I’m going to let you in on a little secret. There’s something most Americans (and global citizens, for that matter) do nearly every single day that is absolutely essential to our continued professional success in the insurance industry. Some people do it for social reasons, some have a business end in sight. Some do it on-the-go, some put hours of stationary work into it. If you haven’t already guessed, it’s building relationships via social media.
The way trust and relationships are built online isn’t all that different from the way relationships are built in any other form of sales. The crux of any relationship-building effort is the ability to connect with others based on a deep understanding of the problems they face and considering how you can best involve yourself in their needs or desires. Keeping that in mind as the central principle of your advising strategy will reap rewards, regardless of your industry, target market or medium.
I tend to think that truth about building relationships is what gets overlooked when the concept of “social selling” is introduced, debated and sometimes criticized. Firing off arbitrary tweets, blasting Facebook posts or badgering with LinkedIn solicitations disguised as invitations is fruitless without an honest end goal of providing value and solving problems for your potential clients.
At Guardian, our social media program focuses on relationship-building through LinkedIn and Socialware social management tools, allowing our financial professionals to identify and engage potential customers on LinkedIn while maintaining compliance in a highly regulated industry. Our results speak for themselves: With a pilot group of financial professionals using LinkedIn Sales Navigator, we increased leads by 56 percent and placed over $21 million of life insurance face value over just a 12-week period.
The impetus for the Guardian Life Social Media Program
In recent years, we admittedly started noticing stagnation in our sales funnel. Our once healthy lead bank was dwindling. It didn’t take long for us to realize that the source of the bottleneck was our lead generation and somewhat archaic sales methods. According to Harvard Business Review, 90 percent of purchase decision-makers no longer respond to cold calls – a conventional sales method in our market. Unfortunately, the trust and relationship-building in phone conversations has all but evaporated.
It was clear we needed to advance our approach and respond to market trends with a social media program that helped financial professionals identify, connect with and engage prospects through new channels. Findings indicated that a significant amount of consumer research in the financial sector was shifting to social media.
For example, an IDC study found that 75 percent of buyers were using social media tools like LinkedIn, Twitter and blogs to vet service needs. It was a no-brainer to shift our lead generation and sales efforts to where our prospects were already seeking out information, in order to provide them as much immediate value as possible. That’s a noble mission, but there’s a significant amount of work that goes into preparing to roll out successive phases and platforms.
A closer look at instituting LinkedIn Sales Navigator
In our highly regulated and complex industry, we have to be particularly strategic about the timing and rollout of our social media initiatives. Our broader social media program was established back in July 2011, so we have a sound understanding of rolling out new platforms.
As we chose to take our social client prospecting to the next level by instituting a three-month pilot program with LinkedIn Sales Navigator, we knew from experience that we were going to fight an uphill battle with adoption by our own financial professionals if we didn’t make onboarding and training a simple, orderly process. Our internal message had to convince our financial professionals that LinkedIn Sales Navigator offered a wealth of untapped leads ripe for the picking – when employing the right tools, principles and practices. Externally, we hoped to land and ultimately ended up being quite pleased with LinkedIn as a partner to scale and conduct our training process.
LinkedIn as a platform was an obvious choice for us to expand to, given its affluent, professional user base and high level of user trust and engagement. The bonus for us was that most of our financial professionals were already familiar with it, even if they had yet to understand the full relationship-building potential and ways they could provide value to customers.
In mapping out Guardian’s LinkedIn Sales Navigator pilot program, we set three primary goals:
Enhance the value proposition for agent candidates looking to potentially become financial professionals and build their own financial services practice.
Enable financial professionals to differentiate their personal brand while accelerating prospecting efforts.
Highlight the expertise and unique approach to holistic planning offered by Guardian financial professionals.
To keep things manageable, we kept it to enlisting two experts that we felt would help us reach our goals and get our financial professionals excited to use the program — LinkedIn Sales Navigator in conjunction with Socialware, our social management and compliance partner.