By

Charlotte, N.C.

For aspiring entrepreneurs getting into the insurance business today, the odds of success is against them. New agent retention over a four-year period is about 14%, according to recent LIMRA reports.

But even for those agents who have made it past that crucial four-year litmus test, for some, their business may be at a plateau.

For these agents, it might be a good idea to work with a performance coach, according to Stan Hustad, creator and president of the PMI group, Minneapolis, who conducted a break out session at this years National Association of Insurance Financial Advisors meeting here.

Hustad told the story of an agent who came to him for help. After 17 years in the business, “Sam,” was still struggling and not enjoying his job very much. When Hustad met with him, he asked Sam to explain to him just how he has helped some of his current clients. As it turned out, Sam had the unique ability to tell a riveting story.

Sam told such entertaining and touching stories, Hustad instructed him to stop selling insurance and start telling stories. Now, when Sam went on a sales call, he would give his “sales presentation” in about one minute and then go on to tell true stories of how he has helped clients in the past.

Since changing his presentation style, Sams income has tripled and hes having more fun than ever, said Hustad.

This is one example of how a performance coach helped. Hustad illustrated a few different ways a performance coach can help an agent with his or her business.

“The first thing a coach will help you do is understand the realities of the business,” he said.

“The world has changed,” he explained. “Now we are in the experience business. Its not the product, its not the service, its the EXPERIENCE.”

One example Hustad cited is what Starbucks has done for coffee. “A little company in Seattle turned a $3 a pound commodity into a $3 a cup experience,” he said.

Agents need to think about how they can make their client meetings a better experience. “You can change your business by saying, I am in the business of providing a unique, memorable experience which only I can do,” he continued. “You need to differentiate yourself on the basis of your clients experience.”

Reflecting back on his client, Sam, Hustad notes that “Sam found out people loved his stories, they could laugh, they could chuckle, they could cry.”

Sam turned what used to be an ordinary life insurance presentation into a unique experience for his clients, Hustad added.

“You can not brand yourself with new stationery, or a cute slogan. You brand yourself by having unique client experiences,” he said.

Once you have found what unique experience works for you, it is important to stick with it and not slip back into your old habits. Hustad used another experience he had with Sam to illustrate this. Sam had an appointment with a major prospect, and was concerned that perhaps he should go back to running illustrations and building proposals for this particular meeting. “Do the story,” Hustad told him.

So Sam reluctantly went into his appointment with a potentially very large prospect, gave his one minute sales presentation, and then went on to tell his stories of how he has helped other people.

“In eight minutes, the prospect stopped him and said, Lets start there, thats a great idea. Could you do that for my family?” Hustad said.

Telling entertaining stories was an approach that worked for Sam, but other agents may not be able to make this a pleasant experience. Determining what special experience you could provide your clients is something you may need help with, he said. This is one area where you may want to work with a performance coach.

“Companies cant help you, because theyre in the product business. Youre in the service and experience business,” he said.

The next thing a performance coach will help with is understanding that as an agent, you need to learn the art of performance marketing, Hustad said.

Hustad raised his hand, brandishing a remote control and exclaimed, “This has changed the world! If you dont get someones attention in seven seconds, they click.”

Hustad explained that this is one reason why agents need to be at the point where they can give their sales presentation in just a minute, just as Sam had done.

“Everything from Ex-Lax to Lexus is sold in one minute,” he said.

For example, if an agent is meeting with a client for an annual review, and at the end of the review asks, “By the way, who has your long term care insurance?” If the client doesnt have it, you should be a good enough performance marketer to say, “If you have just one minute, I can tell you about it.”

Looking back at Sams accomplishments, Hustad noted that Sam stopped selling products and services and started marketing himself. An approach Hustad described for marketing yourself is through the use of a monthly newsletter.

“You have to market you,” he said.

One of Hustads other clients–who was also a financial advisor–had been writing a newsletter to his clients, and one time he included a compelling story about the unfortunate death of his dog. All of a sudden, clients were calling in, expressing their sympathies for the passing of his family pet. Many clients had similar experiences, and the discussions resulted in setting up appointments to review what their goals were, and update coverage amounts of his clients families.

“Now hes got a new dog, and hes having a Name the dog contest in his newsletter,” he said.

Another benefit Hustad said agents will realize by working with a performance coach is gaining the understanding that you need to be the same type of person you want for a client.

By this, Hustad explained that he meant to express the importance of goal setting. A characteristic most successful people have in common is that they engage in the process of setting goals and developing a plan to reach those goals.

“If you want clients who are successful, you have to be successful,” he said. In order to be successful, and work with successful people, you must set goals, have a plan to reach them, and then take the action steps to get you there, he said.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, October 7, 2002. Copyright 2002 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.