This past year has certainly been unlike any other, with so many of us seeing our “normal” ways of life upended. For many financial professionals, the biggest change—and challenge—might very well be the inability to meet with clients in person. These valuable in-person client meetings needed to be quickly moved to online video chats. And whether we like it or not, the virtual sales process has fast become the new norm.
Navigating this new virtual sales process can be tricky for even the most technologically savvy of us. Beyond making sure your audio and video are working properly, there are additional rules and procedures you’ll need to follow to make sure your business can succeed online.
Despite some challenges, there is no doubt that putting your head in the sand and trying to wait this out until some semblance of normalcy returns is simply not an option. While so much of our lives continues to be upended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the needs of the clients don’t stop. In fact, a recent Allianz Life study, found that 72 percent of Americans say the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are making them rethink how to protect their retirement savings from volatility. That’s a significant opportunity for financial professionals to rise to the technology occasion, meet with clients virtually and help them determine a strategy for protecting their retirement savings from market risks.
If you’ve moved your business online, or are gearing up for additional virtual sales meetings, here are some best practices for conducting your sales process online.
Do your homework
Before you can start meeting with clients online, you’ll want to check in with specific carriers on any policies and procedures you’ll need to adhere to during the virtual sales process and if there are any limitations to what sales can be conducted virtually. With Allianz, for example, the majority of fixed index annuity (FIA), life insurance and variable annuity (VA) sales can be done online. For VA sales, be sure to also follow the requirements of your broker/dealer (B/D) or registered investment advisor (RIA).
You’ll also need to research a preferred virtual platform to use, and get trained to help ensure you’re up to speed on how to properly use the tool. Your field marketing organization, B/D or RIA may have preferred tools or even requirements for which tools to use.
Lights, camera, action!
Now that you know what you’ll cover and how you’ll connect with clients, you’re ready to conduct your first virtual meeting. As you get ready to meet online you’ll want to consider some of the things that will impact how you’ll show up on screen. Consider your attire, lighting and even camera angle to make sure you appear well on camera.
With the visuals all set, make sure your audio connection is ready to go. One thing to keep in mind is the mute button. Turn it off for the start of the meeting and, if you’re planning to utilize this feature during the call, keep an eye on it so you don’t start talking while you’re still muted. As the meeting host you can also mute other participants during the meeting to cut back on echo or background noise.
Before scheduling the meeting it’s helpful to create an agenda and think through your objectives. This will help provide structure and guidance to this new style of meeting. Before you start, be sure to pull up the agenda or any other documents you plan to share during the meeting so you aren’t having to search for them while on the call.
During the meeting
There are a few to-do items that are recommended for virtual sales procedures. First, you will need to visually see the client on screen and validate their identity by having them show you a valid, legible and unexpired government-issued picture identification.
You’ll also need to find out if the client is calling you from their state of residence. If not it may be considered a nonresident sale, and in that case you may be beholden to a carrier’s nonresident sale procedures.
As you conduct your meeting keep in mind the carrier and state-specific requirements for conducting virtual meetings that you had brushed up on previously.
Of course during the meeting you won’t have as many personal cues from the clients as you would during a face-to-face meeting, so be sure to check in frequently with attendees and ask if there are any questions. Allow ample time for response so clients can unmute themselves and ask their questions.
Once you have run through your agenda items you’ll want to formally close out the meeting and disconnect so the meeting platform doesn’t continue to run.
After your meeting go ahead and send out any follow-up items you discussed with the client and clearly state any required next steps or action items required of the client.
Benefits of virtual sales
While making the move toward conducting business online can seem overwhelming, there are a number of benefits for both you and your clients. First and foremost is protecting the health and safety of both you and your clients in an uncertain time.
Another benefit of moving to virtual meetings is flexibility. You can meet with clients from anywhere, and this added flexibility likely means more options for meeting times both for you and the client. This can also mean cost savings for you—no more driving to and from meetings—and you can also reduce expenses associated with a brick-and-mortar office location.
This added flexibility means you can also meet with clients located anywhere—you no longer need to seek out clients in your geographical area. It also opens up a big opportunity to reach underserved communities that may not have been as accessible previously.
Virtual meetings also allow you to meet more regularly with your clients. Having this additional access can help improve communication and deepen trust between clients and financial professionals. It also enables clients to have access to documents and files right at home and allows clients to include a spouse, partner or adult children in meetings more easily.
Adjusting to a virtual world
Conducting virtual sales meetings may feel strange at first, but beyond all the ways the pandemic has influenced our day-to-day lives, the fact is that many aspects of our business are moving online. So many businesses have made huge advances in the technology and mindset required to conduct business online. Many carriers have online application processes, like the Allianz ApplyNow feature, which allows financial professionals to complete the application process completely online—including client e-signatures. Once the application is submitted, contract e-delivery allows you to receive documents online, helping clients receive their contracts more efficiently and you to close the sale quicker.
While the current health and economic crises are bringing about many challenges, the good news is that it’s forcing many of us to think differently and get outside of traditional ways of getting things done—often resulting in more efficient business procedures.
Whether you’ve been conducting virtual sales for some time, or if you’re ready to get started now, following these best practices will help you prepare to meet client needs and help them address risk within their retirement portfolio.
Annuity guarantees are backed by the issuing insurance company. Variable annuity guarantees do not apply to the performance of the variable subaccounts, which will fluctuate with market conditions. Some guarantees are provided through built-in or optional riders that may be available at an additional cost.
Products are issued by Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America and variable products are distributed by its affiliate, Allianz Life Financial Services, LLC, member FINRA, 5701 Golden Hills Drive, Minneapolis, MN 55416-1297.