Nearly 10,000 baby boomers (76.4 million people born between 1946 and 1964) are retiring every day in the United States, and this will continue for the next 14 years. About 65,000 of those who are retiring each year are currently employed in the insurance industry.
What does this have to do with selling insurance?
Among the thousands of boomers who are retiring over the next several years are business owners (including those who own insurance agencies) and insurance agents. These businesses will be sold, turned over to family members or merged with other businesses. This means those long-term relationships between thousands of business owners and their insurance agents are going to be broken and new relationships will have to be developed.
We learn in the National Alliance Dynamics of Selling program that the most powerful card in the sales “deck” is the relationship card. Relationships trump coverage, price and service. There are prospects that are absolutely not going to buy from you at any price because of their relationship with the incumbent agent. This is one of the reasons that more than 90% of commercial accounts renew with the incumbent agent. Another important consideration is the ease of doing business. The easiest thing prospects can do at renewal time is to stay where they are. No muss, no fuss; write a check and we’re done!
This spells O-P-P-O-R-T-U-N-I-T-Y to younger insurance agents who are building their books of business and to agencies that want to capitalize on this opportunity by recruiting new producers.
How can we know when these changes are going to happen so we can become the “go to” insurance agent when an insurance relationship is broken, either because the business owner retires, or the insurance agent retires?
Here are six tips to help you stay ahead of the changes and maximize any openings.
- Develop and maintain relationships with the help of a CRM. Knowing in advance that changes are in the works and having already established relationships with key players can put you in the right place at the right time. A Customer Relationship Program (CRM) can help you manage information and remind you to stay connected with prospects so you can act when opportunities arise.
- Use social media like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Social media can help you stay on top of developments in your marketing territory in real time. You can learn of changes in ownership or management long before the information reaches traditional media. This can give you an important jump on your competition.
- Join trade associations. Actively participating in trade associations makes it possible to prospect “from the inside.” Typically, associate members enjoy all the benefits of regular membership except possibly holding office and voting. This gives you access to membership rosters, trade publications, and the like. You can even exhibit at trade shows.
- Ask your current customers to help you. Your current customers can be great sources of information and referrals. Databases like ReferenceUSA.com make it easy to identify their competitors and neighboring businesses so you can pinpoint accounts you really want. Also, ask about your customers’ suppliers and their customers.
- Develop centers of influence. Identify those people you already know who are in positions of leadership or have influence in your marketing territory. Examples are business brokers, realtors, civic leaders, accountants and attorneys. These are people who know when businesses are going to change hands before it’s common knowledge.
- Get face to face with prospects. There’s no substitute for personal contact with prospects. No e-mail or letter can compete with a physical visit to a business. Once commonplace, there are few agents willing to take the time to drop in on a prospect. Those who do are generally received very favorably. Even if the owner is unavailable, the information that can be gleaned from a receptionist or office manager can be invaluable.
Many of those desirable accounts in your marketing territory that have in the past been virtually unattainable because of unbreakable relationships are going to move over the next few years. You may not make the sale this year or even next year, but if you take the time to research these opportunities and cultivate relationships, the payoff can be great.
Kenneth L. Fields, CIC, CPCU, CLU, is an Assistant Vice President of Sales Development with The State Auto Insurance Companies. He is also on the national faculty for the National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research.