What can you do to grow your agency? Recently I asked leaders of our top agencies how they increase business. The following is the first of a short series on best practices they use to increase sales.
1) Find a Focus
Our industry is huge and multifaceted. “Everyone can use our products,” explains Dan Stephen, Stephen & Associates. “Therefore, focusing on specific segments of the marketplace and developing expertise in a product or concept could result in more clients and referrals.”
Troy West, Lifestyle Financial Planning, works with small business owners and families with children. Concentrating on this segment of the market helps him generate multigenerational sales. According to Troy, by helping people find money they didn’t know they had and improve their cash flow, he’s able to get referrals from clients rather easily.
Many producers emphasize the living benefits of whole life insurance and how taking loans against a policy’s guaranteed cash value can help people purchase tangible goods, supplement their retirement or plan for their children’s college education. This idea is often referred to as the Infinite Banking ConceptTM or IBC, and is described in R. Nelson Nash’s book Becoming Your Own Banker.
Larry McLean, Your Family Bank®, has taken this idea a step further and created a complete agent training system and software program with the goal of helping people get out of debt, in most cases in nine years or less. “We have been extremely focused on working with our advisors and partners on systems that will allow them to have a great story to tell,” explains Larry. “As a result, our agency has experienced amazing growth and helped people get out of debt.”
Mike Maloney, Mike Maloney Agency, who also uses the IBC, agrees that people want to get out of debt so it’s not difficult to get them interested in the concept. Mike points out that there are three major advantages of using whole life insurance to help people with debt. First, changes in the economy have little effect on the concept. Second, the guaranteed growth of cash value, even with a loan, can help people avoid running out of money as long as they pay back the loan. And third, once producers have helped their clients get out of debt, they can work with them on retirement and estate planning.
Mike also encourages all producers who work with business owners to be sure to ask if they have a buy/sell agreement in place and how it’s funded. This agreement is essential for most businesses and the flexibility and guarantees of whole life insurance can be a good match here too, suggests Mike.
Ryan Polimeni, Top Rank Advisors, Inc., serves two niche markets. He helps federal employees get out of debt as well as maximize their retirement income. Ryan became aware of opportunities in this marketplace when a family member who worked for the federal government asked him for advice because she felt she didn’t have the information she needed to make retirement income decisions. Ryan also works with homeowners, helping them understand the benefits of using whole life insurance for mortgage protection.
For Sam Mikhail, Financial Strategies Group, college planning has been a great introduction to helping families with their financial needs and increasing sales. In addition to providing Sam with an ongoing supply of motivated prospects, Sam says providing college planning is a good way to make a difference in people’s lives because whole life insurance can help parents efficiently pay for college without negatively impacting their ability to prepare for their own retirement.
Mike McIntire, Mike McIntire Agency, works with high net worth individuals on large life insurance cases, and he’s also planning to add foreign nationals to his client base. “Intangible products can sometimes be challenging to sell,” admits Mike, “So we’ve found it’s important to take a relaxed approach and spend time helping prospects understand the numerous ways they can use our products. We aren’t order takers. Our job is to give people the products they need, even though they sometimes aren’t the products that they initially want. For example, in many cases whole life insurance is a better fit for people even though they may think they want term.
One way to develop a focus for your agency? “Learn a selling system,” suggest many of the top producers I consulted. Whether the system helps you communicate better with prospects or helps prospects better understand how money works, “Embrace the system or systems you choose and use them to solve problems,” says Chris Shields, Shields Brokerage, Inc.
“Find a system that helps you become a solution provider and be passionate about helping others, and success will come,” concludes Larry McLean.
2) Educate, Motivate, Build Trust
Aristotle identified the three secrets to sales success (or in his day, modes of persuasion) as early as the 4th century B.C., and they’re still true today—logic, emotion, and credibility! As Dan Rust, Dan Rust Agency contends, “There’s a lot of misinformation in the media about the products we sell, so teaching the public the truth about how money works is paramount to success in sales.” In addition to educating people, it’s also important for producers to be passionate about showing prospects how our products can help fulfill their needs and dreams, Dan adds.
Kevin Kruger, Kevin Kruger Agency, is quick to point out that there’s no secret sauce to success in this business, but being honest and helping prospects understand how products work is extremely important. “After you’ve made a sale, servicing your client is important, too,” adds Kevin. “When you stay in contact and speak with your clients at least annually, getting referrals from them becomes easier. You need to know what’s happening in their lives—maybe they’ve moved, had another child, or gotten divorced. All these events can lead to more sales.”
Jay Desai, CFP®, MACRO Advisors, believes so strongly in education that he’s created a seven-step financial literacy workshop for prospects, which he uses with individuals and their families, and small and mid-size business owners and their employees within a 50-mile radius of his office. Jay doesn’t charge for the workshops or pitch products. Instead, he views them as an opportunity to meet a variety of people and plant the seeds for future business.
Mike Everett, Success & Legacy, an IBC-focused agency, is also a strong believer that education is essential for converting prospects to clients. That’s why he puts prospective clients through a six to 10 hour education process before he ever asks them to buy anything from him. This learning process, which Mike says helps take the pressure off sales, includes webinars, a half-day boot camp, and one-on-one follow up conversations, all of which Mike provides at no cost. Because prospective clients are encouraged to bring friends and family to the boot camps, his education process helps to generate an ever growing source of prospects. “People bring other people in droves,” Mike exclaims.
To attract even more prospects, Mike often exhibits or speaks at medical or chiropractic events, and similar to Jay’s seven-step workshops, he goes into small businesses and educates owners on how the IBC has the potential to improve their bottom line by helping to reduce turnover as well as create more value for their employees.
“Our agency is an educational organization, not a sales group,” Mike emphasizes. In fact, he invests so much time working with prospects that he feels like they’re already friends by the time they become his clients. In addition to the personal touch, Mike has created educational podcasts and YouTube videos which he believes add to his credibility. His ultimate goal? To establish long-term relationships with clients and prospects. “What we’re doing is bigger than selling life insurance,” Mike contends. “We aren’t asking people to buy a policy. Our work is in sync with our agency’s mission—to inspire people and give them hope and financial freedom.”
If you ask Tom Young, 1st Consultants, Inc., an agency that’s also focused on the IBC, what he does for a living, he’s quick to say he teaches money efficiency. “I change people’s lives,” he explains. “If you dedicate yourself to educating people about participating whole life insurance, they’ll want to buy as much as they can,” he explains. “I’ve turned my work into my cause,” adds Tom, “And that’s why I’m motivated to teach it to other producers so new people will be attracted to the industry and carry on the mission.”
Jeff LeClaire, The Insurance Center, Inc., says that identifying what a prospective client wants to accomplish and having creative answers and products to fit these needs is important to success in this business. “You really need to care and listen to people and work with carriers you can trust to do the right thing by your clients,” advises Jeff. “We partner with the best carriers we can so we can fulfill our agency’s mission of ‘Promises Made; Promises Kept.’ Although this may not seem cutting edge, it’s actually a lost art. Move away from transactional sales as fast as you can!” he warns.
3) Keep Learning and Building Relationships
If you want to get better at anything, you need to keep learning. Troy West suggests surrounding yourself with smart people. Sam Mikhail emphasizes becoming an expert at the products you offer, continue to strive for better results, and look for ways to anticipate and adapt to change.
To be successful and stay relevant in this business, you have to be innovative, advises Tony Wilson, ORG Corp. Be willing to try new ideas and build and maintain strong relationships. Strive every day to add value to every producer or client you serve.
Dan Valentine, Life Brokers, explains that after owning several businesses he’s found that having great partners and employees is the secret to success. “We are all coworkers; everyone’s ideas matter.”
“Stay informed and do the right thing for people,” contends Dan Stephen, “And the products will sell themselves.”
This is a great business to be in because we’re helping people, explains Javad Darouian, Financial Management Systems. “We provide service to our clients for years and help them at the time of disability and death. We’re continually in touch with our clients over a long period of time, so we can get repeat business and referrals. Successful people in this business build relationships. Just because a person is good at sales doesn’t mean he or she is a good leader,” cautions Javad, “So if you want to build an agency, you need to develop coaching and management skills. You need to be able to work with producers and help them find a niche.”
Paul Kaplan, Back 9 Insurance, knows the importance of ongoing learning and building strong relationships. To ensure their producers and staff are knowledgeable about the products they sell, the agency maintains strong relationships with carrier specialists who provide information in the office, on location, and online. “As a result, our producers know that whatever situation comes up, they can contact us and be fully prepared to satisfy the needs of their clients and close a sale,” confirms Paul.
“This is a relationship business,” concludes Justin Snapp, IBN. “If a client is asking for something specific, we give them what they want or suggest products that might be a better fit for them so they have options. We believe this approach makes the difference between generating clients verses just having customers.”
See the November article in Broker World for these leaders’ tips on adopting technology, succession planning, mentoring and more.