It’s flu season again. Or was that autumn? Either way, you’ve been feeling off for a while now. Time to look up some advice about vaccines, vitamins, and healthy habits. But what happens when this run-down, not-quite-yourself feeling isn’t limited to a single season? What can you do when none of the precautions you’ve taken have been able to prevent the inevitable? If you’re in the insurance market – any insurance market – you’ve probably asked these questions of yourself or your board.
Whether your company offers health, life, auto, or home insurance, each new quarter can bring new ills. Low market expansion, fierce competition, and new legislation can weaken the immune systems of even the most established players, making them prone to what analysts and journalists call “bad years.” Such years come with few new policies, lots of claims, and multiple legislation changes that can impact how and to whom your company sells its products. Add on the fact that insurance products have become increasingly difficult to differentiate, and it’s no wonder that the road to recovery is getting harder and harder to find.
While recent years have witnessed an increase in profitability, especially within the healthcare domain, insurance rates at the end of 2016 were entering their 15th consecutive quarter of decline, according to a Marsh report. That doesn’t necessarily imply a bad year, but it does mean that fewer clients will be likely to increase coverage in the near future. When the biggest difference between your policy and the competition’s is the mascot on the front page, your agents have a tough challenge ahead of them – one that not even Flo from Progressive or Jake from State Farm can tackle on their own.
In order to relieve these common symptoms, it’s important to understand the different types of channels that insurance companies use and eventually compete in. With omni-channel the new norm, companies are continually piecing together different types of data in order to reach customers across multiple touchpoints. For instance, McKinsey & Company shares the example of a bank that increased its product sales by more than 25 percent in six months through omni-channel use.
To stay competitive in such an environment, it’s necessary to implement top-notch distribution management processes that allow your insurance company to manage all distribution channels effectively while also expanding into new markets and exploring new possibilities. Such processes can even help you maximize upselling and cross-selling potential as well as adjust sales compensation plans to fulfill new requests from supervisors.
Still, while maximizing potential via distribution management provides real benefits, is it enough to protect you? Will it propel you ahead of your competition and block their advance? Will it help you adapt quickly to legislation changes?
The answer is that it will – as long as you also develop your sales enablement capabilities. Sales enablement equips your agents and brokers with the necessary tools to accelerate the deal. Enabling your team can take multiple forms, from streamlining your sales processes to optimizing your content’s format, delivery, and accessibility. But several of these methods are particularly useful for companies that are trying to push through a bad year.
1. Fortify Your Training Program
Training and coaching may not come immediately to mind when you’re thinking about how to protect your business, but they’re invaluable for your distribution channels. Creating efficient, skills-oriented programs can accelerate onboarding procedures, increase the satisfaction of your current producers, and provide support and resources during the implementation of meaningful changes to your company’s strategy.
Everything from new acquisitions to mergers can be communicated to the agents and brokers who rely on this type of input. There’s nothing more effective for stopping the spread of false rumors than a constant supply of information from official, trustworthy sources. A steady stream of info negates the need for agents to seek information elsewhere, thus nullifying hearsay and unsubstantiated stories.
2. Protect Your Best Talent
Good producers are your best defense against bad years: they keep your profits safe and can help you prevent future financial issues. But how do you attract them? A competitive commission program and bonus system are a must, but don’t neglect the sales enablement techniques that can help agents succeed. Individual performance must be measured on the metrics that matter most to sales rather than being assessed within the context of specific, company-wide objectives.
The new business your producers close and the customers they retain – whether regular policy sales or more complex contracts – can hold more importance to them than a five-year sales projection. It’s critical to remember that your agents, be they captive or independent, are much more than names on a list. Valuing their priorities will go a long way toward solidifying your relationship with them and winning their loyalty.
3. Prevent Future Compliance Issues
In an increasingly competitive market, the closest thing you can get to a prevention program is legal compliance. You may feel that investing in compliance is too much – especially when other problems are higher on your daily priority list – but keep your eyes on the prize, because you‘ll definitely feel the benefits of that initiative in the future. Understanding local legislation is vital for your producers, whether they’re validating licenses or providing self-service and legal references to distributors.
4. Get Old Vulnerabilities Treated while Strengthening Your Budget
Some carriers still depend on multiple platforms and processes to manage commissions and bonuses – and they’re often outdated and inadequate for their purpose. These may include anything from the overuse of spreadsheets to the utilization of traditional policy administration systems. When the market was dominated by just a few key players, these solutions might have been enough for a company’s needs. But today’s competitive landscape requires the insight of tomorrow. Any technology that risks slowing your sales process makes you vulnerable, so you need an accessible way of administering your distribution channels, along with cross-channel, fully mobile sales enablement. You need a single, secure platform.
A comprehensive, robust platform helps you keep your costs in check, reduce distribution management costs, and reclaim valuable resources. It also makes it easier to manage onboarding, licensing, and appointments, ensure timely and accurate commission and bonus payments, provide clear and insightful reports and analytics, and speed the process of dispute investigation and resolution.
Furthermore, using distribution management along with sales enablement strategies like content optimization and cross-channel distribution will save you time and money. An optimized platform automates time-consuming tasks, helping you manage everything from daily appointments to license distribution, agency contracts, and compliance documents.
Sure, you can take a few steps toward overcoming vulnerabilities without additional resources or people. However, a new distribution management system – along with a healthy, regular dose of sales enablement – has the potential and the power to get your agents in top shape. Simply go to the nearest financial doctor’s office and tell him you need something for the flu. You don’t have to be specific. He’ll take one look at your reports and instantly know you’re in the insurance business!
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