Like many agents and advisors, I started my financial service career with a large eastern mutual insurance company. I won't name it in this article, but suffice it to say that I sold a lot of "pieces of the rock." Like most agents, I started out selling life insurance in the family market. I remember that my first manager said that this was a simple business to succeed in, but not easy to succeed in. It took a commitment to show up every day and do whatever it took to get in front of 10 to 15 people a week. If you committed to studying product knowledge manuals, understanding market and economic fundamentals, and constantly honing your selling skills, you could be successful -- we've all heard this mantra before.
What I lacked in education, and a natural market to sell to, I could always overcome by hard and persistent effort. Like many agents, I tried to be all things to all people. I learned about and sold life, health, and disability insurance. I made the Million Dollar Round Table in only seven months, since I began my career on April 30th and the qualification ended December 31st. I attended my first MDRT the following year and couldn't believe I was at the meeting with legends like Ben Feldman and John Savage, and professional speakers such as Jimmy Valvano and Lou Holtz. Sitting in John Savage's room late at night with a bunch of agents and hearing him talk about selling concepts, not product, was enlightening.
I was a consistent MDRT-level agent and have since achieved lifetime membership status. I eventually branched out and began selling pensions, 401(k) plans, and life insurance to fund deferred compensation and split dollar plans.
Motivated to raise my production to the next level, I decided to focus on fixed index annuities in 2002, which necessitated resigning from my position because my broker/dealer would not allow me to sell them. I started to concentrate on getting in front of as many people that were qualified as a could in a week. I stopped trying to be a generalist and instead became a conservative money specialist. That was the moment my production started to skyrocket. I mentored with a $20 million producer and the most important thing he taught me was that I only got paid for opening and closing cases. Everything else could be delegated. He said to determine what I wanted to make and break that down into an hourly figure. So, if I wanted to gross $500,000 a year, that meant my time was worth $250 an hour using two thousand hours a year. So, if the work I was doing wasn't $250 an hour work, it should be delegated to someone else. That meant hiring assistants to schedule appointments, process applications, chase the money, and do all of the other things it takes to run a high-level and profitable practice. I was now able to see up to 25 people a week, all in my office.
Within three years, I was achieving Top of the Table status in the Million Dollar Round Table. Less than one percent of agents achieve that level of production. If you had told me I would spend as much on marketing expenses as I formally grossed at the career company, I would have thought you were crazy.
Like many agents and advisors, I had to learn to be a specialist and not a generalist. Trying to keep up on so many various insurance and financial products is not only time-consuming, but also time-wasting. I could always find an agent who wanted to know about the 10 companies who did med sups or long term care insurance and refer him those clients. I learned that if you lead with an insurance product such as life, health or long term care, the client will always associate you as an insurance agent, not a financial advisor.
The secret is to stop looking at all of the shiny things and focus, focus, and focus some more. Sharpen your skills and focus on the best products. How much do you want to make? Are you doing work that you can delegate to someone for $15 or $20 an hour? Remember, you only get paid to open and close cases. Nothing else.
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