Is The Dead Debit Agent(cy) Really Dead?



I'd like to pose a question to the forum at large, my own personal answer and conclusion. Interested agents are welcome to post their own responses and opinions.

For you younguns out there the debit agent was once the prevalent type of agent in insurance. From the early 19th through the mid 20th centuries in America the debit agent and agency was the single most prevalent marketing method for insurance. Agents literally went door to door selling insurance, collecting premiums and carried a book of all the business they accomplished every day. This is where the term "book of business" originated.

I still remember the huge heavy book with the thick handles I was entrusted with that had all of my policyholders names and pertinent information, such as family members, births and deaths and weekly, that's right weekly premiums due.

Each week when the premium came due I would go around to each and every house, knock on the door and after greeting the wife/husband go in to the kitchen(always the kitchen because that's where important business was always conducted back then). There, if the premium amount was ready and available I would accept the payment(usually in the form of dollar bills and coins) and write a receipt. If not we would arrange a time for me to come back to collect the premium. While drinking coffee and talking about our lives, if a life event that happened such as a birth/death/high school graduation came up in the conversation I would schedule an appointment then to come back and discuss these changes with both the husband and wife and the consequences these changes would bring to my clients.

A funny thing happened when I was a debit agent and I bet Homeservice will vouch for this, many, many of these clients became my friends. Seeing people on a weekly basis because the weekly collection is one of your job requirements puts you in a much more intimate and closer position than other insurance agents and a lot of other people/businesses wanting your clients money. It also reinforced both mine and my clients committment of insurance being more important than just about anything else except for food, clothing and shelter. And I believe that it is indisuputable that the weekly/monthly requirement of personally collecting your clients premium was responsible for maintaining some of the highest consistency and renewals in the industry. With your agent showing up every week/month to collect, sometimes even before the landlord did makes for a very influential position to be in. These consistency and renewal percentages have become the benchmark in which modern percentages are compared against and are the basis of why so many insurers drop agents/agencies. There is a model that insurers use to determine the success/failure of it's agents and the rewards(commission and renewal percentage wise) they use.

Now, fast forward to the here and now. The Greatest Depression is here. Business is falling off the books right and left. New agents are struggling to just have an income, let alone earn enough money to have some discretionaary income. Larger agents/cies have grown so big they can't adequately service(in their clients eyes) all of their customers.

Yet I would venture to say that 75% of all the current clients of agents don't even have a basic "Asset Management Portfolio" or "Financial Needs Analysis" in each clients folder for those who meet the clients b2b(belly). For onliners I'm willing to bet the percentage is even less.

To me the obvious answer is to literally become your clients unofficial relative. If you're a young agent you need to become the "My adopted nephew the Harvard Graduate". For older agents you need to become the "My adopted cousin who saved us from the Depression" You get the idea.

Then you need to babysit these clients. You need to get involved in their lives and become an "indispensable" part of their lives or at least make them feel you are an indispensable part of their lives.

That is exactly what the Debit Agent of old did. He was not just an insurance agent. He was their friend, financial advisor and respected young phenom/cousin the lifesaver.

Put yourself in that position and I will guarantee with only one caveat that NO ONE will come between you and your client.

What's the caveat you ask? Why it's one of the oldest ones in the world.

"Do unto others that you would have them do unto you."

So , if you've followed this rambling so far, I have a question. If you believed in this business approach and philosophy how would you implement the "Debit Agent" method to todays world? That is, what mechanics would you use in following this approach? Remember, these people believed in you enough to become your client for at least one product or service, so what can you do to keep in touch with them daily, weekly or monthly AND know enough about their lives that you could call yourself an adopted relative?
Very good post and points.
The only problem with being that kind of agent in today's world is the hustle and bustle we have grown to be in. For the most part, gone are the days of just dropping by and chit-chatting. People don't stay at home as much anymore. If they do, they just don't seem to have the time to spend with you as much as back then.
I for one am very familiar with the FNA. It not only helps you with knowing your clients needs but it is a door opener for cross-selling. I'm watching so many new agents wanting to be able to sit at home and sell without getting out it's almost sickening. They don't get to know their clients and they usually sell one product then on to the next person. They have no idea what the actual needs of the client are. They are order takers, not salespersons.
None-the-less though, this is what society is bringing us to.
I see a lot of new agents wanting to sell final expense, but they know nothing of medicare supplements. This boggles my mind! They are stepping over money and don't even know it! Of all the agents that call me wanting FE contracts, I always ask them, "what about medicare supplemens?" The reply I get most of the time is, "yep, I was thinking about that you have any that can be done over the phone?" ARRRRRRGGGHHHH!
Yes, as I see it...gone are the days of getting personal with a client and being a professional salesman...In come the order-takers.
If you want to set yourself apart from the other agent...learn to be personalble again!
You know, you have a point to a point.... While things are changing in this business SO IS THE CLIENT. The client doesn't want to clean up their house because you're coming over, they don't want to keep their office clothes on. Most don't have time for a three hour agent visit anymore.

The entire process is changing, not just the agent. While it is easy to sit their and place blame on an agent, the real cause of change is coming from what the client wants. The good ole days will always be the good old days. I've been in the mix for 20 years. Things have changed considerably. I am attempting to adjust to what prospects want.

The industry is changing, the clients are changing, the methods are changing. You can be critical of it and the others involved or relearn an old business. That doesn't mean the "new" is right or better than the "old". It means that is how it is.... no amount of fret is going to return us to the old days. Time to evolve.
Snowman makes some good points. We must stay in contact with our clients or else we will be dispensible.

However, also consider that most business today is bank draft business. The true debit insurance that is around today typically is also way overpriced and the market for it appears to be people who don't have bank accounts, etc.

I think we have to come up with other ways to get to the position (or close to it) that is outlined in the original post. Simply spending time with the client and explaining how Medicare works, doing a needs analysis, etc. instead of just pitching a product seems to be a good place to start.