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Ask any serious insurance agent about the greatest risks facing his or her business, and there’s a good chance direct-to-consumer sales innovation will be somewhere on that list. It’s already happening in some of the more commoditized areas of the industry, with mixed results. However, mixed results don’t mean disruptive change won’t eventually happen on a larger scale. It just means there are still hurdles for the disruptors to overcome.
Nobody knows precisely when disruptive change will occur, how long it will take, or what exactly it will look like, but make no mistake… It’s coming. It has to be. The conditions are perfect for it. We know a good number of consumers still value insurance. Most even admit they need more insurance, but yet they don’t buy. It’s a system problem screaming for a 21st century solution.
Some will argue insurance must be sold; therefore, there will always be a need for the agent. Maybe, but I believe many consumers don’t buy today because they haven’t been given a legitimately better alternative yet. They haven’t been presented with a solution that provides the protection they need with the convenience, confidence, and speed they have become accustomed to in the rest of their lives. When that alternative presents itself, I bet it will be radically different than anything we have today, and it will come from someone we don’t even know is in the game.
How’s that for doom and gloom?
Well, here’s the good news: We can still do something about it. By taking proactive action now, we can advance the industry, better serve the consumer, AND preserve the noble profession of the independent insurance agent.
We may not be able to stop career-killing disruptors from overtaking the industry forever, but we can make damn sure it’s more difficult for them to do so anytime soon.
Provide Superior Service
This can be as simple as responding to inquiries in a more timely fashion. You may think your response time is good, but compared to what? Track this sometime, and be honest with yourself. Response time will likely be one of the first weaknesses disruptors will try to exploit. Don’t make it so easy for them. Keep your promises. Deliver what you say you will. Do it quickly, accurately, and completely. Service will always be appreciated, but it’s becoming increasingly rare. Good clients will reward superior service with exceptional loyalty.
Build Real Relationships
I’m sure you hear this all the time, but become a better listener. Take copious notes. Leverage your CRM system. Success in relationship building is in the details: birthdays, anniversaries, children’s names, milestones, etc. Automate as you can, but remember one of your greatest strengths against disruptors is an emotional connection with your clients. That connection doesn’t guarantee you’ll keep the business forever, but it will make it more difficult to get kicked to the curb over a few bucks. Treat people the way you would like to be treated. Keep in touch. Conduct regular policy reviews to uncover new risks and offer new solutions.
Provide Customized Solutions
Disruptors will rely on at least some level of standardization and volume for profitability. Customization can be your best friend. You should be treating your clients as individuals anyway, but this is just one more good reason to do so. Again, learn to listen. Ask great questions to uncover the real objectives, concerns, and other requirements of your clients. If you get good at this and take the time, you’ll be able to unlock dreams and fears your clients didn’t even know they had. Also, lean on available case design resources to get a second opinion. If you don’t have such resources available, find them. They’ll be like gold. No matter how good you are, it’s tough to keep current with all available products and strategies.
Consider Getting Dual-Licensed
You’ve probably heard me say this before, but I’m going to say it again. A securities license is not for everyone. You can still survive in the business without it, but there are a lot of very good reasons to seriously consider it. I won’t list them all here, but think about it. Which would be more difficult to replace with a smartphone app, a final expense agent or a bona fide financial advisor? Someone who sells you a term life policy or a licensed advisor that’s a key member of your personal advisory team? Click here to learn about the perfect RIA platform for the dual licensed advisor. (Also, check out this month’s edition of Retirement Advisor magazine for more on the value of being dual licensed, including an interview with yours truly.)
We often get beat up for being laggards when it comes to leveraging technology. The industry probably deserves that criticism, but if you have been paying attention you know things are starting to happen. I’m seeing more and more opportunities to utilize things like e-apps, online and smartphone quoting tools, voice signature, drop ticket programs, etc. I’m not suggesting you jump on the tech bandwagon just because it’s cool. Your motivation should be convenience and transactional speed for your client. Efficiency for you is icing on the cake. Not all your clients will be comfortable with tech tools, but many will. Make sure you’re not the roadblock. Start by getting familiar with the tools your current carriers already have available. If they don’t have tools, start looking for someone who does.
Promote Partner Companies
Some companies are more committed to the agent than others. You can tell who is by their actions, not their words. Is your preferred carrier already selling direct to consumers? Are you, the agent, at the center of their innovation efforts, or are they simply buying time while they slowly cut you out of the picture? You have more control than you might think. As an independent agent, you decide whose product gets presented. I am not suggesting you promote inferior products. There are plenty of companies with great products that have chosen to stand by the agent. However, if we don’t step up and do our part they won’t stand by us for long. Click here to register for my webinar next week with one such partner company.
The insurance industry is primed for disruptive change. That’s a little scary for some, but change can mean real opportunity for those that recognize it and have the courage to act. The ideas I have shared here are just a sampling of simple things you can do right now to use the winds of change to your advantage. Don’t make it easy for the disruptors to render the agent obsolete. Take proactive action now and you may not only survive, but thrive with the changes.
Postema Marketing Group is a full-service Independent Marketing Organization (IMO) dedicated to providing world-class products and services to our clients. We have partnered with some of the strongest names in the insurance industry and proudly serve independent agents from coast to coast.
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