Selling insurance is lonely, hard work. The effort requires commitment and focus. An insurance need must be clearly defined and internalized for someone to make the decision to buy an intangible product that has no apparent value during his or her lifetime.

So why have a mentor? My mentor has been my coach and cheerleader for 42 years. He recruited me in 1966 and we have been together ever since. Ralph Brown retired as a very successful manager of the Newport Center Agency for Pacific Life in 1999, but he chose to continue to pursue the insurance profession and comes into our office a couple of times a week–just to keep me sane.

His steady influence has been a guiding hand on my career for more than 4 decades. He encouraged me to attend my first Million Dollar Round Table meeting. He pushed me into CLU and ChFC studies. He led me to the business market. Every major turning point in my career occurred with him there, showing me the way. We should all be so fortunate. And we can be.

MDRT and GAMA International established the MDRT/GAMA International Mentoring Program in 1995. The purpose was to provide a platform for experienced agents to reach out and help new agents climb the ladder of success. What other business do you know that offers the competition of this type of help?

Selling financial products can be very cutthroat. But is that the norm? In the main, agents are kind, giving and caring individuals who are only too happy to give back to others what they were given themselves. This is the heart of mentoring: giving back.

The MDRT/GAMA International Mentoring Program statistics show that aspirants experience increased production in the range of 30 to 50% on average, under the guidance of a mentor. Why? What can a mentor really do for you? Good judgment comes from experience, but experience comes from bad judgment.

In other words, it is easier to see what is ahead if you have been there before. Mentors have been there. They have made all the mistakes and tasted the victories. Through directed discussions, mentors can help aspirants avoid many of these mistakes and jump to new levels of production by focusing on what works. Trial and error takes a long time. It requires a lot of research and heartache. Why not avoid it by having a mentor lead you along the way?

What is the best way to pick a mentor? This is a great reason to attend NAIFA meetings. Find out who the top producers are in your area. Demographics tell us many are starting to wind down and are looking for significance and meaning in their life.

What better gift than you? What could be more significant than helping someone succeed in the greatest industry of all? They would love to find a bright, inspired talent who wants to pay the price to succeed. Ask them.

Go to your manager and ask them to facilitate a meeting with a good candidate for you. They will pave the way and make it happen. If you don’t have a manager, go to your broker-dealer or brokerage outlet. Prospect, get referrals, do some leg work. There are plenty of opportunities if you are willing to put in some effort.

What should you expect from a mentor? The MDRT/GAMA program has put together many resources in a mentoring kit that can get you started. There is a suggested curriculum, several good resources to help you get started, and many articles, tapes and DVDs from the best in the industry telling you exactly how they do it. There is no shortage of material. MDRT/GAMA wants you to succeed. You are the lifeblood of our industry. You are the future.

If you want to join the top producers–if you want to become part of the Winner’s Circle–plan now to qualify for MDRT. Go to NAIFA meetings. Start reading the MDRT Proceedings and discover the wealth of information and ideas you can use immediately to increase your production.

This is what I did. And I can tell you it made all the difference. I have qualified for the MDRT Top of the Table 30 times since I started full-time in 1970. Why? Because there were many people along the way who encouraged me, gave me ideas and cheered me on. They will do the same for you. All you have to do is suit up and show up. Ask–you will be glad you did.

Guy E. Baker, CLU, MSFS is MDRT Second Vice President and managing director of BTA Advisory Group, Laguna Hills, Calif. You can e-mail him at