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Life insurance distribution organizations can still use travel incentives to further their business goals.

(Related: 5 Smart Ways Life Insurance Distribution Organizations Can Still Use Incentive Travel)

Once you begin exploring the logistics of structuring an incentive travel program, you’ll want to think about how to use the program to promote more effective agent behavior and, most importantly, better outcomes for your clients.

Consider leading indicators and lagging indicators.

Lagging indicators are measurements of the desired outcome, such as sales data or customer satisfaction.

Leading indicators are process-based measures that influence those outcomes, such as product knowledge, response time, and client follow-up.

Life insurance distribution companies can run into trouble when they incentivize lagging indicators without considering the bigger picture. Your goal might be to increase sales, but rewarding life insurance agents strictly on sales metrics may result in them cutting corners, chasing new leads at the expense of current clients, or demonstrating behaviors that are a little too “salesy.” In an industry where customers rely on agents to act as trusted advisors, this can be damaging for your brand.

Incentivizing other lagging indicators, such as client satisfaction, doesn’t take into account the knowledge or structure your agents might need to achieve this outcome. Your agents probably want to provide the best for your clients, but it’s up to you to provide the structure your agents need to figure out how they can break that goal down into measurable steps. Failure to do so can lead to frustration, resentment, and might jeopardize your relationship with your agents.

Incentive travel provides motivation for agents. But it’s necessary to have structure in place to harness that motivation into behaviors that are constructive for your organization long-term, while giving your agents the tools and direction they need to achieve the goals you lay out for them.

Here are five ways to do that.

1. Choose the Right KPIs

Start by focusing on measuring and improving important leading indicators that will lead both to more sales and to higher customer satisfaction.

Three of the best leading indicators are product knowledge, response time, and follow-up.

2. Increase Product Knowledge

By improving product knowledge, your agents will be better equipped to knowledgeably pitch prospective clients the benefits of your policies and will be able to spot additional opportunities to sell add-on policies that fit their needs. Chances are that someone in the market for life insurance might also be interested in other policies your organization provides, such as short-term disability or dental insurance. They just have to be educated on your offerings.

Not only do insurance agents require extensive knowledge of your company’s policy offerings, they must have the ability to translate that knowledge into laymen’s terms. But given that insurance policies are not exactly light summer reading material, rewarding incentive travel points to your agents based on their performance on educational modules, quizzes, and trivia, can make this process more engaging.

Additionally, you might consider taking it a step further and plugging these points into an interactive leaderboard to create a friendly in-house competition. This will further increase motivation as agents compete for bragging rights and monitoring these scores will give you valuable organizational feedback. If all of your agents perform poorly on certain questions, that is an area you need to address.

3. Improve Response Times

By setting a goal of improving agents’ response times to their clients, your brand will appear more trustworthy, reliable, and professional. Fewer leads will have the opportunity to go cold. Potential customers will feel like your organization will be there for them when problems arise.

However, corporate agents have a lot on their plate. Furthermore, many insurance agents are paid on commission. The emails and voicemails piling up might not seem like a priority to them compared to that hot lead or the next close.

Integrating your incentive software platform with your CRM and assigning points to the agents who make the most new entries from incoming calls or emails is an effective way to inspire agents to be on the ball, especially if they don’t want to miss out on that great incentive travel trip.

Or you can raise the stakes and harness the power of intermittent rewards, by going around to all your agents at random intervals and rewarding all the points to whichever agents has the fewest voicemails on their phone or emails in their inbox at that exact moment.

4. Encourage Client Follow-up

Encouraging your agents to follow up with clients leads to improved customer satisfaction and area coverage, and increases the chances that they will provide referrals or look to your organization for their future insurance needs.

And given that corporate agents often have financial incentive to chase new leads at the expense of following up with existing clients, this is another effective method your incentive travel program can utilize to compensate for behaviors that often result from a traditional commission structure.

Segmenting your current client base by territories, verticals, or by the last date of contact, you can assign different travel reward points based on priority, and allow your agents to claim follow-up opportunities on a first-come, first-served basis.

5. Offer a Memorable Experience

Finally, you will want to cap things off with a phenomenal incentive travel experience that your agents will remember for years to come. The ongoing success of an incentive travel program depends on following through on the reward, and making your agents feel like their extra effort was worth it. Providing great incentive travel trips also generates word-of-mouth marketing for your incentive program, ensuring even better participation in the future.

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Mark Herbert (Photo: Incentive Solutions)Mark Herbert is president and chief executive officer of Incentive Solutions. He has managed about $60 million in incentive travel awards.