As insurance and financial professionals, it is important for us to advocate on behalf of our clients and communities. Laws and regulations have a profound impact on the financial success of the families and businesses we serve. Advocating for policies that help us help our clients is a crucial part of working in their best interests, just like recommending the right products and services.
Now that it is August, we have a great opportunity to amplify our profession’s grassroots advocacy voice and help build meaningful relationships with members of Congress. Our senators and representatives will spend much of this month on their annual legislative recess, also known as their “state work period.” It is when they return to their home districts and spend time meeting with local constituents.
Why meet with lawmakers in-district?
The common phrase, “All politics is local,” is true. When you meet your representative in-district, they recognize that you are a constituent, not just someone up on Capitol Hill walking in as a lobbyist. They understand that you are there to discuss matters that impact your clients, friends and neighbors, all of whom are also their local constituents.
Another important factor is that in-district meetings tend to be more relaxed than those on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers won’t be interrupted by committee meetings, legislative votes and other types of Hill business. They are home specifically for the purpose of meeting with people like us — the voters they serve. The district offices are less hectic. You may get more face-to-face time with your senator or representative, which is important for building relationships.
In fact, on two occasions recently I went to meet with a lawmaker in our home district, and he said, “Let’s go grab a cup of coffee.” So we were able to discuss issues important to my clients and his constituents in a comfortable and informal setting. Meetings on that type of personal level are more meaningful and often have a greater impact. That’s when lawmakers start to see you not only as a constituent, but as someone they can rely on for advice and counsel. It becomes a much more personal relationship when you can do these things in-district.
Relationship-building is key
Meeting in-district is vital to building relationships, which in turn is important for increasing our influence. If you have met with a lawmaker in Washington, such as during NAIFA’s Congressional Conference or National Leadership Conference, meeting again during the recess shows you’re not just there for one day and that you’re building a relationship based on an ongoing concern for what we do for their constituents.
And building that relationship is vital. It’s sort of like building a relationship with a client. They may not get the message the first time or the second time. But the third or fourth time you communicate with a lawmaker in a friendly way, they start to appreciate what you’re talking about. I am a firm believer in driving our advocacy message home through repetition. Also, like working with our clients, it may take some time and repeated encounters to build up trust and comfort.
Take advantage of this opportunity
Meeting with your lawmaker in the district is easy. It might require just a short drive to the district office. NAIFA is helping agents and advisors set up in-district meetings during this recess and we have a goal of scheduling more than 300 in August. You can find more details on the NAIFA website, www.naifa.org.
For the sake of your business and for the sake of your clients, I encourage every financial professional to take advantage of this once-a-year opportunity. Our influence is crucial to the financial success of the families and businesses we serve, and there is no time like now to make our voices heard.