We asked two top sales and marketing experts to share their best sales ideas with us. Mark Peterson is vice president of marketing and sales with Farmers Financial Solutions, LLC, in Simi Valley, Calif., the broker-dealer that serves 6,700 multiline Farmers Insurance agents. Known as the LTC Coach, Wilma G. Anderson is an agent and a top sales trainer specializing in LTCI and financial product sales based in Littleton, Colo.
Go where the money is: the mid-market. While almost every advisor dreams of corralling a stable of millionaire clients, there aren’t enough to go around. There are approximately 2.2 million individuals in the United States with $1 million or more of investable assets. Even if you assume that each of them uses an advisor, they have enough assets to support only 15,000 representatives, Peterson estimates, out of the nation’s 250,000 active registered reps. But there are about 51.5 million households in the mid-market, with annual income of $25,000 to $85,000 and averaging $100,000 in assets.
“There’s a tremendous opportunity in the mid-market,” Peterson says. He points out that 51 percent of U.S. households do not own a retirement plan—no 401(k) or IRA or anything else. Only 61 percent of adults have life insurance, down from 70 percent in 1984, according to a recent LIMRA study.
Only about 6 percent of seniors have long-term care insurance, Anderson adds. “Middle-income retirees with $100,000 to $600,000 in liquid assets are the most motivated buyers for LTCI,” she points out. More affluent people will buy LTCI, but they’re far more likely to already have a financial professional, so most agents do better by targeting ordinary people.
Hold free seminars that cost you little or nothing. Many advisors think they need to shell out big bucks for a fancy dinner to attract people to their seminar. Not so, says Anderson. She recommends holding seminars at free or low-cost venues, such as your local public library, or if you’re willing to spend a bit more, host a lunch at an inexpensive family restaurant.
Buy a mailing list and send prospects a postcard announcing your seminar and what it will cover. Make it clear that you’re offering seminar-goers information, not a sales pitch, and include a toll-free number for reservations, she says. Call prospective attendees the day before your seminar to confirm that they’ll attend, they know the time and place, and have driving directions.
You can even get a free speaker from the Social Security Administration if you can promise an audience of at least 20 people, Peterson points out. The SSA field representative will talk about Social Security benefits, how to read a statement and other specifics. “It’s a free community service of real value that you can sponsor. The presentation is called Introduction to Social Security and you can book a speaker just by calling the SSA’s toll-free number,” Peterson says.
While the SSA won’t let you make a sales pitch at the seminar, you can still discuss opportunities to augment Social Security benefits with private retirement plans. And you can hand out a sign-up sheet and collect names, addresses and phone numbers for follow-up.
PEOPLE HATE SALES CALLS, BUT APPRECIATE SERVICE CALLS.
Sell to the seasons. Because of the do-not-call ruling, direct mail is now more crucial and “you’ll need to do things that make your pieces stand out. ... Look at your marketing efforts over a 12-month period, based on what the consumer buys at that time of year instead of what you’d like to sell,” she says.
September and October are big LTCI sales months, she points out. Get your direct-mail materials all ready to go in August so you can do your first mailing right after Labor Day. Send another round in early October.
One third of certificates of deposit mature between Oct. 15 and Dec. 1, which makes this period a prime time to sell asset-accumulation products, such as annuities, she adds.
In December, talk to your older clients about gifting. They can gift up to $11,000 per year to one or more family members.
Tax-selling season begins in earnest in January. This is when you should be talking to your clients about setting up IRAs, say Anderson and Peterson.
“April 15 is the government deadline, and you can use that deadline to fight procrastination,” Peterson says. He recommends sending letters to all clients without IRAs reminding them of the deadline and asking them to come in. In fact, they should send their customers an IRA “renewal notice,” much like they would send a renewal notice to their property and casualty clients, reminding them that their premium is due. All clients are prospects for funding a new or existing IRA.
Market yourself to centers of influence such as CPAs and estate-planning attorneys in January and February because they’ll be too busy in March and April, Anderson says. CPAs and lawyers will advise their clients to take certain steps to reduce taxes, and they need to be able to refer them to agents.
When tax season ends, look toward other products. May and June are big LTCI sales months, so restart your direct-mail campaign then, Anderson says. Tip: use a service that provides a toll-free number (about $25 per month plus a few cents per message) and make it clear that you do not want the phone to ring in your office.
Farmers has a clever seasonal theme: making May 29 “529 Day.” You can promote 529 Day with seminars, advertisements, press releases and client letters. And Peterson notes that there are two more ways to extend your reach. With an employer-sponsored 529 plan, participating employees can invest in funds at net-asset value instead of paying sales loads. One mutual-fund company even lets a one-person company set up a plan!
Make service calls sales calls. People hate sales calls, but appreciate service calls. So after you’ve gotten a call for more information in response to a direct-mail piece and you’ve mailed the information, call the prospect within 24 hours to confirm that he received the materials, Anderson says. “This sounds like a service call, and you can use it to start the conversation.”
Peterson says an effective tactic is to call your clients to update their records. Ask if their work phone number has changed. If it has, ask if they’ve kept their 401(k) money with their old employer or rolled it into a self-directed IRA, which will give them complete control. By being there at the right time, you won’t let this opportunity slip away. It’s estimated that only 25 percent of 401(k) money is rolled over—the remainder is taken in cash, and clients end up paying unnecessary taxes and penalties.
Henry Stimpson is the owner of Stimpson Communications in Wayland, Mass. Contact him at Henry@StimpsonCommunications.com.