When I started selling life insurance many years ago for one of the nation’s top mutuals, I was taught the old insurance adage “life insurance is sold, not bought.”  As I look back on this outdated mantra, the exact opposite seems to be true today. People are going online to buy life insurance in massive numbers.

Over the years, the consumer trend has shifted from purchasing life insurance face-to-face from an agent to purchasing over the phone or online.

The statistics below are good indicators of life insurance purchasing trends:

  • In 1996, 80% preferred face-to-face interaction (source: LIMRA)
  • In 2011, 64% preferred face-to-face interaction (source: LIMRA)
  • In 2013, 50% preferred face-to-face interaction (study done by LIMRA and The Life Foundation)

In that same 2013 study, a whopping 85 percent of people said they would use the Internet in some way to purchase a life insurance policy. I predict that as younger generations, who rely on the Internet to do much of their shopping, mature and have the need for life insurance, these figures will only continue to increase. These figures indicate a major shift in how life insurance is bought and sold today. 

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Agents are trading in their briefcases and face-to-face meetings for a laptop and a website. Successful Internet life insurance agents are marketers first and foremost, and salesmen secondly. Here’s what that looks like: Instead of prospecting friends and family, attending networking events, hosting seminars and cold calling, Internet life insurance agents are focusing their time on learning different marketing techniques, analyzing data, and optimizing campaigns. The goal is to make the consumer come to the agent, not the other way around.

Many agents struggle with this complete shift in thinking. To flip the tried and true teachings of our mentors on its head is a tough thing to do; however, if an agent has the ability to shift their thinking, study Internet marketing information on a daily basis, and apply it, they’ll find their place online. The online market is still wide open for life insurance agents and there is plenty of business for everyone.

Agents who want to sell life insurance online don’t need to be natural online marketing geniuses, but it’s important to learn what it means to be a marketer. In 2013, I witnessed several agents go from zero online presence and zero incoming leads to generating over 2,000 life insurance prospects in less than 12 months.

These agents learned how to create and manage websites that are lead-generating machines. They mastered the art of getting consumers to come to them. They knew nothing about marketing life insurance online when they started, but they took the time to teach themselves how to do it and then took action. I predict the number of Internet life insurance agents will explode in 2014 and in the years to come. 

I believe that if agents from 30 years ago — or even 10 years ago — were to look at Internet life insurance agents today, they would think we have it easy.  We have so many different avenues in which we can prospect online. We are able to find niches online and penetrate them via content marketing, email marketing, social media, media buying, pay per click advertisements and many other avenues.  Through these inbound marketing techniques, we’re able to get prospects to come to us. We no longer have to approach our friends and family for sales and pitch our products. We have the ability to create websites and generate leads all while meeting our client’s preference of buying insurance online.

There will always be demand for the traditional life insurance agent and the face-to-face sale, but that demand is rapidly shifting to the Internet life insurance agent. We’re entering a new era of how life insurance is being purchased. For consumers and agents alike, that’s a good thing.

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