On average, technology is changing the way advisors do business. Keeping abreast of that change can be a challenge, but keeping up has its rewards: Not only can technology make your practice more profitable and attractive to your customers, it will also make things more attractive to investors or potential buyers when your time comes to exit the business.
Even if you like technology, keeping on top of changes or finding the right investment can be a daunting task. Fortunately, there are ways to break down and simplify the planning exercise. Self-discovery, a little bit of self-discipline and a willingness to network will also help the process.
Rocco Pelosi, FindBob’s Vice President of Sales first suggests advisors or agents carve out dedicated time each week to stay educated, to join LinkedIn groups or other peer networks which follow insurance technology developments and to evaluate options.
When the time comes to actually implement the use of new technology, that time can also be
committed to training and understanding how the new tool works.
“An agent can truly get lost in the sea of options that are on the market today,” he says. “Really stay disciplined in managing the time you have invested.”
To understand where your time and money should be invested, a hard look at what you enjoy doing and what you want to accomplish is a necessary first step. Have a look at each step a client goes through on the path to becoming a paid up policy holder. Examine each administrative aspect of your business as well.
Goals or practice-specific challenges can include getting new prospects, converting more business, recruiting new agents to the practice, or making existing processes more efficient.
During your self-evaluation, it’s also necessary to look at your overall budget for the year and decide how much should be earmarked for new technology investment. You should also consider how much time you have available to onboard a new platform.
Examining your options
There are other ways to spend your technology budget, but having a web presence and a connected Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software you’ll use are two essential places to start.
“CRM is the biggest opportunity,” agrees Bill Walasek, FindBob’s Vice President of Channels and Alliances. “It’s at the core of everything. That’s where you start your day.” He adds that most CRM programs being used by advisors are able to connect directly to carriers as well, making other processes more efficient.
The internet meanwhile, is today’s storefront. Having a website and a LinkedIn profile are basic
requirements needed to reach clients interested in what you have to offer. A description of the products
you sell, testimonials, case studies and other pieces of “evidence” are also needed, particularly to reach younger consumers.
“The millennial market is probably the largest segment of buyers today. If you don’t have a presence online, millennials will silently decline you,” Pelosi says. “They’re searching for you. If they can’t find you online, review you online and interact with you online, they’re going to find someone else who will.”
Having an online presence which captures a prospect’s information may be another area of growing importance to someone who is interested in setting up more new client meetings. Examples include online quoting or financial planning self-analysis tools which capture a would-be client’s contact information. Offering an e-book to prospects can be another way to collect this information.
In evaluating your business, you might discover that efficiently getting client information to carriers is a challenge worth addressing. (When working in distribution, Walasek once found that customer data was touched 47 times during the sales process. “When data is handled manually it gets clouded. It can get to the point where it’s not in good order anymore.”)
If this is the case, embracing relatively new carrier e-applications is another good place to start. Want to recruit new agents to your practice? Quoting and illustration software may be the next aspect of your business to upgrade.
No matter which area of your business you decide to focus on, Pelosi and Walasek both say an agent’s own MGA is a good place to start looking for assistance in evaluating vendors and platforms.
“Most MGAs have systems in place for their advisors and agents to use. They’ve been vetted, and a lot of times they’re free or highly discounted,” Pelosi says. “But I would not stop there. Find out who the successful producers are within your firm and reach out to them.”
“It’s a close community,” Walasek agrees. “Pick up the phone and talk to your friends to find out what they’re doing to solve those issues. Associations like CAILBA (Canadian Association of Independent Life Brokerage Agencies) also have some pretty robust resources. They can tell you what different vendors do and what’s out there.”
When talking to vendors too, he says agents should press to find out what return on investment they can expect and always ask for referrals.
“Eventually you need to have a conversation with each vendor. Always go out there and ask for referrals. Find someone who has used the platform.”
Moving the needle – technologies to consider
- CRM – Customer Relationship Management, scheduling, marketing automation, carrier connectivity
- Online Presence
- Your website – does it include product descriptions, reviews, and testimonials from your happy clients?
- What collateral (ebooks, surveys, self-evaluation tools) do you offer? Do your prospects give you their contact information to access these products? Do you have an automatic follow-up routine for working with these prospects?
- Your LinkedIn profile – do you interact online, post updates and collect testimonials?
- Quoting and illustration software
- e-Applications – how are you getting information to carriers? Is that information generally in good order?
- Is your own accounting in good order?
Self-discovery, a checklist
What is your focus? Would you like to:
- Generate new business?
- Convert more prospects?
- Make existing processes more efficient? Which processes?
- Recruit new agents to your practice?
What is your budget?
How much time do you have available to implement a new technology?
What parts of the business do you enjoy?
If you were to leave the business tomorrow, what value would be lost? What prevents your business from being a turn-key operation?