Two years ago, insurance agents were stuck at home as a deadly disease descended on the globe—and Americans’ interest in life insurance soared. But an in-person medical exam was something nearly everyone wanted to avoid.
The industry had to change.
And agents changed along with it. Today, digital sales have become a viable solution for the future of the life insurance business.
So how can you make sure you’re optimizing your business for online sales? Follow the leaders. Here, we share habits of agents who’ve mastered the tactics and soft skills that matter most in a digital, and increasingly touchless, age.
They generate positive friction.
A life insurance sale is only a piece of a bigger relationship with your client, one in which the goal isn’t just coverage.
Traditionally, the lengthy underwriting process meant you had to talk to clients all the time. That presented numerous opportunities for interaction and trust-building—even as it generated negative friction. Paradoxically, it also increased the perceived value of an approved life insurance policy.
The digital insurance evolution means agents should now focus on building what’s called positive friction. In other words, today agents must interact with clients in ways that are both pleasurable and helpful.
This can be a challenge with life insurance because discomfort with end-of-life discussions remains an issue for 40% of those surveyed in LIMRA’s 2022 Insurance Barometer Study. But with 100% digital sales, agents no longer need to press clients about exams and specific health issues. Instead, they can discuss life scenarios that focus on health, longevity, and financial stability, which the study suggests can be particularly effective with younger consumers.
They make decisions easy and pressure-free.
Great salespeople minimize hoops for clients, and digital life insurance platforms make it easy for clients to act on their own timetable.
“Let’s say 100 people that want life insurance are about to sign up,” explains Chris Young, an independent agent who sells Ethos. “If there’s one additional step past that first conversation, only 50% will convert. If there’s another, it’s like 10%.”
Nearly half (48%) of consumers would prefer to buy life insurance through a simplified underwriting process, according to LIMRA’s 2021 Insurance Barometer Study. Those same consumers are increasingly comfortable buying online. Preference for shopping for insurance online has increased 29% since 2016, according to LIMRA’s 2022 Insurance Barometer Study.
Creating a “low pressure” situation
Working with a digital sales platform, successful agents can support their clients on the clients’ timeline—without hounding or annoying them.
They use social media to connect.
Agents with high-volume digital sales know that social media can help them target niche audiences.
Most Americans (72%) have a profile on at least one platform. If you’re not targeting prospective clients on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok, you’re missing a vast opportunity. Unconventional methods can work well on these platforms.
Alex Labrinos, a high-producing agent and martial arts fan based in New Jersey, seeks “niches we’re familiar with. I just made a commercial that’s going to be targeting an audience that’s into martial arts, UFC videos, self-defense videos, stuff like that.”
“I use my cats for funny memes,” says one high-producing agent in his 20s. “Like I’ll have a scenario where such and such happens and my cat can’t believe you don’t have insurance.”
It works because many consumers—be they cat video or mixed martial arts fans—also use social media as a source of financial information, according to LIMRA’s 2022 Insurance Barometer Study:
- Facebook was the most commonly mentioned platform for financial information in 2022. Its share of those who use social media for financial purposes increased from 53% in 2019 to 64% today.
- YouTube moved from a 32% share in 2019 to a 58% share in 2022.
- Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok (which weren’t even on the survey three years ago) now hold audience shares of 38%, 29%, and 23%, respectively.
Reaching women is more important than ever
For the sixth consecutive year, LIMRA research shows the percentage of uninsured women continues to increase. Respondents believe it’s too expensive (39%), have other financial priorities (37%), or aren’t sure how much or what type to buy (22%). Social media can be a great way to share the facts about life insurance with women in your network.
They use digital sales to supercharge their referral game.
Agents are used to asking clients for referrals.
After all, recommendations from people consumers know are twice as likely to generate action, according to the Nielsen Trust in Advertising Study.
“I always try to find relatives and family members,” says 38-year-old Patrick T., a high-producing life insurance agent based in New Jersey. “With the Ethos platform, because it’s such a simple thing, I can say, ‘Here’s a link. Let me talk to them. If they are looking for insurance, we can save them 4 to 6 weeks.’”
Personal referrals remain the gold standard, and they go faster now thanks to online sales platforms. But it’s when agents combine digital marketing and online sales with online referrals, that the magic really starts to happen.
As with social media posts, freshness matters. But the impact of online reviews is longer lasting. Consider that the median engagement lifespan of a tweet, for instance, is 18 minutes, and three-quarters of engagement with a Facebook post occurs within the first five hours. The shelf life for reviews? Three months.
They cast a wider net for potential clients.
Digital sales mean an agent is no longer constrained by geography.
Today, agents can reach out to anyone in the state they’re licensed in via social and online ads, emails, and video calls.
“It’s enabled me to kind of branch out to more over Zoom, Skype, and phone calls. You couldn't do that before,” says Young, who’s based in New York City but licensed in 20 states. “It really has led me to re-envision my future in this field.”
Today’s online life insurance providers eliminate medical exams, wait time, and agent case work.
And at Ethos, we’re also able to approve about 95% of applicants. These factors can change the economics of the game for life agents, freeing up time to actually help more people in need—such as the vast, underinsured middle market.
LIMRA’s 2022 Life Insurance Barometer Study found that 45% of respondents earning $35,000 to $99,000 per year say they need life insurance. That’s a potential market of 48 million consumers. Combined with mass-affluent and high-income people, about 79 million American adults are uninsured today—approximately 30% of the adult population in 2020.
“In the next two to five years, I think most of my sales should come from Ethos,” says agent Patrick T.. “It's the most efficient platform I've seen. I’m at a point where I don't even want to entertain other companies.”
Licensed life agents play a critical role in meeting the financial protection needs of millions of vulnerable families. Most consumers start their search for life insurance online these days, but they continue to desire the consultative role a licensed agent plays when it comes to making a decision that’s right for them.
Offering life insurance through a 100% online platform such as Ethos enables you to address the life insurance needs gap faster and more efficiently than ever, by reaching beyond your city and your in-person client base to access a whole new playing field.