Insurers constantly strive to position their products and services competitively so that they can attract and retain more producers than their competitors do. One way insurers do this is by controlling rates and commissions to drive demand, but in today's market, they cannot rely solely on this strategy. Insurance companies must augment their product offerings with services that increase producers' productivity and hence deepen producers' loyalty. Insurers that demonstrate that they can help producers make more money can differentiate themselves from the competition.
Distributors want to do business with the best insurance companies, which producers define as the ones that are easy to work with and can facilitate first-rate services to their shared customers. Although insurers are actively engaged in projects that focus on ease of use and agent connectivityand these projects are unquestionably importantefficiency will quickly become just a way of doing business, not a key differentiator. To create long-term competitive advantage, insurance companies must incorporate value-added sales services to these efforts.
The traditional high-touch delivery model of advanced insurance sales support is a high-value benefit, but it is costly to insurers because of the overhead expenses associated with it. Often, advanced sales markets are supported by regional field directors and call centers that offer consultations, seminars and point-of-sale assistance. Technology can lower the expense embedded in this high-touch model by streamlining support for a one-to-many distribution structure that is adaptable and repeatable.
One way insurers can extend this model is by capitalizing on their experience in creating producer portals. Most insurers have successfully launched a self-service portal to address service productivity. However, few have taken steps to develop these portals fully for sales and marketing support. Insurers that do so can make the most of their existing investments in portal capabilities and develop enhancements that focus on increasing sales.
For example, insurers can offer self-service marketing options with which producers can service themselves in campaign development, collateral preparation and execution. A complete campaign package may include presentations, prospecting letters, producer guides, seminar invitations, sales scripts and sales ideas. Producers could elect to have customer materials mailed directly to their clients or prospects via a preferred print vendor, or have them sent electronically. Insurers may offer this service free of charge or at a cost. Once the service is in place, insurers can link prospect data to customer relationship management or agency management systems for tracking and reporting purposes. In this structure, the insurer maintains control over the content and the results.
Another consideration is Web-based learning tools that facilitate the push of sales material directly to producers in a way that is timely and consistent across channels. Insurance companies can deliver rich media content directly to the producer's desktop or via the portal and track when a producer views it for follow-up activities. For example, insurers can send an audiovisual presentation about company news, product enhancements or sales ideas via e-mail to select producers or broadcast it to several of them. A broadcast could include rate or performance information that is generic to all producers or tailored to the top tier with targeted messages on how to leverage the new information with their clients. Advanced sales professionals could then limit follow-up activity to only those producers who express interest as opposed to cold-calling unresponsive prospects and wasting valuable time. This approach is an economical way to reach multiple audiences with actionable information.
Advanced sales support that improves producers' productivity is a key area where insurers can make a difference in their interactions with producers. It is important for insurers to understand how technology can improve the delivery of sales and marketing services and increase its value at a lesser cost, while gaining more control over the activity. With limited resources in sales and marketing, insurers can augment their reach with technology and reinforce the effectiveness of their efforts to improve their distribution profits.
This article is based on TowerGroup research by Cynthia Saccocia, a research director in the insurance practice at TowerGroup, a leading advisory research and consulting firm focused on the global financial services industry. Ms. Saccocia can be reached at [email protected].