Are You Selling Insurance Or Building a Business?

Build a

Today’s broker needs to be part-time psychologist, self-promoter, technologist and economic astrologer. Margins are tight, regulations impossibly strict and consumers more discriminating than ever.

Within this climate, we still need to out-sell, out-innovate and outsmart our business competitors. But determining how to do this can be a monumental task and, often, it requires taking a step back from the daily grind and determining if your fundamental business practices are supporting your goal: To sell insurance or build a business?

While obvious, there are five critical elements to a successful sales strategy and to building a business, rather than simply selling a policy. These five elements apply regardless of your specialty or client base. They are:

  • TIME

By examining your business, based on these five elements, you can develop a strategy for selling that doesn’t simply sell a policy, but grows your business, thereby ensuring future success.

Any task or systematized process that can save time represents money in the bank. For that reason, every broker needs to invest in time-saving aids—but starting out in this area does not require a large expenditure, or an investment in technology, it just requires a bit of creativity.

For example:

#1) Build an embedded HTML introduction to yourself and your practice with an e-mail link back to your personal e-mail. This not only reminds new clients of who you are in their network of financial advisors, but also enables current clients to use it to introduce you in the referral process—an essential tool, given Canada’s new anti-spam legislation.

#2) Send regular messages to current clients about the importance and value of updating their coverage. This reminds clients that you can add value to their peace of mind, by ensuring they are adequately and properly covered. It also allows you to earn an honest living as you are building client-relationships, rather than just selling policies. When possible, systematize the update checklist and send this out every year to every client, with an easy-response link. If things change, you can then alert them to the pros and cons of potential coverage changes, and become an advice-based advisor, rather than simply another insurance salesperson. The updated checklist could include questions such as:

“Since our last meeting, have you:”

Renovated your home, cottage or business?
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Purchased a new vehicle, or modified existing vehicles?
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Taken up hobbies that require expensive equipment, such as golf, scuba diving or rock-climbing?
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Have you turned a hobby into a home-based business?
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Sold any substantial personal belonging, such as a painting, that may have been considered a special item under current or previous policies?
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Acquired any additional personal assets?
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Acquired additional real estate?
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Entered into a new business venture?
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#3) Start a “Super Tuesday” campaign. In this campaign, the entire office rallies to create a new record every Tuesday. Pick areas where the entire office can participate, in some way, to setting and achieving these goals. For instance:

  • Number of clients seen
  • Level of production
  • Number of referrals gained

The purpose of the campaign is to get the entire office focused on one task, and developing new, systematized ways to achieving greater results. You will be amazed at the renewed focus this type of campaign can bring, but remember that effort on the part of your employees must be recognized and, where appropriate, rewarded.

Understand that your practice is the one investment vehicle that can produce significant returns, but, like any investment, money can only be made if money is invested. For that reason, it’s essential to invest in your business the key is where to make those initial and subsequent investments. Here are some tips on where to spend money, in order to make money:

Spoil your clients rotten when they refer you to the right prospects. I don’t care how much you spend in thanking them, but make the referral gift personal, useful and of significant value. For example, one client has been known to replace entire sets of golf clubs with updated, high-end clubs, as a thank-you for big referrals. This is also the reason why some agents/brokers never “get it” on this issue and spend a lifetime in cold-calling hell.

Build a website that is client-friendly, jam-packed with value-added information and can be visited frequently by supporters, prospects and clients. Build a rewards campaign to thank clients who refer people to your site, then use the site to differentiate why you are different to do business with.

Make sure your support team’s bonus structure contains the correct blend of frequent, personal and tax-efficient recognition for performance, and scalable remuneration, so that your team enjoys the view from the summit with you, instead of just carrying your bags behind you.

The key to all business-building strategies is creativity. For that reason, you need to develop new and exciting ways to creatively differentiate yourself from competitors (both direct and indirect).

For example, some brokerages develop business by becoming creatively supportive of their clients’ communities. This can be achieved in a number of ways, including:

Try a project, such as adopting a school. This project raises money for new sports facilities, can help families in distress with school expenses or fund those expensive sports tours to out-of-town competitions. Do a barbeque at a school football, baseball or basketball game with the profits going to the cause. Hang a sign up that identifies who you are, what you are doing and why. In this way, you will meet stacks of parents—potential clients—but can also reconnect, personally, with current clients, while having a lot of fun!

Test out new and exciting ways to introduce yourself, without boring potential clients. For example, rather than saying: “I am an insurance broker,” replace this answer with, “I help people to ensure that their assets are protected.”

Develop your own list of creative, “pie-in-the-sky” ideas and then try them out!

Build a “keep-in-touch” contact program to turn one-off customers into clients for life. Here are some elements to consider:

SMS/Text male clients a wedding anniversary reminder:

“Just a quick reminder—champagne, bubble bath, flowers, etc. for Thursday’s wedding anniversary. Have a good one! Your friends at ABC Brokerage.”

Leave regular client updates on their voicemail: “Hi Client X, it’s Anthony Morris, your insurance broker. I was reviewing your house, cottage and car policies last night and thought you might like to know that your coverage is more than sufficient, should an unexpected situation arise. I recommend no changes at this point. I hope the golf is going well. And say hi to INSERT SPOUSE’S NAME for me.”

SMS/Text clients on their client anniversary: “It’s been five years today since you became our client. You may have forgotten the date—but we haven’t. If you can think of any other way we can help you—please don’t hesitate to call. Your insurance broker, Your Name.”

Build lifetime relationships by exceeding client expectations: Deliver a birthday cake a day early to a top client’s place of work. Attach a letter with the delivery expressing your appreciation for the business, and wishing them the best on their birthday. Wrap up 10 business cards in the letter. Your client shares the cake with work colleagues and your cards get distributed. This is different than simply sending a birthday card—as birthday cards were unique in 1953. They’re not now.

Understand that you are in the problem-solving business, not the product-selling business.

As such, you need to develop a client profile. Start this by examining your top 50 clients and then listing pertinent information such as:

  • Client
  • Area
  • Married
  • Business
  • Lifestyle
  • How We Met
  • Products
  • Problems

Then start asking yourself how you can meet more of this type of client—think beyond the direct referral process (but don’t neglect this strategy) and develop a marketing strategy for prospecting your ideal client. Where do these people gather recreationally, socially and professionally? For example, a McDonald’s franchise owner is usually a member of a food industry association; the same applies to other professions. Then determine whether or not these associations hold chapter/regional meetings and how you could add value at these meetings. What hot topic can you address to their members through a professional talk, executive briefing or powerful “By Invitation Only” Web-based advice service as a link on their association website?

By applying some basic approaches to professional differentiation, you can gain a jump on the thousands of insurance agents/brokers operating in your marketplace. Then actually DO something different.

Anthony Morris is an international speaker and practice management coach in the life insurance/financial planning profession. He has coached advisors in 50 countries since 1989.

© Copyright 2010 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the January 2010 edition of Canadian Insurance magazine.

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