In a year of disorientation and unpredictability, for an independent financial services professional in the indexed annuity and life insurance industry, the level of uncertainty about the next lead or even the next sale was never higher in the past 30 years than it was in 2020. We all faced that reality. That goes without saying.
So in these difficult past nine months, what was your plan? What did your practice do to adapt to the challenges that COVID–19 brought you? Perhaps you learned some things and have some good answers you are proud of.
But isn’t this the more important question: Who was it that you were able to lean on and look to during these challenging times, when maybe you were wondering how you were going to get in front of the next prospect, close the next piece of business or ultimately get paid in order to keep the finances of both your practice and your household in good shape?
Some say that their RIA or broker/dealer helped them. Some say that certain annuity carriers were godsends in the ways they lent producers money, advanced their commissions, etc. Unfortunately, very few have said that their IMOs stepped up and provided proactive solutions to help them keep their businesses afloat. A common mantra among the indexed annuity industry is that all IMOs are the same. In 2020, however, that was completely untrue as one IMO demonstrated how being a family-owned, nimble organization has major advantages when compared with bureaucratic, multibillion dollar groups in the midst of a pandemic: M&O Marketing.
Proactive Prospecting Through A Pandemic
When the pandemic hit America full force in mid-March, producers were receiving calls from venues and restaurants that their events were being canceled because of government lockdown orders. Consumers were canceling in-person appointments that producers paid for and worked hard to get. “How am I going to do business if I can’t meet people face to face?”
Within the very first week of the pandemic, M&O Marketing had every single one of its producers converted to work on virtual platforms. In-person workshop events were rescheduled to webinars, using social media as a driver for prospect attendance. Whereas many organizations spiff off the advertising spend, M&O does everything at cost and for free for its advisors. Seeing the stock market tumble upon news of hospitals being filled to capacity, prospects attended many of M&O’s producers’ virtual events to learn about CARES Act-related strategies on how to protect their life savings.
“Having never done a virtual presentation, I went over my presentation a thousand times. It sounds too good to be true, but I picked up over $1 million in new assets from my very first virtual event,” says Mike T. in Cary, North Carolina. “M&O helped my business tremendously during a time when other advisors were struggling to stay afloat. If it hadn’t been for M&O, I would be out of business.”
M&O also retained an Emmy award-winning newscaster — Roop Raj — to coach producers on how to effectively give virtual presentations. TV is actually pretty similar to a virtual webinar. Both have only a short window in which to engage viewers before they tune out. “The ability to have weekly coaching calls with Roop before my TV appearances and virtual presentations has been one of the best value-adds I’ve ever received in my 30-year career. I’m not shy to admit that M&O has helped me triple my production.”
Credibility Is Most Important Characteristic In The Virtual Sales Process
In a recent survey, consumers aged between 55 and 75 years old were asked this question: Which of the following is most important to you when selecting who handles your retirement and financial planning? Services, location, credibility or price?
The overwhelming majority of consumers answered that a financial professional’s credibility was the most important consideration in their decision-making process, especially today given that so many business and financial transactions are taking place virtually. Simply put, Americans, and especially retirement-aged Americans, at every level find you have increased credibility when you are published or featured as a subject-matter expert, whether through a news article, a TV appearance or a book. In fact, public relations is the single biggest driver behind any advisor’s credibility. You instantly become reliable, and your opinions, suggestions and recommendations are immediately valid.
“If it hadn’t been for M&O, I would be out of business.”
M&O recognized that credibility would be the most important component to build up for its producers in this new virtual world. As a result, it tasked its internal public relations department with having its producers placed literally hundreds of times within financial publications like The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, etc.
Whereas most IMOs offer producers pay-to-play opportunities, M&O handles all of its producers’ TV and media publication opportunities in-house and at no cost to them. When people are watching TV more than ever before, being featured as a subject-matter expert on your local news station is extremely powerful to leverage within your sales process.
Looking For Sales: Annuity Replacement/Improvement Analysis
It is no surprise that many producers were looking for sales opportunities within their existing books of business. One popular concept was looking to see whether clients or prospects had older annuities that may no longer be best serving their retirement goals and objectives. Some variable annuities that policyowners may have, for example, might be high in fees and not have the level of downside protection they now seek after seeing the –34% coronavirus market.
Enter AnnuitySCOPE. AnnuitySCOPE is a proprietary annuity analysis software tool that provides both consumers and financial professionals with the good, the bad and sometimes the ugly regarding an in-force annuity. Over the course of these past nine months, AnnuitySCOPE has helped producers identify sales opportunities by arming them with in-depth commentary on why a prospect’s existing annuity may not actually be best for their retirement goals. Analysis on fees, market value adjustments, index renewal rates, etc., are all laid out in a compliant, consumer-facing fashion to help a producer present why one’s current annuity may not be as good as what the current marketplace offers.
“I’m not shy to admit that M&O has helped me triple my production.”
2020 was difficult for every constituent in the annuity industry, regardless of whether you were a carrier, an IMO, RIA, broker/dealer or advisor. But in a year when many producers either retired or were forced to exit the profession because of lack of new prospects, new cases and/or new revenue, the advisors who did business with M&O Marketing did not fail. Rather, they worked through adversity with a partner who was there for them every hour of every day of every week.
The pandemic forced many advisors to make changes this past year. Unsurprisingly, however, one change that frequently took place was a switch to a different IMO. This all-too-common transition was only amplified because of these simple questions: “What did your IMO do for you when you needed help the most? Were you content with your results in 2020, or would you have been better off with a more agile, proactive, hands-on concierge support team?” As the year comes to a close, those are questions to reflect on. The end of the year provides advisors with an opportunity to give a vote of confidence or no confidence in those they do business with. Your sales and results through the COVID–19 pandemic are a referendum on how well your IMO supported you in dire times. Ask yourself: Is now the time to open up to the idea of making a change.