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Top 10 list: what to look for in an IMO: "as an independent financial advisor or insurance professional, one of your most critical relationships is with your Independent Marketing Organization (IMO).".


Anyone who has established a viable financial advisory practice knows there's nothing more important in our business than relationships. And I'm not talking just about client relationships. As an independent financial advisor or insurance professional, one of your most critical relationships is with your Independent Marketing Organization (IMO). IMOs come in all sizes and have various strengths and weaknesses, like any business. There are 10 simple criteria you can apply to help you find the right one for you.

1. Connectivity

Embracing technology is essential to success. Your IMO should have a cutting-edge Web site. At a bare minimum, your IMO should provide 24-hour access to product training, rates, client application, and agent contracting materials.

What if you need app materials or product information after hours? A Web site that is a functional resource, not just window dressing, should meet your needs around the clock.

Some IMO Web sites offer blogs and podcasts for download, enabling you to consume information on the company's site or download it to your iPod and get valuable info "to go."

2. Profiling

Any prospective IMO you consider should spend time learning about you and your practice, and not just talking to you about themselves.

In this vital relationship, you are the customer. Take the time to find an IMO that will, for its own part, invest the time necessary to learn what your needs are and try to meet them.

3. Recruiting Style

IMOs vary widely in the way they recruit producers. Unfortunately, some agents have been enticed to contract with an IMO based on empty promises. Look for an IMO that "underpromises but overdelivers." Honesty is the best policy, in all relationships, and it's an absolute necessity for an IMO seeking to meet your needs.

4. IMO Ownership

If independence is important to you, you should look for it in a prospective IMO as well. Some firms are more "independent" than others. A surprising number of IMOs are owned by insurance companies, and may have strong incentives to recommend the products issued by their owner (the parent insurance company).

Perform due diligence. Public Web sites are available where you can learn which IMOs are owned by insurance companies.

5. A Well-Run Back Office

The manufacturing services of an IMO are just as important as the marketing services. Find an IMO that will work hard to turn your applications into policies and commission checks. Will the IMO perform all the manufacturing work for you? A good IMO partner frees you from policy manufacturing, so you spend more time doing what you do best: selling!

6. The Latest and Best Products

Remember eight-track tapes and floppy disks? They were great at one time, but are woefully obsolete today. The only thing constant in our industry is change. New insurance and financial products hit the market every month. Look for an IMO that sorts through them to bring you the latest leading-edge plans.

7. Inventory

Some marketing companies have hot multi-year guarantee annuities, others offer top indexed annuities. Only a few offer the best of the best of both worlds.

Successful advisors want to do business with a one-stop shop. Your time is money; spend it wisely. Consolidate business with one IMO that has the breadth of products you need to succeed.

8. Good Commissions

The independent distribution model is great. It's designed to pay 100% of the commissions to you, plus an override to the IMO for supporting your sales. Find an IMO that follows that "win-win" arrangement, so you receive the full commission intended by the carrier that designed the product.

9. Leverage

Sooner or later, you will have an important case that requires a special dispensation from the insurance carrier. That's when you'll want your IMO to go to bat for you--and it's better if they carry a big stick. Your IMO should have enough influence with the insurance company to call in a favor when you really need it. When your IMO has earned respect and carries influence, by extension you do, too.

10. Incentives

Everyone wants to be rewarded for a job well done. Forget about fanny packs and key rings; most advisors agree the favorite form of reward and recognition is cold hard cash. Some IMOs offer production and signing bonuses. Let your prospective IMO know what motivates you!

The Bottom Line

Relationships require effort. Once you've settled in with your IMO of choice, take time to maximize the opportunities they make available to you. Don't assume professional relationships will stay healthy or productive if you don't work on them. Successful relationships are a process, not an event.

If you're already with an IMO and the relationship is not what you hoped for, talk to them about it. If it's not working for you, it's probably not working for them either. Problem areas can be identified, addressed, and resolved. If you ultimately decide you need to move on, however, your IMO should be willing to give you a release, although if necessary, you can usually transfer without asking for their consent.

We each want to live and work at the level of our maximum potential, and relationships help make that happen. Carefully consider your options and "do your homework" before you decide which firm is the best choice for you. It could well be one of the best time investments of your professional career.

By Ron W. Rawlings

Dallas Financial Wholesalers * Dallas, Texas

Ron W. Rawlings is principal and founder of Dallas Financial Wholesalers, a national marketing organization distributing annuities, life insurance, and long-term care insurance to personal producing general agents, financial planners, broker-dealers, banks, and credit unions.
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Author:Rawlings, Ron W.
Publication:Life Insurance Selling
Date:Mar 1, 2009
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