Advisors commonly point to product expertise, superior presentation skills and an ability to accept rejection, among other factors, as key to achieving success in life insurance sales. Less frequently cited, though perhaps no less important, is the unwavering pursuit of a task that can at times seem grindingly tedious: keeping track of one’s daily efforts using an activity management system.
“At any given point in time, the [activity management] system is like a mirror, reflecting the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities in the advisor’s practice,” says Paul Steffen, a regional vice president at Northwestern Mutual Life, Milwaukee. “When used properly, it will tell you exactly where you are and what adjustments you’ll need to make along the way to achieve your goals.”
Barry Alberstein, a clinical and consulting psychologist and principal of Alberstein Consulting, Blaine, Wash., compares the parts of an activity management solution to a three-legged stool. One leg comprises a specialized planner for recording and measuring the components of the sales cycle: calls to prospects, pre-approach letters, appointment-setting, fact-finders interviews, closing presentations, and so on. The second and third legs include, respectively, a customer relationship management system (typically software) for servicing clients and what Alberstein dubs the “art” of (or method for approaching) the sales cycle.
Alberstein, a tri-author (together with his wife, Delia Alberstein, and Alfred Granum, president of The Granum Agency) of “Building a Financial Services Clientele: A Guide to the One Card System,” published by The National Underwriter Company, says discipline in recording prospecting and sales activity is critically important to the advisor’s practice. This data enables producers to not only measure their daily tasks, but to compare them–in particular, the ratio of one activity to another–to industry averages or expected benchmarks.
How does one rate relative to others, for example, in securing appointments from referred leads or cold calls? Of these appointments, how many convert to fact-finding interviews? What number of presentations is needed to yield a sale? And, completing the cycle, how many new clients provide referrals to friends and colleagues?
By comparing these activity ratios, says Alberstein, producers and their managers can determine where breakdowns in the sales cycle are occurring and which skills need to be improved through in-classroom instruction, online training or enhanced oversight by a manager or mentor.
“Recording daily activity is essential to making a scientific analysis of the nature the producer’s business,” says Alberstein. “But agents often don’t enter the data because of the time involved. The issue here is not so much ‘does the system work?’ but whether one can create a corporate culture that encourages producers [to be diligent] about completing the data.”