Whenever producers talk about the future of the insurance and financial planning industries, the conversation often involves market trends — what legislation is on the horizon and what shifts are expected in consumer needs and preferences.
Just as important, however, is exploring how the process of acquiring new clients will evolve. Adapting to industry shifts can be difficult at times, as we saw with Obamacare, but we have grown accustomed to coping with changes in regulations and policy, as challenging as they can be.
Rarer, perhaps, is a change that forces you to evaluate the way you run the backend of your business, the processes and practices that you use to service clients, to retain clients, and to manage the volume of administrative tasks that come with your day-to-day operations. We see this frequently, and many advisors have admitted that they felt as though they were never taught how to effectively initiate new relationships in the first place, so the challenge of adjusting the backend of their business turns out to be rooted in a very old problem.
Before we talk about the future, though, we should look to the past.
As many of you know, insurance sales began as a door-to-door business. A producer would claim a small swath of real-estate and engage prospects face-to-face. When he got a client, he would come back each week or month to collect the premium. At a certain point, a producer was so preoccupied with collections that he no longer had the time to seek out new clients.
Though this model made growth difficult for producers, it had a powerful benefit for clients: the quality of the relationships between producers and the people they served was highly developed. Face-to-face conversations were frequent, and trust was a major part of the value proposition. Producers knew that they would see clients again to collect, so there was built-in accountability. The promises made at the sale had better come through, otherwise a producer would have to endure an awkward conversation the next time he or she knocked on the door.
Eventually, the industry saw that an opportunity was being missed and separated producers from collecting premium payments and basic policy service to leverage what producers do best: engage and serve clients, which lead to more wallet-share. At about this time, the industry began exploring the potential of doing business by phone and in-office appointments.
Though this is now the norm, the transition came with growing pains. Some producers resisted, insisting that house-calls were the only way to close business. These producers fell behind the curve while those with more foresight capitalized on the untapped potential of telemarketing and bringing prospects and clients to them.
Inviting prospects to meet at an office was simply more efficient than driving from house to house. For producers, this meant serving more clients in less time within arms-reach of valuable resources, but even as the business evolved, a key element from the previous era persisted: the best producers were more transparent and more realistic with their clients. They focused on being trusted advisors and strived to maintain the same level of accountability that their door-to-door predecessors established.
Soon, nearly all producers adopted cold calling to expand their reach and hired staff so that they could still focus on building relationships in a more hectic business environment. This is key: despite managing larger client bases, the true value of producers’ skillsets remained their insights and their ability to develop relationships. Realizing this, they delegated administrative tasks to eliminate distractions.
Despite the success of telemarketing, a few producers saw the “Do Not Call List” looming on the horizon and began exploring more creative ways to connect with prospects — seminars, webinars, mailers, surveys, email campaigns — and that ushered in another new era.