Close Close

Life Health > Running Your Business > Marketing and Lead Generation

Know Your Sales Funnel

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

What You Need to Know

  • Distribution models are changing.
  • One place to look is inside your own organization.
  • Outside distribution and retail platforms matter, too.

In every sector today, access to daily insight and information across the value chain is what drives businesses forward.

For organizations that own the entire value chain, manufacturing to distribution, access to data across the entire footprint is readily accessible. Yet, we now live in the age of the platform economy, where many manufacturers (product providers) now sell and distribute their products through third-party platforms.

Think small and large retailers, who formerly controlled the point of sale, now distributing through,, and All third-party distribution platforms delivering access to a massive scale of consumers and potential sales volume, yet a new game entirely where the “shelf” is now online, digital, and an entirely different challenge to master than face-to-face retailing.

In many ways, the sales challenge has become even more complex. What positioning drives a higher closing rate in an online experience? What is the best listing position for my product in a comparative environment? How do I target a select purchasing audience on digital platforms — and how did I ensure continuous improvement, in a competitively dynamic environment?

And ultimately, what operational capabilities and levers will drive long-term success?

This is part of the future landscape that now faces the life and annuity sector.

To successfully compete and win in the age of platform distribution — whether through proprietary or third-party distribution platforms (such as Policygenius, NerdWallet, Ensight, Simon, FidX, Luma Technologies, and others) — life and annuity carriers will have to radically upgrade their access to data insight. Both internally, and more importantly, from external sources.

It is data insight and its “actionability” that is fundamental to driving sales funnel yield and growth in the age of the platform economy.

A Changing Funnel

Why are sales analytics so critical to sales today?

As in almost every other industry, new technology and sector structural change are having an impact on the wholesale and distribution model.

Here’s how:

  • Insurance carriers are caught between margin pressures and the demands of looking for more cost efficiency while distributors that want them to be more responsive.
  • It’s now possible for agents and advisors to use online marketplaces (many adopted by BGAs and wholesalers) to work directly with carriers.
  • With the product digital sales experience improving (digital training, simplified quoting, accelerated underwriting), leading distributors are now rapidly “all-in” on digital.
  • Competition is getting tougher, and distribution is changing. Think of the rapid emergence of new digital carriers (such as Lemonade) and distribution entrants, such as new digital D2C, BGA and IMO models.

The pre-sale funnel is now almost fully digital, enabling a new level of data insight to drive higher sales operational productivity, new product development opportunities and other areas of competitive advantage.

Critical to addressing this rapidly transforming landscape is sales data analytics.

For any business trying to align back-office cost to serve with distributor or agent profitability, sales data is critical to creating new a new more productive service model. Moreover, many carriers have yet to recognize and value that without insight into activity on new third-party distribution platforms, they are literally “flying blind” and keeping their fingers crossed in the drive to hit this year’s sales numbers.

Unfortunately, most organizations are only now beginning the journey when it comes to sales data insight and analytics.

Scope and Depth

So where to start?

What different dimensions of sales data are critical for insurance carriers and distributors alike, given deeper insight can influence sales funnel yield, better servicing, and competitive advantage?

One way to look at the landscape is between “scope” and “depth.”

The life and annuity sector should be focusing on a scope of data insight that extends well beyond the internal operation. For instance, insurance carriers and distributors should be looking to stretch their scope across the following frame:

  • Activity within the internal sales operation, such as sales desk analytics.
  • Activity of external customers within the footprint, such as producer activity.
  • External activity taking place on third-party platforms, such as product quoting data, peer set competitive analytics, proposal, and customer insight.
  • Point-of-sale insight, which can better inform product positioning, training and higher conversion rates

Simply put, life and annuity organizations should look to extend their collection of data well beyond what happens within their own organizational domain. Indeed, over the next five years, perhaps the most critical and valuable data will be aggregated from what is happening on third-party platforms and what is happening at the point of sale with the consumer.

If an organization can’t understand why it is winning and losing at the “point of the sales decision,” then it cannot drive higher sales yield in the funnel.

Second, carriers and distributors should also be looking at “depth.”

This means collecting data insight across the entire pre-sales engagement lifecycle, including but not limited to the following areas:

  • Accessible, compliant third-party sources for lead data augmentation.
  • Agency profiling and trend analysis — to understand opportunity and penetration.
  • Prospecting activity of consumers and producers — such as content engagement.
  • Wholesaler activity — to improve closing rates and operational productivity.
  • Sales desk performance and illustration analytics.
  • Application-to-in-force data insight — to “close the loop.”

Life and annuity organizations that build their data analytics program with a broader vision of scope and depth will be best positioned for outsized returns in the coming decade.

Malcolm Forbes stated, “the best vision is insight.”

Without leveraging both internal and external sales data insight, the life and annuity sector has little hope of driving sales transformation in the digital age.

(Image: Shutterstock)

Fountain pen (Image: iStock)Matt Essick is the chief marketing officer at Ensight, a sales and data acceleration technology company that serves insurers and national distributors.