A good friend of mine has suffered through brain cancer, kidney cancer and then lung cancer. Mike wrote a book1 about his experience with the medical community. He details the well-meaning but often maddening comments made by friends and family, and the mystifying variety of tests, treatments, and indignities.
My favorite quotes:
“Health to non-health can be a fast trip.”
“I understood what I have seen in other cancer patients: True and deep gratitude for the help and support of everyone, and complete impatience with those same people.”
“I really do not want to spend emotion arguing about it. You are taking all the fun out of having cancer.”
“For the sake of all who do not approve of my diet, let me say for the record: Sugar feeds cancer. I hope everyone is happy now.”
“The less education a person had, the more likely it was for that person to give me bad advice and then follow up with insistence.”
Mike’s honesty reveals how inept people can be when interacting with someone who is truly suffering. In Independent Financial Services we encounter people experiencing all varieties of medical problems, financial strains, and even legal issues. It is vital that we check our own agendas, mute our own opinions, and not seek to make ourselves the heroes of the suffering person’s story. They are the heroes. Their emotions are real, and their needs are primary.
Mike’s experience helped me to grow in my ability to lend proper support to people who are suffering.
Point: One of the hardest things to do is enter into another person’s pain and sorrow without being a nuisance or adding awkwardness to an already hard situation.
Another of my favorite quotes from Mike’s book: “I have other complaints, but I am saving them for another day.”
I have been in the life insurance industry for four decades. Over that time period I have accumulated multiple complaints. Expecting to have time in the future to share more, I will present only a handful now.
Complaint #1: If you register for a seminar or webinar, show up! People who host these events take them seriously. They prepare, practice, secure Compliance approval, and make sure they execute the event professionally. If you don’t attend after registering, you have insulted the host. If you cannot commit to attend, don’t register. Why bother?
“People are way too quick to make commitments and too quick to abandon them.”2
Complaint #2: If someone recommends that you sell a product, but you do not understand how it works, don’t recommend it! There may be instances where the blind can lead the blind, but life insurance purchased with high expectations and funded with precious money is not the appropriate time! Why should a client trust your recommendation if you do not yourself know how it works? It is hard enough to sell what you know. How much harder to sell that which is mysterious to yourself! Why bother?
“Details matter. They create depth, and depth creates authenticity.”3
Complaint #3: A significant number of life insurance applications are submitted but a paid policy never results because the cases are either closed, withdrawn, or returned not taken. If it is deemed worthwhile to take an application, it ought to be worth any efforts necessary to gather all outstanding signatures and requirements. No responsible mechanic repairs only most of the car. No successful builder erects only some of the roof. How futile to ask Underwriting and New Business to expend energy setting up a case that will not be completed. Why bother?
“The art of following through is something that allows you to create the life that you actually want instead of settling for the life you currently have.”4
Complaint #4: Many Independent Financial Professionals (IFPs) pride themselves on service. They make sure the client knows to expect annual reviews, clear and frequent communication, and 24/7 access. Yet, some of these very professionals write life insurance, disability income, or long term care policies that they never personally deliver. The most important task in securing coverage for a client is making sure that they understand it, know where to keep it, and to get reminded why they bought it. If the client was present when you wrote it, be present with the client when you deliver it. Otherwise, why bother?
“There are two fatal errors that keep great projects from coming to life:
1) Not finishing
2) Not starting”5
Complaint #5: The hardest part of insurance sales, and financial services in general, is helping clients identify sources of funds to contribute to new products or investments. Too many IFPs choose to replace coverage rather than increase coverage or try to convince the client to re-direct contributions from one investment to another. The easy thing to do is point out what is not perfect about what someone already owns. The client ends up having paid expenses and fees for products that did not have the lifespan these costs anticipated. If a recommendation is truly worthwhile, take the extra effort to find new funding sources. If the result is simply replacement or redirection of funds, why bother?
“To find fault is easy; to do better may be difficult.”6
Complaint #6: In Independent Distribution we get caught up in exactly what independence means. “Independent” must mean objective and untethered. It is a term intended to contrast with “captive.” What it should not be interpreted to mean is “unlimited” or “all-inclusive.” Yet, throughout the financial services industry, distributors often seek universal contracts to cover all major products and carriers, all in the name of independence. The fear is, if a product is competitive, and another financial professional might offer it to a client, then every self-respecting IFP should have the same carrier contracts and access to the same products. The unfortunate outcome of this kind of defensive thinking is overbroad carrier and product representation that far exceeds one’s ability to truly understand, master, and present with authority a huge number of offerings. Even worse, dilution of limited production results in very little leverage enjoyed by close relationships. It is possible to have most of the “best” carriers and products in the toolkit and know next to nothing about them; and worse, have no relational capital to draw on if necessity demands it. Why bother?
“Play within your means. Don’t overextend yourself because someone else has something that you think that you need at that time.”7
Complaint #7: (My all-time biggest complaint!) When in the presence of a client, company representative, associate, or prospect, be present. Do not allow interruptions. Put your phone away. Close the door. Hold your calls. Otherwise, why bother?
Leo Tolstoy considered these three most important questions:
- What is the right time for every action?
- Who are the most necessary people?
- How might we know what is the most important thing to do?
“Remember then: There is only one time that is important—Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power. The most necessary man is he with whom you are, for no man knows whether he will ever have dealings with anyone else: and the most important affair is, to do him good, because for that purpose alone was man sent into this life!”8
Independent Financial Services is a human activity involving one person entering another person’s life with the hopes of making a positive difference. For the most part, IFPs are successful in contributing to the betterment of others. The unwise IFP will enter into another person’s hard circumstance wielding uninvited opinions and pursuing an unwanted agenda. And sometimes, just as easily, an IFP can prove inattentive, unprepared, and unwilling to put in the work or see the tasks all the way through to completion.
The most professional IFPs employ a compass with these four compass points:
- Show up and be present, on time and attentive.
- Know what you represent and own it personally if possible.
- Every step taken on behalf of a client should be seen through to completion.
- In everything add value and avoid the temptation to disrupt the work of previous advisors.
- Develop meaningful, helpful relationships with product manufacturers that can be used to negotiate necessary improvements for clients.
My friend Mike observed that in certain instances, the people attending to him treated him as more than a patient, beyond just a person merely taking up space in the doctor’s office or hospital bed.
“They seemed genuinely concerned about me beyond their professional obligation to be concerned.”9
This is my prayer for all IFPs. That each and every one would act toward their clients beyond their professional obligation to be concerned.
- “It’s Not as Easy as It Looks,” Michael Bowling, http://www.westbowpress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001129474.
- “The Path to a Meaningful Life,” Frank Sonnenberg, Published June 5, 2022, ISBN 9798412082530.
- Neil Blumenthal, a co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker.
- “Finish What You Start: The Art of Following Through, Taking Action, Executing, & Self-Discipline,” Peter Hollins, PH Learning Inc. (March 17, 2018).
- Buddha Gautama.
- Andy Latimer, https://medium.com/authority-magazine/andy-latimer-play-within-your-means-dont-overextend-yourself-and-understand-cash-flow-15e5fefd540d.
- “What Men Live by and Other Tales,” Leo Tolstoy.
- “It’s Not as Easy as It Looks,” Michael Bowling.