During the more than 20 years I’ve been in the financial services industry, I’ve been fortunate to meet hundreds upon hundreds of financial advisors and insurance agents across the country and in various stages in the business. From the eager newbies to the sage veterans, I’ve visited with them all and here are the seven reasons I’ve found that top producers have more success in the business.
1. They Spend Money - Serious Money
To make it in the insurance business, or any business for that matter, you need to find someone willing to buy the products you are selling. Sounds pretty simple right? What many people fail to realize is that marketing and sales are two completely different things.
To help explain the difference I’m going to use a fishing analogy. The role of marketing for any company is to get “fish into the boat”. In other words, marketing comprises the strategies and tactics that attract individuals to your company. When you go fishing, you first have to make a few decisions, such as determining the type of fish you want to catch (target market), selecting the best bait to use (strategies, tactics, and offers), and where to cast your nets (possible lead sources) so that marketing can bring in the biggest load of fish (prospects).
Once marketing has done the job of bringing in the leads, it’s now up to sales to sort through the leads and throw back the ones that are just too small, and move forward with the ones that fit. Those leads that fit your profile are then put through a specific process to move them from prospect to client.
The most successful insurance producers develop a long-term marketing plan and most importantly, commit financial resources to see that plan through. Commercial fishermen like we see on Discovery’s hit show Deadliest Catch don’t just put one crab pot in the vast ocean and expect to reach their crab quota. They first spend thousands of dollars acquiring their bait, filling the boat with fuel, hiring their crew, and preparing their ship for weeks at sea. The captain must supply a significant amount of financial resources up-front before a single crab pot hits the ocean floor. He goes deep into his pocket, hoping that what he hauls in more than offsets his costs. The same holds true for insurance producers. You need to be willing to go deep into your own financial resources to generate your leads.
2. They Market in More than One Way
Let’s go back to the crab fishing analogy... To catch the most crabs, the captain deploys several crab pots in many different locations. The results vary from season to season and location to location. One season the crabs may be found in one place, but if the captain goes back the next season, he might haul up empty pots. That’s the nature of fishing, and it’s also the nature of generating insurance leads. You can’t assume because something worked in the past it will automatically generate the same (or better) results in the future.
The most successful insurance producers employ many different marketing practices to generate leads. They know that only dropping a single crab pot might get some leads, but not nearly enough to take their production to the next level.
We once heard from an insurance producer that, “direct mail doesn’t work.” Having heard this, we wanted to know more about his marketing approach to better understand the situation, because we absolutely know that direct mail does work. So we asked some follow up questions, and based on what we heard, we quickly determined that he didn’t understand how direct mail works.
First we asked how many postcards did you mail? He answered, “100.” Then we asked, how many times did you mail to your list? He answered, “Once.” That’s all we needed to hear to realize he was right, his direct mail approach would never work. Direct mail response rates vary from half of one percent to at the highest end 2 percent. So if he mailed 100 postcards once, the best he’d ever expect in returned leads would be two. Now I know there are many great sales people out there that could close 50% of the leads they received, but getting 2 leads from direct mail and thinking you’re going to sell one policy is unreasonable.
We explained to the producer that direct mail requires a long-term commitment. We encouraged him to start mailing 5,000 postcards every two-three weeks over a 14 week period if he wanted to get any significant and measurable results. If he generated possible leads from this new approach, on the low-end he was looking at maybe 150 responses. From there, based on his follow-up strategy, the probable result would be somewhere between 10 to 15 sales. The reason direct mail takes so much effort is that many people who receive a direct-mail postcard will not respond on the first mailing. It takes mailing that same list four, five even six times before you start getting any measurable results.
If you are not willing to first develop a plan, commit financial resources to the plan, and continually modify and improve your plan based on actual results, get out of this business. Go find something else do to because being one of the most successful insurance producers involves spending money to make money.
3. Understand How People Make Decisions - Even Bad Ones
Let’s be clear that successfully selling life insurance can be challenging, however the top producers approach this market with the ability to sell and solve people’s problems. In solving their problems, they position life insurance and other financial products as the most viable and economic solution to their client’s concerns.
Most people, when given two financial choices, will ultimately narrow down the two options and pick a single solution that provides them the best economic value. What’s really interesting if you’ve ever studied Behavioral Economics, is that sometimes when people are presented with financial choices, many times people make a bad economic decision. In other words, when presented with the choice that ultimately provides them the best economic value, they pick the other option that doesn’t provide the best value.
Human behavior is fascinating because humans rarely choose things in absolute terms. We don’t have an internal value meter that tells us how much things are worth. Rather we focus on the relative advantage of one thing over another, and estimate value accordingly. For instance, we don’t specifically know how much a six cylinder engine is worth, but we can assume it’s more expensive (and powerful) than a four cylinder engine. What’s truly fascinating about Behavioral Economics is that most people don’t know what they want unless they see it in context. Most people don’t have an internal meter that tells them that a properly funded and structured indexed universal life (IUL) policy is better than other financial vehicles because they have no context upon which to make that decision. However, if you can structure your presentation to clearly lay out the various options they have with their money, the decision to purchase a life insurance policy is almost a “no-brainer.” When provided with a list of options where the inherent economic value is clearly depicted, the prospect can clearly see that what you present is superior. The top financial advisors and insurance agents help clients clearly understand the issues they face, then show them a better path to solve their problems.
4. Commit to an Area of Focus
The top performing producers we work with commit their business to a specific area of focus. They specialize, not generalize. Sure, it’s nice to be able to be a jack-of-all-trades, but it often results in being a master of none. To reach the highest level of success in the insurance sales game, you need to clearly define who you want to work with and what specific problem you’re going to solve for those clients. Traditionally this falls into one of three basic categories:
- Estate Planning
In the personal insurance market, most successful producers position IUL as a compliment to their clients' retirement nest eggs. They validate for their prospects that a properly funded and structured life insurance policy provides more benefits with less risk than the alternatives. Having a proven sales presentation that actually closes business doesn’t hurt either. The personal market is often the place producers start their practice, and many stay there during their entire career.
In the business insurance market, most producers present IUL as a way to either recruit, retain or reward the key executives of the business. They use nonqualified executive benefits and use life insurance as the funding vehicle for those plans. Obviously there are a myriad of ERISA rules and regulations that must be followed to ensure the plan is just covering a select group of highly compensated employees. You can also target the rank-and-file employees with the Financial Wellness@Work program.
Estate Planning is the last main area of focus for the successful insurance producer. In this market, you need to be the go-to expert on efficiently reducing estate taxes or establishing insurance trusts that hold life insurance. With Estate Tax laws continually changing, it generally benefits you if you are also a CPA or Estate Planning Attorney. The most successful producers in the Estate Planning market align with CPAs or attorneys if they don’t have that specific background.
5. They Become the Go-to Expert in their Market
Once you’ve selected your business area of focus, you need to become the go-to expert in your community. Build upon your reputation and spread the word that your business solves a specific problem better than anyone else. If you’re not going to be your biggest fan, who is? How do you raise your visibility in the community? You go back to your marketing efforts and continue to build upon them. This is when you need to start building your public relations image.
If you want to be a recognized by the media, you first need to become known by a journalist as a trusted source of expertise. These relationships can be an excellent way to build your visibility. Journalists are almost always on a tight timeline, and when national stories pop up, most local journalists want to add in how that story impacts the local community. There are several steps you should consider to get yourself on the short list of “trusted experts” that the journalist can turn to.
The first step is getting that relationship started and letting them know you exist. If there’s a relevant story which you have an opinion on, contact the journalist and tell them. With today’s connected journalists, you can find email addresses, social media profiles, or you can even make a quick phone call and talk about your view on the issue at hand. Your position might be interesting enough that they can expand on the story and provide a fresh angle.
You also need to make yourself visable when a journalist conducts an internet search on the subject, which means you need a website with excellent Search Engine Optimization (SEO). But it’s not enough just to have a website. You need to have a website that appears high in the internet search results if you’re going to be their go-to expert. We suggest that you feature a compelling biography showing your mastery of the subject which you’re claiming to be an expert of. Publishing a blog on your website demonstrates your knowledge and shows that you have valid opinions. It can also boost your chances of being selected. Lastly, you need to be good on camera and have something interesting and relevant to say.
6. Have a System and Follow It
Discipline is an often-used word, yet for the highly successful producers it’s not just a word, it’s a lifestyle. First they set measurable and meaningful goals, then employ a system to help reach those goals. Structuring their day so they can be as efficient as possible separates the best from the rest. Some of them structure their day in following way:
- Stay focused and minimize downtime
- Don’t focus on non-productive activities
- Plan your day to remain productive
- Don’t bog down in small details
- Proper activity generates leads
- Book appointments
- Use an agenda
- Use the same sales process with each prospect
- Know when to walk away from a relationship
- Structure client review mindset from initial meeting
- Strong relationships lead to referrals
7. Build a Strong Support Staff
The reality is that most of the successful insurance producers out there are not a one-man or one-woman show. They realize that they have limitations and there are some parts of the business where they need assistance. Realizing this fact — that it takes an impressive team to win the best clients — the most successful insurance producers hire staff and use outside consultants to assist them with areas of the business that they don’t want to focus on. They work out of a professional office and rarely (if ever) make house calls.
Typical In-Office Support Staff
Typical Outside Resources
Focus your efforts on what you do best, and if it’s not selling face-to-face and meeting people, then find another career. If you are an exceptional salesperson, and aren’t getting the success you need, consider turning to outside or internal resources to help you reach the goals you desire. If you partner with the right IMO (Independent Insurance Marketing Organization), often they can help you with some of these areas of your business.
Top producers also utilize customized videos on their social media profiles and websites. Learn how you can get 10 free customized videos to share with your prospects and clients.