As an advisor, you protect your clients from myriad risks — from the risk that they might outlive their income to the risk that they might die too soon and leave their families without financial support. You also help them set and meet important goals and obtain coverage such as health, long-term care and disability insurance that mitigate the risk of illness or of an injury that might derail their financial well-being.
But there is one category of risk you may not have considered: the risks posed by laws and regulations that threaten your business and clients. Fortunately, advisors can address these risks by engaging in political advocacy.
Advisors Are Natural Advocates
The skills that make great insurance and financial advisors often overlap those that make great political advocates. Even if you have never engaged in a political issue or spoken to an elected official, your career training and experience all but ensure you will be great at advocacy.
1. Building relationships. Successful advisors create long-lasting relationships with their clients. The most effective citizen advocates are those who build relationships with their elected officials.
If insurance advisors and politicians have anything in common, it is their desire to make connections with those they serve. So, not only are you a strong relationship builder (by nature of your professional success), you are also dealing with people who want to establish ties with you. Once you realize that a state legislator or a member of Congress is just another person you can serve and who is eager to receive your help, it makes the prospect of being politically involved much less intimidating.
2. Providing education. Advisors draw on their expertise to help clients understand financial risks and offer solutions to the problems those risks create.
Government officials cannot be experts in every field impacted by the legislation and regulations they must consider. This can be particularly true when it comes to insurance and financial matters. Just like your clients, legislators are looking for information and solutions to problems. They, too, want your help!
3. Representing Main Street. Elected officials hear from corporate lobbyists on a near-daily basis. Yet they cannot remain in office if they do not understand and serve the voters from their home districts. Insurance advisors, especially NAIFA members, live in communities in every state across the country. They serve the interests of the families and small businesses in those communities every day of their professional lives.
The overlap is obvious. When you advocate on behalf of your business or industry as a community-based insurance advisor, you also represent your clients. Who understands their insurance and financial needs better than you? There is no one who can explain how laws and regulations impact Main Street America better than you.
4. Closing the deal. As an advisor, how many times have you faced a skeptical audience? How much of your time is spent overcoming your clients’ objections to the products and services you offer?
You know how to make a good argument without being argumentative, and how to present complex ideas plainly and persuasively. The communications skills you have developed working with clients are the same ones you would use to effectively present advocacy positions to policymakers.
Getting Involved Is Easy
Legislators, whether state or federal, are far from inaccessible. They participate in community events, work with charitable causes and are present in their districts. They have staff members devoted to interacting with constituents.
Many insurance advisors get to know elected officials by being active in their communities, schools, or religious organizations. Several NAIFA members I know even have members of state legislatures or Congress as clients.
You can also connect with your legislators by working on their campaigns or attending political events. It is a relatively simple matter to set up meetings with them or their staff either in the home district or in Washington.
NAIFA’s annual Congressional Conference, scheduled for May 14-15, offers a great opportunity to get involved. Experts and D.C. insiders provide training and inspiration to help you make the greatest advocacy impact. You can network and learn from hundreds of fellow advisors, including seasoned advocacy veterans, and meet with members of Congress in a low-stress, group setting.
Every insurance and financial advisor needs to be a political advocate. You should do it because it is crucial to the success of our industry, your business and your clients. You should do it because it is a great source of personal satisfaction. And you should do it because you are good at it.