For generations, insurance selling was face-to-face, live and in-person. Clad in professional attire, agents would walk up to prospective clients' front doors, knock, and identify the insurance needs of those there to greet them.
That was then. Now — and for much of the previous decade — selling and buying insurance is predominantly a digital business. From identifying leads to consulting virtually with current and potential clientele, effectively connecting with customers quite literally requires a network connection.
While the internet access element isn't a problem — approximately 9 in 10 Americans use the internet on at least a semi-regular basis, according to polling conducted by the Pew Research Center — it may be an awkward medium for those who are accustomed to the traditional, in-person channel. Even for those who grew up in the digital era and are relatively new to the industry, selling insurance electronically doesn't always come naturally.
It raises the question: How should you respond to the new normal for insurance selling and shopping so you can be successful?
COVID expedited Americans' digital transition
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, leveraging the internet for insurance research and quote identification was fairly routine. Over the years, organizations like the Insurance Research Council and National Association of Insurance Commissioners have cataloged the uninterrupted growth in insurance shopping via digital means — and across the spectrum of product lines. But even in this climate, a fairly sizable portion of shoppers bought in-person — 44%, in fact, according to a survey conducted jointly by the Boston Consulting Group and LIMRA.
During the crisis itself, in-person life insurance buying fell substantially, to 32%, the poll showed. In its place, serious life insurance buyers adopted a hybrid method: consulting with a financial professional in addition to leveraging the internet. Indeed, 38% of respondents took advantage of this combination, up from 28% prior to the pandemic.
Rob Sims, managing director and partner at Boston Consulting Group, noted that part of what made this possible was the foresight of life insurers, in that they anticipated the shift and made the appropriate investments.
"When the United States shut down to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, life insurers accelerated their adoption of digital technologies to allow consumers to continue to purchase life insurance while adhering to social distancing guidelines," Sims said. "Earlier this year, LIMRA research revealed carriers expanded their accelerated and automated underwriting, expedited use of e-signatures and delivering digital policies, and encouraged video conferencing for customer meetings. All of these changes streamlined the process for consumers to buy life insurance."
Since life insurance buying and selling has been an in-person institution for so long, one might think that the social distancing measures would detract from agents' ability to turn leads into customers. But it's actually increased, suggesting that the digital shift is here to stay. A separate survey also from LIMRA revealed that since social distancing requirements were imposed, 54% of advisors are selling to existing customers at a faster clip than they were before.
Not only that, but more young people — far and away the most frequent online users — are shopping for life insurance to a greater degree in a post-COVID-19 world than they were previously, CNBC reported.
New clients are harder to identify
The surge in life insurance buying hasn't come without some obstacles, however. For example, while more than half of advisors have seen a higher proportion of sales activity derive from current clients, only 17% said the growth in buying came from new clients.
Identifying and marketing to new clients can be particularly difficult for agents who are accustomed to the in-person model. The solution may be to lean into digital even more and learn from how others have successfully adjusted, said Kevin Mayeux, CEO at the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.
"While traditionally, our industry has relied on the face-to-face model to help Americans address their financial concerns, the silver lining in all this is we are seeing advisors adapting and leveraging digital platforms to stay engaged with their clients."
In response to how more clients are buying, here are a few ways you can improve your marketing and lead generation moving forward.
1. Take advantage of online training materials
If you work for a carrier or are affiliated with one, it's highly likely they have training opportunities that will provide tips on how to maximize technology within the context of selling insurance and advising clients. Those that have leveraged these resources have found them very helpful. In the originally referenced LIMRA study, 70% of advisors said they found webinars on business management valuable. More than 1 in 4 found them to be "very valuable." Roughly the same share of respondents — 67% — declared webinars on best practices for working with clients to be valuable as well.
2. Dive deep into data
Decisions are largely based on data, and if there is anything that there's plenty of today, it's data, in a variety of forms. As Accenture suggests, data-driven insight can help cultivate active clients. The more detailed information is, the greater its value in terms of recognizing the products and services clients most want.
To truly thrive in the selling-at-a-distance environment, agents need to perform some self-reflection into what they do well in this new environment and where they could do better. Once this is established, Accenture recommends brainstorming on how to best go about attracting new prospects digitally, how to maintain a connection with clients and how to convert more leads into sales. Maintaining a relationship is critical to client retention.
Selling insurance successfully online is also about finding the solutions customers want. Global Financial Distributors provides premium financing solutions for life insurance clients. Contact us online or call a GFD financial services representative today to learn more about this powerful method for funding life insurance policies.