Recently, Senior Market Advisor editor Daniel D. Williams had the opportunity to talk with Angela Sloan and learn what makes her business, with annual production of nearly $10 million, a success. While that number is impressive in its own right, it’s made all the more impressive by Sloan’s geographical location: the one-stoplight town of Clover, South Carolina. Against the odds (and often against the grain), Sloan has managed to carve out an enviable practice, where doing right by the client is of chief importance.
Senior Market Advisor: How did your business evolve from a home business to where it is today?
Sloan: I started working out of my kitchen. Within five to seven years I had rented an office and I added taxes to my repertoire. Eventually, I bought a building. We outgrew that, so we’ve built a 10,000 square foot space and are up to 15 employees.
SMA: What is your business model?
Sloan: I try to get an expert in each field so no one person is a connoisseur of everything. We believe that way the client is better served. I more or less serve as the quarterback.
SMA: What are the different departments?
Sloan: We have a securities department, a life insurance department, plus a property and casualty department. If it’s a legal issue or requires estate planning issues or advanced tax issues, we have a law firm located within our office. We have three people here who can handle annuity questions and another expert whose specialty is long term care and Medicare supplement.
SMA: With a full-service business, how do your departments work together?
Sloan: Everybody is working together for the common good of the client. It wouldn’t make sense for us to sit here and try to sway the client one way or the other if it is not in his best interest.
SMA: Talk about your client education program.
Sloan: We put our [clients] through a two- to six-hour learning process before any paperwork is done. We have a lengthy learning process. We don’t dive in and try to get everything done in one week. We study a client’s situation and will tell them, “This is the biggest hole in your pocket. We’re going to take care of this first and then we’re going to move on. We’re going to take this slow and easy and you’re going to get an education in the process and you’re going to understand everything that is going on here.”
SMA: What would you say is your most popular class?
Sloan: We run two to three a week on how to get out of debt. One of our No.1 goals is to get our clients out of debt. Sometimes that’s a slow process. We also have tax classes and two or three different classes on estate planning. And we have classes on personal finance. You might think that’s a no-brainer, but when you have a client base as diverse as ours, where our youngest client might be 16 and our oldest is 90-plus, you’ve got to be able to service the whole range of people.
SMA: What trends, if any, are you finding in the classes?
Sloan: One thing we see is that people are way underinsured, especially people with children. The other trend we see is on the property and casualty side. People don’t have umbrella policies, which is simple. Nine times out of 10, they walk in here and they have $25,000 in bodily injury coverage on their car policy. We see crazy stuff. We ask them, “Did you know that you only have $25,000 in bodily injury? If you hurt somebody, the maximum this policy is going to pay is $25,000. What will $25,000 cover?” Probably not even a broken arm.
SMA: You live in a small town, so where are the clients coming from? What are your best prospecting tools for getting clients in there with so few people to go around?
Sloan: A lot of clients come to us through our classrooms. And a lot of clients come to us through word of mouth.
SMA: How broad is your geographical area?
Sloan: Texas is the furthest away. On average, though, I’d say most live within a 50-mile radius. If you are doing the right thing, these people will walk to you backwards to get to you.
SMA: With your varied practice, I’m curious about your philosophy on products?
Sloan: I can give you an example of that. This morning, I had a lady call me. She has $33,000. She didn’t want to go any further than five years. She wanted it guaranteed. I go out and I research. When I did my research, it came up with 179 different options based on the amount and the criteria that she gave me. I want who is going to give my client the biggest bang for the buck. I don’t get hung up on company names. I do get hung up on company ratings. So when I go out and do my inquiry, I tell them I want an A rating or better. I’m loyal to my client.
SMA: What do you attribute as being the secret to your success?
Sloan: You may not want to hear it, but this is a faith-based business. This business tithes 10 percent off the top of every deposit that comes in. Period. We also support a lot of local ministries, such as the homeless shelters, God’s Kitchen, the Jesus Film Project, which is a national ministry and others. I attribute all of our success to the tithe and in doing the right thing for the client.
SMA: What are the best ways to gain the client’s trust?
Sloan: Educate them. You have to let them know that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
SMA: You’ve explained to me previously that you have a diverse age group. How do you connect to each of them? What are the trends you’re seeing, your clients’ biggest needs that you are seeing?
Sloan: It depends on the age group.
SMA: What about with the seniors?
Sloan: For the seniors, the biggest hole I see is long term care insurance or some type of long term care planning as well as estate planning. I also see them taking too much risk with their money. Like when I see somebody walk in here who’s 70 years old, but still has 100 percent in the stock market.
SMA: What about the underwriting?
Sloan: There is nothing you can do about that. If they already have health issues that an underwriter is not going to buy into, then it’s very tough to clear that hurdle.