DI Agents Find Training Has Dried Up

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Over the last 10 years, the disability income insurance business has been shifting away from what was once a very personal but staff-intensive model.

This has important implications for DI producers.

The new model is more transactional-based, with technology and streamlined staffing being used to create cost efficiencies. Now, many people control various parts of the DI application. This is all tied together by a complex tracking or administrations system. Some of those people might not even know each other.

At the same time, insurers have been spending less money on training and staffing. The dollars are going more toward the technology and streamlined transactional systems. The result is, much of the responsibility for “placing” business is being shifted to the agent.

Unfortunately, one of the downsides of cutting staff–and especially sales training programs–is that many agents simply havent been told how to best work in this new environment. Worse yet, many financial planners who are new to the business have never been trained on basic field underwriting skills.

One reason behind this industry oversight is that, while company structures and underwriting systems have changed dramatically, the tasks agents need to perform to succeed in todays DI market are exactly the same as they were 10 and even 25 years ago. Also, some carriers may assume that certain sales rules are so time-tested that everyone already knows themeven without training.

Still, those who sell DI, or most any insurance, need help. Following are some suggestions that should give agents a path to follow. They are basic but extremely important.

1. Address underwriting issues and develop the “need” before submitting the application.

Taking and processing an application through your agency and then the carrier takes time and effort. Many agents just want to “get the sale” and worry about placing the business when they deliver the policy. That is a bad idea and usually fails while wasting a great deal of time for the agent, the underwriters and more importantly the client.

Get to know what the client really needs. Also find out whether there are any health or financial issues that could derail the process. This should happen before submitting the application for consideration. With the help of the broker or company, agents should be able to clear up most of the possible hurdles early on. That will save everyone, including the agent, the frustration of having to deal with these important issues later.

Remember, producers only get paid if they can deliver the policy. So, since time is money, use the time wisely by making sure the client needs and can qualify for the product being offered.

2. Make sure your client is invested in the idea of buying the product.

How do you know if your client is really interested in buying your product and not completing the application just to be polite? Simple, make them invest up front.

Some agents are so afraid that asking for a check will kill the sale that they dont risk asking. Then, they get frustrated when they cannot place the policy.

Agents shouldnt be so afraid of losing a sale that they give up effective sales practices. Is time better spent working on applications that will not pay or simply asking a few more people to buy? My experience has been, if a client will not write a check up front as a deposit, the client likely wont write a check at delivery either.

3. Take control of the underwriting process.

This notion alone will save agents more time and money than reading a dozen books about selling DI insurance: Make sure you are submitting a “complete case,” not just an “inquiry.”

What is a complete case? It is a completed application, a short note to the underwriter about the case, a copy of the quote you sold attached to the application for reference, and a check.

In interviewing underwriters from several major disability insurers, I learned that approximately 25% of applications submitted could be considered “complete.” Of those “complete” applications, approximately 40% are issued within 5 days and approximately 60% are issued within 10 days.

In comparison, among the incomplete applications, less than 10% are issued in 5 days and only 20% are issued in 10 days.

Lesson learned: Complete cases get issued fast.

In sum, doing the work to submit a complete case is the single best way to turn a DI application into a written policy. So, if the issuing company offers a field-underwriting checklist, use it.

True, that may mean a spending few extra minutes on the case up front. But if the agent develops the need, addresses any health or financial questions at that time, receives a check as deposit, and submits a “complete” case, the agent will place more cases and make more money.

The opposite is also true. If the agent chooses not to do the work up front, he or she stands to lose sales opportunitiesand commission.

I know some agents who started following the 3 steps above. Pretty soon, they noticed that the underwriting time spent on their applications had dropped by 50% or more. They also say that the number of cases they submitted was coming closer to the number of policies placed. And, they said they got paid more, and sooner.

is director of national disability accounts for BISYS in the Dubuque, Iowa, office, and founder and president of the Disability Income Advisor and Consumer Association. His e-mail is brad.parks@bisys.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, February 27, 2004. Copyright 2004 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.