Insurance is sold, not bought. This adage is as true now as it has ever been. Rarely will a client or the general public call a financial professional or an insurance professional to purchase life insurance.
Whether the manufacturer operates as a brokerage company or with a career distribution sales force, the key to selling is having a presence in the local community with prospects and clients. This is why an insurance carrier must rely on a team of professionals to educate the public about the benefits of life insurance. This is also why a seasoned, experienced insurance professional is so valuable to any insurance company.
An insurance carrier that seeks to increase market share and presence needs to be able to recruit experienced insurance professionals. Attracting these individuals can help ensure a greater chance of success. They are a special breed of person and have years of proven success behind them.
They have made changes to their practice as the industry has changed, including dealing with increased regulation, license requirements, technology and their clients’ access to information. Talented, tenacious and determined, they can make a difference in the success of any company.
Most of the existing pool of experienced professionals started in the business with a career distribution company. But many have changed firms or have chosen to operate independently.
If a company can provide a compelling package of benefits, services and compensation, it can recruit experienced professionals to become a carrier’s advocate in their community. To that end, carriers should weigh the following considerations:
o Compensation. The whole compensation package, including health, life, disability and retirement benefits, should be comparable to or exceed what is available to the independent producer. These benefits, if not provided by the carrier, usually are an expense for the producer’s firm. Conversely, the producer must appreciate that the costs of the benefits will reduce the immediate commission that is received on product sales. This is because the carrier must price the products to ensure that there is sufficient profit for the shareholders or the owners of the company.
Oftentimes, a carrier can provide increased compensation–stock options, purchase opportunities and other company ownership plans–while still securing profits. The carrier also can defer income, an option that is not readily available for an independent producer.
o Reasonable Compliance. Many producers view compliance requirements as a sales detractor rather than a facilitator; in reality the paperwork protects the producer and the firm. But the carrier can create certain rules or procedures for an experienced producer.
This is because the producer has knowledge of the nuances of the industry’s regulatory framework. Examples include markets or techniques that may be appropriate for the experienced producer but are not yet available to others within the company.
In addition, individuals charged with compliance control and/or review need to be sensitive to producers’ need to conduct business while protecting them and the firm. This role can be as a business partner; compliance officers should only act as enforcers in the event of noncompliance.
o Products. The company must provide competitive products, preferably the insurance carrier’s proprietary solutions, but the experienced producer may require access to other carriers’ offerings (e.g., when the client desires diversification).
Products could be obtained from the carrier’s distribution arm, a brokerage company or directly from the manufacturer. Variable products must be processed through the appropriate broker-dealer.
o Dedicated Service and Support. Support and services can be instrumental in nurturing and maintaining a strong relationship with the producer. Examples include concierge-level services of advanced underwriting, application processing and underwriting assistance. Professionals who assist with the sale and discuss legal and tax issues also can be invaluable for some of those harder-to-place sales.
Lastly and most importantly, the carrier must provide a road map to ease transition from a previous carrier relationship. This may require the creation of a transition team that can organize and facilitate the many items that must be addressed.
Ultimately, the experienced producer needs to be able to continue his or her focus on revenue-producing activities. This is not possible if the firm has down time due to technology issues or processing delays. The team should be empowered to address issues as they arise and apply solutions so that frustration does not create doubt about the decision to join the company.
Once the transition is complete and new processes and procedures are learned, the producer can become a catalyst for additional, experienced professionals to join the carrier. In the future, as the relationship continues to flourish, both the company and the producer will be assured that the alliance has made both parties stronger.