Professors' Points

Can P&C Agents Cross-sell Life Products?

Kevin Lynch
Insurance Experts' Forum, October 1, 2010

For almost 20 years, I have observed different property/casualty insurance companies try to force, impress, coerce, cram, ram, insist, drag, draft, enforce, require, urge, strong arm, impel, impose and inflict the sale and marketing of life insurance products on their agents.

Many have tried and all have failed. Why?

The reason can be found when one analyzes the resistance to the sale of life and financial products by P&C agency owners. Successful P&C agents have different skill sets and personality characteristics than individuals who achieve success as life insurance agents. Ask any agency owner: He or she would tell you that industry professionals have a natural inclination to sell either P&C products or life and financial products on almost an intuitive level. As I have been told by countless P&C agency owners over the years, “If I would have wanted to sell life insurance, I would have joined a life insurance company.”

Unfortunately, this tendency in sales preferences is not fully appreciated by home office senior managers interested in increasing their market share of life and financial products through the P&C distribution channel. 

What are some of the ways carriers have tried to introduce life and financial sales into their P&C distribution channels?  There have been attempts to hire company employees to sell life products from the books of P&C agency owners. Based on personal conversations I have had with major carriers, there have been 1,099 employees hired and assigned to work with groups of P&C agency owners. There have been quotas imposed and agencies owners stripped of their contracts for failing to produce life and financial sales. There have been any number of failed attempts to impose life and financial sales on the P&C agency owner. And in the end, all of them have failed.

I am not saying that there haven’t been individual success stories. There have been. I know of a former state NAIFA president who qualified for MDRT Top of the Table by working exclusively with a group of P&C agency owners as their “Life insurance Specialist.” But I also know at least 100 P&C agency owners who have tried to comply with the dictates of their carriers only to suffer disappointment after disappointment with the many and varied programs they were forced to adopt.

If the senior management of property /casualty companies would take off their “Theory X” hats and try on a “Theory Y” hat, they might be more successful in their efforts to increase life and financial sales through their property/casualty agent sales force.

After all, it isn’t like the lessons of Douglas M. McGregor have been hidden since 1957, when he first introduced these two different management theories.  (The Human Side of Enterprise, 1957)

Has there ever been an attempt by a carrier to bring together groups of successful P&C agency owners and ask them for assistance in solving the problem? Besides increasing engagement among the “rank and file,” this process could generate workable solutions that would enhance the sales of life and financial products.

I would encourage every home office manager to respect the knowledge and experience possessed by their field force. By working together, agency owners can leverage the talents that make them successful while helping their companies achieve their long-term strategic objectives.

Kevin Lynch, CLU®, ChFC®, RHU®, REBC®, CASL®, CAP®, LUTCF, CFP®, is an assistant professor of insurance at The American College in Bryn Mawr, Pa. He also is the host of "Wealth Today," a featured presentation on www.thewealthchannel.com.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Kevin using the “Add Your Comments” box below. 

This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News. It may not be reposted or reused without permission from Insurance Networking News.

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