How To Become A Cyborg: Using Technology To Sell More Disability Insurance
Bill Unrue
May 2017

The insurance industry is undergoing transformational change driven by digitalization and huge demographic shifts.  Multiple generations in the marketplace (including Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, and Millennials) have different needs and varying levels of technical sophistication, but all are impacted by digital platforms such as Amazon, Skype, and Apple, which have profoundly changed the way goods and services are marketed and sold. In fact, some surveys indicate that consumers increasingly research online and that the internet has become a trusted source of advice for insurance.1

Adoption of technology in the world of insurance has been slow, but new expectations by consumers, led by tech-savvy Millennials, are becoming harder to ignore. Meanwhile, the insurance sector is at a critical juncture due to demographic changes—the average age of an insurance agent is approaching 60.2 These Baby Boomers may be slower to adopt new technology than their younger counterparts of the Millennial generation, but those who do take the plunge into technology find systems are easier to learn than they thought, and can offer powerful new ways to ramp up sales.

As a life and/or health producer who may sell disability insurance only occasionally, you can use these changes to your advantage by leveraging the newest  technology to indulge consumer preferences while continuing to add value as a knowledgeable advisor.

Just as it has been said that if you Google yourself and nothing comes up you really don’t exist, likewise if you are a financial services or insurance firm and don’t have a digital consumer offering the firm doesn’t exist. It’s time for the insurance industry to play catch-up with a digital strategy. 

In other words, you have to become a cyborg or die. 

a fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body.

We know that disability insurance is perhaps the most difficult financial product to sell because people don’t understand its value and most don’t think they need it. Millennials in particular may discount their risk of disability, but studies show the need for income protection is often more important than they think. According to the Social Security Administration, 25 percent of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before reaching age 67.3

When it comes to explaining and selling DI, which may be a small part of your overall book of business, the more you use automation and digital marketing to enhance the customer experience the more successful you will be with these younger customers as well as consumers of all generations. The solution is at the intersection of demographic change and technology.

Here’s how to survive in the industry by getting digital.

Embrace the Hybrid Model
Look no further than the investment industry for a successful model. After a protracted war between human wealth managers and robo advisors, consumers have determined they actually like a robo-human combination according to a new report by Accenture.4

For example, Vanguard’s Robo-Hybrid Advisor Service combines automated asset allocation and rebalancing with consultants who are just a phone call away for those who may want the comfort of human assistance. Charles Schwab’s Intelligent AdvisoryTM service is a hybrid advisory service featuring algorithm-driven technology and access to financial professionals. By capturing the attention of the younger generation before they strike it rich, Schwab’s strategy is to keep their business as they amass more assets and need more sophisticated products and services.

The same strategy can work for insurance sales if you have the right tools to help you attract and keep those tech-savvy consumers. Armed with the right technology, a producer can go from flip-phone to technology all-star in a day. Technology shouldn’t overtake the insurance producer, but rather enable him. 

Here’s where to start:

Marketing Automation and Lead Nurturing
Want to create more hours in your day? Marketing automation tools like Autopilot, HubSpot, and Marketo can help you put less time into prospecting and focus on customer relationship building. These systems may combine Customer Relationship Management (CRM) functionality, which houses your customer and prospect list all in one place, with easy-to-use email applications which allow you to target prospects with the right message at the right time and track their activities when they navigate to your website or landing pages. This helps you manage your business by understanding potential customer needs, tailoring communications and knowing the right times to engage prospects.

This means the more you know about your prospects and their browsing history, the more successful you will be. A typical DI sales journey might start with an email campaign introducing yourself and your practice. If the recipient is interested, they may seek more information by navigating to your website and downloading additional information such as a research paper, or using an online income replacement needs calculator, or participating in a survey which shows they have had a recent life change such as a home purchase, marriage, or a new baby. Their actions may trigger an automated email with additional information. This digital “lead nurturing” engages prospects and gives you additional information about their needs that can help warm up the first cold call.  

Digital Sales Acceleration (Quoting) Tools
When The Plus Group (TPG), the industry’s leading disability marketing group, was exploring innovative ways to streamline and accelerate their sales, they looked for a solution that could provide the technology to do so. TPG focused on how to reduce labor-intensive summary comparisons which were built manually from multiple carrier illustrations. This process was inefficient and prone to compliance issues due to human error. And, perhaps most important, not intuitive or easy for today’s consumers to understand.

TPG found that adding a digital solution allowed back office sales support and agents to rapidly build comparison summaries by simply uploading carrier illustrations. The system generates side-by-side disability insurance comparison proposals in real-time. The technology was simple enough for producers of all generations to learn and use.

Jeffrey D. Mohr, president of Diversified Brokerage Specialists at The Plus Group, says, “Disability comparative software allows The Plus Group and our brokers to quickly compare and understand the differences between the most competitive disability insurance plans. It makes their jobs easier, allowing them to customize and recommend the ideal disability insurance solution for each client’s individual needs.”

The efficiencies from sales acceleration tools have helped The Plus Group accelerate and simplify their DI sales, and they can also help you cross-sell and grow your DI business without significant increases in back office cost—especially if DI is a small part of your life and health business.

Data Insight and Analytics
The most important tool in every Cyborg’s toolkit is useful information. Data by itself is of little use, and the abundance of data flooding in each day from various sources can be overwhelming. That’s why tools that organize information and pull out the most important insight can help you run your business more efficiently. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and agency software packages provide an enterprise view of your data, and allow you to pull reports which organize that data so you can analyze the information and understand what it means in real time.

These packages are advancing rapidly and integrating new services, such as lead management, marketing automation and commission tracking. Vendors at the forefront in the insurance industry, such as AgencyBloc and AgentCubed, are providing solutions which streamline the agency management process.

Having all your information available in one place and organized so it makes sense is an invaluable time saver which can help you focus on what’s most important—meeting your customers’ needs. 

The insurance industry remains a relationship business. But increasingly customers are telling us that they prefer a good portion of that relationship to be digital. Distribution platforms that integrate digital technology tools to enable their advisors will be far better positioned to thrive than those who stick with more old-fashioned methods.

Adopting digital technology not only helps attract a new generation of insurance-based advisors, but also allows the industry to meet the standard set by Amazon, Google and Tesla for a digital buying experience. It can be done. We just have to embrace our inner cyborgs. Is that really so bad?



  1. national/2014/05/15/329321.htm
  3. U.S. Social Security Administration, Basic Facts, June 2016.
  4. insight-new-face-wealth-management.

Author's Bio
Bill Unrue
is CEO of Assurance, a leading InsurTech company based in San Diego. Prior to Assurance, he was a leader in the San Diego venture capital (VC) community with Tech Coast Angels, acting as an investor, board member and advisor for several businesses in the cyber security, consumer product, and communications technology sectors. As CEO of Anonymizer from 2000-2011, Unrue led the firm in the cyber security sector, providing subscription services to the U.S. government and large enterprise customers for online covert communications and non-attribution/identity services for cyber operations against entities such as foreign opponents, terrorists and hackers. Bill earned a B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and a Masters in Management from Kellogg Graduate School of Business at Northwestern University. Assurance ( develops Cloud-based sales acceleration software for the insurance industry using consumer-focused design. The company’s CarrierCompare platform is the first SaaS-based platform that dynamically generates side-by-side disability policy comparisons from uploaded carrier illustrations, eliminating back office costs and inefficiencies as well as potential compliance issues due to human error. Assurance’s Ensight Proposal Visualization platform seamlessly integrates WinFlex® data for vivid, compliant, branded, interactive, and graphical permanent life insurance presentations. Unrue can be reached by telephone at 858-353-4859. Email:

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