5 ingredients of superstar insurance professionals
By Jeremy Nason
Insurance Pro Shop
If you want to be a survivor and enjoy long term success in this industry, you're going to have to make some major changes. You can no longer afford to be just an insurance agent selling insurance or a financial advisor selling investments; you must become a true sales professional.
In the past 30 years we've seen a dramatic reduction in the sales force for the insurance industry. Agents are leaving in droves and there are very few companies that are bringing in new agents. This, at first, would seem to be good news for many of us — less competition.
However, the reduction in the sales force isn't over yet. Our companies are still having trouble competing with the banks, investment houses, Internet sales, television personalities and other distribution channels. Profit margins are shrinking and our companies are still being forced to cut expenses. One of the easiest ways for them to cut expenses is to get rid of the low-producing agents and only work with the most profitable agencies and producers.
Prudential Financial Inc.'s fleet of U.S. agents has sunk to 2,450 from a peak of 20,000. MetLife Inc.'s has fallen to 8,000 from 14,000. In all, the number of U.S. life insurance agents affiliated with a specific company today is down nearly one-third since the 1970s, to 174,000, according to LIMRA. Their average age is up to 56.
So, the big question is whether you will still be here five years from now.
If you want to be a survivor and enjoy long-term success in this industry, you're going to have to make some major changes. You can no longer afford to be just an insurance agent selling insurance or a financial advisor selling investments, you must become a true sales professional.
Being a sales professional means knowing you're a salesperson and making the customers' needs primary. You cannot help people if you can't get in front of them, and then get them to take action.
Most of the insurance agents and financial advisors entering this business did so because of the opportunity for exceptional financial rewards. However, the most successful agents and advisors soon discovered if they wanted to succeed it wasn't about the money, but the service they were providing.
Making a difference in peoples' lives
Industry super-achievers, such as Ben Feldman and Mehdi Fakharzadeh, have a real passion for this business. They all have a sincere belief in the industry and how it helps people. What can we learn from them?
Ben Feldman pointed out that, "Most people buy not because they believe, but because the salesman believes."
Mehdi said, "Your success depends on how other people respond to you. Others hasten your rewards. They can also block your progress. Cultivate sensitivity towards people. Place yourself in their shoes. Remember the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Here are five ingredients that all the industry legends have that enabled them to build a successful lifetime career in sales. View each of these ingredients as a stepping-stone to your sales success. If you build your sales career with each of these ingredients, your success will last a lifetime.
1. Belief in what you are selling
To sell, you must believe in your product or service — and believe in yourself. Sounds simple, but does it apply to you? Are you enthusiastic, dedicated and willing to put forth the effort to learn how to truly help people? Being truly interested in your career means you are excited to be an insurance salesperson. You have made the decision to develop, practice and apply all the information available to bring you the utmost success. You are a professional.
2. Positive attitude
A common denominator of the many great legends, both past and present, is the right attitude. Every motivational speaker I've ever listened to will tell you that you can change your life by changing your attitudes. Perhaps this is one reason why Mehdi Fakharzadeh, Van Mueller and the late Ben Feldman personally sell more insurance each year than hundreds of insurance companies. These are men who truly understand that they are in the business of selling insurance and they embrace their occupations.
Superior insurance agents have the attitude that expects and creates success. They opt for choices that produce positive results. How is your attitude? Do you look for ways to improve negative situations rather than running from them? Remember that there are only two kinds of people in the world: those who think they can and those who think they can't. They're both right.
3. Extra effort
Putting forth the extra effort means increasing your ability to succeed by improving a little every day. Without it, you are like a ship without a rudder, and you'll end up going in circles, getting nowhere.
If you view selling insurance as "just a job," then failure is right behind it.
Why? Because selling insurance is not easy. This business brings a tremendous amount of rejection, so anyone who sells insurance must truly believe in his or her product and service. Consider, if it were easy, it would not pay as well. And if it did not pay as well, people would not do it. That is why it is so important to work at improving your marketing and sales skills a little bit each day.
4. Step-by-step system
Salespeople are not born, they are taught. You must have a precise, step-by-step procedure that covers all the points in the selling process, leaving nothing to chance.
Mehdi Fakharzadeh recently shared his secrets to success with the 20,000 agents, advisers and planners we work with. Mehdi is a famous and beloved MetLife Insurance Company super-achiever and MDRT role model. Mehdi, a life and qualifying member of Million Dollar Round Table, has qualified for Chair Council 34 times, President's Conference 41 times and Leader's Conference 44 times. He is a recipient of many national golden awards and trophies. What Mehdi and many others have observed is most agents, advisers and planners struggle year after year because they don't have a good, reliable system. They have too many random efforts. They'll talk to anyone who will meet with them. They don't have a way to attract people to them.
Mehdi stated, "Most financial advisers use a system that actually works against them. Why would you actually support a system that works against you? Failure is certain if you use no system at all. Limited sales results are assured by using a sales system that is wrong for you. Using the wrong sales system (a sales system that does not work well for you) makes your life and your sales far more difficult."
Having abundant interest, a positive attitude and energy is great, but without the right system, you will not find success. It is much like a million-dollar computer without the right software.
The top performers know that school is never out for die hard professional.
5. Success mindset
There is marvelous self satisfaction in accomplishing something that is important to you. Forming the habit of doing what is necessary, although you might not like it, separates winners from the unsuccessful.
Selling insurance is the greatest and noblest profession in the world. Insurance is the greatest product in the world to sell.
Sales professionals know that the old hard sell has been replaced by sales professionalism. To become a superstar producer, you must focus on building relationships and trust, providing superior service, and setting goals and developing methods to reach them.
There is no question that the world would be better off with more insurance agents, especially those who proudly call themselves sales professionals.
This story was first recounted in the July 1991 issue of Success magazine entitled in an article entitled, "The Superachiever's Secret":
"One day, Mehdi Fakharzadeh, Metropolitan Life's top agent, went to see a policyholder who suffered from heart disease and was filing a claim. There was no prospect of selling him more insurance. Most agents (striving for their goals) would have just handed the man a form and left. Not Mehdi, who had "surrendered to the process" of helping people. Mehdi filled out the form for him. When he found out the man also had policies with other insurers, he got forms from them, filled them out, and made sure the refunds came through.
The man pressed payment on Mehdi; Mehdi politely declined. But a few days later, Mehdi received in the mail a list of 21 of the man's friends and relatives: names, dates of birth, number of children — with a personal introduction to each. Mehdi sold millions of dollars of insurance to them."