One of the most overlooked ways for life insurance agents to grow their practices is to offer clients and prospects information in a lunch-and-learn format. After all, everyone has to eat and a lunch-and-learn program is simple: a training event scheduled during the lunch hour where prospects and clients can learn new information in an informal setting.

So why should life insurance agents put on lunch-and-learns? For starters, most people do not know enough about life insurance to make an informed decision. The lunch-and-learn is an opportunity for agents to provide timely information in a format that can easily be digested (pun intended) and later followed up on with attendees. The fortune is in the follow-up.

A lunch-and-learn event lets agents demonstrate their knowledge and expertise while learning about the needs of potential clients. In addition, the program allows prospects to experience what it would be like to work with the agent. It is one of the easiest methods to create visibility and credibility in your own backyard.

One of the major advantages of the lunch-and-learn system is that it is not a sales presentation but an informal educational lunch. The pressure is off. Attendees get information and education and life insurance agents can demonstrate their approach to helping clients make the right choices.

Developing a lunch-and-learn

For an effective program you need good speakers who are entertaining and informative. In addition, you need a good location, a system for sending out invitations and keeping track of who will be attending, and (if necessary) audio/visual support.

The lunch-and-learn can be held at the life insurance agent’s office or at a local restaurant. There is typically no cost to attend and everyone loves a free lunch. In fact, the sharp life insurance agent will ask a local restaurant to sponsor the lunch. That way, everyone wins. The restaurant can give out coupons to attendees and get visibility for their lunch menu, and the sponsoring agents get to provide lunch at no cost to attendees.

RSVPs and preparation are a must. Invitations can be sent by email or postal mail. Either way, it is important to be selective in who you invite and to do it in a timely manner. Flyers are a great way to get the word out. These can be distributed at Rotary and other service organization meetings. Knowing where your target market spends time makes it easier to find the right attendees.

Fun is important when creating lunch-and-learn seminars. People like to be entertained while they learn. Use props, audience involvement, and a drawing at the conclusion of the program. Everyone loves a chance to win something and when an event is fun, people will tell others and the word will spread as your practice grows. Change the topics regularly to keep prospects coming back.

To maximize your benefit from the program, have each attendee fill out a form that provides information for your follow-up with the prospect. Be specific about the information you are requesting and make the form easy to fill out. Use “Yes, I am interested in learning more about…” as a way to gather the information you need. Less is more.

Get this form filled out before attendees leave so that an effective follow-up system can be implemented. Use this form for the drawing at the end. You can give out a gift certificate to the restaurant that provided the food or whatever other prizes you think are appropriate to your audience. You can even self-promote by giving tee shirts with your company logo. Be imaginative.

Launching a lunch-and-learn

One way to launch a lunch-and-learn series is to market to specific groups that are referral partners for life insurance agents. These could be mortgage brokers, divorce attorneys and mediators, accountants and those who specialize in other areas of financial services but do not offer life insurance. Cross marketing can bring new clients in the door for everyone.

A lunch-and-learn is an opportunity to network with strategic partners, form relationships and share knowledge. Referrals happen when relationships are nurtured. This is one of the simplest ways to create a network of strategic partners that can generate an ongoing referral relationship.

The most successful life insurance agents conduct lunch-and-learn seminars with a focus on a specific target market of clients. For example, those that focus on baby boomers make their presentations specific to those particular needs.

Following up

A follow-up system to thank attendees will keep the system running smoothly. Using the forms collected at the seminar, send attendees a thank you card in the mail and telephone them to get feedback and possibly set an appointment. Use a pre-written script when following up by phone–this will greatly improve your appointment-setting rate. Send a newsletter to attendees, keeping your visibility current. Remember…the fortune is in the follow-up!

When conducted regularly, lunch-and-learns can be an excellent marketing tool. They provide insurance agents with 60 uninterrupted minutes to build rapport with new prospects and demonstrate expertise that will help existing and prospective clients learn what is available without the pressure of a sales presentation.

The options for lunch-and-learn programs are endless. You might, for example, invite guest speakers, provide new information and give attendees a chance to network with one another. Lunch-and-learn is truly a win/win for everyone.

Remember, lunch-and-learns are a system; and, like any system, when executed correctly they can be a lucrative marketing tool. Be creative when creating yours, think outside the “lunch box,” and you will have a pipeline full of prospects and referrals.

Rhonda L. Sher, is a Murrieta, Calif.-based author, keynote speaker and consultant. You can e-mail her at Rhonda@twominutenetworker.com