disability insuranceThere was a man who lived by the side of the road and sold hot dogs.
He was hard of hearing so he had no radio and he had trouble with his eyes so he read no newspapers.
But he sold good hot dogs.
He put up signs on the highway telling how good they were.
He stood on the side of the road and cried, “Buy a hot dog, Mister?” And people bought.

He increased his meat and bun orders. He bought a bigger stove to take care of his trade.
He finally got his son home from college to help him.

But then something happened.
His son said, “Father, haven’t you been listening to the radio?
Haven’t you been reading the newspapers?
There’s going to be a big depression.

Whereupon his father thought, “Well, my son’s been to college,
He reads the papers and he listens to the radio and he ought to know.”

So the father cut down on his meat and bun orders, took down his advertising signs,
And no longer bothered to stand out on the highway to sell his hot dogs.

And his hot dog sales fell almost overnight.
You’re right, son,” the father said to the boy. “We certainly are in the middle of a great depression.”

-Author Unknown

What does it mean to be “open for business” in 2014 and beyond?

If you’ve been around sales for any length of time, you’ve probably heard the “hot dog” story before. It’s frequently used in sales training to emphasis the importance of optimistic thinking and preparedness. And because this story has timeless appeal, it’s worth repeating. After all, we all know the challenges of selling life and disability insurance in a tough economy. However, I’ve noticed that some professionals defy the economic odds and perform better than others. Could it be that they’re more “open for business” than their peers? Below are a few observations about what it takes to be “open for business” in the modern world of insurance.

An eye-catching sign:
While the hot dog man put a sign on the highway, insurance agents must establish their presence on the Internet superhighway. Five years ago, a static online “brochure” website was still acceptable. Today, it’s ignorant. Gen X, Gen Y and even many Boomer clients prefer to educate themselves and research their insurance options through online sources. LIMRA’s 2011 life insurance ownership study indicates 92 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds and 85 percent of 30 to 49-year-olds use the Internet. The higher their education and household income, the more likely they are to use the Internet for insurance product information.

Online shoppers expect helpful information, blog articles, downloadable white papers and an online quote engine. However, a good website (AKA: hot dog sign) isn’t enough. It’s easy to be overlooked on the Internet superhighway, so you your site must be search engine optimized so it will be noticed. Go to Google and type in “your city, state + life insurance” and “your city, state + disability insurance.” What happens? Does your website appear in the first three pages of search results? If it doesn’t, you have some work to do. Pick up a book on search engine optimization or enlist the help of a professional to improve your site’s rankings.

A prime location:
Hot dog man stood on the side of the road where he could easily mingle with his customers. How can you easily mingle with potential clients? By getting active in social media. To sell insurance, you have to be where your clients are. And there’s no debating that clients use social media. Research from Acxiom Corporation’s January 2012 study, “Life Insurance Marketing at the Crossroads,” points to the insurance industry’s failure to reach consumers through digital marketing channels as a reason for sluggish life insurance sales. It also found that:

  • 68% of Gen Y buyers use social media to shop for life insurance.
  • 43% of Gen X buyers search online to find life insurance information.
  • 33% of Boomers consider online information to be among the top three decision influencers.

An effective sales consultation:
The hot dog man kept it simple, going straight to the close – “Buy a hot dog, mister?” Unfortunately life and disability sales professionals have to work a little bit harder. For the past several decades, selling life and disability insurance has largely involved feet on the street. To educate clients and close sales, agents personally met with clients. Now that consumers are so Internet savvy, you might be wondering if personal consultations are still needed. It turns out the answer is YES.

LIMRA’s 2011 U.S. Buyer-Nonbuyer study found that life insurance shoppers who meet face to face with sales reps are the most likely to buy. In fact, if there was any face-to-face contact during the shopping process, more than 7 in 10 bought. Life insurance shoppers who use only the Internet while shopping and never meet with anyone are the least likely to buy after shopping — only 36 percent bought. Those consumers who started shopping on the Internet and then met with a sales rep were 1.5 times more likely to buy than those who only shopped online.

So, continue to meet with clients in person, but strive to introduce yourself and educate them through your website and other digital channels. Feet on the street are no longer enough when there are so many eyes on the screen. 

Speaking of digital, do you have a disability insurance quote engine on your website? If not, request free access here.

Need a video for your website?  Use this one with the embed code below!


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Note: The article above was originally featured in the November 2012 of Health Insurance Underwriter Magazine.

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