How can I get in front of the right people?" Most life insurance producers ask this question from their first day in the business until they retire. As one successful producer said, "It's always on my mind."
And for good reason. Having enough qualified leads is the No. 1 marketing issue in the life insurance business. No matter how hard the industry tries to change it, the public persists in viewing life agents as those who sell policies, not solve problems.
Consumers often fail to see a connection between buying a life insurance policy and enhancing their financial position. This is why the biggest hurdle life producers face every morning is how to market themselves so they have someone to talk to. While some advisors are excellent marketers, they are the exception.
Interestingly enough, marketing reluctance and call reluctance are quite similar. Most of us were raised not to be "pushy" and to "know our place." As life producers, we readily work for good causes and eagerly promote them, but it's different when it comes to promoting ourselves. Most are uncomfortable doing that.
The fact is that unless producers engage in self-marketing, they will always run short on prospects. In other words, their positive results depend on successful execution. Here are nine proven ways to go about filling the prospect pipeline:
1. See yourself as a business owner.
While all business owners see themselves involved with sales, not enough producers see themselves as business owners. This means you are in charge -- and responsible for -- administration, operations, finance, sales and marketing for your business.
Although you may have an assistant who provides support, you are the engine that drives your business. Even though sales may be your primary function, it will be difficult for your business to reach its full potential unless you make sure your business plan also includes a marketing plan.
2. You are your product.
The famed marketing guru, the late Peter Drucker, said, "There will always, one can assume, be a need for some selling. But the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous." What does this mean for life producers? Simply, prospects must buy you before they will buy what you sell. If they want to do business with you, you will become their insurance agent.
Unfortunately, too many producers try to put the selling first, which is why they meet with rejection so often and find making sales a daunting challenge. Your objective in marketing yourself is to attract people.
3. Have a customer-focused understanding of what you do.
If you happen to be on LinkedIn, you know that some people describe themselves in terms of their title or position ("Vice President of Sales," for example), while others may say, "I help people reach their financial objectives." The focus of one is on the salesperson, while the second is customer-oriented.
4. Have your own Web site presence.
A Web site is an easy way for prospects to "get acquainted" with you and learn what you are all about. The goal is to keep your Web site focused on visitors, not on yourself. You can do this by including testimonials, helpful information and success stories.
Even if you're working in an agency that has a Web site, you still need your own. Remember, when it comes right down to it, you are running your own business.
Finally, it's easy to forget about a Web site -- out of sight, out of mind. Web sites need to be "refreshed" regularly so there's new information.
5. Maintain regular client and prospect contact.
Keeping in touch with both clients and prospects is critical. You want to keep your constituency informed, which is just another way to let them know you care. It also stops another producer from getting in the door.
Calling clients is a major problem for some producers. "What am I going to say?" is a common question. The goal is to be sure you have something of value to talk about. With the dramatic changes in the financial arena, ask about their situation -- has it changed? Ask if they have financial concerns. Almost everyone today has questions and thoughts about their financial future. View these as marketing calls, which, at some point, may become sales calls.
You should also be staying connected with your people with newsletters and regular eBulletins so you can share your thinking. Make sure there is always an action step so people can contact you to get more information, accept an invitation to a seminar, get on your mailing list or obtain a free white paper.
6. Make networking a priority.
Serving on non-profit boards, helping groups with fundraising and participating in lead generation groups are all good opportunities. But today, social media can help extend your networking reach. Have a Facebook presence. Post on Twitter. Send out a daily or weekly Tweet. Don't make it a sales pitch, but something for your followers to think about. LinkedIn lets you connect with large numbers of people and you can join groups that can further your reach.
If it sounds as if social media take time, that's right. Some producers have assistants to help them, while others want to do it themselves.
7. Develop a niche of your own.
Most producers are generalists as they respond to as many needs as possible. Yet, consumers want to feel they are getting "the best advice" and that comes from some who's an expert in their particular situation.
"I help those over 70 get more out of life." This is how one life producer describes his practice. It's intriguing, interesting and expressed in a way that reflects what his constituency is looking for. He writes articles, holds seminars and is the subject of news stories.
Once you find the right niche and promote your expertise, that niche is yours and you become the go-to person, including getting referrals from other producers.
8. Make technology your partner.
Failing to embrace technology gives your competitors a huge advantage. With software, a smart phone, laptop or other latest device, you can make it easy for your clients to do business with you. And there's no reason why you can't do it now -- because that's when you clients want it.
Today, a lone producer can operate as effectively as a producer with a full staff did a decade ago. Whether it's contacting clients, cultivating prospects, arranging meetings or following up on open cases, you can manage it all if you make technology your partner.
9. Make sure you are ready for your role.
And the role is that of a professional. This is where it all comes together and it's all about how you present yourself. It has to do with how you dress, your manner, your vocabulary and how you speak.
Even if you get everything else right, but lack a professional demeanor, your presentation can be less compelling and less persuasive. It all comes down to one overriding factor: You are your product.
Marketing your life practice successfully is a clear possibility. However, it all depends on the execution.
Kenneth A. Shapiro is the president of First American Insurance Underwriters, Inc., a Needham, Mass.-based national life brokerage firm specializing in serving high-end producers and working on complex cases. He can be contacted at(781)449-6800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.