Carrier-Sponsored Coaching Helps Rejuvenate Agents Practices

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Four years ago, Todd Bramsons practice had stagnated–he was working long hours, had a difficult time just taking an afternoon off, and still felt he was not making any headway.

After 15 years in the business, the planner from Madison, Wis., was facing something almost every veteran financial advisor has faced: the desire to grow his business, but also wanting to spend more time with his family. With two children, ages 7 and 9, and his practice at a plateau, the two goals appeared to be mutually exclusive.

Fast forward to today and Bramsons practice is flourishinghes having his best year ever and is expecting to reach the Million Dollar Round Tables Court of the Table. In addition to surpassing his production goals, he took the entire month of July off, is working fewer hours, and having more fun in his career. He attributes his success to working with a professional business coach.

Bramson, an agent with North Star Resource Group, is one of about 130 agents in the Securian Financial Network who has participated in a formalized coaching program sponsored by the carrier.

“I was a little skeptical at first because it was sponsored by Securian,” he admits.

Bramson says his initial thoughts were: “If this is all about finding a way to sell more products, or to place more business with Securian, I dont want any part of it.”

But as he soon discovered, this was not the case. Rather, he says his increased production came about as a result of working with Securians coaching team to help him reach his personal goals.

“Im sure they were hoping Id increase my production, but it wasnt all about that,” he says.

In fact, the program was initially developed for the purpose of attracting experienced producers to Securian, according to Leslie Millikan, manager of the Breakthrough Program at Securian, St. Paul, Minn. “We quickly realized that it would have great appeal to our own sales force.”

Now after running the program for six years, Millikan is hearing a number of success stories from program participants.

For Bramson, working with a professional business coach helped him set personal goals and then identify the barriers that were keeping him from accomplishing them. One area he needed some assistance with was his ability to delegate tasks to members of his staff.

“In order for me to grow, I had to start delegating more tasks to staff to free up my time. I couldnt keep doing the $10 and $20 an hour activities,” Bramson explains.

It took a while for Bramson to get his staff people in place, but now he feels much more comfortable delegating tasks.

“I knew it was a problem, but I didnt know the extent of it. The coaching helped me clarify how much of an issue it was and then how to go about solving it. It also helped keep me on task to do it, and not fall back into the ways Id been doing things for years,” he continues. “Now I cant wait to give stuff away.”

Jeff Simpson, an agent with Wechsler Marsico Associates in Media, Pa., entered the program in January of this year, and he has already seen differences in how he runs his business.

“Its really taught me to work a little better and a little smarter,” he says.

Simpson started in this business seven years ago as a 23-year-old right out of college. His natural market was other young professionals starting out in their careers. “The problem was there wasnt a lot of premium dollars or investment dollars there,” he says.

Simpson enrolled in Securians Breakthrough Program to help him bring his practice to the next level. In addition to increasing his production, he wanted to position himself so that every year he had “bigger and better prospects.”

One of the issues Simpson uncovered was his inability to qualify his prospects. “When youre in this business, you kind of want to talk to whoever wants to talk to you. But once you reach a certain point, you have to narrow your focus and only talk to certain people that are going to be better prospects for the long term,” Simpson explains.

By maintaining this focus through continued coaching sessions, Simpson is now able to better qualify his prospects.

“This really taught me to focus,” he says.

Looking ahead, Simpson has already blocked two months off next years calendar for his upcoming wedding. “I know what I need to do in that shorter amount of time, which makes me a little more focused.”

Before a Securian agent can begin the coaching program, he or she must meet a number of requirements, says Millikan. Agents must have at least five years of experience in the business, must have met certain production guidelines, and must successfully pass Millikans screening process.

Upon meeting these requirements, participants are required to make a commitment to the program for two years, and pay a program fee. The fee “represents a necessary financial and emotional commitment,” she says. Millikan explains that participants are more likely to make the necessary behavioral changes when they are paying for the coaching sessions.

At that point, participants go through a series of psychological tests, which help reveal different aspects of their personality. “It really allows me to understand what motivates that person and what holds them back,” Millikan says.

“Its almost like a confessional,” adds Simpson. “They really get to know you so they can figure out your strengths and your weaknesses.”

After meeting with Millikan for an extended interview, as well as with others who specialize in areas such as advanced marketing, practice management, and the financial aspects of running a practice, a development plan is tailored to meet the individual needs of the producer.

“The plan provides a point of departure,” Millikan explains. “It gives the individual some tangible changes that will help them advance toward their goals.”

Each participant will most likely have a different area he needs to address, Millikan notes. “If we can identify what the obstacle is for that individual, then we can manage it and move forward.”

Millikan gives the example of an agent who continuously fails to ask for referrals. “We look at what precludes this person from asking for referrals–people dont ask for referrals for all kinds of different reasons,” she says.

In this instance, understanding why someone doesnt ask for referrals gives you the opportunity to objectively stand back and address it, and then go forward, she says.

While Simpson, Bramson, and Millikan all feel that anyone can benefit from working with a professional business coach, Millikan admits that coaching may not be for everybody. “Its a function of timing and what your goals and aspirations are,” she says.

Millikan adds that if an individual is fairly happy and satisfied with what he is currently doing, he is not likely to be interested in making any behavioral changes. “Theres got to be some compelling motivation,” she says.

Since working with a business coach involves being open to making changes in your behavior, Millikan notes that people who have difficulty accepting help from others may not be good candidates for a coaching experience.

Finally, in case anyone was wondering, Millikan, who has been a professional coach for seven years, also has a coach. “Even the coach needs a coach,” she says.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, November 18, 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.