A 5 Step Plan – Growing Your DI Sales.

Interested in growing your disability insurance (DI) sales? Professional associations are a good place to start. From doctors to dentists to accountants, most professional industries have strong association relationships. Professionals working in these industries also have a pressing need for income protection because their earnings are higher than most other occupational groups.

In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s May 2009 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, surgeons earned an average annual income of $219,770. Orthodontists earned $206,190; obstetricians made $204,470; and lawyers earned $129,020. These professionals work hard to develop their earning capacity and, therefore, have a keen interest in protecting it.

One of the fastest ways for a broker to reach these high-income professionals is through association alignment. According to the Center for Association Leadership, there were 90,908 trade and professional associations in 2009, and the number keeps growing. Most associations and societies aim to provide their members with the tools to succeed, such as discounted products and services on everything from office supplies to medical equipment and business insurance. Here’s how to get started:
Step 1. Identify potential partnerships
When you’ve determined your target market, do a quick association search on the Internet. You’ll find a variety of niche groups for doctors and physicians, dentists, attorneys, accountants and other professionals. For example, http://www.pohly.com and http://www.omnimedicalsearch.com provide links to medical associations, organizations, foundations and societies, ranging in scope from pediatrics to hospital dentistry. Keep in mind that the medical market is one of the easiest to sell because health care professionals know firsthand that the DI need is real.

Step 2. Cultivate relationships and propose member discounts
Getting connected with the right people at each association can be the most difficult part of the process. “It’s not easy to get in,” says Michael Klarfeld, principal of Kirshner and Klarfeld Financial Group in Arizona. “You have to meet the right people and cultivate the relationship before you propose an endorsement.” Once associations know and trust you, they’re receptive — however, it doesn’t happen overnight.

Klarfeld says associations are interested because they perceive endorsements as a good way to offer value to members. “They want the products they endorse to be top-of-the-line,” he says. “Specialty specific, own occupation definitions are important, and so are competitive rates.”Matt Fisher, director of sales for TDIC Insurance Solutions, a wholly owned subsidiary of the California Dental Association (CDA) agrees. With nearly 24,000 members, the CDA is the largest statewide association in the country, and it offers insurance products to members through The Dentists Insurance Company (TDIC).

“It’s important for us to offer discounted disability insurance rates because our goal is to protect dentists and their profession,” Fisher says. “Discounted disability rates and access to quality insurance products reinforce the value and benefits of a CDA membership. CDA members certainly appreciate the savings, but they also place high importance on having best-in-class products to protect their practices and best-in-class carriers to choose from for their life and health products.” 

Step 3. Secure the carrier endorsement
When you’re ready to propose an endorsement, bring a well-thought-out plan. Highlight the significant discounts you can offer association members — up to 47% for females and 10% for males. Use compelling disability statistics to help association leaders understand that this is a needed service that members will value.

“A broker needs to bring to the table a high-quality insurance product at a competitive price that fits the needs of the member and offers an attractive discount,” Fisher says. “Service levels must be consistent with the experiences that members are accustomed to with other member benefit services.”
When the association shows interest, contact your DI wholesaler for assistance.

To finalize the endorsement, your wholesaler and the supporting carrier will need:

A completed association endorsement application.

A letter of confirmation from an authorized representative of the association identifying you as the primary sales representative and the carrier as an authorized disability insurance carrier.

A marketing plan detailing how you will solicit and support business from the association.

Step 4. Customize your marketing
Once the carrier approval is in place, be ready to earn member business. “Don’t assume that just because you’ve been endorsed, members will start calling,” Klarfeld says. “Sure, they’re more receptive, but you still have to work for the sale.”

Many brokers begin by mailing an introductory letter and flier to members to announce the new discounted rates. Klarfeld’s team promotes disability insurance to association members year-round by calling on member offices, advertising in the association’s monthly magazine, exhibiting at association events and sending email marketing messages through the association database. “You have to spend the time and really get involved,” he says.

Step 5. Develop cross-sell strategies
Finally, work with the association to explore other ways to provide members value. For example, if members are business owners, explore business overhead expense opportunities. Or if members typically have business partners, provide a buy-sell policy that protects the business when a prolonged disability strikes a business owner or a partner.

Association relationships are not easy to attain, but they’re worth the extra time. Kirshner and Klarfeld Financial Group is one of the biggest DI writers in Arizona, and part of the reason for that success is the firm’s work with associations. So, take a closer look at your opportunities and reach out to the associations in your area. You’ll open the door for DI success now and for many years to come.

Written by Daniel C. Steenerson, CLU, ChFC, RHU, is the president of Disability Insurance Services, headquartered in San Diego. Originally published in the May edition of Life Insurance Selling Magazine.


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