I have been able to enjoy an early success in our business by actively applying five principles that I would like to share with you.

Principle #1: Maintain the attributes of a professional agent.

We all have been told by others how to be a professional agent. I shall add a few qualities that will help any professional agent maintain success.

Perseverance. This can be defined as the ability to overcome difficulties and survive in the insurance business. Our business is one of delayed gratification and not one of instant success. Make rejections a way of life!

Like many people, I thought of quitting when I started as an agent because I heard only “no.” When I finally closed an application, I realized that I had gone through 15 to 20 “no’s” to hear one “yes.” I matured only when I accepted that this is a business of “no’s” and postponements.

Every successful person goes though swings and volatility in his/her business. It is our biggest challenge to work under pressures with the same patience, endurance and undoubted belief in ourselves.

I keep reminding myself of the powerful phrase “this, too, shall pass!” It is this philosophy that helps me to remember: “If you are happy, it will make you feel grateful. If you have failed, it will give you courage. If you are wealthy, it will save you from being wasteful. If triumph is yours, it will keep you humble.”

Your success lies in rising every time you fall. Most agents keep waiting for a big check. And in the pursuit of the big one, they ignore the smaller ones that are right in front of their eyes.

When my big checks stopped happening, I kept doing small business, so small that some agents would laugh and say: “How come you’ve started picking up checks equal to rider amounts?”

Signing on the applications gave me the satisfaction of protecting someone’s family no matter how small the amount was. It kept me in the habit of prospecting and still seeing as many people as I could. There were times when my commissions were less than the amount I had to spend reaching the client.

Managing time effectively and efficiently. You have to strike a balance between your family and your profession. You cannot be successful at the cost of not being with your family, especially with your children, who need more of your time than your money.

Plan your work. Maintain and ensure proper work habits. Know when you do your best work: morning, night, under pressure, relaxed. Schedule and prioritize your work accordingly.

Identify the time that is your best and most productive period during the day, the period that keeps you in high spirits and helps you to be productive. Also, give yourself a break at least one day a week, preferably the day when the family is at home.

Impeccable preparation. This is such an important ingredient in the success of any professional agent. Preparation includes punctuality, preparing your self-esteem before walking into the client’s office and power dressing.

As to the last, invest in a good wardrobe for yourself. When you feel well dressed, your attitude improves and you are more self-confident.

Be innovative and curious. Don’t be satisfied with the same methods of selling. Find your strengths from the methods that others have followed at different companies.

Be passionate. Connect with your heart; sell with passion! Help others to reach their goals. Fall in love with your work. The day you do is the last day you will ever have to work.

Principle #2: Define Goals and Objectives.

When you develop clarity about your future, you become more productive in your present. Work backwards! Fix dates to accomplish your goals, mark those dates on a calendar and keep the calendar in front of you.

Distribute the target into months, weeks and days. When completing a day, cancel it. Then, you will know how many days are left to accomplish your goal.

Visualize your goals with the help of pictures. Many people are motivated by contests and incentives rather than income. My goal, for example, was to give my husband a car that was part of the incentive program offered by my primary carrier.

Communicate with others what you want to achieve. You are less likely to fail if you have told others that you will succeed. Make four quadrants of prospects, positioning each according to his or her potential contribution to your goal.

To further help you focus, divide the goal into smaller objectives. To help myself qualify as a centurion by writing 100 lives, I made a chart with the number 100 at the top at the beginning of the year.

Every time I submitted an application, I would write the client’s name against 100, 99, 98 and so on. This chart motivated me to complete the list as soon as possible.

Work toward your goal with a sense of urgency. Treat each day as the last day of the year or the target date.

Principle #3: Prospect for Prospects.

Society papers, glamour magazines, stock markets, top 25 companies and employment news are all sources of new prospects. Send a letter congratulating the new MD, CEO or general manager and introduce yourself.

Contact all 5-star hotels that manage huge weddings, pubs and party organizers who cater to the rich and the famous. There is no shortage of databases and prospects. You have only to look for ideas.

Prospect only on specific days of the week and plan your week in advance. Don’t leave your office until the next week is filled with appointments. I choose a Thursday or a Friday to prospect since it helps my weekend to start on a positive note.

I look forward to a Monday because my appointments are planned for the entire week. Advance planning also helps me to be with my family without the need to think about the business appointments the next day.

Principle #4: Use unique ways to get prospects to understand the importance of insurance.

You have to use different strategies for different people. The following are a few ideas to help you connect with the prospect about insurance.

o The liability curve. This plots an individual’s insurance needs relative to income over time.

o The three-legged stool. The three key benefits of life insurance–security, savings and tax advantages–are represented in the form of a three-legged stool-.

o The “you-and-yours” formula. This simple illustration depicts “you” and “premiums” on one side of a vertically drawn axis; “yours” and the financial objectives enabled by the premiums (child’s education, daughter’s marriage, retirement fund, etc.) are listed on the opposing side.

o Talk about disability: When the client says that he or she has enough wealth to provide for future generations I will often say, “Many times disability can be worse than death. This may drain off most of the wealth you have created. If you share 5% of your assets, I will be able to recreate that wealth.

Principle #5: What Sells is You!

Earning a client’s trust begins with establishing one’s own credibility. To that end, acting with humility and being a good listener are key. You know that you have established a bond when the client says, “I have shared with you things about which I have never spoken even with close friends.”

Merlyn Fernandes is with Max New York Life Insurance Company Ltd, in Mumbai, India. She can be reached via e-mail at Merlyn_fernandes@vsnl.net. This is an abridged version of a presentation she gave at the Million Dollar Round Table annual meeting in New Orleans last month.

“Your success lies in rising every time you fall. Most agents keep waiting for a big check. And in the pursuit of the big one, they ignore the smaller ones that are right in front of their eyes.”