Do you ever feel stressed out, overwhelmed or inefficient? Do you come home at night to your family, your most important client, feeling exhausted and irritable? Most will answer “yes” to those questions at some point in their career. I was answering “yes” to those questions too often, so I decided to do something about it.

You can transform your practice from a highly stressful, chaotic practice into a well-structured, lower-stress operation with well-defined parameters.

Key #1: Create a perfect day. Ask yourself: When am I most energetic, happy and enthusiastic? Am I a morning person or an afternoon person? How long do my appointments take? How much time do I need between appointments to dictate case notes and get to my next appointment? Where do I want to see people: my office, their office, their house, a restaurant? How many people can I see per day and efficiently process into my system? When do I want to be home at night? Answering all these questions will allow you to see people when you are at your best, when you want to see them, where you want to see them, and how many you want to and can see in a day.

Heres how it works for me. I am a morning person. I get up between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. depending on the day. My appointments last about one hour. I need 30 minutes between appointments to dictate case notes and get to the next appointment. I prefer to see new prospects either in their office or at a restaurant, current clients at my office or theirs, and initial closes at my office. My operation can efficiently process up to six people per day. I want to be home every night for dinner with my family by 6 p.m.

Therefore, I have set up my perfect day with appointment times at 7 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. This allows me to see the majority of my clients/prospects when I am at my best–in the morning. This also allows me to see people in the afternoon, if I want, or to schedule other noncritical activities at that time. Most importantly, this allows me to be home every night with my family.

On Monday morning from 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., I meet with my assistant to review case preparation for the week, discuss any underwriting and/or client service issues that have come up and discuss goals for the week. Each days files are sorted into hanging folders labeled Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, so we know exactly where those files are and feel confident they are prepared properly.

If you know exactly when you are going to see people, it will decrease your stress levels. Youll be more effective when youre seeing people on your terms and at your times.

Key #2: Hire an assistant. If you already have one, consider hiring another one to further increase the amount of time you spend face to face with prospects and clients.

Outside of my Monday meeting with my assistant, I rarely see her during the day and communicate with her primarily through dictation, voicemail and phone calls. A typical day usually fills one side of a micro cassette recorder. At the end of the day, I stack that days files and a micro cassette tape in my assistants inbox for her to pick up and take care of the following morning. She then transcribes the tape and prepares the file as much as possible for the review at our next Monday morning meeting.

Key #3: Keep your calendar full. Set at least 25 appointments ahead of the coming week. This requires a daily dedication to phoning. This also requires us to have a sense of urgency on the phone. I try to set at least three new appointments during my “new” phoning time (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday between 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.) and my assistant usually sets between one and four appointments per day as well with existing clients for reviews and birthday meetings. When phoning, I will suggest one of my specific times to meet.

I know exactly when I am going to see people each day. If I am not seeing someone, I am either on my office phone or my cell phone. I call referrals from my office and follow-ups from my cell phone to set them during my drive time to and from appointments. I try to return calls only while in my car–using office time to set appointments. I forward any service calls to my assistant to handle. I sync my palm pilot once a day to let her know what appointments I set and find out whom she set.

Key #4: Master your approach. Develop conversational but specific approach language that you have mastered.

In the personal marketplace, my approach is always the same and goes like this:

“Mr. Prospect, I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with me today. I know you are as busy as I am, so I will be as brief and productive as possible. As I told you on the phone, Ive done some work for (referrers name), and he/she thought youd at least like to be aware of some of the ideas that many of our clients have found exciting. I just wanted to introduce myself to you, tell you a little bit about the kind of work I do, how I do it and then Im going to leave. We can then decide if I leave forever, put some ideas together for you, or just table our discussion for another time. Does this sound fair?”

My mission is to inspire people to define, develop and achieve their personal, professional, and financial goals and dreams.

Then to set the agenda for the days meeting, I ask the following question: “When you and I are meeting here just three years from today (June 2005), what would have to happen personally, professionally and financially to feel happy about your progress?”

About 99% of the time, I do my approach and take a fact finder in the first meeting. The fact-finding appointment usually takes about an hour.

Key #5: Set closing appointment. At the end of every fact-finding meeting in which I think a case is open, I will set the closing appointment. Usually a prospect will not be able to commit to an appointment without checking his or her calendar, or checking with a spouse, so my assistant will follow up and schedule them for one of my open time slots.

Key #6: Send a discovery letter. After I leave the initial fact-finding interview, I dictate the case notes including a discussion on what happened in the meeting, what items need to be prepared and define what bullet points need to go into our discovery letter to the client. This letter always has the same beginning and ending but customized bullet points in between.

Write a discovery letter to every prospect with whom you meet. Summarize all their personal, professional, and financial goals and dreams youve just discussed with them.

In the personal marketplace, the close is typically within a week or two of the initial appointment and usually is scheduled at my office with both spouses present. I have both decision-makers come see me in my office during daytime hours.

During the close, I first review the discovery letter we sent out to them to ensure there is agreement on the issues that are most important to them. If there are no changes needed, I assume that we will be taking action on at least one if not all of the issues mentioned in the discovery letter. I ask the clients upfront which issue they would like to take care of first.

My close usually lasts between 45 and 90 minutes depending on how many things we are trying to get accomplished at one time and when my next appointment is. I have my clients sign the necessary paperwork, collect the initial premium and congratulate them on taking steps toward achieving their goals. I then discuss the underwriting process, the medical exam and personal history interview, and educate the client on how these take steps place. Finally, I ask for referrals before the appointment ends.

Key #7: Maintain 350 active clients. A client will buy five to seven times over the course of his or her lifetime. An active client is someone we expect to buy within the next three years. Getting to 350 active clients (not lives) allows us to obtain critical mass and have the ability to be more specific when asking for referrals. We can now ask for our ideal client specifically as a referral.

I ask for referrals every chance I get and write them on the fact finder. I keep track of referrals people give to me and provide them with status reports–this encourages them to give me additional referrals and makes them feel good about the ones they have given me so far. If I am not successful in securing an appointment with a referral, I ask my clients to e-mail or call these referrals to let them know I will be calling them.

Key #8: Use the same sales presentation. This maximizes efficiency in case note dictation and case preparation. More importantly, it maximizes confidence. When we are confident, we are enthusiastic, and enthusiasm is contagious.

I most often use Personal Planning Analysis (PPA) software for retirement planning, survivor income planning and educational planning. We use the same 14-page template for everyone.

I illustrate the PPA on my laptop computer right in front of the client. This saves my assistant a lot of time by not having to print and bind the analysis. Also, if changes need to be made, we can make them right there without interrupting the flow of the close and costing us another meeting. Our PPA shows exactly how much they need to save for education, retirement and the amount of insurance they need. This creates a larger savings commitment because the computer is doing the math. The client is either willing to invest what it takes to achieve their goals or they are not.

I typically try to sell the concept of permanent life insurance. I show a permanent life insurance ledger for the amount of insurance the PPA suggests my client needs, which is usually a fairly large amount. This gets them excited about the potential numbers and gives them a vision of what they should be doing in the future. However, most of my clients cant afford this amount in permanent life insurance, so I usually sell some whole life with a term companion to get them the right amount of insurance but fit it into their budget.

As far as investments go, I pretty much stick with two or three fund families, again making my life simpler while still doing the right thing for the client. If my clients have needs that I dont feel comfortable handling, I refer them to a specialist in that area within our office. Focus on what you enjoy and what you do best–refer the rest!

Key #9: Own what you sell. I remember putting $150/month into my program as a new agent thinking, “Where am I going to get the money to pay next months premium?”

Then I heard a tape of someone talking about the “One Million Dollar Club” which meant owning $1 million of life insurance no matter how much is permanent and how much is term. Just the power and confidence you get from saying, “I own $1 million of life insurance” is incredible. This practice will give you a lot of confidence to challenge people to set aside the necessary dollars in order to achieve their goals and dreams.

Key #10: Mental toughness. Be inspirational and have the mental toughness to get you instantly to that place where youre on top of the world. Here is one of the many things that inspires me:

Striving to be successful is not wrong in and of itself–it is part of who we are. But there must be balance between EGO and SELF. Ego is what inspires us to achieve, to produce and to be recognized. Self is what calls us to love, give and to cherish life. A conscious awareness of death causes us to live life with the awareness that it is a limited amount of time we have and to appreciate each day and aspire each day to take care of the truly important things.

Gerard M. Hempstead, CPA, CLU, has been an MDRT member since 1997 with one COT qualification. He is located in St. Louis, Mo., and can be reached at gehempstead@hotmail.com. This is an abridged version of a presentation he gave at the MDRT meeting in Las Vegas.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, June 30, 2003. Copyright 2003 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.