Times have changed, but a few key success principles remain constant. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a prospecting and closing superstar to succeed in our business. Each of our experts achieved success through a rare combination of focus, care and hard work. Below, these gurus share success secrets learned from decades in the insurance trenches so you can hit the ground running.
Get to know Maureen Ryan, financial representative at The Bulfinch Group in Boston
In the Boston area, Maureen has built a substantial client base of physicians and dentists. However, it wasn’t always that way. Maureen says, “When I started in this business, I worked with people in all industries. That was a mistake. I was spread too thin. It was not until I focused on a niche that my business took off.” Maureen admits that she is a workaholic, working days, nights and weekends, but that level of commitment has placed her performance among the top echelon of agents in the country.
Meet Robert “Bob” Wernecke, CLU, president of ECA Financial Services in the Phoenix area
Bob’s insurance career started back in 1968 when he walked into Metropolitan Life and told them he wanted to sell insurance. Of course, he was immediately hired because nobody volunteers to sell insurance! Bob’s career aspirations were inspired by his mother, who told him you have to be in commissioned sales to make what you’re truly worth. “I like getting paid what you’re worth based on what you do,” Bob says. In addition to owning an insurance and benefits company, Bob is one of seven Life Trustees for The American College Board of Trustees. He also serves as the chair of the Audit Committee for NAIFA and was inducted to the Hall of Fame for the Phoenix chapter of the Society of Financial Service Professionals in 2011. And, The American College honored Bob as the Alumnus of the Month in May 2010. You might say the sun has been shining on Bob’s career. In his words, “It’s true – luck will shine on you if you work hard.”
Get acquainted with Lynn Johnson, financial services consultant in San Luis Obispo
Lynn began her insurance career back in 1980. She had recently graduated from Cal Poly and was searching for a fulfilling career in a small California town where there weren’t a lot of opportunities. For the first four years, Lynn focused only on life insurance. Then, one day at a conference, she attended a Paul Revere breakout session. The presenter explained the benefits of niche marketing and told Lynn about a hospital endorsement program. It was an appealing opportunity and Lynn jumped in with both feet. Today, she operates a thriving disability insurance practice, specializing in insurance for physicians and medical residents. In Lynn’s words, “Be persistent and keep at it. There’s no easy way to make it in this business. You have to do the work.”
Want to know our gurus’ top 10 success secrets? Read on.
1. Seek mentorship. All three of our experts think it’s imperative for new advisors to find good mentors. Bob says, “Invite a potential mentor to lunch (even if you can’t afford it) and ask for guidance. Choose mentors who will be very candid with you and tell it like it is.” Lynn is thankful for two mentors who influenced her career – in fact, after 30 years in the business, one of them still gives her ideas and insight to this day. Maureen gives this advice to new agents: “Find out who the top producers are at your agency and involve them in joint cases with clients. You will learn from the best and your cases will close more quickly.” She also recommends developing a circle of advisors, such as CPAs and estate planning attorneys, as well as joining NAIFA where new agents can gain exposure to best practices to grow their businesses.
2. Understand your life purpose. “In our office, we help anyone who needs help. We understand that whatever you sow, you also reap,” Bob says. He further explains that spiritual development helps with purpose development. “When you develop spiritually, you see others as valuable people who you want to help. It’s no longer about making a sale.” To better understand one’s life purpose, Maureen recommends that advisors hire a life coach as soon as they can afford it. She says, “It made a big difference for me. My life coach asked, ‘If you were to die today, would you be satisfied with what you have accomplished?’ This reflection made me realize what’s important to me and that I could do more. It motivated me to connect with as many people as possible to positively impact their lives.” And because charity is also key, Maureen worked harder to earn more so she could give more away. She figured out her “why.”
3. Make an emotional connection. You can only be successful if you are passionate. Lynn is passionate about disability insurance because early in her career, she was disabled by a back injury caused in a waterskiing accident. “When I talk to clients, I often share my story. It’s a great way to explain how policy provisions work,” she says. “I also share my clients’ stories. People think they’ll always be able to work and they don’t comprehend that everything can change in a moment. Stories grab their attention. I often share a true story about an anesthesiologist who was coming down from the 18th floor of a Vegas hotel when the elevator lost its brakes, resulting in compression of his spine. That story puts a pretty significant image in peoples’ minds and lets them see that disability can happen to anyone.”
4. Always put the client first. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” Bob reminds us. Lynn strives to always demonstrate that she has each client’s best interest at heart. “You have to be willing to show them all the available options and customize a solution for them,” she explains. Maureen’s goal is to turn every client into a mini-financial expert. “No one wants to be sold,” she says. “My job is to provide information so they can make the best choice. Ultimately, I invest so much time into my clients that they call me for advice about everything – even simple decisions like the most advantageous way to fund a new car purchase.”