Did you ever watch the 1950′s TV program, The Ed Sullivan Show? There was a very popular act that appeared regularly on the show. It consisted of a male performer with a plate resting at the top of 8 long sticks. If you recall, he would get plate #1 spinning. Then, he would rush to the plate #2, get that spinning, and then rush back to plate #1 before it fell crashing to the floor. Then, he would go to plate #3, get that spinning, and dash back to plates #1 and #2 just in the nick of time.

Why am I telling this story? That performer who got the plates spinning was probably a very successful financial professional during the week, since that is what every successful financial professional does day in and day out. We spin plates.

Naturally, plate #1 is getting 10 referrals from our existing clients. Then, as we are moving fast to the door with the names of 10 referrals in hand, we quickly turn around and get plate #2 spinning by asking our client one key question that opens their eyes to a concept that is in their best interest. Then, with one new signed application and 10 referrals, we race home to examine plate #3, our new seminar presentation.

In this article, we would like to share with you the 8 best prospecting plates to spin. And, if you begin spinning many of these plates on a daily basis, you could have your best year ever.

Plates # 1 and # 2: A proven referral system/more business with existing clients

In fact, the more we think about it, the first 2 plates are the 2 most important ones. Why? Sixty percent of your prospecting and presenting time should be with your existing clients and the referrals you get from them.

Plate # 1–Referrals. We must learn how to get more referrals. And, we can get more referrals after we stop asking our clients the following questions: “Who do you know that might be interested in an annuity?” Or, “Who do you know that would like to protect the people they love?” We’re asking the wrong questions. We’re allowing our existing clients to control who our future clients are going to be.

Here’s our suggestion: Beginning today, either go to the library in your town where they probably have a “reverse directory” chained to the leg of a table or google the words “reverse directory.” When you do that, you’ll specifically be able to see the neighbors that live on the same street as the next client you are seeing.

Assuming the reverse directory allows you to use it for prospecting purposes, write down the ‘last names’ and telephone numbers of 10 people who live on the same street as the client you are seeing next.

During that meeting with your client, take out your legal pad that has the 10 last names with telephone numbers and ask the following question: “I was planning on calling these 10 neighbors of yours. Which ones do you know on a first name basis? Do you know the Clintons?” Then, continue with the following questions and write down their response. “Their approximate ages? Any children?”

Continue with the next name and the name after that. Following the 10th name, ask the $64,000 question: “When I call these 10 neighbors of yours, you wouldn’t mind if I mentioned that you are my client, would you?”

When we ask clients, “Who do you know who might be interested in an annuity” you are allowing them to control who your future clients are going to be. However, when you begin asking the right questions, you begin controlling you own destiny.

If you’re with a doctor, doctors know doctors. “Dr. Jones, I was planning on calling these 10 cardiologists. Which ones do you know on a first name basis?”

Plate #2–Existing clients. At the end of every policy delivery, annual review and service call with a client, when your hand is on the door knob, we would like you to ask one of the following 4 questions.

“Oh, by the way, if I could show you a way to defer income taxes on your interest…” or, “If I could show your Mom how to reduce the unnecessary taxes that she is paying on her Social Security income…” or, “If I could show you how to get tax control … would that be of any interest to you?”

Or, our favorite, “Oh, by the way, where is your IRA?” A broker asked that question not too long ago and the client responded, “It’s funny you asked that question. I just got a $600,000 distribution from my pension plan. What do you think I should do with that $600,000?”

Bottom line: The 3 simple words, “By the way” followed with a benefit and asked at the end of every policy delivery, annual review and service call can create, at least, 100 buying and selling opportunities every year.

Plate # 3–Seminars. Whenever you can give 25 to 50 people the opportunity of saying “yes” to you in one hour’s time–that is smart business. That is the seminar business. However, fewer than 10% of all financial professionals do seminars. Why so few? The $5,000 cost of a client seminar could be one of the reasons, but more seminar companies are deferring some of the costs until after the seminar. And, does a seminar really cost $5,000 if you spend $5,000, but generate 3 times that in commissions?

However, a seminar is not for everyone and success in not guaranteed. Fortunately, you can dramatically increase your chances of success by following these suggestions.

Stop looking for the perfect seminar presentation. Surprisingly, in order to have seminar success, you need 4 things (in addition to a nice audience):

1. Create rapport and trust with the audience. You want Herb to say as he is driving home, “My, wasn’t he a very, very nice man?”

2. You don’t owe the audience 65 visuals about money or retirement. You owe them 2 or 3 unforgettable ideas about money. You want Mildred to say to her husband, “Dear, wasn’t that interesting when Mr. Harris showed us the unbelievable volatility of having all of our money at the bank?”

3. At every seminar, you either convince the audience that you can help them or they convince you that you cannot.

4. Since there are more people who fear public speaking than who fear flying, the most important “tip” we can give you is something that took us 5 years and many average seminars to learn: A seminar is just a conversation between you and the audience.

With some exaggeration, you could even have a successful seminar if you spoke about the San Diego Padres 90% of the time as long as you 1) built trust; 2) had an unforgettable idea; 3) convinced them that you can help them; and 4) sincerely cared about them more than yourself.

In short, a client seminar is all about them.

Plate # 4–Leads. In my opinion, we owe it to our spouse, our children and some of us owe it to our grandchildren to be the best we can be at the point-of-sale. Surprisingly, the success we have with leads often has more to do with our selling skills than with how the leads were obtained.

Without a doubt, how you use the phone, how you address objections, and how you feel about the prospects and your product are all topics that will impact your success with leads. But, here is one suggestion that you will find surprising. When dealing with leads–and this is coming from an optimist–we would like you to lower your expectations.

For example, you have just purchased a lead. You are about to pick up the phone. How do you currently define success? You probably define success as “I will only be successful if I book an appointment with that lead today.” Just look at the pressure you’re putting on your own shoulders.

We would like you to change your definition of success. If you get an objection that you cannot overcome, it’s no longer a problem. Instead, we want you to define success as “Did I begin a relationship?”

Later today, when you get an objection you cannot overcome, instead of hanging up and never calling back again, say instead, “I can appreciate that this is a terrible time. May I call back in 30 days when things might be a little bit better?” And during those 30 days, send them at least 2 notes or letters. Said differently, we wish we could remove the word “leads” from the English language and replace it with the phrase “potential relationships.”

Plate # 5–Direct mail. We have tried 2 types of direct mail–one worked and the other did not.

You guess which one worked. Type 1: We mailed 5,000 pieces and waited for the phone to ring off the hook. Type 2: We mailed 100 letters and called every one. While there are some great direct mail companies out there, do not forget to also spin the direct mail plate that involves both mailing and calling.

Plate # 6–Radio. There are hundreds of radio programming directors who are looking for ways to educate their listeners about money, retirement, etc. Make sure those radio programmers and schedulers know you exist. Radio can be free and you can be interviewed in the comfort of your office, home or on the beach watching the sun rise in Hawaii.

Plate # 7–Online presentations. Would you like to give a lot more presentations every day? That is possible when you add an auto-narrated presentation to your website or when you begin emailing a link of that auto-narrated presentation to prospects and clients who reside in states where you are licensed.

By combining your voice with your compliance-approved power point presentation or by selecting an already-done presentation with a professional narrator, you can have a new way to give 100 presentations a day.

Google “online presentations” or “interactive exchange” to learn more about this new wave of presenting that will be even more powerful when the industry learns how to drive consumers to watch these 24/7 online presentations that can also a) tell you who is listening, and b) give the consumer an easy way to tell you what they want.

Plate #8–Birthday Marketing. Important question: How many people in the business world send you a birthday card each year?

I get 2 birthday cards each year from the same 2 gentlemen. And, you know something, each year–right before or on my birthday–I think about them for a few seconds.

Do your clients and prospects think about you on one of the most important days in their life, their birthday (or when their insurance age is about to change)?

At the least, send them a birthday card, email or leave a happy birthday message.

In summary, try to spend 60% of your time spinning Plates 1 and 2 since you now have a proven referral system and a new “by the way” approach to helping your existing clients. With the remaining 40%, consider spinning as many as the other prospecting plates as you can. If you do, you could have your best year ever.

Bill Harris is president of W.V.H.,Inc., a company that licenses sales ideas to and for the financial services industry. He can be emailed by visiting