Annuity Lead Scam Watch

Although annuity lead scams are out there, agents agree that leads are the lifeblood of their business. No matter how good the products or presentation, without a qualified prospect there can be no sale. Annuity agents also agree there is a vast difference between a lead and a qualified prospect. If you are among the majority of agents who depend on lead generating companies to supply both prospects and suspects, you need to know the standards and definitions of a legitimate lead, a qualified prospect, and an outright scam.

Leads fall into two categories, raw and qualified. Raw annuity leads are generated according to demographics. Qualified leads are further refined by the subject’s level of interest in you and your products. All leads should be filtered by specific criteria which often includes age, income, geography and possibly home ownership and marital status. When you pay extra to have your leads qualified, you refine your list of suspects down to prospects.

Annuity lead costs can range from 10¢ to 75¢ for each name on a raw list, up to $10 to $35 each for individuals who have qualified themselves by (a) knowing who you are, (b) knowing what you sell, and (c) agreeing to talk to you further. Internet leads and direct mail/direct response leads are often well qualified and worth the investment. Insist on exclusivity (you are the only agent getting the lead) and freshness (the fresher the better). Anything less can be a waste of time.

Telemarketing is still a viable means of annuity lead generation, but there are two red flags to watch out for. Beware of companies using immature, inexperienced telemarketers who have an hourly quota to fill or who get paid per lead generated. Ask specifically who makes the calls and how they are paid. Another bad omen is the telemarketing company that charges per lead instead of by the hour. In my 30 years in the lead business I have never found a telemarketing company that consistently generates a predetermined number of leads at a fixed cost without compromising the quality. Unfortunately, most annuity agents opt for the false sense of security of knowing how many leads they get for their money instead of how good the leads will be. Quality is always the bottom line.

The gold standard of qualified annuity leads is Triple-Direct. This prospect fits the demographic and is further qualified by (a) knowing who you are, (b) knowing what you sell, and (c) agreeing to meet with you at a time and place to hear your presentation. Salespeople of all persuasions yearn for the days when they can leave prospecting behind and just do what they do best: sell and close, sell and close. But this yearning often overpowers better judgment, and many promising careers have been cut short by preset appointment programs that sound great but just don’t deliver.

Ironically, the preset appointment program I hear cursed most often is the one promoted by the largest field marketing organization in the country. Every agent I talk to (that’s 100%) describes them as a complete waste of money. One agent told me he was quoted a fee of $5,614 for 40 appointments, of which only 25 would be replaced in case of a no-show. As expected, their standard operating procedure is to use immature, inexperienced telemarketers who have an hourly quota to fill or who get paid per lead generated. They also charge per appointment instead of by the hour.

In all fairness to legitimate annuity lead producers, however, there are three things an agent must do with every lead or appointment that often get neglected. First, assuming the leads can be emailed or posted to a web calendar as soon as they are generated, the agent must call the prospects and confirm the appointment time, place and date. Do not talk product. Just confirm and show up.

Second, if you purchase direct mail/direct response leads, do not take the lazy approach of calling for an appointment. It is imperative you use the Drop-By System. If you try to skip the work by calling for an appointment, you are just another junk phone caller – even though they signed the postage-paid card and mailed it back asking you to call them. Your appointment setting rate will struggle to reach 20%. But if you follow the Drop-By System to the letter, your appointment setting rate will soar to between 60% and 80%.

Third, before you spend any money on annuity leads or preset appointments (or before you use up the free leads your marketing organization gives you as a recruiting bonus), make sure your presentation and close are well rehearsed and brightly polished. I often hear agents say, “Just give me someone to talk to, I can sell anybody.” So I give them several people to talk to and the next thing I hear from them is, “These leads stink!”