This is a question I had often been asked by new recruits, especially when I was the head of agency recruitment way back during my AIA days. Again my answer remains the same – it is simple but not easy.
The field underwriter’s (i.e. insurance agent’s) job is a simple one and that is to bring in quality business for the company. The secrets to success too are not difficult to uncover; perhaps Norman Levine sums it up best when he taught the world a simple formula – ASK = Success, where A stands for Activity, S for Skills and K for Knowledge. But that is where the simplicity ends.
Why Is it Not Easy to Succeed?
While knowledge and skills can be acquired easily if you join the right agency and company, the same cannot be said for activity. In insurance sales terminology, activity refers to the sales activities leading up to the sale and more specifically number of sales appointments the agent has. If the agent has no appointments, no matter how good his skills and knowledge are, he will likely end with no sales. Why? Because life insurance is often sold and not bought (i.e. by people on their own accord). Most people will often need some form of push or persuasion before even taking action and that is why life insurance till today is predominantly being distributed through a sales force.
Hence, saying succeeding in life insurance sales is simple but not easy, my take on why it is not easy is simply the fact that many agents do not have what it takes to generate the level of sales activity required for success and this job of generating sales activity, namely prospecting is not easy. And it is also the reason why many fail.
What Can be Done to Overcome this Lack of Activity Problem?
Train the mind
Often, when the going gets though, that little voice in our head will begin playing tricks on us. For example, it will distract us or worst still, tell us to give up, unless we are able to control and get the better of our thoughts.
Hence good agency leaders often spend a great deal of time motivating and inspiring their insurance advisors. Pep sessions are a must and leaders who are able to empathize (not sympathize) with their agents tend to fair better. Their agents can feel that they genuinely care.
Help the Agent Find their Compelling Purpose
Many years ago, while still a student at the NUS, I met two protestant Christians, bible in hand, preaching at the Bedok MRT station. They were facing the same kind of rejections our agents were facing but each week without fail, at about 2pm on Saturday, they would, rain or shine, enthusiastically approach anyone at the train station who was willing to talk to them. I am sure they were neither paid or compelled by their church to preach and yet they probably worked harder than most agents you see standing around at roadshows.
It dawn on me then that the difference was purpose. These preachers had a compelling purpose, and perhaps many of our agents don’t.
Thus, rather than train the mind, a more effective approach would be to help each individual find his purpose. And this purpose has to be emotionally compelling; mere logic is often not good enough.
Make Prospecting Easy
When things are easy, people are naturally more willing and ready to do them. Hence, if a leader is able to make prospecting easy for the agent, with everything else being equal, activity should rise and with it, sales.
That is why some leaders spend a great deal of time, effort and resources to make prospecting easy for their agents. Example of such leaders are those who consistently run telemarketing activities or those who work on targeted tie ups to ensure their agents are supplied with a constant stream of leads.
But setting up successful tie ups are not easy and often require creativity on the part of the leader as well as good networking skills. Unfortunately, apart from being more compliance conscious, many leaders today are still operating in the same old fashion way as the leaders of the eighties or nineties, as far as prospecting activities go. By that I mean good old fashion telephone prospecting and referral selling.
In contrast, an agency leader I know would, with his company’s blessings, approach Singapore hospitals, offer babies born in those hospitals free 6 months insurance and get the hospital staff to help with this free insurance sign up whenever parents approach the hospital desk to register the birth of their child. The leads from this exercise are then provided to his agents thus ensuring they have a constant flow of leads. If given a choice, wouldn’t you prefer to join such an agency?
This example goes to show too that both the agency force and insurance companies themselves need to begin thinking out of the box as far as prospecting is concerned.
To conclude, it is often activity or rather the lack of it, that results in agents failing in this business. Hence, a newbie joining this career has either got to be have good control of over his own mind, have a compelling reason why he has to (and not want to) succeed or find an agency leaders who has the ability or creativity to help in the areas pointed above, especially with making prospecting easy.
Share Your Thoughts
Why, in your opinion, do Singapore insurance agents fail? Do share with us your thoughts; our readers would love to hear from you.
(Photo Credit: Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net)