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Financial Planning > College Planning

10-3-1 and the One Card System: Al’s gifts that keep on giving

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Ten-three-one. It takes 10 leads (suspects) to generate three prospects (who participate in full fact finding), and one of them will become a client. That’s the essence of the 10-3-1 ratio made famous by Al Granum, CLU, who passed away last week at the age of 91.

There may never have been a more influential person in the industry than Granum, whose groundbreaking sales principles have guided the careers of many thousands of agents and financial advisors. Upon news of his death, agents past and present lined up to present tributes to Granum and credit him with being instrumental in their successful careers. His ubiquitous One Card System for building a clientele remains ingrained in the industry.

To learn more about the man, his legacy, and how highly he is thought of throughout the industry, I recommend you read through my earlier article and also visit The American College’s “Remembering O. Alfred Granum, CLU” web page. With this blog, I want to explore the significance of Granum’s contributions, and specifically the One Card System and the 10-3-1 principle.

I had the good fortune to interview Al Granum back in 2009 for a cover story in Life Insurance Selling, and came away being amazed with how cordial, sharp and interesting he was. In talking about developing his famous system, the first step was identifying a need for a system to generate leads.

“I was uneasy during my years as an agent over the fact that everybody gave lip service to the desirability of getting referred leads, but there was no system for getting them,” Granum told me during that 2009 interview. “The best way to get someone to listen is through a referred lead. I could spend all the time in the world mastering a magnificent presentation, but I still need someone to talk to. It was on that basis that I put my foot down.”

Granum required agents he was working with to keep detailed records on referred leads (tracking cases opened, closed, and business submitted), compiled manually as computers for such tasks were still a long ways off. In the first 10 years, they were able to process good records on more than 50,000 referred leads. Research showed that every 10 leads processed would generate three prospects, and one of those would become a client. Analyzing more data compiled over the next 15 years – on 150,000 “suspects” – reaffirmed the 10-3-1 ratio. Also remarkable was that the ratio stayed the same no matter how experienced the agent became.

Finally the industry had some science to rely on, rather than anecdotal experiences of other producers. It put an emphasis on the importance of activity for a producer. As a web page of The American College’s Northwestern Mutual Granum Center for Financial Security says so simply, “Perhaps the most significant implication of 10-3-1 was that it provided predictability in an unpredictable business. You could use the benchmarks to determine how much activity was needed to meet your production goals.”

The research and the results it produced led to the creation of the One Card System (OCS) and a book, “Building a Financial Services Clientele,” now in its 11th edition [Disclosure: “Building a Financial Services Clientele” is published by The National Underwriter Company, a unit of Summit Professional Networks, the parent company of and NU Life & Health.]

The OCS focuses agent on the most critical aspects of client-building, and establishes good habits and successful practices for those who follow it. Many thousands have, and it has guided them to long careers delivering financial security to the communities they serve.

Granum told me back in 2009 that during his career, he immersed his agents in the OCS right from the start, believing it was best for the agent and the agency – as well as the community. “It has been my experience that the agent who can [follow the OCS] has the best chance to survive, and the agent that won’t do it doesn’t have a good chance at surviving.”

At the time he terminated as a GA, 41 of his 42 active agents had qualified for the MDRT.


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