Imagine going back to early March of last year and talking to the 2020 you about the year you were about to have.
What would you say to yourself? Would either of you believe what you were saying? What would you talk about first? Would it be the highlights or the lowlights?
For some agents and advisors, the year 2020 was the struggle of their lives. As restrictions closed or limited traditional methods of prospecting and selling, the practices of conducting dinner seminars or sending postcards to get kitchen table leads became extremely difficult, if not impossible.
Although there is no clear data to show the level of attrition, we all have heard stories of agents dropping out of the business rather than overhauling their approach and operation, such as adopting and using the tech they need to make it these days.
And, hey, I understand. I’m a baby boomer. I remember when faxes and telexes were leading-edge tech, and to use a PC you first had to slide a floppy disc in it to load the operating system every time you used the computer. Now we have platforms to work with and smartphones that do, well, everything.
So I can understand what it’s like to constantly learn something new just to keep up. As soon as you become accustomed to Zoom, they move, add or subtract something that you just learned to use. Then there are Teams, GoToMeeting, Slack and an inexhaustible list of what’s next.
It is not just tech that is changing for agents and advisors. The whole approach to selling life insurance and annuities is changing profoundly.
Putting The Whole Into Life
Many of those lowlight-focused advisors might lament about the shift toward a more holistic practice, along with the loss of favorite products as carriers deemphasized some of the features that prospects liked. A substantial change to products is the reduction or loss of guaranteed minimums. Now we have “less capital-intensive” products that are easier on the reserves because they are lighter on the guarantees.
The feature article in this month’s magazine shines the light on advisors who are more likely to tell their 2020 selves about the adventurous year they had with experiencing exciting challenges and seeing the industry react in positive ways to the lockdown. They were enthusiastic about trying something new, whether it was different technology or a new way to reach people. They were happy to see carriers scramble to simplify underwriting and offer digital tools. They were likely to give value without expecting a measurable return on investment, by efforts such as starting a support network for small businesses.
One of the advisors in the feature is Meredith Moore, a New York Life agent who considers herself a financial planner first. Because life insurance is only one of the tools at her disposal, insurance makes up 25% of her income. When COVID-19 hit, the conditions dragged on her insurance sales, but she was also busy doing whatever she could to help individuals and businesses in the Atlanta area. When this pandemic is over, she will be remembered for her outreach and not for how she tried to sell a particular product.
This example is not to bash insurance-only people. Those agents can also have client-centered practices, but that is difficult to do if they are selling only one or two products to every prospect. That approach becomes even more difficult when carriers change products dramatically and regulators scrutinize sales practices.
When I started with InsuranceNewsNet in 2008, I was surprised by insurance agents. I certainly had absorbed many of the stereotypes about agents over my life, especially that they’re about nothing but selling life insurance.
Instead, I ran into many people who really cared about their clients. That was obvious by the way they talked about their clients, particularly after they delivered their first death benefit check. Often, that experience converts salespeople into insurance evangelists, leading them on a mission to save families. Now, it’s often the company that sends the money, bypassing the agent.
I see the same compassion for clients in these new advisors. They describe themselves more like financial healers because they know money means more than dollars to people; it reflects their values. Or at least it should in a healthy relationship to money.
Looking Forward, Then Back
So, what would the 2022 version of you say to the 2021 you? Would it be that you were able to survive 2021 by waiting for things to return to normal? That is not even possible. 2019 is not waiting on the other side of 2021.
The pandemic has changed our lives and this business forever. Tech is not going to get less complex — and it certainly is not going away. There will probably be a day soon when an agent will ask someone to fax something and the other person will not even know what that means.
Most likely, future you will be telling current you about an existence you could not even imagine, much like March 2020 you would be baffled by March 2021 you.
There will be no waiting for the dust to settle and for all of us to get back to business. Business is happening now. People need help now. Let’s make 2022 you proud.