‘Principles of Engagement’ Teaches Agents Service, Not Selling

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For the last 10 years, Lou Cassara’s clinic, ‘Principles of Engagement,’ has been striving to help thousands of sales professionals build stronger, more meaningful relationships with their clients.

“The process of creating significant relationships is a communication process based on service, not selling,” says Lou Cassara, president of The Cassara Clinic, Oak Brook, Ill.

“This is not a sales training program,” he says. “This is a venue where it really helps people create significant relationships.”

Lou Cassara joined Northwestern Mutual in 1982, and has been Top of the Table for the last 10 years. He describes how he got into the business of training agents. “I got off to the quickest 3-year start in the agency. People started asking me how I did it.”

Cassara continues, “After a few years, I was asked to do a workshop on how I operated to the agency. My presentation was very little about product, it was more about the process I had used.

“It’s a thought process and a communication process, far more engaged on the process of creating significant relationships,” he says.

Cassara’s clinic takes on a different approach from many other sales training programs. He focuses more on relationships and less on products and memorization.

John McTigue, managing director of The McTigue Financial group in Chicago says “I think we have too much of a tendency to focus on what the product is going to do for the individual. Lou’s whole approach is trying to figure out what the person’s primary motives and goals are, and showing the products as a way of helping a person achieve their goals.

“All of a sudden I’m not trying to sell someone $1 million of variable life,” says McTigue. “I’m trying to figure out how I can have the biggest impact on this individual.”

Cassara’s program not only emphasizes the relationship between the producer and the client, but also focuses on the relationship with one’s self. “I start with you, focusing on who you are is more important then what you do,” he says.

“It starts with attracting people by articulating clearly who you are, and why someone will want to do business with you,” says Cassara.

McTigue has had about 80-90% of his agents participate in Cassara’s program. “Because it’s not a canned pitch, I think the participants have more confidence and are more comfortable.

“When they say what they do and how they can help, the sincerity level is much higher. They’re really saying what they feel, not what somebody else told them to memorize,” he says.

Andrew Higney, an agent with The McTigue Financial Group, has gone through the program three times in his 13 years in the business.

“A whole part of the clinic revolves around understanding why we do what we do, and really builds on what your mission statement is, not just from a professional perspective but also in life,” says Higney.

“After the session, you walk out with some clarity on why you do what you do as a person,” he continues. “Obviously thats the starting point to help you bridge into the professional aspect of the business.”

Shawn Mackey, co-managing director of The Strategic Financial Group, Los Angeles, estimates 75 of the 125 agents in his office have gone through the program.

“The challenge is always getting into a relationship and moving past that initial stage of ‘Why are you here? What are you going to do? Do I want to be engaged in this or not?’” he says.

Mackey says that one of the biggest benefits his agents have realized from Cassara’s program is the ability to engage a prospect in meaningful conversation quickly.

“People are so assaulted with the velocity of their own lives, that our ability to engage them in a way that gets to the issues that are significant to them and gets to them fast, is also required,” says Mackey.

McTigue agrees, “It’s really about getting in very early and talking about how you can have an impact, how you can help them. Within 5 minutes you get into the critical issues and most important values of your prospect’s life.”

Higney, who went through the program at 3 different times in his career, explains how the program helped him. “At 6 months in the business, it really gave me a better understanding of developing relationships with people.”

After his 6th year in the business, Higney went through the program a second time. “I witnessed a 30-40% increase in my business the following year.”

Most recently, Higney went through the program a third time last summer. He explains, “Not only does Lou understand the principles of selling and engaging with people, but it’s directly applicable to our industry.

“He’s taking his 20 years of experience and applying that to us in the field and I think that is the significant benefit,” says Higney.

Mackey agrees, “More of the guys that are in the seminar business have become proficient sellers of their seminars, and it was not necessarily the case that they were truly proficient professionals.”

Mackey feels that the fact Cassara has been successful in the business adds tremendous value to his program, “He’s built his program out of his experiences, even experience with a client that just occurred last week.”

“I’ve always thought that if I could teach this, it would enhance my performance,” says Cassara. “My personal production was at a very high level, and the whole time I did this my production continued to rise,” he says.

Even though Mr. Cassara spends a great deal of time conducting his clinic, ‘Principles of Engagement,’ he continues to top the list of successful producers at Northwestern Mutual.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, November 19, 2001. Copyright 2001 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.


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