The true story of a million-dollar producer

By Lew Nason

Insurance Pro Shop


During the past 26 years, my son, Jeremy, and I have had the distinct pleasure of helping hundreds of insurance agents, financial advisors and financial planners to reach the very top of the industry in life insurance and annuity sales. What follows is the recent success story of one of those people. Phil Calandra came to us three years ago after first attending one of our seminars because he was struggling to make his system work. Here is his story, as he tells it.

"How do you earn half-a-million dollars during your first year as a financial advisor?"
By Phil Calandra, RFC

Hardly a week goes by without another financial planner, financial advisor or insurance agent asking me how I made half-a-million dollars during my first year of practice. Or, they'll ask how I earned close to a million dollars during my second year of work helping clients. So, I am going to tell you my true story. But, for me, the important story is how many people I have helped; not how much money I have made. It is all about how I helped my valued clients to earn more, achieve more and advance toward their financial goals and objectives. That is the big picture and that is my priority. Assisting clients in resolving their money concerns -- that is what financial planning is all about for me.

Countless numbers of people have also asked me how I made MDRT during my first eight months in the life and annuity arena, or they ask how I made MDRT "Top of the Table" during my first full year in the business. I am going to tell you what I did and didn't do in order to achieve such a high level of success so quickly. If you are serious about having a similarly rewarding career as an advisor, then I urge you to get more serious with what you are doing.

When I decided to leave the corporate world in 2005, I departed a fat six-figure position with lots of perks and status. But I wanted to help others in a very meaningful way. I wanted more servant leadership in my life. I did not want to push products and services onto trusting people. I no longer wanted to serve an ultimate objective that dictated: "How much more can we get out of this customer?"

For my life's work, I needed something far more different; something more satisfying, where I could be of positive benefit and enjoy lasting personal relationships. Money was not the deciding factor for me. My successful experience was in corporate finance, so I worked with many of the Fortune 500 companies in the USA. I traveled extensively and interacted with CEO-types and top executives, but I found myself longing for kitchen-table-type meetings where my skills could help real people. Middle-class American citizens are largely ignored or exploited by our corporations, institutions and organizations of all types. Our average American citizen is even exploited by our city, county, state and federal governments, yet they are the most important element of our society. They play by the rules, but keep getting shafted. They and their children deserve much better treatment. I wanted to serve them and truly help them protect their financial worth and improve their financial futures.

Later, when I became a financial advisor, I did not target the super-wealthy. And I never expected to make so much money from work that I dearly love to do. Every morning I rush to the office, happy and eager for another good day of meeting wonderful people (both clients and prospects). My real sense of satisfaction comes when the client is pleased and sees the results they need.

I invested in myself

From the beginning, the one thing I knew I would have to do is invest in myself. The school of hard knocks would take too long to create and replace my existing lifestyle and income. So, I started seeking out training from the very best in the industry. I easily spent $15,000 on coaching and training materials in my first year. I went to one of Lew's seminars (before I even had a license) and discovered that you must learn two things to be successful: 1. You are in the marketing business, and 2. You are in the financial advice business. In that order. If you don't have the right people to see, you can't make it. Marketing is the key to always being in front of the right prospects.

If you want to make the kind of money that less than 1 percent of advisors make, you have to do what most aren't doing. What many advisors aren't doing is doing what is right. If you put the client first and take care of solving their issues and concerns, your success will follow.

The most important task we all have -- both in our business and personal lives -- is to build true relationships. What is a true relationship? Well, it can be described in a number of ways. I believe it is a connection between two people that is sincere, uplifting, joyful and continuously strengthened by trust and empathy. To build true relationships, you must work at this connection and live by the premise: "It is better to give than to receive."

In our business, people buy from those they like and trust. You must understand the importance of expressing and giving of yourself to other people. Whether it is in your business life or your personal life, the customer or person you are trying to build a true relationship with has to feel appreciated and loved. It is simply the law of attraction. When you give out, you will eventually get back. I was told me early on: "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

Prior to joining the ranks of the self-employed, I was a student of the great motivators and an avid reader of success literature. That universal law and truth has been taught for centuries. I remember my coaching calls with Lew recounting the great Napoleon Hill: "What man can conceive and believe, he can achieve." What have you read lately? It is important to feed your mind and build your skills so you are sharp for every opportunity to help your prospective client. As the legendary speaker and author Charlie "Tremendous" Jones puts it: "You are the same today as you will be in five years except for two things: the people you meet and the books you read."

When I started, I did not have a Project 100, I did not call my family, friends and acquaintances. I did not "pitch" one single corporate manager or executive that I had been in boardrooms with previously. I knew my strengths and weaknesses. I was an accomplished presenter and public speaker. The dinner seminar was my natural marketing method. Now, I was fortunate to have enough start-up capital to jump right into the business this way. However, you can do it without a bankroll or rich spouse, if you learn how to properly use joint ventures, free educational workshops, free reports and other proven marketing methods to consistently attract the right prospects to you. If you want to reach the top, use your resources wisely and get going. Start small, be consistent and never quit.

I was told by Mr. Calmen Mendel, one of the all-time great Northwestern Mutual agents, "This is the poorest paying easy work I would ever do." It is tough, but no matter what niche you plan on serving, the people in your community need you. The financial wellbeing of our country is in a fragile state. We are in a recession-proof industry and people need real solutions. Identify the niche you want to serve and become an expert at marketing and consulting to that group. The dinner seminar was key to me getting off to a fast start. I used every seminar mail company out there. We then made every possible mistake, but we stayed with it. I have now created multiple seminar presentations, and I am constantly changing things.

Once again, I learned everything I could from the top producers. Take the time and invest in yourself. Some of the best in our business are: Don Blanton, Karlan Tucker, Craig Randall and Lew Nason. Listen and learn from them and then fit concepts to your persona.

Are you sending out client newsletters? Do you have a complete follow-up system for every aspect of your practice? Are you sending out greeting, birthday and anniversary cards? Do you have an assistant and staff to strengthen your capabilities? These are all things I learned you must do. You must pay attention to detail and give your very best to your clients, prospects and community. Take the time to train and develop yourself and the staff around you.

*For further information, or to contact this author, please leave a comment and your e-mail address in the forum below.