“No one is bulletproof without a substantial client base,” said Barry Alberstein, who spoke here at the 2nd annual Life Insurance Sales Mastery Forum, sponsored jointly by The National Underwriter Company and Harry P. Hoopis.
How big is substantial? In a session titled “The 10 Keys to Bulletproofing Your Practice,” Alberstein said “bulletproof means 500 people who will name you by name as their advisor despite what’s going on in the economy or the government.”
Having this kind of client base allows agents to make good on the reasons they came into the business for in the first place, he said, which include independence, compensation based on talent and effort (“I want to earn what I think I’m worth”), a chance to help people, and personal freedom.
Regarding the power of a client base, Alberstein said “the profit is in the relationship, not in the sale.” New clients should go into a reservoir of long-term client relationships and repeat sales, he said.
“If someone buys from you a second time and you keep in touch with them, they will buy 5 to 7 products and/or services from you and the value of the sales will go up,” he said.
The future, Alberstein said, belongs to those who have the trust of the client. But even in a financial services environment where “everyone can sell everything,” agents should know that life insurance is not a commodity, he said. The reason is that it is “a character purchase.”
Alberstein said 3 factors constitute “the heart and soul of building a great career in life insurance.” They are:
==Referred lead prospecting.
==Regular face-to-face reviews.
“You can’t let these go,” he told the agents in the audience. “When these go, it’s all over.”
But he stressed that these 3 factors also constitute agents’ competitive advantage over the likes of powerhouses like Citibank and Merrill Lynch.
If agents stay in touch with their client base, they will write 20% of those clients each year, Alberstein said, adding that having 500 clients “guarantees” 100 sales per year.
Alberstein, who is a proponent of the One Card System, said that without a system agents will just be confused and anxious due to overload. This anxiety, he explained, will lead to all sorts of avoidance behaviors including procrastination, call reluctance, unexplained distractions, emotional overreactions, blaming and burnout.
Once they have a system, agents can measure their activity against a bulletproofing checklist comprised of 10 keys. (See chart.)
Alberstein went into detail about each of the keys in the list:
1. Activity management. Agents should be able to assess their daily activity by keeping track of things like dialing and results, appointments made and kept, referral requests and results, fact-finders, cases opened, and closing interviews. It is also important for agents to have daily, monthly and annual activity goals, he said.
2. Relationship management. Agents need to assess their client base so they can know the truth of their situation, Alberstein said. Thus, they need to have clear client category definitions and know how many A, B and C clients they have. Additionally, they need to have a system for keeping in regular contact with clients and for how each group is handled.
“Your client base is the equity in your business,” Alberstein told the agents. “So, if you don’t know the truth of your situation, you won’t know what the appropriate action is.”
3. Referral-based prospecting. Referrals, Alberstein said, “greatly reduce the amount of time required to establish a trusting relationship.” He encouraged agents to understand “the good they do,” and particularly encouraged them to go after centers of influence such as lawyers and CPAs for referrals.
“Don’t chicken out,” he said. “Make these centers of influence your clients.”
4. Values-based fact-finding. Here, Alberstein advised agents to use the psychology of attraction through listening intently and listening for feelings, all the while remaining non-judgmental. Among the feelings that listening touches, he said, is the intense desire to be appreciated. In fact, he said that before agents try to satisfy the client, they need to understand and satisfy the person.
“You are the product,” he told the agents. “You are selling the reduction of anxiety and the fulfillment of dreams.”
5. Sales language mastery. Among the things agents need to think about here are whether they have mastered quality sales language so that they can use it without thinking about what comes next, Alberstein said. They also need to concentrate on developing mastery of language for telephone, approach, transitioning to fact-finding, closing, the delivery, and referred lead prospecting and promotion, he said.
6. Time management. See the chart for Alberstein’s list of tools agents need in this area.
7. Product expertise. This allows agents to do better ‘need finding,’ Alberstein said, as well as create better plans and solutions for their clients. “Do you have sufficient product knowledge to allow you to identify a wide variety of prospect needs during the fact-finder?” he asked the agents. “Does your expertise allow you to move comfortably between risk management and wealth accumulation products and strategies?”
8. Inventory management. Agents need a method to track and evaluate the 4 types of inventory they have. These 4 consist of:
==The quantity and quality of your client base, he said; in other words, your reservoir of repeat and cross sales.
==The number of short-term cases–those to be closed within 6 weeks–that are opened.
==The number of long-term cases–those taking longer than 6 weeks–that are opened.
==Submitted business, or those cases in underwriting.
9. Case Management. It’s important for agents to know how their cases move through their system, Alberstein said. “Does everyone in the process know who does what and by when?” he asked. Additionally, agents need to manage cases with a sense of urgency, he explained, which means having action dates assigned to the calendar and booking subsequent appointments during a current appointment.
10. Assistant coordination. Agents should not only have regular meeting times to organize and prepare with their assistant, Alberstein said, but they also should have a regular agenda for these meetings. It is also important that the agent and the assistant have a clear understanding of who is responsible for what tasks and when they need to be done.
The 4 major tasks of assistants are:
==Marketing that consists of telephoning, mailings, calendar coordination and proposal generation.
==Taking care of new business applications and tracking underwriting.
==Policy owner service.
Alberstein concluded by telling the agents to be aware and proud of the value of what they do. “Your work is important,” he said. “You help people with issues they cannot or will not address by themselves.”
The 10 Keys
1. Activity management
2. Relationship management
3. Referral-based prospecting
4. Values-based fact-finding
5. Sales language mastery
6. Time management
7. Product expertise
8. Inventory management
9. Case management
10. Assistant coordination
Source: Barry Alberstein
Making Time Pay
ü A model for a structured day, week and month
ü An appointment book with highlighted “Revenue Producing Time Slots”
ü Month-at-a-glance pages for understanding how many work days you have each month
ü A calendarizing process
ü Delegation skills
ü Boilerplate proposals
Source: Barry Alberstein