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Lowest rates ever? Not so fast! Those 1-800 quote services are lacking in, well, service.

By Robert M. Nelson, CLU, LUTCF

I have been anxious to tell this story to you for a long time. It is about something that to me is as fundamental as getting up in the morning. And speaking of getting up in the morning, am I the only one who cuts himself shaving (among us men, that is) when I hear on the radio “lowest term rates ever, just call 1-800-whatever” or “Our quoting system makes everyone an insurance wizard”?

For years I have been telling audiences of agents and advisors about an effective and fun way to deal with this. I call it 1-800-S.A.P.P.

First, I recommend that you call the next service you hear advertising and ask for a quote. This will do two things: First, it will tie the service up with nonproductive work; second, it will let you know first-hand what these "services" are doing. Chances are you will find they are using our companies at the same prices that you and I are offering. There’s an old military axiom, “First, know your enemy.&rduo; When you understand your competition more clearly, it’s far easier to compete.

Let me tell you what 1-800-S.A.P.P. means. The S stands for “Who’s going to ‘Service’ these policies?” Will it be the telemarketer who handled the original transaction or will it be one of those 1-800 service centers?

When our first grandchild was born, I suggested that it was time to change
the contingent beneficiary on both the parents’ policies.

“What would we do without you?” our daughter asked.

Hopefully, they will not need to worry about my absence for many years, but it again reminded me of all the little things we do so well. Such as caring. How would a telemarketer know about a change in policyholder status? Is this just a commodity business? I don’t think so, and neither does our daughter.

The A stands for “Who’s going to ‘Advise’ the policy owner on many important issues such as conversion, transferring the policy into a trust, or, worse yet, a death claim?” Would it be that same telemarketer? Get serious!

The first P stands for “When was the last time you paid the ‘Price’ for something and then didn’t get it?” These 800-services are charging full price for the products they sell (which includes a full agent’s commission) but the buyer doesn’t get the services of a professional agent or advisor. The commissions on these products are supporting the mass marketing campaigns on radio, TV and in the print media. This isn’t wrong; it’s just the fact and is part of the differences between these services and you.

Our job has never been clearer: Do it well, do it professionally and deliver value at every opportunity.

The last P stands for “You had better be ‘Positive’ that you believe you add value to every transaction or don’t even start this conversation!” The value you add to the comfort and peace of mind of your customers is a fact. After Sept. 11, the country is even more appreciative of your personalized touch. Our job has never been clearer: Do it well, do it professionally and deliver value at every opportunity. The whole world seems anxious for more people they can trust. You are one of those people. Tell your clients and prospects the difference between you and 1-800-S.A.P.P. As your advisory role and reputation for quality service become better understood, everyone will be better off.

Bob Nelson, CLU, LUTCF, is vice president of the life and estate planning division at Grace-Mayer Insurance in Omaha, Neb. After serving two terms on the association’s Board of Trustees, he was elected president of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors in September 2001.

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