Prospecting cannot be sporadic. It must be a regular part of your business – just like quoting, follow-up case management and customer service. By establishing a disciplined approach to marketing, agents can establish a regular flow of leads that results in appointments with strong prospects and, ultimately, new sales.

The following are five basic rules for successful prospecting.

Treat prospecting as a regular part of business
Far too many agents view prospecting as a tedious chore. As business professionals, most agents understand that some activities must be done routinely. For example, issuing quotes and submitting policy paperwork are required business activities.

Though not typically viewed as a core business activity, prospecting is no less important. So, if regular prospecting leads to new customers and increased revenue, why don’t more agents embrace it as a regular part of business? One reason is that, unlike quoting and case management, prospecting is not necessarily guided by installed software or corporate systems. As a result, it can be overwhelming figuring out where to begin. However, continued business growth dictates that prospecting cannot be ignored. It must be approached with the same level of discipline as all other major business activities. The key is establishing a few basic processes and executing them regularly.

Identify a targeting strategy and lead sources
The prospecting pot of gold begins with a quality lead source. Targeted lists based on desired geography and demographics are good starting points. Lead lists can be developed using specific demographic data including ZIP code, household income, education level as well as “predictive indicators” that rank lead prospects on their likelihood of responding or purchasing, based on actual marketing results.

If limited in-house resources are still an issue, there are numerous lead sources as well as outsourced service options available. For example, agents can purchase a list and have a service provider contact the leads. Only those consumers interested in receiving a quote are forwarded to the agent’s office. Other options include prepackaged or customized direct mail campaigns or Internet-generated leads.

When selecting lead sources, agents need to consider the associated support and follow-up requirements. For example, Internet leads should be contacted the same day the lead is received, if not the same hour. On the other hand, responses from direct mail campaigns typically arrive two to three weeks after the campaign is mailed. So, you need to prepare your staff, or be prepared yourself, to contact these prospects within a day or two of receiving their lead.

Develop key messages and execute marketing campaigns
Every insurance product has a unique selling proposition for a specific group of prospects. By using targeted lead lists you know exactly who you are targeting, so the marketing message should be tailored for that specific audience.

For example, to protect his retirement assets, an older boomer is more likely to consider LTCI as an important part of his financial plan for retirement, whereas a senior would consider LTCI as a way of expanding his choice of health care providers beyond the limitations of what Medicare covers – i.e. home health care, assisted living facilities and expanded nursing home benefits.

Some agents enjoy the creative process of developing marketing campaigns, while for others this can be the greatest hurdle in converting lead lists into interested prospects. In producing direct marketing campaigns, agents can either create their own mailers by working directly with creative and print production talent or use pre-packaged marketing campaign mailers from a third-party provider.

Learn what works by tracking success
Tracking response and sales results help you learn what works best for your business. Give your audience the option of responding in the manner they prefer, as long as you can still track lead origination. Adding an online or toll-free response option to mail only programs can generate a substantial lift depending on the audience. In fact, studies have shown that many more seniors are now online than ever before.

For analysis, you need to know where your closed business leads originated, response channel, targeting strategy what campaign messages were most effective. Armed with this knowledge, you can better evaluate return on marketing investment and make meaningful adjustments to future campaigns.

Consistency ensures prospecting success
Regular prospecting sets top-performing agents apart from others. Inconsistent prospecting simply leads to inconsistent results. A disciplined approach to prospecting not only provides a consistent flow of the best prospects but also creates the opportunity to build upon the intelligence gained from each marketing campaign.

If setting up regular prospecting processes seems overwhelming, don’t give up. Break prospecting projects into smaller tasks such as lead list acquisition, key message selection and campaign tracking. For each task, take a good look at your internal resources to make decisions about what to handle directly with local staff and what is more efficiently handled by a third party.

In the end, having an established, measurable, cost-effective process for growing your book of business makes prospecting well worth the investment and commitment.

Melissa Baker is the Precision Leads product management director for ChoicePoint Precision Marketing, a leading provider of database marketing solutions for the insurance and financial services industries. She can be reached at melissa.baker@choicepoint.com.