Filed Under:Your Practice, Practice Management

A buyer’s checklist of technology essentials

Certain IT solutions used by life insurance manufacturers and others engaged in product distribution are mission-critical.
Certain IT solutions used by life insurance manufacturers and others engaged in product distribution are mission-critical.

New technologies are upending life insurance sales professionals’ practices as never before, partly because of the efficiencies they bring, but also because of changing consumer expectations about how, and the speed with which, business should be conducted.

This is especially true for veteran producers long accustomed to working with pen and paper. The technology shift can be overwhelming. One reason: New solutions coming to market entail a learning curve — requiring time from advisors who may not have much to spare. A second factor is the intimidatingly large number and variety of technologies.

What became evident while researching my technology feature for this issue (pg. 26) is that certain IT solutions used by life insurance manufacturers and others engaged in product distribution are mission-critical.

These include: (1) software that lets producers access, package and expedite information of interest to client and prospects through a range of media, both print and electronic; (2) applications that allow advisors to easily create custom presentations about products and planning concepts based on the client’s financial situation, goals and objectives; (3) customer relationship management (CRM) software used for handling a company’s interactions with current and future customers; and for organizing, automating, and synchronizing sales, marketing, customer service and technical support needs; and (4) analytics software that, when used for marketing optimization, looks for patterns in data to predict the outcome of consumer outreach campaigns and to guide decisions for investment and consumer targeting.

Fortunately for advisors with limited funds, many of these capabilities are already available (or soon will be) from product manufacturers and marketing organizations that are spearheading major technology initiatives. Among the companies: AXA, Prudential Financial, National Financial Partners and Pacific Life.

Another insurer on the cutting edge is ING U.S. Formerly a unit of the Netherlands-based ING Group, the company is rebranding itself this year as Voya Financial to reflect its new status as an independent, U.S.-based insurer. While distancing itself from its European heritage, the company is retaining — and building on — technologies that have proved a competitive advantage.

One example is a marketing solution that lets producers promote their practices, planning concepts and products offered through ING. Co-branded information can be expedited both as printed literature or electronically, the latter boasting extra features, such as an auto acknowledgement when the recipient has opened the producer’s e-mail.

ING also boasts interactive analysis, illustration and presentation software, the most prominent of which is ING Presents. The proprietary tool offers, among other features, the ability to illustrate ING products, respond to RFPs and graphically portray the client’s financial condition or needs.

A third technology initiative avails producers of supplementary online resources, accessed in part through advisor-oriented microsites of a web portal. Developed through a collaborative effort of ING’s IT and marketing teams, the online tool can, for example, provide material explaining a particular planning concept or other information of interest to the producer.

Echoing a point of executives interviewed for my feature, Kurt Fasen, a senior vice president of insurance sales support for the Insurance Solutions Division at ING, says the carrier is very focused on making its IT tools intuitive so that advisors actually use them.

In Fasen’s telling, the company has largely surmounted this hurdle. He estimates that more than six in 10 of the insurer’s 5,000 active producers regularly employ the company’s technology platforms. This percentage, he adds, is certain to rise as younger, more tech-savvy advisors replace an older guard.

To the extent that insurance selling will become more technology-dependent, the generational transition is a good thing, for it should lead to increased sales. Unless, of course, technology (and those pesky consumer expectations) evolve in ways that producers find hard to cope with. Let’s hope that’s not the case.

 

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