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Redefine your role to outlast the robo-advisor invasion

By Jim Ruta | September 20 2016 07:00AM

Photo: Freepik

How do I handle the invasion of the life insurance robo-advisors?

Are life insurance agents headed into obsolescence like VHS players, typewriters and rotary dial telephones? No.

But, it is time to redefine the advisor role in the face of robo-advisors and the artificial intelligence that makes them possible. “New Advisors” are needed.

The key to the redefinition is recognizing that robo-advisors are artificially intelligent. Not truly intelligent. “Artificially” intelligent. That means that if you key in the right information, the program can give you a reasonable, if artificial, (made up) answer. If you lie to the program, no one is the wiser and the artificial advice it produces will be actually incorrect. Garbage in. Garbage out.

Robo-advisors don’t think and feel. They use algorithms to conjure up solutions based on the knowledge and information the programmer has. And, so far at least, “apps” can’t see into your soul and get your true feelings or honest answers either.

But real people – advisors can. The human brain is the most amazing super-computer of all. Nothing comes close to the computations it can do. Technology just is not there yet.

“New Advisors” are more than a source of information. They don’t compete with smartphones – where most people turn for their information today. They do what smartphones and the Internet can’t do. Rather than educate clients with information that is readily available for the asking from the Internet and robo-advisors, the “New Advisor” has several, mission critical non-robo-like roles:

  1. Introducing potential needs for consideration personally and effectively at the right time. Someone has to get you to look at the information that can help or it’s useless to you.
  2. Eliciting needs by asking the right questions in the right way at the right time. New Advisors judge facial and voice cues and consult their experience to produce true prospect needs and wants, not just stated ones.
  3. Sorting through conflicting answers and information. The Internet is the information firehose. Accurately and honestly restricting the flow to what helps a particular client without their undue effort is a social skill, not computer skill.
  4. Confirming actual intentions and accurate answers. Indiscriminately checking boxes is insufficient to buy the right product. New advisors assist in discerning what matters most and when.
  5. Combining needs into reasonable product solutions that stay in place. Customizing generic products into tailored and personally meaningful portfolios is not just a fact-finding exercise. It’s a feeling-finding exercise requiring a sensitive person. Robos need not apply.
  6. Uncovering future needs based on intangible feelings. Future needs are a function of dreams, wishes and goals. Personal interaction best facilitates that discovery process.
  7. Executing plans. The only magic left in financial/insurance/retirement planning is getting clients to do it. Nothing better than a sensitive advisor who cares about prospects to make that happen.

“New Advisors” provide interpretation, not information – context, not content and wisdom, not data.

Many more people today know the rules to smart money management than actually put them to work. The “getting them to do it” in a pleasant and professional way is the role of the “New Advisor”. Change your role from educator to expediter and you will outlast the invasion.


What can I do about my “peaks and valleys” production?

Every entrepreneur suffers from feast or famine type of production and income once in a while. It’s hard to avoid when you are responsible for your own activity, results and income. It’s the curse of being your own boss.

Being your own boss means regularly taking a look at your “employee” objectively to check for activity. Whatever you measure will improve. Measuring your performance automatically helps it improve too.

If we are destined to have peaks and valleys (ups and downs) in our production and income, the trick is to catch both curves at the right time. For instance, when you notice that you are being particularly productive, stay at it. Keep the momentum going. “Make hay when the sun shines” as they say on the farm. When things are going well, keep going. This is not a time for breaks and distractions. Make your reality work for you when you can.

On the other hand, you want to catch your downward slope as soon as possible too. The idea is to make the peaks as high as possible and your valleys as shallow as possible. Peaks are good. It’s the valleys we want to avoid. Especially those deep ones. Try for Peaks and Plains instead. When you are going through a tough patch, keep going.

Here’s a question you can ask yourself anytime you feel your business is starting to slow down. I do this myself when I find myself looking for work. It happened the other day. I was thinking about my business and realized that I hadn’t been asking very many people to buy recently. I just got busy and stopped asking.

Slowing business is the natural consequence of not asking enough people to buy. It scarcely matters how many people you have to ask to make this work for you. Maybe you have to ask many people? Fine. Ask.  Maybe you can ask a smaller, more targeted group to get the results you want. Also fine. Still ask.

But, if you aren’t asking enough, you are asking for a valley in your performance. It could be now or it could be later but it will come. How long it takes to appear and its depth, depends directly on the length of your sales cycle. One thing is for sure. When production slows down you can be sure your asking has slowed down too.  

So, when you sense an impending valley, ask yourself some questions:

  • Am I asking someone every day?
  • Am I asking the right someone every day?
  • Am I asking about the right something every day?
  • Am I asking the right someone the right thing every day?

If you get lots of “nos”, asking is the immediate solution to your problem and will minimize a performance valley. You’ll flatten it out into a plain.

This is why tracking your activity is so key and a hallmark of top producers. Activity tracking prevents you from lying to yourself about your asking activity. Write “Who did I ask today?” everywhere you will see it and make it job one every day. That will keep your performance moving up more consistently.

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