It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s nonetheless true: the way to succeed in life insurance sales — the way to build loyalty among current clients and attract new ones — is to stop focusing on sales. Start concentrating on professional growth and client service. Indeed, to grow as an insurance professional, your key to success is to become a knowledgeable resource on how products can dovetail with your clients’ goals and dreams. If you can do this, you will become a more successful professional — and even better, you will become a trusted advisor for your clients. Follow these five tips to rewire your life insurance practice, and start seeing instant success.
Tip 1: Take a new look at clients and prospects
Start with your existing clients. Right now, you should be out there working with them. These are difficult times, and you need to be sharing your knowledge. Pick up the phone and talk to them about their fears and needs. They’re looking for a coach to get them through the tough times. You want to be that person.
Of course, it’s not enough to say you are a trusted advisor — you have to be one, and indicate it to clients and prospects. You should be asking a lot of questions. This shows you are gathering information on their needs for a comprehensive plan, rather than merely trying to push a product on them.
For example, you need to discuss estate planning and tax issues with them. Have they given any thought to how they were planning to provide for their children and grandchildren in the future? By bringing up these issues, you show you are able and willing to put together an action plan containing the necessary steps.
In brief, this means thinking in the long-term. The days of selling a product and then forgetting about the client until you want to sell another product are long gone. This is the era of the relationship.
Tip 2: Reorganize your practice
To work with clients in this new way, you’re going to have to change how you organize your work life. Every morning, you should have a plan for what your day is going to look like: How much time will you be spending prospecting? How much time will you spend poring over the necessary paperwork? How much time will you be spending with clients? You need to have a detailed list of what you’ll be doing each day, or you risk missing an important part of your job. You’re not just a salesman; you have multiple hats to wear.
And since time is always at a premium, don’t waste it. For example, you have to get a sense of when it’s time to give up on a prospect and move on to more likely possibilities. Of course, as you choose your prospects more carefully, this should be less likely to happen in the future.
This is just the beginning. To be a professional, you have to be educated like one. Consider the kinds of continuing education classes that would help you in your area and the designations you may want to earn. For example, check out the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, which can offer some great networking opportunities and a chance to learn from peers in local study groups.
In addition, NAIFA has an arrangement with the American College, which offers CLU and ChFC designations. The CFP is another distinguished designation, available from the CFP Board of Standards. The education that leads to such designations helps you become a better professional. And the designations themselves can help distinguish you as a strategic planner — someone with solutions, and not just “products for sale.”
Other suitable organizations for life insurance professionals to consider joining include the Financial Planning Association and the Society of Financial Service Professionals. Check them out–you don’t have to belong to just one group! You can also get information about life insurance, including marketing material, through the LIFE Foundation.
As you become involved in different organizations, you’ll find that one of the greatest advantages is being able to network and even find a local mentor. In fact, “get a mentor” is probably the most important piece of advice I can give; a mentor can help make everything else fall into place. You’re going to have to make a lot of changes to compete in the changing financial marketplace, and it may seem hard without guidance. It’s very important that you have a mentor to help keep you accountable. Whether it’s someone you find through networking, or even someone at your firm, you need to find a mentor who you can trust and who will tell you the truth about your practice.
Tip 3: Choose your clients carefully
Choose a client profile. You are making a decision to provide highly focused advice, so you can’t be all things to all people. Consider specializing, selecting a niche in which you can really display your talents.
This comes down to personality. Perhaps you want to focus on entrepreneurs, with their special risk management needs as they grow their businesses. Or maybe you want to work with high-end business executives, who are concerned with passing down their wealth to the next generation. Each group has its special challenges, and if you can sell yourself as a bona fide expert in a particular niche’s needs, loyal clients will be sure to recommend you to their colleagues.
Essential to working with these clients is to define a practice model and stick with it. This means develop a process for working and interacting with whichever clients you choose. Create a particular series of core messages, and stick to them when you communicate to your clients.
Tip 4: Leverage help from other professionals
Finally, as you focus on a niche, you will come across other professionals, such as lawyers and CPAs, who also specialize in your niche. You will want to collaborate with them, to share resources as well as clients. In fact, according to research from Russ Alan Prince, an expert on marketing to the affluent, 54 percent of high-net-worth clients prefer to find advisors through other professionals, such as attorneys and CPAs.
Tip 5: Look to the future
One final piece of advice: Take it step-by-step. If you build your business slowly, you are likely to find yourself with a full roster of loyal clients — and not just any clients, but the kind you like and want to work with.
David Kleinhandler is managing partner at DKA Advisors, a financial planning company that serves high-net-worth individuals and businesses with innovative life insurance and annuity products. He can be contacted at [email protected]