Make April 15 Your Ally For Year-Round Sales Success

Some agents did very well selling IRAs and related products this past tax season. Others did not.

Whats the difference between those who succeeded and those who fell short of their goals? A winning smile, great closing skills, natural sales ability or just good luck?

None of the above. Success results from having a system you follow rigorously. This isnt a theory. Its something we observe among thousands of agents registered to sell securities.

The greatest obstacles to making sales and helping clients plan for the future are inertia and procrastination. People know they must invest for the future. They vow to get around to it “sometime,” but tomorrow never comes.

April 15 is your best tool to combat procrastination. Its an inflexible government-imposed deadline. If you want to set up a new IRA or fund an existing one for the previous tax year, you have to do it by then, no excuses. The date provides a sense of urgency.

To take advantage of tax season, get going early. January is too late to start. Instead, start in November. Go through your client list and identify all those who have an IRA and all those who dont. Get all your preparation work done in December so that on Jan. 2 you can go to your office and start mailing letters and calling people.

Send letters to all your clients without an IRA reminding them that they have until April 15 to set one up and potentially get a tax deduction. Despite the limits on deductibility, many people still can get a full or partial deduction for their contributions. For those who cant get a deduction, a Roth IRA is an unbeatable choice.

Weve found that the most effective letters take a soft approach. Example: “Its tax season. There are a lot of things we should discuss before April 15. Please call me so we can set up a time to meet.”

Many people use the excuse that they “cant afford an IRA.” For them, the easiest sale is to set up a systematic deposit plan, where the money is drawn out of their paycheck before they can see it and spend it. Most people can afford to salt away $250 a month in their IRA without much pain.

Divide all customers with IRAs into two groups: those who make lump sum deposits and those who use automatic deposit. Contact the former and remind them that they need to make their contribution by mid-April.

Contact the latter and set up appointments so you can review their funds performance and their asset allocation. One of the biggest mistakes agents make is failing to contact customers who are already making regular IRA contributions. First, people want to get guidance. If they feel abandoned, they may go to another agent. Second, many people with a nonworking spouse dont realize they can open an IRA for their partner and thus double the family contribution.

Tax-season selling has two big benefits. The first is immediate: selling new IRAs and ensuring existing IRAs are fully funded. But thats the tip of the iceberg.

The second benefit, equally or even more important, is getting in-person appointments that will set up your sales leads for the rest of the year. The looming April 15 deadline gives your clients a compelling reason to see you. When you sit down face to face with your customers, you build the relationship, uncover their needs and develop leads for other products such as life insurance, annuities, disability insurance and 529 plansand maybe even mortgages and auto loans. You can diary these opportunities for follow-up throughout the year.

Front-ending your sales effort early in the year will give you the momentum that will propel you throughout the year. Instead of scratching for leads in say, August, youll be able to work the opportunities you created during tax seasonthe most powerful time of year for agents.

Taking full advantage of the tax season takes a little extra work and preparation. But the effort you put in from late November to mid-April will make your life easier and more profitable May through December.

Brian S. Cohen is senior vice president and chief marketing officer, Farmers Group Inc. and former president of Farmers Financial Solutions, LLC, Simi Valley, Calif., His e-mail is brian_cohen@farmersinsurance.com .


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, October 28, 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.