My enthusiasm about our industry continues to swell. In fact, it felt like the planets aligned for me recently joining Diversified Brokerage Services just before celebrating my 40th career anniversary last month. I finally made it to the BGA side of the equation. With a strong life carrier foundation, I’m experiencing the excitement and challenges of supporting those who truly make it happen for our industry: agents, advisors, brokers, producers, planners… and all those who communicate the importance of life insurance to their valued clients because, “Nothing happens until someone sells something.” Those of us who get to support those of you who make it happen have an immense responsibility. Focusing on best practices is what we do at DBS and what I’m proud to be part of.
Communicate with your clients their way
One of the most important best practices is serving up information how and when clients want to receive it. Those who are most successful proposing plans and getting signatures and requirements gathered are finding more ways to connect with clients than ever before. In the past, establishing a personal connection and trust was mostly done in person, but with the onset and continuation of the pandemic, we’ve learned that it’s not always possible to meet face-to-face. Therefore it is imperative that we find alternate ways to foster these relationships, whether through video meetings, phone calls, outdoor meetings, or any other method depending on the client’s wishes. I applaud those who have found ways to do that without creating any concerns about the pandemic. Our marketplace is forever changed, and I think for the better, especially for those who have chosen to thrive using technology. Amongst the many ways I’ve been thriving on my own is paying close attention to the lives of my own children, ages 29 to 44, and even my grandchildren ages 1 to 16 (and me thinking like a 20 or 30-something with every interaction). Just this week I even slipped into the DM world (direct message) of a vendor we’re working with in their Instagram account. Making it a priority to communicate with clients their way is key, and don’t be afraid to try something new.
Take advantage of technology
Now that I’m part of a full-service BGA, with access to numerous carriers and products, I’m able to see the many advances life insurance carriers are making in the area of technology. Therefore, I encourage those who sell our products to leverage every resource they can. Be thankful for all of the improvements made to the application process, and take full advantage of drop-ticket, automated underwriting, e-delivery, and all other advancements that come your way. Careful thought has been put into both the advisor and client experience, and the data shows that going digital saves a substantial amount of time when completing the application. Clients now can even have a lab-free application process if they qualify, making the entire process much easier than in the past. In my early years I was part of a team supporting brokers but without the internet. In contrast, the tools and resources available today via the internet could fill a virtual aircraft hangar. Leverage online resources to the max while maintaining your special personal touch and brand.
Find your personal passion
At the top of the best practices list for me is passion. Saying ours is a noble profession is an understatement; what we provide may seem intangible at times but the peace of mind that our clients experience has unlimited value. Make that sense of purpose a driving force for quelling any concerns about pricing, capital, regulatory changes or anything else along the way. My bullish attitude has only been strengthened from producing results over the past 18 months, as if the pandemic was just one more obstacle to maneuver around.
Make getting close to those who buy our products and especially their stories your fuel for staying positive and confident with your client presentations. I was speaking with a colleague recently about how a client’s insurability can change in an instant. His friend, in his early 30s, was recently diagnosed with a condition that makes him uninsurable—at least from a traditional underwriting perspective. He spoke with me about how he is sharing that story to all those who haven’t yet found time to address their protection needs. Twice in the past 10 years I had my own wake-up call about my own mortality: Getting lost in Death Valley 10 years ago and surviving cancer just last year. Find your own personal story that illustrates how valuable this profession is. Every life case we put in force provides valuable protection for families if something were to happen. Along the way we give peace of mind that our clients can appreciate each and every day.
Protection for our clients and their families does not stand alone when it comes to being passionate about life insurance. Life policies used to protect businesses and enable efficient wealth transfer should also be a driving force for your energy and commitment to deliver for clients in all income strata. While we accept the importance of paying taxes on income, gains, and transfers, none of us want our clients to be blindsided. The immense importance of business and estate planning is the other fuel producing activity to grab a hold of during the prospecting and sales process. Make rejection, delays or other challenges just more reason to work harder and smarter.
To sum it all up, agent best practices from my view has to start with these three foundational elements:
- Connect with clients in the ways that are most safe, comfortable and convenient for them. Leverage digital and every new method like you’re still at the start of your career.
- Leverage the immensely valuable resources provided by BGAs and carriers. Identify the tools and materials that line up best for your practice.
- Most importantly, be passionate about what we do. There really is no other product in the world that offers protection, financial efficiency and peace of mind like life insurance.
With all that as the foundation, I would be remiss not to articulate a very current day best practice: Understanding the looming changes ahead of all of us with regard to taxes.
Stay “Current” on Current Events
President Biden has proposed major changes to the Federal tax laws and, if approved by Congress, they will have a major effect on your clients. Of particular concern are the proposals that will affect business owners and other high-net-worth clients. Successful agents should have a good understanding of the tax code, using that awareness of certain upcoming tax changes to help with client planning for the year ahead. In fact, many of the changes equate to big opportunities in the area of life insurance because of its tax advantaged status. That’s a big win for you and your clients!
Granted it can be difficult to follow all the changes and updates, but the good news is that DBS has an advanced markets attorney who stays up to date on all the changes and provides in-depth analysis. She also puts a tremendous amount of work into producing the annual DBS Tax Reference Guide, which contains a synopsis of the most important tax changes. Produced for many years, this guide is a great resource to have available at all times and has become a “must-have” for many DBS agents. The DBS Tax Guide is made available each year as soon as the final numbers are released and contains a wealth of tax information, including income tax rates, personal exemption amounts, and more.
In addition to all of this, make it a daily practice to follow industry news, trends and notable political and financial happenings. We are fortunate to have multiple industry organizations to benefit from and contribute to. Make those part of your practice as well. For me, NAILBA and Finseca are exceptional. Among many significant contributions, NAILBA is elevating professional development for BGAs, and Finseca is unifying our strong and smart voice in Washington. Broker World has also been a constant for me for 25+ years. Seek out useful information, collaborate and get engaged in our most noble industry.
Making a big and positive career change this past summer has brought with it additional opportunities to reconnect with many colleagues that I am proud and happy to also call friends. Yet one more resource for us is LinkedIn that has enabled a steady flow of connections and reconnections for me during the past few months, with certainly more to come, and I appreciate all of my connections—reading posts and watching videos from the many industry leaders and oracles.
At the outset of this article, I mentioned the planets aligning to bring me to my most recent career change, yet we are all experiencing a similar phenomenon where the planets have lined up for those of us in the life insurance industry: Consumers are recognizing their need for life insurance and are buying like never before. Make 2021 and the years ahead your best ever. I am proud to be part of our great industry with you.