Prospecting is your biggest challenge. You tell us that time and again — and now, we're bringing you 52 of the best prospecting tips that agents and other industry experts have shared to help you improve your efforts to drum up new business. Implement just one of these prospecting tips every week for the next year, and see if your efforts don't improve!
WHO TO PROSPECT TO
1. Business owners: Market to more than 12 million owners of private businesses by inviting them into a conversation about establishing an exit strategy from their business. When you can have a conversation with these owners about how to exit their business, you position yourself to bring a unique, value-added service to these owners. With today's recession abating, many of these owners are in need of this conversation. Your ability to be effective in bringing them solutions will solidify your role as their trusted advisor and position you to deliver products and services for years to come.
John M. Leonetti, Canton, MA
2. Your own neighborhood: Take a look at businesses such as dental practices, veterinary clinics, restaurants, and the thousands of other enterprises you drive by every day. Their owner-operators need your insight. In fact, two-thirds of American millionaires achieved their wealth by owning a small business. Many companies with as few as 10 employees are worth $1 million or more.
Fortunately, business owners have significant needs that insurance agents can serve. This includes funding their retirement and establishing a retirement plan for their employees. A majority of small businesses also do not have a properly structured succession plan. They need to figure out how they will pass their business on, and the simple fact is that the longer they wait, the more difficult and expensive the solution will be. (See "Big Opportunities with Small Businesses" for more tips on serving this market.)
Trent Davis, West Des Moines, IA
3. Your current clients: My best prospecting tip is using the clients that I already have. Many times, we keep looking for more and more new clients, but we forget that our best clients are those who already do business with us.
Let's set a scenario. You have been in the business for a few years and have built a block of life insurance sales. Now it's time to talk to these clients about disability insurance. Armed with the same passion and a story as to why someone needs disability insurance, you can elicit a response far more quickly and more easily from those who already trust you.
Thomas Petersen, Los Angeles, CA
4. Displaced workers: Many people have been laid off. Each one of these people has an old 401(k) to roll over. Each is also worried about a lot of other things like putting food on the table, losing benefits, etc. We contacted our clients and asked them to invite their close friends who have lost their jobs to contact us, and we helped them with a resume-writing service, helped them to brainstorm about a new job search, and also worked with them on their benefits and old 401(k) plan. (See "Counseling the Economic Casualties" for more information on advising displace workers.)
Kelly Campbell, Fairfax, VA
5. The right people: Don't chase poor-quality prospects -- create a perfect prospect profile based on your best existing clients, and only target great potential buyers. You'll spend much less energy, time, and money chasing people who are least likely to buy. (See "How to Find Your Ideal Client" for in-depth advice on target marketing.)
Dan Seidman, Barrington, IL
6. Your prospects' advisors: Who is your ideal client? Maybe they're individuals between the ages of 65 and 80 with an average net worth of $1 million+. Instead of trying to get in front of this audience on your own, think about who they already work with.
Taking all of this into consideration, try changing your prospecting focus from "fire" (your ideal client), to "smoke" (the other professionals they already work with). The key here is to explain what you can do for their clients in a way that is familiar to them. For example, if approaching an accountant, focus on the tax advantages of insurance products as an alternative to a "risk and consequence" focus.
One very easy way to get in front of these other professionals is your existing book of business; your current clients probably have an accountant. Call them and mention you have a mutual client; I bet they will be more than happy to sit down with you.
Mark Johnson, Clifton Park, NY
WHAT TO USE
7. Your own mailbox: When I had a team of 15 sales reps working for me, we would respond to every piece of local junk mail. We'd send a note saying, "You probably never know who opens your mail. Well, we did. And while we don't need your help at this time, should you need ours, this is what we do (adding a small pitch)." Within a few months, our office gained $12,000 in commissions from prospects who sent us junk mail.
Dan Seidman, Barrington, IL
8. Strategic alliances: For life and health insurance agents interested in building their ability to attract prospects, the strategy of creating strategic alliances can be very effective. There are five simple steps to making strategic partnerships work:
- Identify specific markets you would like to target for your business.
- Brainstorm other business categories, industries, and professions targeting the same markets.
- Identify business professionals within those categories with whom you would like to work.
- Create a win-win value proposition with which to reach out to those prospective partners.
- Reach out to those prospective strategic partners.
Skip Weisman, Poughkeepsie, NY (from the ASJ article, "How to Use Strategic Partnerships to Boost Your Prospecting")
9. Creative marketing: One of my best sales and marketing ideas is to use a DVD business card. It includes my picture, a letter from me, and a paper business card. I leave this with CPAs, attorneys, and other clients of influence. We also give this to top clients to pass on to their friends. It gives them an idea of who we are and the work we do. When the prospects meet in person, they already have some understanding of our process and are generally ready to move forward.
Barbara A. Pietrangelo, Ada, MI
10. Influencers: Contact centers of influence (CPAs, credit unions/banks, and attorneys, for instance). These people can send you a tremendous amount of life, long term care insurance, and annuities. Many banks and CPAs carry their insurance license and will be glad to split business with you. Don't forget that your first and primary goal is to gain their trust. None of them will want to work with you if they see you are only there for your benefit. (For information on targeting and working with CPAs, see "How Insurance Agents Can Use CPAs as Referral Sources")
Brandon McDowell, Newport Beach, CA
11. An informative Web site: You don't want a pretty Web site that doesn't generate leads and doesn't get you results. Your Web site must be informative (e.g., free report, whitepaper, etc.), give a clear call to action, have your phone number clearly displayed, and include a sign-up box where visitors can provide their email or contact information so you can communicate with them regularly over time.
Bill Losey, Wilton, NY
12. Tried-and-true methods: Invest in traditional advertising mediums, such as billboards, newspapers, TV, and radio. Networking groups are also a worthy advertising investment. These groups are a great value for the money. Membership dues aren't too expensive, and it's a good way to generate referrals and leads. Members can cultivate relationships with other business owners and community leaders, showcase their business, share ideas and, in some cases, exchange leads. Other than the time spent putting together an occasional presentation and membership dues, participating in these groups is like free advertising.
H.Q. La, Portland, OR
13. The media: Cultivate a relationship with your local media. Pick up the phone or send an email to let reporters know of your area of expertise and how you can help them fill pages. Do not be too pushy, and do not look at the press as another means of advertising. Be yourself and be informative. (See "Get Your 15 Minutes of Fame: Making Media Relations Work" to find out how you can be more involved with the press.)
Mark Snyder, Medford, NY
14. Networking: The longer my career is, the more I enjoy plain old networking. Networking is like golf -- it's about progress, not perfection. The longer you do it, the more fun it becomes. It yields cumulative results. People get to know you and what you do better and better, as you build a history with them. You actually start looking forward to attending events, seeing old friends, and meeting new ones. It's certainly a lot cheaper than other forms of advertising. (See "An Insurance Agent's Guide to Working the Room" to find out how you can do a better job of networking at events.)
Honey Leveen, Houston, TX
15. Business directories: Leads are important to every agent, and lead-generation programs are very expensive. I began my career many years ago in an area where I did not know anyone. I was introduced to direct mail and could hardly afford the money required to begin a direct mail program. At that same time, I was introduced to the city directories that are found in many public libraries. These directories provide an alphabetical listing of all the residents and businesses in a given area. In addition, they contain a street directory that lists every resident of a street.
I would write all this information on a card, and I had five cards made for each appointment. During my meetings, I would always attempt to develop a fact-finding interview, and through the course of the meeting, I would ask if they knew their next-door neighbor and would mention their neighbor's name. I would tell them I was about to call on their neighbor, and would they mind if I used their name when I did? Most of the time, they would grant their approval, and my appointment ratios with these types of contacts was always more than 50 percent successful.
Rick D. Miller, Tampa, FL
16. Your competitors: Go to your competitors' Web sites, or look at their literature where they brag about existing clients and target those as your prospects. Better yet, do a search on who is linked to their Web sites and target those companies, as they are prime prospects.
Dan Seidman, Barrington, IL
17. Referrals: [Prospecting is] an age-old problem. But the most successful people are the ones who can use referrals as the lifeblood of their business. (See "6 Ways to Get Referrals Without Asking" for more in-depth advice on your most common prospecting method.)
Vince Ashton, executive director of HealthPass (from the ASJ article, "Health Agents Confront Issues of Affordability, Uncertainty")
18. More referrals: The best way to find prospects always has been, and forever will be, a referral. If you had enough referrals, there would be no need for ad campaigns or seminars; you wouldn't even have time for them. I have seen retail advisors who get five to 10 referrals a week and wholesalers who can barely handle the incoming phone volume of people seeking them out.
If you want to grow your referral base, it's very simple -- just help people get what they want and avoid what they don't. If you help them and forget about yourself, they will send referrals in droves.
George MacAllister, Boston, MA
19. Other agents: The best prospecting-related advice I've ever been given came from a fellow MDRT member and my roommate at an MDRT Annual Meeting. Whenever he is introduced to a new MDRT friend or reconnects with a fellow MDRT member he has not seen for some time, he asks them this simple question: "What are you currently doing to get in front of new prospects?" He then listens to them share their best prospecting techniques. It turns a simple introduction into a way for him to hear the best ideas on prospecting.
Robert N. Garneau, Bedford, NH
WHEN TO DO IT
20. On their birthdays: The best prospecting technique I have used is to contact people on their birthday. I have picked up more business by contacting people on their birthday to wish them well than any other prospecting technique. By simply picking up the phone to pass along my best wishes, one thing leads to another. This is such a simple idea, but unfortunately not a lot of people really utilize this idea.
Mark A. Silverman, Miami, FL
21. When you can: Set aside time on a regular basis to attend to prospecting. Don't wait until you run out of prospects or suddenly need more. Discipline your prospecting so it's something you do every day, every week. I schedule time for prospecting each day, and I have specific goals for the number of calls I make and the letters I send. At the end of the week, I look back and assess how well I kept my activity on track.
Ted Stevenot, Cincinnati, OH
WHERE TO PROSPECT
22. Where your target market is: You can earn an unlimited number of qualified prospects by networking with those people and organizations connected to the type of client you are looking for. For example, if you work in the senior market and your specialty includes helping applicants qualify for veterans benefits or Medicaid, then networking with assisted living facilities, home health care agencies, and nursing homes will allow you to create a stream of referrals that have been pre-qualified by those who know what you do and what a prospect looks like to you. Networking is probably one of the easiest methods of prospecting to initiate. You are talking to people for whom your services may make their job easier, and it does not cost them anything (other than time) to provide a referral service for you.
Kevin Wedmore, Indianapolis, IN
23. Community service opportunities: Being active in my community and volunteering personal skills to nonprofits has generated a wealth of prospects. No doubt having your heart in the right place and generously giving of your time can build relationships. As those relationships develop and trust strengthens, prospects (and fellow volunteers) soon become clients.
Robelynn H. Abadie, Baton Rouge, LA
24. Big events: This business is all about being in front of people, so it's time to get out of your office and start attending multi-prospect venues and events. You should always accept invitations to attend community, spiritual, or charitable events. However, you must make these events a productive use of your time. Do some research prior to the event. Who will be attending? Whom do you want to meet?
David Appel, Newton, MA
25. Associations and societies: Professional associations and societies are competing for membership dues, creating a need for new, valuable member benefits. Ask your current clients what associations they belong to, and set a meeting to go speak to the executive director. Discounted disability and/or long term care insurance can be offered at zero cost to the association, and it helps them attract and retain members while opening you up to a large group of people that have a need for your services and trusted advice. (Learn how insurance industry associations have changed and grown to meet your needs at "The Changing Face of Your Advocates".)
Brian M. Johnson, Clifton Park, NY
26. At their office: When visiting a business owner in a professional building or a strip mall, at the conclusion of the appointment, ask the business owner to introduce you to the neighbors on each side (or upstairs or downstairs). If the neighboring owner is not present at the time, get their name and telephone (business card) and follow up with a phone call telling them you were introduced by their neighbor. If properly executed, this technique can increase your appointments.
Hugo Castro, Miami, FL
27. The gym: For me, the best prospecting is social prospecting at the gym. When I walk into the gym I have a suit on (so they know I am in a professional career). However, when I approach individuals on the gym floor, I am in shorts and a T-shirt, putting us all on a level playing field as far as appearances go. When people work out, their guard is down. As I meet people and get to know them, and in turn let them know what I do, the eventual question or request for help comes up, and I'm more than happy to formally sit and chat.
Thomas K. Queri, Rochester, NY
HOW TO PROSPECT
28. Narrow it down and follow through: Identify clients who fit within the target demographic for a life settlement (age 65+, life expectancy between 25 months and 17 years, no terminal illness or chronic/catastrophic conditions, owns life insurance policy with at least $250,000 face value -- most commonly a universal life policy). Conduct a planning meeting with your client to determine their current insurance needs and review their existing life insurance coverage. Determine if their current coverage amount and the policies continue to meet the needs for which they were intended and if those policies are performing in accordance with the needs and expectations of the insured. If it is determined that any or all of their coverage is not meeting the performance expectations, then a life settlement transaction may be suitable for consideration, and you can recommend that a settlement should be further explored.
Larry Simon, San Diego, CA
29. Don't lose touch: Keep in contact with past clients. I just had a call from a former customer; she had kept my contact information and wanted quotes on health insurance. People enjoy being remembered on their birthdays or Thanksgiving, and that would be a great time to include a business card. ("How to Make More Sales by Following up When You Have No Time to Follow Up" tells you everything you need to know about following up with your prospects.)
Penny Collins, Scottsdale, AZ
30. Take a different approach: I am a long term care insurance specialist, and when I deliver the policies to new clients I tell them two things. First, I tell them I genuinely hope they never have to use this new policy. And second, I tell them not to keep me a secret. That usually gets me a puzzled look. Then I continue by telling them that I know that sometime over the next few months or years, the topic of long term care will come up in a conversation with the people they know. "And when it does," I say, "I hope you feel confident enough about our relationship and my services to mention that you have someone who really knows the subject and might be able to help them in the same way I helped you. Here are a few of my business cards in case you find them more convenient to use in that situation."
Mickey Batsell, Leander, TX
31. Have an effective referral technique: Like most advisors, I have found that referrals are the most valuable prospecting source, but I have always found it difficult to get clients to provide names of people to refer me to. To combat that, I have found that if I provide the names of people that we have in common, they are much more amenable to acknowledging that they know the people. Plus, I can be referred to the kinds of prospects I want to, rather than leaving it to their discretion.
Daniel W. Worthington, San Francisco, CA
32. Encourage personal introductions: People like to help. But, I have found they shy away from seeking help. The "I can do this on my own" mentality is common. In our business, we go to great lengths to find ways for clients to recognize that working with multiple micromanagers is one reason they are confused and frustrated.
I offer a different experience that combats confusion and frustration, because my approach is visual and helps clients see firsthand the benefits of owning life insurance. While talking about detailed, comprehensive data, I tell them not to be surprised that I'm jotting down names as I'm learning about their world -- frankly because these people are important to them. As clients learn more, excitement is common. When this happens, the prospecting begins; we'll review the names, and they'll tell me who I should avoid contacting.
Dean Harder, Zionsville, IN
33. Be persistent: If you're cold calling and you get voicemail, leave a message that matches your prospect's volume and speed of speech on their outgoing voicemail. Say something short, powerful, and provocative about what you have to offer, and ask them to call you, saying that you'll be brief when they do. Give your phone number twice. And be sure the last word you say is the prospect's name, not "goodbye." Wait approximately 24 hours for them to return the call, and if there is no call back, leave another voicemail, again saying something short and provocative (not long and detailed) and ending with their name. Wait roughly another day, and if there is still no call back, leave one more voicemail. If three messages, each left one day apart, are not returned, assume there truly is no interest and let them go in peace. Calling once a day for three days in succession suggests a sincere desire to reach this individual, and the person is much more likely to return the call.
Lenann McGookey Gardner, Albuquerque, NM
34. Use specific products: In my mind, your best prospects are the clients that you already have. That's why I recommend taking time in every life insurance planning scenario to introduce the idea of whole life insurance, when appropriate. Whole life insurance is not only a great product that has guarantees that look better every day in light of our current economy, but is also permanent and very flexible, thereby cementing a client relationship that permits you to return to the client year after year to meet their evolving needs. ("How to Use Whole Life Insurance as Your Client's Retirement Plan" discusses even more ways to leverage the flexibility of whole life insurance.)
Richard St. Jean, Boston, MA
KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING:
35. Focus on the five senses: First impressions are everything. Be sure that you are consciously aware of what your clients will see, smell, touch, taste, and hear when they meet with you.
36. Reconnect with whole-salers: These professionals are equipped with educational tools, real-life stories, and a wealth of resources you should not ignore.
37. Create an advisory council. After all, your clients know you better than any prospect.
38. Rebuild your tax-planning knowledge: Sign up for a tax-planning refresher course.
3.9 Get the facts: Always make sure that you know where everything is, and what it's worth, before ever implementing a strategy.
40. Document, document, document: Keep records of every conversation with clients, write memos to files, and put your advice in writing.
41. Be a leader: Your advice, empathy, and integrity are needed more than ever. Make sure that you always place your client's interest first.
Marc S. Freedman, Peabody, MA
TAKE IT STEP BY STEP:
42. Ask your current clients for referrals: Your clients are your best source of new business -- but you must ask. Tell them who you are looking for, and then ask them to make the introduction.
43. Attend networking events once a week: Go where you clients go, and meet others. Pay for events and put them on your calendar. Go to build relationships and learn about other people. Networking events are not the place to sell. Your purpose is to make connections and learn how you can help others.
44. Build a strong presence on LinkedIn: Include articles and short presentations. Your goal is to share information. Let people find out about you. Before you meet with a new prospect, check their LinkedIn profile.
45. Always prospect: When we're busy, it's difficult to focus on prospecting. However, everyone has time to make one more call a day. That's at least 20 more calls a month. We all have time to prospect, but you must make the time.
46. Hire someone to do administrative tasks: It's easy to get buried in paperwork, emails, and "administrivia." When this happens, we excuse ourselves from prospecting. Prospecting is our most important activity, for without prospecting, we won't attract new clients. (Prospecting coach Marilee Driscoll talks about how to outsource your insurance tasks in "Having a Tough Time Selling Insurance? A New Economy May Mean New Prospecting Tricks."
Joanne Black, Greenbrae, CA
47. Build connections with all family members: My practice has been successful in developing a marketing program geared toward teaching parents how to talk with their children about money to engender financial literacy and money values. We have mapped out age-appropriate lesson plans up until the child's 18th birthday., collecting the dates of birth of our clients' children and sending the parents these lesson plans on their child's birthday. We then give them step-by-step suggestions on how to implement this plan throughout the 12 months that follow until our next suggestion. The end result is an ongoing conversation with your clients about the most important thing in their lives -- their kids.
Thomas J. Henske, New York, NY
48. Build relationships: An agent can take the transactional route or the relationship approach when it comes to prospecting. I have found over the years that the relational method works best for me. With that in mind, I've had significant success building my practice working with property and casualty insurance agents.
Damon S. Winter, Clackamas, OR
49. Focus yourself: The best advice I can give is to be a laser beam and focus your attention on one segment, whether that be life, DI, health, Medicare, LTCI, or dental/vision. Then, as you pick up clients in those markets, cross sell when necessary. You can't be everything to everybody. People should know you as "The Health Guy," or "The DI Lady," or "The Medicare Aficionado."
Bob Levine, Atlanta, GA
50. Focus your audience: I believe that creating a niche market is a surefire way to explode your income. For example, try trucking companies, day cares, gyms, whatever you have an interest in, and work that market. Become the expert -- it works 100 percent of the time. Also try volunteering to do free workshops.
Donette Thomas, Greensboro, NC
51. Reach out to colleagues: First, set up appointments with business owners or human resource directors for the purpose of conducting a fact-finding interview to determine whether they would benefit from a disability product offering. The reason for building a strategic partnership with another producer or specialist is to provide your client with the best knowledge and strategies available in the disability market. As the DI industry has become more complex, it has become necessary to utilize specialists for proper benefit planning.
John F. Nichols, Chicago, IL (from the ASJ article, "5 Steps to Building a Hugely Successful DI Practice")
52. Don't beat a dead horse: Prospecting has its own set of rules, including the fact that it takes less than a minute to find out if someone is a prospect, and that when the prospect firmly says, "I'm not interested," you should believe him or her and politely disconnect.
Bill Good, Draper, UT (from the ASJ article, "What to Do with Uninterested Prospects")