Establishing an annual review process in your business can help you stay close to your customers, provide you with new referrals on an ongoing basis and, when new sales are determined to be appropriate, may increase your sales production.

Perhaps the easiest way to get started is to ask your primary company, or one of your brokerage agencies, whether they produce brochures that guide clients through an annual review process. If they do, ask for copies of both their best individual and business customer materials. As you review these brochures, you should be able to quickly determine the type of clients (e.g. individuals and/or businesses) sales and/or services that your firm wants, and the type of sales you will want to refer to others.

Individual clients

If you have individual clients, you may wish to use annual review materials that focus on clients’ savings and protection needs. The most common savings needs for individuals include funding financial emergencies, a child’s college education and retirement.

Many clients have other savings goals to consider. For example, some clients want to save for a second home or a major purchase. Or they may have other plans for their money, such as a charitable gift or bequest.

A well-designed annual review brochure should encourage individuals to consider their protection needs. These may include different forms of property-casualty coverage such as personal property; automobile and homeowners coverage; umbrella coverage; and other forms of personal coverage.

Clients also need to weigh their personal insurance needs, such as medical and dental insurance, long term care insurance, disability income insurance and life insurance. Life insurance needs can change significantly during one’s lifetime and should be reviewed periodically. The amount, type, and length of this coverage will often depend upon a person’s family needs and priorities, financial situation, and health considerations. Because of the personal nature of these variables, this coverage deserves your attention.

Business clients

If you are active in the business market, you may also wish to use the annual review process with these clients. Recognizing that there are many ways that one might design an annual business review, you may wish to consider focusing your client’s attention on 3 important areas of concern:

(1) Compensation and benefit plans.

(2) Succession planning and business insurance.

(3) Personal needs.

Compensation and benefit plans, such as group benefits, voluntary benefit programs, pension plans and nonqualified benefit plans are all valuable benefit programs that employers should consider to attract and retain valuable employees. Since these benefit programs can account for a significant percentage of a firm’s payroll, the programs should be reviewed annually.

Succession planning and business insurance needs are a second area of concern for many successful, closely-held businesses. Succession plans are designed to protect the investment value and continuity of the business. In addition to succession planning, a company needs to review all of its business insurance needs (e.g. property-casualty and liability, life insurance etc.).

Key person life insurance can protect a business upon the death of a key person; repay outstanding loans and lines of credit; fund buy-sell agreements and nonqualified benefit obligations; and create the capital necessary to continue or expand the business.

Develop your sales process

Once you have obtained or developed the annual review brochures to use in your practice, the next step is to develop a sales process for you and (if applicable) your staff. In some cases, the best way to develop your sales process is to develop a “pilot program” to learn first hand what makes sense.

As you or your staff schedule annual review appointments, ask your clients if they want to receive an annual review brochure before their appointment. This will give clients time to become familiar with the process and think about their needs. Another step you can take is call the client a day or two before your appointment to confirm the time and to see if there is an interest or needs the client wishes to discuss.

As an alternative to mailing or e-mailing annual review pieces before your appointment, consider placing your annual review brochures on your website. In so doing, your customer can retrieve these pieces easily and have another reason to visit your website.

A few more tips

Prior to completing a pilot program, explore how you can leverage the creativity and support of your staff to help you succeed. For example, you may want to create special rewards or compensation programs tied to the number of annual review appointments scheduled, new sales generated, new referrals or other critical success factors.

If you work with professionals who specialize in other areas (e.g. investments, employee benefits or property-casualty coverage), suggest that they consider using your annual review process, which can create benefits for each of you. The review process can be a great to tool to facilitate greater collaboration, block out competition, and increase client satisfaction, referrals and sales revenues.

To sum up, scheduling annual reviews for your best individual and commercial customers can be a valuable strategy with which to increase the satisfaction of existing clients, generate cross-selling and referral opportunities, and forge stronger partnerships with others in your practice or outside of your firm. As you develop this new marketing strategy, keep in mind that your goals are to help clients discover their planning needs and to develop financial solutions that will help them achieve their most important planning objectives.