"I'm fascinated with the realignment of the entire delivery system of every service known to mankind," says Gary Schulte. "Everything is point-and-click." After 23 years in the insurance industry, Schulte is now marketing strategist at Milliman & Robertson, the actuarial and consulting firm, and has addressed hundreds of insurance audiences.

The delivery of insurance and financial services is no exception to the point-and-click rule; however, in his presentations Schulte offers producers a way to become "indispensable," even amid the threats that surround them. "If you are going to succeed and thrive," he tells agents, "make sure you develop professional relationships based on things that each party can't easily get someplace else."

In a word: knowledge. "Make know- ledge your competitive edge," says Schulte, who goes on to describe three kinds of knowledge. The first is what you can learn from "universal icons" of the financial services world--Peter Lynch, Warren Buffett. The second comes from what Schulte calls "magic moment mentors." Such a mentor could be a speaker at a conference or a cocktail-party acquaintance. "It's someone who gives you a thought that just hits you between the eyes and stays with you as a credo. And it almost always happens at a meeting." A credo of Schulte's: "Honest, intelligent effort is always rewarded." The third type of knowledge comes from a "voluntary guardian," someone who sees something in you that makes him or her want to contribute to your success.

Knowledge is central because the "commodity-resistant producer" is the one who is able to command a premium for his or her services--the one who is able to say, "There are cheaper ways to get advice, but it won't be my advice."

Says Schulte: "Most agents get sucked into playing the commodity brokers' game on their terms. The problem is they feel technology has them by the throat." That's true, but only if producers allow it to be true. The successful producer will leverage technology to amplify his or her own talent. "They should be gatekeepers for all the spam and junk and confusing information their clients are suffering with," he continues. "I call it product paralysis. There are so many things out there to choose from. For the producer who becomes a filter through whom all this information is run, technology becomes an enabler.

"The customer still processes the information, but you filter it. That's how you become indispensable. This is no longer a business for the mediocre producers who facilitate a process. I shock [agent audiences] by saying, 'The reason you're afraid of technology is that you are the most inefficient means of distributing insurance products!'"

But Schulte goes on to say that the reason producers have survived and will continue to survive is that once they are in front of qualified clients, they get the job done. Their effectiveness overcomes their inefficiency. The key for each producer is to create a strategic plan that ensures continued development of those client relationships. "Your objective is to make yourself necessary," Schulte concludes.

To book Schulte, whose presentation covers "seven trends in the financial product delivery system," contact the Goodman Speakers Bureau, specialists in insurance and financial services. Call (860) 687-1116 or send e-mail to info@goodmanspeakersbureau.com.