Going through the initial interview process to begin my career in the financial services industry, I shared a concern familiar to most young producers. Would I have the ability to make money given the fact that I would be working primarily with middle-class families with limited income and assets?
I distinctly remember expressing my concern to my general agent Jeff Erekson and associate general agent Brady Murray at Salt Lake City’s Allegis Financial Partners, a general agency with the companies of OneAmerica. Their response has been instrumental in the development of my career. Interestingly, it did not involve any particular product or specific sales idea. They simply explained that there are certain fundamental habits that, if developed and executed consistently, would produce success at a high level in this industry.
While my own experience in the financial services industry may be limited, the number of times I’ve watched new producers enter and leave the industry is rapidly growing. Every producer is taught the fundamental habits necessary to excel. So why do a large number of producers enter the field so excited to succeed, yet fail within a short period of time?
I believe part of the answer is given by Albert Gray in his essay, The Common Denominator of Success, where he describes the common element among successful individuals as the ability to “form the habit of doing things failures don’t like to do.” Gray then suggests successful people develop these habits because, “successful [people] have a purpose strong enough to make them form the habit of doing things they don’t like to do in order to accomplish the purpose they want to accomplish.”
I have observed that producers serving the middle-class market do not fail primarily due to a lack of good products, product knowledge or even a lack of knowledge regarding the work habits they should develop. Producers fail because they lack a purpose strong enough to inspire the discipline necessary to form the habit of consistently doing the less desirable tasks necessary for success in our industry.
Paramount to the success of any producer servicing the middle-class market is a clear understanding of (1) the habits that must be developed in order to build and maintain a successful practice, and (2) a purpose that will inspire the consistent execution of those habits.
Forming the right habits
One fundamental habit I feel is crucial in working with middle-class clients and establishing a successful practice is consistent high activity.
Activity refers primarily to the tasks of obtaining referrals, setting appointments, holding appointments and closing cases. While many of these tasks are considered “undesirable,” they are critical to our success. Closing a large case is exciting, but the vast majority of elite practices I am familiar with have been built upon a foundation of high case count and high activity — not a handful of large cases.
Forming one’s purpose
While habits describe what we should do, purpose defines why we do it. A strong purpose will inspire the discipline to consistently maintain high levels of activity and sales. Defining purpose is a very difficult task because every producer is driven by unique motives.
For example, I understand the value of being a guide for my prospective clients and their loved ones. I also feel a deep desire to strive for excellence and success. That burning desire to succeed, coupled with a desire to be an influence for good, drive me to maintain high levels of activity in my practice.
A strong purpose and drive to get results will naturally cause you to adjust your work habits and sales presentations to get those results. For example, early in my career it became evident that in order to build a successful practice, I would need to understand why my middle-class prospects did not take action.
Through experience, I learned most families don’t feel they have the means to do the things they know they need to do financially. This lack of confidence would often result in a refusal to meet with me or any financial professional. Understanding my prospects’ lack of financial confidence led me to develop simple sales and prospecting presentations that positioned life insurance as part of a foundation for future financial success. These adjustments seemed to help my clients to feel (1) confidence in their ability to succeed financially, and (2) comfortable working with a financial professional.