I had lunch a few weeks ago with a bright, eager, personable young man who has just started his career in the life insurance business. I asked him how it was going, and what he told me did not surprise me in the least. He loves the business, he said, and he loves talking to people about life insurance. But he finds it incredibly challenging to find enough people who are willing to talk to him about their insurance needs.
I’m not sure whether he found it reassuring or frightening when I told him that his challenge is a common one, and not just among newer producers. Many veterans of the business still find this the most difficult part of their business, but they have found successful methods to make sure they see enough people on a favorable basis.
This month’s roundtable focuses on prospecting and some techniques that really work. I asked three of the top producers in our business about their personal approaches to keeping the pipeline full. I found that, even for these producers, meeting good prospects is not a slam dunk — it takes hard, thoughtful work and persistency.
For part two of this roundtable, see: How to find prospecting ideas
For part three: What’s your best prospecting idea?
Q. Many successful agents I know talk about the importance of making prospecting a regular part of the business day. But in reality, that’s easier said than done. Could you share some specific suggestions for the young producer who is trying to establish strong, productive prospecting habits?
Marcus T. Henderson Sr., LUTCF, president/CEO of Henderson Financial Group Inc. in Nashville, Tenn.: The absolute No. 1 suggestion I would make to a young producer about prospecting is to become comfortable with the uncomfortable. Always keep in mind that prospecting is not done sometimes or on a specific day. It is a constant in our profession, almost like breathing. It is something a producer does naturally and with deliberate effort; prospecting should be a part of your very being. Now, I know that sounds like a lot, but it’s necessary. That’s the type of commitment it takes to enjoy the fruits of the MDRT and Top of the Table. Any great producer or executive, in any profession, has already embraced the concepts that will make them successful.
R.J. Kelly, CLU, ChFC, M.S.F.S., founder and chief visionary officer of the Wealth Legacy Family of Companies in San Diego: Become known for something special. Find a way to stick out. Become a specialist in disability insurance for professionals and executives, or college planning services, or charitable planning, or business insurance — e.g., key person life and disability, etc. — or advising on the setting up and funding of buy-sell agreements for franchise owners, or gifts from grandparents to their grandchildren using life insurance, or funding retirement shortfalls with life insurance. There was a young workman on a construction project who always wore red or other bright-colored shirts. He worked hard, showed up early and stayed late. Small surprise that he was quickly promoted. He stood out, he was noticed and he did other things right as well. First step is getting noticed — to not be just a commodity. Be unique.
See also: Where have all the prospects gone?
Marc A. Silverman, CLU, ChFC, president/CEO of Silverman Financial Inc., in Miami: A young producer who is trying to establish strong, productive prospecting habits must get into the routine of prospecting each and every day and set aside specific times to prospect, letting nothing get in the way. For example, you might want to make phone calls from 9 to 11 each morning. Even if you make several appointments early in the week, you should not give up on prospecting later in the week. It is very important that you consistently do the same thing over and over if you want to be successful in prospecting.
Q. When you look back at your early career, what prospecting techniques have made the biggest difference to you in terms of getting you in front of more qualified prospects? Was there ever a breakthrough technique that made you realize what kind of approach worked well for your business, or was it a variety of techniques?
Kelly: I wasn’t smart enough for that — just willing to work long hours and meet a lot of people. For several years, I got the yellow pages from the city phone directory and compared all the new listings from one year to the next. I then called up the new listings, figuring they were new to the area — attorneys and accountants; now I would include private fiduciaries — and said, “This is R. J. Kelly. I am a specialist in the areas of financial services for business owners, professionals and executives. You and I are both in the people business. It is not always what you know — but who you know, too. Let’s meet. If you want to become a client someday, I won’t tell you ‘no,’ but the primary reason for meeting is to explore how we can help each other grow with clients. How does that sound?”
Run that by your compliance people, but that should open some doors for the new folks out there.
A second idea that has always worked well is to ask to be referred by my clients to the people or businesses that sell to them. In most cases, a business owner or sales person won’t risk offending one of their clients. So find out who sells to your clients and then go call on them — with your client’s advance permission, of course.
Another variation on this theme is to look back over your credit card receipts and through your checkbook. Who have you spent money with locally? What dry cleaner, dentist, auto dealer, etc.? Where have you spent your money? Most owners won’t want to risk offending a customer who approaches them in a professional and polite way. “Hi, Mary. My name is R.J. Kelly, and I just bought my car through your salesperson, Julie. You were so helpful to me, I want to return the favor, introduce myself and share what I do with other business owners like yourself in the areas of tax-savings and risk management. How does that sound to you? When would you have 20 minutes next week?”
Silverman: The technique that has made the largest difference in terms of getting in front of more qualified prospects is to target a specific market. In doing so, we’ve become well known in the retirement market, propelling us to do even more business in that marketplace. I would also tell newer agents to specialize in a given area. We specialize in working with people who are retired or getting ready to retire. More specifically, we dug deep down by focusing on niches within this marketplace.
Henderson: When I trace the successes and challenges of my career, several prospecting techniques do, in fact, stand out. First, be around people you enjoy. It makes sharing additional planning time with them effortless.
Second, work harder on yourself than you do in or on the profession. Develop “The Art of Attraction.” Make yourself interesting. Ask yourself, “Other than the products and services I offer, why would anyone want me to be their confidante or advisor?” This should begin a personal development quest that will lead you to a personal breakthrough. Once this question is answered effectively, high-quality and interesting people will come your way on a regular basis. This particular technique was a game changer for me. Once the fish began to chase the boat, my life and career changed forever. This process isn’t easy, but it can take you to the top — Top of the Table, that is.
For more on prospecting, see: