For years, life insurance providers and their agents have relied on obtuse, text-heavy sales presentations to their individual customers. Too often, though, poor sales presentation tools fail to enlighten individuals concerning the magnitude of a life purchase.

But some insurers on the leading edge of technology have determined that there are indeed more effective ways to make life and annuity products palatable to potential customers. Hartford-based Travelers Life & Annuity is among several life insurers that have upgraded their existing desktop-driven sales presentation system--an upgrade intended to provide independent agents with electronic sales and marketing tools to convince clients about the necessity of life and annuity products within their individual portfolios.

"We wanted to offer a sales presentation system that could be delivered in a 'story'-type approach, combining pictures, text and numbers. It could provide a snapshot of an individual's insurance needs and would also be easy for them to grasp-and it would be customized for them," explains Mark Teitelbaum, second vice president, advanced sales, Travelers Life & Annuity, an operating unit of Citigroup.

Travelers Life & Annuity, which generated $632 million in life insurance premium in 2003, is currently using a solution developed by Eagan, Minn.-based pTeraDac Web Systems. The solution, WebStory Presentation Management System, is a Web-based program licensed by Travelers that provides the carrier with several noted advantages over its existing desktop system.

For one, the program offers flexibility. WebStory enables an insurer to operate from one unified presentation platform for all distribution channels. So if an agent wants to use his desktop and not the Web to generate presentations, he can do so seamlessly.

Secondly, WebStory offers customization since insurers such as Travelers can establish a branded look for sales presentations. And thirdly, the solution lets insurers instantly update product information because WebStory resides on the Web, and not on the desktop, where product modifications occur via CD-ROM diskettes.

Travelers Life's objective in offering WebStory to its producers is to bring into the program 300 unique users per month by end of the year, says Teitelbaum. That is, the company wants the program to be used by 300 different life agents each  month. The company expects to be there by the end of the year, as it is currently at about 150 users per month, he says. "I can't get this product to market quick enough due to the high demand of our producers," says Teitelbaum.

Industry analysts concur that the way Travelers Life has approached implementing illustration software--as an integrated solution within its core operating systems--is the route to go. "The view over the years is that illustration solutions have been a standalone product, but it has to be a part of a bigger new business process," says Craig Weber, senior analyst for Boston-based research and consulting firm Celent Communications Inc. "Agents run illustration software on a local PC, and as they do there is often a lack of connectivity to a carrier's system. So when agents gets product data on life products from insurers they often have to re-enter it into their new-business system to produce sales illustration documents for clients. That's counter-productive."

Clearly, Web-based illustration is a concept that will generate momentum in the coming years due to consumer demand.  "Other industries have helped set the bar higher (with sales illustration competencies), and it's up to insurers to get up to speed on this investment," says Celent's Weber.

Steve Dwyer

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