by Carolyn EllisMike Dressander is president of Dressander Associates and BHC Marketing, wholly owned subsidiaries of Futurity First Insurance Group. A presence in the industry since 1983, Dressander spoke with us about their new comprehensive program for top annuity and insurance producers.
L&HA: With the acquisition of Dressander & Associates and BHC Marketing, Futurity First has added independent distribution to its career division. Why this dual approach?
MD: Four years ago Futurity looked at the traditional career space and decided there might be room for a new model. In the traditional career environment the focus is one product from one insurance company and sometimes there’s a brokerage division where reps can sell some other products. Futurity developed a hybrid in which reps can sell for multiple companies. While it’s still “career” because you’ve got an office you go to with a branch manager, the unique piece is that you can sell for multiple companies. Futurity has 150 reps and is enjoying very focused growth. Futurity also recognized there was room to penetrate the annuity marketplace in a larger way. They concluded that by picking strategic IMOs they could expand their presence and increase sales and profitability. I sold Dressander & Associates to Futurity in 2010.
L&HA: From your perspective have producers’ needs changed in the last 5-10 years?
MD: Prospecting techniques that existed for many years have changed. If you were doing a dinner seminar and it worked seven years ago and you kept doing the same thing over and over, it’s likely your results have been diminishing. Commissions on products have decreased, so to make the same income you have to make more sales. Producers today need a marketing company that can help them come up with cutting-edge marketing and prospecting techniques.
L&HA: Tell us about the expanded top producer program you recently launched.
MD: We asked ourselves a simple question: how can we stand out from a fairly crowded marketplace? The answer: We launched what we believe is the most comprehensive top agent producer program for annuity sales in the industry. Our producers who write $3 million or more in annuity sales in a year qualify for Elite MVP Rewards, our program that combines marketing reimbursement and deferred compensation, together with our training and prospecting systems. Reps can use our elite credits or marketing reimbursements for things like mailings, marketing programs, errors and omissions insurance, or tuition costs for certifications like the new Retirement Income Specialist. Additionally, we, Futurity will make a contribution on our reps’ behalf to a deferred compensation account based on the premium they place with us on a semi-annual basis. We are helping reps secure their family’s financial future while they help secure the retirement of their clients.
L&HA: What are some marketing and sales tools your IMO offers its producers?
MD: We have 14 value-added tools. They range from things like a mailer on Social Security where you help people determine the right time to take Social Security benefits right up to the Cadillac of our prospecting systems, our college workshops. We teach our reps how to conduct a workshop in a local community college where Boomers and retirees pay a small tuition to learn over three course sessions what conservative investing means and how it might fit in their portfolio. We’ve created DVDs to help consumers understand the ABCs of money, income riders on annuities, what locking in your gains annually will do, and the concepts of safe money and market-based money and how our products fit in the middle. These tools are designed to help consumers get comfortable with indexed annuities, something they may or may not have heard of.
L&HA: Have these tools evolved from your sales and marketing innovations over the years?
MD: I have run IMOs for 30 years, and it used to be that every IMO would grow its business solely on product. About nine years ago I recognized that we had to be more of a partner to our agents in the field. I forged a relationship with two field mentors that earn their living like reps in the field by selling product every day and in addition, they’re very good at teaching other reps their tools and techniques to succeed.
L&HA: This sounds a bit like the support of a career agency.
MD: I feel very strongly that reps need more than a product; they need a company and people that will help them succeed. We have a team of 40 marketers within Dressander and BHC. They spend time with the insurance companies understanding product nuances – income riders, caps, surrender charges – so they are great resources for the representatives in the field. It’s working. We have reps that will produce close to $30 million in indexed annuity premium this year using some of our tools and techniques.
L&HA: Do people need to be exclusive with you?
MD: They don’t have to be exclusive but they have to be close to exclusive. If we teach a technique that’s going to help a representative meet a prospect we feel that business should flow through our organization.
L&HA: Is there a place in your organization for newer, younger financial professionals?
MD: Our sweet spot would be people who have been in the industry 2-5 years or more, time enough to know what works and what doesn’t, and who find value in an organization that will help take them to the next level. We want reps who today might be producing $1 million or more in indexed annuity premium that we can get to the $3 million level where our new Elite MVP Rewards program kicks in.
L&HA: Are your producers targeting the middle market or chasing the top of the pyramid?
MD: Our best market is people ages 55 or above with $250,000 to $750,000 of investible assets. They have to be careful about running out of money and that’s exactly where our products fit. The top end doesn’t have to worry about outliving their money.
L&HA: Your top producers program is clearly put together by experienced people.
MD: Our management team has been in the business 25 years or more. When you want to be in the top five in your industry (which is our goal) you really need to roll up your sleeves, put yourself in the producer’s shoes, and see what you can do to package your company in a way that is going to be truly beneficial to these producers.Ms Ellis is features editor for LIFE&Health Advisor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org