Finding qualified suspects and prospects can sometimes seem like a never-ending battle. You search for lead lists, you scan the newspaper for marriages and births, and you learn the newest referred-lead power phrases. These are all worthwhile efforts, but they are, unfortunately, limited by time and money, as well as subject to the law of large numbers.

What you may not appreciate is that you already have a proven prospecting source right at your fingertips that can provide an endless chain of new and repeat business, in addition to referrals from people you already know on a first-name basis. This source is as close as your client file, one of the most underutilized prospecting sources for many insurance professionals.

The best advice is to get out and see existing clients every year, whether or not there is an obvious need for a review. A life insurance buyer will purchase again every five years. You have at least a one in five chance each year, then, to write new business with existing policyholders. The producer who postpones a call on a client for more than 12 months may find that another agent is now that consumer’s trusted advisor.

Today, there are a number of triggers that demand a review of an exiting client’s insurance program. Here are a few to look for:

  • Age change – A change in insurance age can often be motivation enough to consider new coverage. You can easily present the benefits of increasing coverage, converting term, and adding additional coverage such long term care insurance.
  • Births and adoptions – If you stay in touch, you can be aware before new babies arrive and arrange for a meeting at the most appropriate time. A review of survivor needs, education funding, and other coverage is in order.
  • Job and career change – When a client changes jobs, benefits packages change, too. Increased or decreased incomes require updated insurance. Even without a job change, salaries can change, and benefits may be added or sometimes even dropped.
  • New business – The new self-employed entrepreneur needs a trusted advisor to lean on and look to for advice. They also need the kind of protection and peace of mind that only you as an insurance producer can provide. As clients take the self-employment leap, the producer needs to be there to suggest the right products in the right amounts.
  • Graduations – The children of baby boomers are graduating from high school and college at an increasing rate. This “echo boom” is more than 65 million strong. Graduation brings with it changing circumstances and different needs. The alert producer will have made notes to get back in touch to discuss how to deal with those changes.
  • Marriage – A new couple’s needs are not just the sum of their previous single needs. If they are a blended family, their situation demands special attention. Someone will help the client complete beneficiary changes and coverage reviews. If you’re a smart producer, you will make certain that you are the one to do it.
  • Divorce – During this time of change, you can remain a constant for your clients. Beneficiary changes may be in order. Often, you may need to place a court-ordered policy.
  • New home – Along with the shutters and a white picket fence come a new mortgage. New obligations create new needs and new motivations. You have a professional obligation to help your existing clients plan for emergencies and contingencies. Your reward is a stronger relationship, and probably new business.
  • Retirement – The baby boom generation has already begun to leave the workforce. Life expectancies now extend 20 to 30 years or more after retirement. New concerns replace old ones. If you can successfully help your clients achieve peace of mind about dying too soon, you shouldn’t overlook the new issues created by the prospect of living too long, or how to effectively pass your client’s lifetime achievement to the next generation.
  • Inflation – Even the modest levels of inflation that we see today can erode the power of a client’s protection program. Inflation is a great attention-getter; clients understand what this phenomenon does to their buying power. It is your job to call each client once each year and to inspect your files for clients who have not made additions to their plans within the last two or three years. The producer who sells the business and then does not stay in touch or call back with new ideas is sowing the seeds for disappointment or disaster.
  • New products – People like to hear about new ideas. You should make sure you are the one describing those ideas. In just the last decade or so, we have seen innovative new product designs, including hybrid LTCI, return of premium, and annuity income riders. For most clients, the only way they will ever have a chance to consider these new plans is when you call. They are most likely to take action if the producer who sold them their current coverage makes the suggestion.

A proactive approach to client contact does not stop with annual or semiannual reviews. Active prospecting in the client file can yield a treasure trove of opportunity. The implication of data-mining is that groups of clients have common characteristics that provide natural entry points to discussing new products and special offers, driving focused marketing campaigns, regular and target mailings, and a host of other sales promotions. A list of mine-able characteristics includes the usual suspects of age, family status, occupation, and home ownership, as well as past purchase patterns, lifecycle stages, and combinations that can predict future buying propensity.

How can you, busy with dozens of tasks, make prospecting in your client files a regular part of your workweek? Good intentions are not enough, and it won’t happen by accident. A systemized method is the only fail-safe way to make sure you’re doing the right things and achieving the right results. You should consider these key elements:

  • Install an automatic follow-up reminder system – You can easily keep track of client contact follow-ups when you have 10 or 15 clients. When the number reaches 50, however, it can become a real chore; at 100, it is a nightmare. That’s where a reminder system comes in handy, and the best time to install it is before there is a mountain of clients. The next best time is right now.
  • Use data mining to drive activity – The smart producer today knows there’s gold in the client file waiting to be discovered and mined. You need to employ a strategy of data mining to uncover specific client characteristics and demographics that can be matched with products and sales concepts.
  • Follow an agenda – Before calling or meeting with a client, you should know in advance what you hope to accomplish and have a strategy for achieving it. This is the essence of professionalism. Clients recognize it, inspiring their confidence and causing them to take the advice provided.
  • Expect referrals – Staying in touch and providing great new ideas to clients (whether they buy then or not) exhibits your professionalism. A client is more likely to provide referrals, and you should expect to get them.
  • Call everyone – Trying to pick the “hot” prospect clients is self-defeating. Producers should make it a routine to contact every one of their clients on a regular automatic, non-automatic and data-mining schedule. It is nearly impossible to identify the ones who have needs and are ready to take action without sitting across the table from them.
  • Provide good service and sound advice – The typical 21st century insurance client still wants to work with someone they can depend upon. Service and value-added advice is an unbeatable combination, and it’s important to stay in touch and provide attentive, caring service after the sale. Offering professional advice directed to your clients’ specific needs is a must.
  • Earn the business every day – Last week’s sale has to be constantly re-earned through attention to the details of the plans sold and the relationship that is being built. By doing the right things, you are also earning the right to gain repeat business, cross-sale opportunities, and the chance to participate in protecting a client’s future growth.
  • Distinguish yourself from the competition – In the United States, there are several hundred thousand people who can sell insurance. Producers who want to keep their clients and sell them more need to differentiate who they are and how they work. This means offering more in every contact, caring more about what matters to the client, challenging the client more to tackle problems and needs, and understanding more about what makes each client tick.
  • Be disciplined – A system of prospecting in the client file requires a disciplined strategy to make it work. It needs to become the way you work. Procrastination and rationalization are your enemies. You should install a scripted process for each step and know how many and how much you intend to accomplish each week. Finally, a way to monitor and measure the results can make the process foolproof.

Producers who understand the value in their client files — waiting to be unlocked — will stay in touch, keep programs up to date, and sell more in less time with less effort. Their clients will buy again (and again) and help with the prospecting effort by referring others. If ever there was a winning proposition, this is it. Prospecting in your client file is doing the right thing and getting paid to do it. Don’t forget your clients.

Brian Leising is a sales director at Financial Brokerage Inc. He can be reached at 800-397-9999.