tele-underwriting processes and electronic application tools offer significant advantages to distributors.

Well-designed tele-underwriting processes can significantly reduce the time an agent needs to spend with an applicant–sometimes not much more than about 15 minutes.

Other improved processes like electronic preliminary applications result in policies that are issued far faster than in the past, an important contributing factor in customer satisfaction and an effective way to free up still more time for business development.

Internet-based application-tracking tools give everyone involved in the distribution chain easy access to information that, until recently, was available only via phone, mail or fax. Today, with many carriers, an agent can learn the status of an application with a few mouse clicks, providing those tech-savvy producers with yet more time to work “on” their business.

These processes enable producers to serve existing customers faster and more efficiently, while also freeing up their valuable time and talent for activities designed to grow their business, not just service it–a key difference between working “on” your business instead of just “in” it.

Marketing Assistance. As a growing number of successful agencies have discovered, leading carriers also do far more than provide timesaving tools to their distributors. In some instances, carriers will work directly with their distributors to create marketing plans for specific prospect groups–providing the extra support these agencies need to grow their business.

Some carriers will also supply marketing materials–both print and electronic–that can be customized in order to remain consistent with the distributors other informational messages. This kind of extra fine-tuning helps ensure successful execution of a marketing plan, once again helping agents work “on” growing their business.

Todays channel-smart carriers go beyond marketing support. Some are even working with distributors to develop products that are customized for specific segments of their market. Products targeted at an identified niche, backed by a sound marketing plan, make it that much easier for agencies to sell relevant products in their marketplace.

For example, some carriers today are working to help distributors develop the so-called “untapped” middle market, a group of approximately 55 million households that are underinsured. This large group is full of excellent candidates for new products such as simplified issue term policies that can be issued using tele-underwriting processes and, in many instances, without a standard medical exam–a timesaver for the client and, likely, a speedier way to get commission issued to an agent.

Relationships still count. Its clear that one thing remains as essential today as it was when the concept of insurance was born centuries ago: Success often depends on the presence of strong, well-established relationships between a carriers home office and its distributing agencies. These relationships require a high degree of trust and the ability to blend the latest technology with face-to-face meetings where the goal is to find common ground and develop creative ways to share both challenges and opportunities.

, CLU is marketing director of Zurich Life, Schaumburg, Ill. He can be reached at mark.smith

@zurichlifeus.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, August 25, 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.