What does your FMO do for you? Top questions smaller producers should ask themselves about marketing organizations
Maybe you are transitioning from another line of business into life and annuities. You may be brand new to annuities, and have yet to reach your bigger production goals. Or maybe you’re semi-retired and just do business when opportunity presents itself. One way or another, you are a smaller producer in an environment filled with FMOs catering to the big producers.
In this field marketing organization (FMO) culture, marketing organizations are bending over backwards, adding incentives, marketing and training programs aimed at attracting and retaining big producers. But where does that leave someone who hasn’t reached big production numbers yet?
It’s important to evaluate your relationships from time to time to determine if your needs are being met. If they aren’t, maybe there is an environment that would allow you to grow. I’ve seen the inner workings of a number of marketing organizations, and I realize the potential for producers to be left behind by new direction. The following is a list of questions that producers of all levels should be asking but are especially applicable to those producing around or less than $1 million per year.
Do you have access to the principals?
Oftentimes, the recruiting process of marketing organization includes the founder of the marketing organization sitting down with you, making you feel welcome, maybe even buying you a nice meal. In the process, you realize the value he could lend to your practice, and you choose to contract with his organization. But once the event has passed, do you have the opportunity to talk to him? Does he host weekly webinars to stay in touch with you and share ideas? Too often the answer to all of these questions is no.
The principals of the organization are busy running an office of people and the little time they have to spend with producers is reserved only for the organization's biggest producers. If access to high-level experience is important to you, ask yourself if the very thing that led you to contract in the first place is even a value add one, two or three years later.
Are you getting marketing dollars?
Marketing dollars, co-op dollars, FMO bucks, profit sharing. Whatever the flavor of the week, many organizations offer additional monetary rewards to producers as reward for their production. Very often, the little producers get left out in the cold and receive no reward for their production because it doesn’t measure up to the threshold. Whether today’s marketing organizations realize it or not, the industry’s agents who produce $1 million or less represent a large volume of sales.
Why not reward them equally for their production? Loyal agents should be rewarded, regardless of their production level. And they should be allowed to use their rewards for any purpose – to pay for E&O insurance, to renovate the kitchen, to open a second office, to put the kids through school or even blow at the mall. Your rewards are yours. If getting rewarded for your production is important to you, ask yourself if there may be a better opportunity for you at a group built with agents like you in mind. Are you getting case design support?
You may not realize it, but at many FMOs, there are teams of marketers running illustrations and preparing sales presentations for their big producers. But if there is anyone who doesn’t have the time to do his own presentation preparation, it’s the start-up advisor without a staff. Case design cannot be over emphasized today.
With myriads of new products available, and clients with varying needs, it’s imperative to spend the time designing custom solutions and then develop a way to display your solutions in an easy to understand presentation. If you aren’t receiving help with case design, maybe it’s time to look for a partner who will increase your chance of closing every client opportunity and work hard for your business.
Am I here for a person or for a purpose?
A good business relationship is an essential aspect to consider when choosing a marketing organization. But relationships are a secondary aspect to the business support that justifies working together. Relationships will be built at whatever marketing group you choose to work with, but many times a senses of indebtedness to a contact or marketer is the major sticking point preventing producers from building a new relationship with their own best interest in mind. The number one purpose for a business relationship is business. If your business needs are not being met, regardless of the friendships involved it may be a good time for you to explore your options.
Has something changed since you contracted?
It’s enticing to see a big producer’s numbers, hear his compelling story and naturally want to identify yourself with him. Many producers wishing to grow their practice gravitate to FMOs led by mega-producers. But something changes when a successful producer starts a marketing organization. His income shifts from his own commissions to the override he earns from his agency’s commissions. Oftentimes, this leads mega-producer FMO principals to discontinue personal production. Over time, the selling and marketing environment changes, and the information and sales advice that was once so sharp and accurate begins to lose its luster. If something has changed at your organization since you have contracted, maybe it’s time to seek fresh and accurate guidance.
Change is always hard. In this industry it’s even harder. All you have to go on when making an FMO decision are the promises and pitches you are hearing about what someone will do for you in the future. One thing to look for is a marketing group who is willing to work for you and your business before requiring a contracting decision. Whether it’s contributing specific advice to your approach to marketing, working on cases for you, or sharing details about new products, always pay attention to the amount of real work that is going on in the recruiting process, as this is indicative of the work you will receive once you are an appointed agent.
One last piece of advice is to look for companies who are progressive. We are in a rapidly changing selling environment. If you are going to adapt and thrive in this new normal, you will need an FMO partner who is as progressive as you need to be.
"In times of profound change, the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists."
— Eric Hoffer