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Targets Of Opportunity

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When WWII pilots were sent on a mission over enemy territory and their primary target was not accessible, usually because of weather, they would be directed to an alternate target. If that was not clear then often they were free to look for targets of opportunity. Sometimes the optional targets would be more important than the original primary target.

Targets of opportunity also appear in a business setting and can be very productive in furthering the mission of the business–one such target is open to the insurance business in September when we observe the 6th annual Life Insurance Awareness Month (LIAM). We have an unusual opportunity to target those potential customers who are likely disenchanted with the current performance of other financial services and may be looking for more viable alternatives.

The real estate business is in the tank and many mortgages exceed the value of the property. Much of this is the result of over-zealous lenders allowing people to use their home mortgages and home equity loans like an ATM machine. The fallout from this is a daily news feature and many predict there may be more to come.

The stock market is acting like a yo-yo. It moves up on the slightest rumor of good news one day, and then the next day it plunges on a hint of bad news. The 401(k)s of many have been hard hit and people are rightly concerned that the long-term upward movement they expected may not come to pass. The worst part is the worry that we are not in control. There is increasing realization, or at least suspicion, that the folks in the Mideast are really calling the shots. As the price of oil continues to rise, hopes for long-term growth may not come to fruition. What’s a body to do?

Interest rates are low and are being kept low to spur investment and prevent a recession. Because they are so low many have embraced speculation and risks hoping to make their funds more productive. For the most part that is not working well at present.

With nothing else to brag about it seems a perfect time for our business to extol its virtues. Aside from a few companies that tried to act like hedge funds, the industry is stable and meeting expectations as promised to policyholders. There may be a few products that have tried to mimic the stock market that have under-achieved, but the basic products and companies are healthy. They are proof of the old adage: The most important aspect of money for future delivery is “will it be there;” the second most important aspect is “how much.” Reversing those two often results in disaster.

There is a valuable secondary target that we should strike hard during LIAM. The media reports on a daily basis the lay-offs in almost all sectors of financial services. This should give rise to a wonderful opportunity for recruiters. It’s no secret that our field force is aging and we are in great need of new blood. When our primary mission is fully understood it helps us to “stand tall” in comparison to other endeavors. Ours is a noble calling and through LIAM we may be able to attract serious job candidates.

One of the companies that benefited from the 2007 LIAM campaign was State Farm. They credit the push on LIAM with enabling them to sell 89,422 life insurance and annuity policies in September of ’07. In so doing they proved, in a very tangible way, that promoting LIAM can be very productive. State Farm’s success last year should be a cue to other companies to do likewise. What a great time for a tie-in sales contest. Summer is over–everyone is back to work–and it is time for serious business.

As important as such sales results are for the company and its agents, the more important consideration is the comfort and security they brought to more than 89,000 clients. Probably the greatest virtue of our business is that the products we sell benefit the customer more than the seller.

The mission of an organization may be expressed in very simple terms. Herb Kellerher, co-founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines, used to say in speeches that the mission of Southwest Airlines is quite simple: “Landings equal takeoffs.” But the execution of that mission was far more complex. Safety measures, regulation compliance, flight crew training and much more all went into the mix to make sure their passengers arrived safely at their destinations.

The mission of our business can also be expressed in similar terms. Our mission is to provide a mechanism whereby our policyholders can hedge against the twin perils associated with dying too soon or living too long. The execution of that mission is also complex and deals with emotional issues as well as financial concerns. We have to target a whole range of objections, many of which are rooted in a lack of understanding of what our products can do coupled with the natural resistance to face a reality by most people.

The “real life” stories of the LIFE program can be a great motivation to help people face the reality of life’s perils. Veteran agents have experiences of their own that they can relate to prospects–but the new agent needs the kind of material LIFE provides as a kind of vicarious experience they can use to demonstrate our products.

LIAM is a real target of opportunity this year and one that can benefit our companies, our agents, and most of all our policyholders.


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