Enterprising Developments

Why IT Matters, Especially When It Comes to Sales

Joe McKendrick
Insurance Experts' Forum, January 14, 2011

There are plenty of pundits that claim IT has reached utility stage, where having a lot of it doesn't mean much for competitive differentiation, just as having access to electricity doesn't give companies any extraordinary advantage.

Tell that to Gerald Shields, CIO at Aflac Inc.

Shields, whom I have had the opportunity to speak to over the years, recently joined Sanjog Aul, VP of programs for the Chicago Chapter of SIM (the Society for Information Management), and Aberdeen's Peter Ostrow for a compelling discussion on employing IT to boost sales effectiveness.

Shields explained how IT has helped better serve Aflac's 70,000 associates, mainly independent agents. The challenge is to introduce CRM and Salesforce technology to these agents, he says. “If you have a sales agent who's blowing the doors off with numbers, it's going to be really different to get him to do something different. Then if in the next year he doesn't make his sales numbers, he's going to blame it on the technology.”

The key to proliferating new technologies, Shields says, is not to target the top-tier performers, but rather, “some of the ones who are really good but are not making the numbers that want.” In other words, technology is best introduced to areas of the business where there are pain points—and not try to fix what's not broken.

Shields describes four areas technology deployments need to address:

1. Effectiveness: “We really work on technology to prove sales associates' effectiveness. I want to empower technology to improve their reach, their effectiveness.”

2. Efficiency: “Do it faster—less redundancy. Empower everything you need on that laptop unit or on your handheld.”

3. Attractiveness: “Here's a great example: we had a good-sized business that we were calling on, to offer our product. There was also a competitor calling on that same business ... our competitor pulled out a stack of papers and started going through all the paper on their products. It was a printed PowerPoint presentation. Our associate pulled out an iPad. Halfway through this presentation the customer said 'wow, just looking at this, obviously Aflac has better technology.' That attractiveness applies to the image of our company, and the image of our associate.”

4. Cost of entry: “I'm going to recruit you to be an associate, and one of our competitors is recruiting you to be an associate. It may cost them $8,000 to get set up with a PC, to get you set up with everything you need. We can do it for less than $500.”

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Joe using the “Add Your Comments” box below. He can also be reached at joe@mckendrickresearch.com.

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

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

Comments (0)

Be the first to comment on this post using the section below.

Add Your Comments...

Already Registered?

If you have already registered to Insurance Networking News, please use the form below to login. When completed you will immeditely be directed to post a comment.

Forgot your password?

Not Registered?

You must be registered to post a comment. Click here to register.

Blog Archive

The Software-Defined Health Insurer: Radical But Realistic?

Can a tech startup digitally assemble the pieces of a comprehensive, employer-provided health plan?

Data Governance in Insurance Carriers

As the insurance industry moves into a more data-centric world, data governance becomes more critical for ensuring the data is consistent, reliable and usable for analysis.

Fear This

Just days before this Issue, which contains our security cover story, went to press, we got some interesting news: 1.2 billion unique usernames and passwords and 542 million email addresses were reportedly stolen from 420,000 websites, according to The New York Times. The websites ranged from Fortune 500 companies down to small online retailers.

Should You Back Up Enterprise Data to the Cloud?

Six questions that need to be asked before signing on with an outside service.

Modernizing Information Management

While better reporting and actuarial analysis help to support financial decisions, improved analytics and decision making greatly assist the rest of the organization.

Strategic Planning: Here and Now

Insurers’ annual strategic planning efforts can benefit from an infusion of tactical reality.

Advertisement

Advertisement