When was the last time you heard a fellow final expense agent claim “These leads are terrible. I only closed 10 percent.”? A 10 percent close ratio is far below the industry average of 25–40 percent, but the leads may not be entirely to blame. Chances are the agent did one of two things (or possibly both). First, he gauged his overall results based on just the first few days of working the leads. Second, after he determined results, he did what most agents do: went out and purchased another batch of leads hoping to have better results the next time around.

There’s a major flaw with this way of thinking and it is that you NEVER gauge your overall results on a batch of leads within the first few days or even the first week. A good agent will work that batch of leads until “they either buy, they die or say no.” I don’t even let the ones that say no get away; rather, I politely say, “I understand if this may not be a good time sir/ma’am; may I call you in 30, 60 or 90 days?” My goal is obvious. I paid good money for that lead. I realize that I may never close 100 percent, but I am looking to increase my percentage as much as possible.

The following are a list of elements that are essential for a successful lead follow-up strategy. I call them my “Core Four.”

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1. Lead quality

It’s no secret that the quality of your leads is perhaps THE single most important aspect to your success in this business. Then why do so many agents “cheap out” and opt for free leads? Usually something that is offered for free ultimately turns out to be the most expensive option. Consider this scenario: You receive 20 free leads from your carrier. You drive around neighborhoods hoping to door knock, but find that some of the leads are as aged as a California Cabernet and the people have either moved or are deceased. The ones that you are lucky enough to find either have already purchased a policy or are “still thinking” and will probably never make a decision.

Compare that scenario to a batch of carefully selected, demographically appropriate, fresh (that means never been re-sold to the masses) leads sold by a bona fide, experienced lead resource with a track record of producing results through many years of trial and error with various marketing pieces. Still want those free leads?

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2. Lead management

Now, let’s say you make the decision to invest in a fresh batch of leads and your results are below average, as in the example above. This is probably because you lack an organized lead management system. It’s your job as an independent agent to squeeze every last drop of life out of each lead. To this end, you must have a proper lead management system. This system could be as simple as setting up a tickler file system or as sophisticated as a customizable CRM platform. Some IMOs will even provide you access to a CRM system free of charge. With this system you can enter in all of your prospects or clients (some lead services will generate your leads in a CSV format that can be easily uploaded to your CRM platform, saving you time and money) and manage that lead effectively by starting a campaign that will “touch” that prospect many times over the life of the lead.

I’ve heard statistics that the average prospect makes a decision to buy, not buy or hold after an average of 6.2 touches. If it’s the latter, I then set up a campaign to follow-up with them in 30, 60 or 90 days. These ‘touches’ can range from a phone call to a door knock to a post card or letter. An extra bonus with this system is that it allows me to send my clients something informative at least four times a year. My goal is to constantly be in front of my clients. First and foremost, I send them a card on their birthday, which is always welcomed. Then, I send three informational papers a year that share important tips for seniors. In one of these papers, I always let them know that the average price of a funeral increases X percent each year, and note that they may want to consider increasing their coverage. 

Why put so much time and effort into a single lead? Because the net effect could be several additional thousand dollars in volume for a given month on that one $30 lead. Plus, there’s an old adage in our business that I’ve adopted as one of my credos: “There’s no such thing as a bad lead, only bad timing.”

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3. Presentation system

Even the most neophyte life insurance agents learn quickly that you must have systems in place to operate any business successfully. In my second week in the business, I personally developed the presentation system that I use to present my program. It’s essentially the same presentation that I use today.

Why do I use this presentation repeatedly? Easy … because it works. It’s the same system that I used to generate almost $30,000 in annual premium in one month. Like all good presentations, it has a beginning, middle and end, and has built-in responses to just about every objection imaginable. By the way, you know what objections are, right? They’re buying signals! It’s the customer saying “Listen, Dom, I really like this program and I know I need it. I just need you to help me get warm and fuzzy about this and I’m ready to commit.” As an agent, it’s your responsibility to identify these buying signals and respond to them by offering the customer the information they need to make a more informed decision.

One common objection/buying signal that I hear is, “How much is this going to cost?” While you should always be cautious not to quote any pricing before you demonstrate the value of your offering, I “wet their beak” a little by saying something like; “Betty, I promise I will get to your pricing in a moment, but first I wanted to tell you exactly how the program works so you’ll know what you’re getting for your money.” If they’re really hung up on price you can say something like, “Betty, this is not a one-size-fits-all program. Everyone’s price per month is unique to their situation, but I can tell you that most people spend just $1-$3/day. This product is affordable enough to suit almost anyone’s budget.”

Remember, no one likes to be sold, but most people like to buy. Make them feel warm and fuzzy about the decision they’re about to make and they will be clients for life.

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4. Additional resources for business

A good agent will always be searching for new resources for business. Please don’t misunderstand: Traditional resources for leads like direct mail and telemarketed leads should always be your primary resource for business. But agents frequently overlook ancillary lead resources. An example may be the local apartment community where you have an appointment with a resident. Instead of leaving the complex at the end of the meeting, locate the management office and ask for their Resident Services Coordinator, or the person that schedules all the activities for the residents. Bond with that person and it could literally mean thousands of dollars in premium for the next several years. Tell them you’re an agent that spends a great deal of time going around to apartment communities and educating their residents on the importance of getting their final affairs in order. You want to be perceived as an educator bringing value, not a self-serving salesperson. Ask to present 15 minutes prior to their next monthly meeting and offer to bring refreshments. You could even raffle off a $20 Walgreens gift card in exchange for having prospects sign the sign-up sheet. In every scenario, look to add value for the prospect.

Lastly, you need to be honest with yourself. Think about this: Have you been in sales for 20 years, or have you been a salesperson for a year, 20 times? If you’re not constantly honing your skills and practicing your presentation, eventually you’ll experience stagnation and end in a rut. I try to begin with the end in mind. What do I want to accomplish when I leave this person’s home? We all want to make a sale, but it should be less about what you want and more about serving the client’s needs and providing them with a plan that will offer protection in the case of a major financial event.