Another year is in full swing and Spring is upon us. Spring is the season of new beginnings. Fresh buds bloom, animals awaken, and the earth seems to come to life again. Farmers and gardeners plant their seeds and temperatures slowly rise.1
Also, students are either heading to or returning from warmer climates enjoying their “Spring Break” or heading back home to spend time with family to refresh as another successful school year ends. Insurance advisors, brokerage general agency offices and the insurance carriers are also progressing toward the finish line to close the year strong. All together trying to meet their end of year sales goals.
Let’s first focus on who still needs life insurance, how are they obtaining it, and what are their initial thoughts? About sixty percent of all people in the United States were covered by some type of life insurance in 2018, according to LIMRA’s 2018 Insurance Barometer Study.2 Other findings from the study include:
- Among those with life insurance, about one in five say that they do not have enough.
- Half of all adults visited a life company website and/or sought life insurance information online in 2018. Almost one in three purchased or attempted to purchase life insurance online—about the same as in 2017.
- Consumers overestimate the cost of life insurance, especially younger generations.
- Forty-four percent of Millennials overestimate the cost at five times the actual amount.
- Half of all consumers say they are more likely to purchase life insurance if priced without a physical examination.
In the life cycle of a life insurance application that becomes a life insurance policy there are many moving parts that are involved and among those are the relationships between the advisors, brokerage general agencies (BGAs) and life insurance carriers.
The conception of a life insurance application begins with the advisor/agent. Whether it be existing clients, referrals, cold calling, attending seminars or any other networking event, it all begins here. Many objectives of the life insurance carrier are aimed to enhance the overall consumer experience by limiting exams and labs for certain ages and death benefit amounts. This simplifies the advisor’s responsibilities and will likely speed up the process. The options that an advisor should consider when choosing a BGA are accessibility to a wide array of life insurance carriers and products, a staff with expertise in product/case design, case management, underwriting, competitive compensation and exceptional service.
With the technological advances that now exist you don’t have to leave the comfort of your desk or office. By utilizing email, phone, skype and instant messaging, these relationships can grow deeper and the communications more frequent.
It should be a priority for the BGA to help advisors foster their relationships with clients and assist in cultivating new business opportunities. A BGA can be a local, regional or national office. From Philadelphia to Des Moines, Austin to San Francisco, there are many offices across the United States looking to earn your business. The lifeline of the BGA are its advisors. It’s why they are in business and what keeps them in business. Not all advisors sell just life insurance. Some of the producers I have encountered either sell property and casualty insurance or health insurance and supplement their income by selling life insurance if a client has a need and they inquire. Since life insurance is more personal, in these instances BGA’s are trying to make the application process simple, quick and not as invasive so that the advisor can focus on his/her primary product line. With this came the inception of “drop tickets,” an abbreviated application process that usually requires the advisor to only submit basic information about the client. Then either the insurance carrier will call and complete the full application with the client via a phone interview or outsource that responsibility to a third-party provider. The advisor might ask, “How does this affect my commissions?” Many of the carriers don’t restrict or limit payment for this process, so why not get paid the same for less effort? The BGA’s are at the forefront of making these plans available to their advisors, via their sales team, company website, newsletters, emails or web-based education and training opportunities.
The Life Insurance Carrier:
As important as the agent relationship is to the BGA, the BGA relationship is for the life insurance carrier. Knowing that the BGA has many options, insurance carriers are developing new products and product features, simplified underwriting programs and an even simpler application process. One of the traits a carrier can have to help improve BGA productivity, which in turn translates to a better experience for the advisor and their client, is “proactivity” or “proactive behavior.” This term is used loosely, but in its true definition means: Proactive behavior involves acting in advance of a future situation, rather than just reacting. It means taking control and making things happen rather than just adjusting to a situation or waiting for something to happen. Proactive employees generally do not need to be asked to act, nor do they require detailed instructions.3
Many carriers place quotas on their sales teams by making them produce a certain number of outbound calls per day. I have always been a firm believer that making outbound calls just for the sake of saying, “Our employees are proactive and not reactive” does not bring value. There are many opportunities for the BGA and insurance carrier to be proactive, which in turn brings value to the end consumer.
Let’s take a look at a few examples. Ask yourself, “Does my BGA or insurance carrier do this for me?” If they don’t, find one that will…
- Act as a resource and an advocate for agents and for their business. As their resource, whether it be sales or operational, this includes, but is not limited to, case design, new business, underwriting, licensing and commissions. This also opens the door for you to make a brief introduction of the offerings, strengths and advantages your company provides.
- The case design specialist in the office should not be an “order taker” when it comes to running or illustrating quotes. There may be times that running a generic term life quote will not require a long discussion, but at other times it requires a conversation with the advisor or the advisor’s staff, asking what they are trying to accomplish to allow the advisor to best position the client achieve their financial goals. Having this talk will also show that you are working in the client’s best interest to earn their trust while building rapport.
- Do they thank you for an application? It may be an agent’s first application with the company, a large case application, or it’s for one of their longstanding, most important clients. This again shows interest in their business and reassures them that their business does matter. In addition, it also confirms receipt of their application and that the underwriting process has begun.
- Underwriting. Helping to field underwrite a prospective client can accurately set your client’s expectations. Keeping the lines of communication open with your underwriting team is vital—from the cover letter to the offer of coverage.
- Advisors and BGAs work with many different carriers and have plenty of options at their disposal. Reminders of new product introductions, product and rider features, education and training, ease of doing business alternatives, case design assistance, sales ideas, competitive intelligence and underwriting “sweet spots” are all opportunities to reach out to your customer. Don’t be shy, because they will be hearing from your competitors.
- Placed cases/inforce business. A sincere “Thank You” for their business. Phone calls, emails, traditional letters or handwritten notes show appreciation for an advisor’s business. They entrusted you with their clients and that needs to be recognized.
In closing, I have found these traits beneficial, having served in many different capacities as a carrier representative and as I currently serve as a case design specialist for a BGA office with proven success working with top level advisors. Here’s hoping the remainder of 2019 brings you nothing but success. Best Wishes!