Joe, Rich, Ralph and Robert joined a large mutual insurance company in 1975. The agency had hired Wise Abraham, an experienced retired producer with more than 50 years' experience training recruits. He taught them about the technical aspect of life insurance policies, underwriting, home office procedures and competitive companies. Then their sales manager, Mr. Fagin, imposed the insurance company's marketing strategy on them: Make a list, call the list, and sell everyone you know anything you can, try to obtain referrals and then... good luck.
All four men failed as career agents of that agency. Fortunately, each ultimately succeeded in the life insurance and financial services business. Why? Wily old Wise Abraham, who trained them in technical issues, wisely took them aside -- one at a time -- as they were exiting the agency and taught them the one secret that guarantees success in the insurance and financial services industry.
This would be a very brief white paper if I told you the secret up front. Instead, read on. See if you can discover the secret that the stories of Joe, Rich, Ralph and Robert reveal.
Before you read their tales, however, let's plant a seed. There are thousands of sales success secrets, but not one of them guarantees success. Some help with opening a discussion about your products and services, while others provide support preparing a sales presentation. Still others guide you through the closing process and a few show you how to service clients to gain referrals after the close. While they all help, none guarantees success, even in the limited scope of their specialized "secrets." However, there is a way to guarantee success for a professional financial advisor. See if you can figure it out. If you do, you will win a prize or two -- nothing extraordinary, but worth your time.
Joe... the plodder
Even though Joe followed the directions of the sales manager, he still failed. Joe was the kind of person who worked diligently and expected to achieve the results that the company that hired him said he would achieve if he adhered to their program.
Joe made his list, called all of his friends, relatives and neighbors, made the sales presentation that sales manager Fagin taught him, and even made a few sales along the way, but still he failed. In fact, he was the first of the four men we are discussing to leave the agency's training program.
As he was leaving the agency, Wise Abraham called Joe into his office and closed the door.
"Joe," asked Wise Abraham, "why do you think you failed in this agency?"
Joe was puzzled. Sales manager Fagin and the general agent both told him he was not cut out for insurance sales. Joe responded in kind: "I guess I'm not cut out to sell insurance."
Wise Abraham mused, "Hmmm. Why do you say that, Joe?" already knowing exactly why.
"Well," Joe replied, "I just barely passed the LIMRA test to qualify as a life insurance sales rep in the first place, I didn't meet my goals, and I never felt comfortable with the sales presentation sales manager Fagin taught me... I guess this business is just not for me."
"What if I told you, Joe," continued Wise Abraham, "that I disagree with the GA and sales manager Fagin? That I think you have exceptional talent and success potential as a life insurance agent. What if I told you that your persistent and patient approach could make you very successful? What if I told you that there is a secret to success in the insurance business that is known only to a few experienced observers?"
Without waiting for Joe's answer, Wise Abraham continued. "Joe, I want to share this secret with you, but you must agree to use it wisely and to share it with others who find themselves in a spot like the one you are in now. Do you agree to that?"
Joe was dumbfounded. He thought to himself, "What in the world is Wise Abraham talking about?" Then he responded, "I guess so, but how can a failure like me ever expect to succeed in a business where I've already failed?"
Wise Abraham answered, "Once you know this secret, Joe, you will recognize your own potential for success in the insurance business. There are two indivisible parts to the secret, Joe..."
25 years later...
Joe is a successful insurance and financial services rep. He has more than 100 small businesses as clients. His small business clients rely on him for employee benefits, personal life insurance and financial advice. Joe advises both the owners and their employees about long term care issues, disability planning, retirement strategies and any other money-related issue they might face.
In addition, Joe has partnered with attorneys, accountants, P&C agents, and a variety of other professionals that specialize in small business matters, and he actively refers his clients to these professionals when the need arises.
Joe has also become an active member of the local NAIFA chapter and his local Chamber of Commerce. Joe attends church regularly, participates in local school and youth sports activities, and is recognized as a contributor to his community.
Joe also mentors two other agents who were struggling to succeed. He is teaching them the secret that Wise Abraham taught him over two decades ago; he does not charge them a fee or ask for any commission splits.
Do you think you know the secret yet? Don't bet on it. Read on...
Rich... the planner
The conversation Wise Abraham had with Rich as he exited the agency was similar to the conversation Wise Abraham had with Joe. The key difference was that Rich was a very analytical person. Rich thrived on digging deeply into the financial details of his prospects' lives and devising esoteric solutions to their problems and opportunities.
However, Wise Abraham knew that the GA and sales manager Fagin told Rich he wasn't suited for the life insurance business; the same thing they told Joe. Therefore, Wise Abraham told Rich the same tale that he told Joe.
He told Rich that there are two essential and inseparable components to the secret to success in the insurance business, and today in the financial services aspect of the business as well.
Rich, like Joe, agreed to the terms Wise Abraham set forth.
25 years later...
Rich is renowned as one of the most brilliant financial planners in America. Rich consults with insurance companies and financial planning firms in every state. His clients are professionals from every imaginable specialty -- doctors, dentists, accountants, attorneys, educators, executives, and on and on.
Rich, his wife Sally, and their three children live in the home they built almost 20 years ago. The entire family is active in their community in various ways and, even though Rich travels extensively, his local clients still rely on him for advice and guidance.
Do you have a clue about the secret? Don't be hasty. Read on...
Ralph... the planter
Ralph had a strategy. He believed that developing relationships that were deep was more important than making quick sales based on shallow encounters. That didn't go over very well in the agency because it didn't produce speedy results. There were a few fresh shoots pushing up through the soil that Ralph had tilled and nurtured, but it was not enough. Ralph was ushered out a few days after Rich with the assurance that he, too, was unfit to be a professional insurance advisor.
Wise Abraham spoke to Ralph with compassion and understanding. Unlike Joe and Rich, Ralph bucked the system because of his deep personal commitments. Regardless, the secret was the same and the promise elicited by Wise Abraham was the same; apply the secret and succeed, then teach the secret to those you encounter who don't know it and are open to learning it.
25 years later...
More than 300 people crowded into the ballroom to celebrate Ralph's 25th anniversary in the insurance and financial services business. Some of the folks who attended were friends from the service that helped Ralph and his wife Jennifer adopt their two children; others were from a large local business where Ralph had developed more than 30 clients in a dozen states; others were from Ralph's bank, his church, his high school and college classmates from around the country, and dozens of friends and family from every state in the USA.
You should be getting warm now, but go slowly. There's still a bit more insight to come.
Robert... the player
Robert was a master of shallow relationships. He lived for happy hours at the bars and late nights at parties, made himself visible at sporting events and concerts, shook hands with every guy and hugged every girl... Robert was a player. His extensive network of acquaintances allowed him to appear to prosper for a while, but reality quickly caught up with him when the applications he wrote became "not taken" policies.
Robert met Wise Abraham on his way to the elevator after being assured by the GA and sales manager Fagin that he wasn't a good candidate for a career as a professional insurance advisor. Robert was surprised when Wise Abraham invited him into his office and closed the door.
"Robert," said Wise Abraham, "I have counseled hundreds of agents as they left this agency and the others where I have worked for more than 50 years. You will be the last. I am leaving to live with my son and daughter-in-law in the sunny southwest. I want to give you the gift that I have given to so many others before you -- the secret to success in the insurance business.
"Before I do, however," Wise Abraham paused with a look of uncertainty on his face and a moment of hesitation in his heart, "I need to know whether or not you plan to have a career as a professional insurance advisor."
Robert was always glib and answered quickly, "I guess it depends on the secret you plan to share with me, Wise Abraham. Not likely if the secret puts me in a cage. If it allows me to be me and still succeed, I think I will carry on. I like the freedom this business gives me to keep my own hours, control my income and even choose who I want to do business with."
Wise Abraham sighed with a bit of relief and told Robert the secret. He described its two essential parts as he had with the others. As he escorted Robert to his future, Wise Abraham thought that, perhaps, Robert would be the one that failed.
25 years later...
Robert took the podium at the National Insurance Advisors' Annual Meeting in Las Vegas to a standing ovation. He asked a question to the audience of more than 3,000 successful professional insurance advisors: "How many of you here today learned the secret to success as a professional insurance advisor directly from Wise Abraham? Please, stand up."
More than 200 members of the elite group, including Joe, Rich and Ralph, stood.
He continued, "You folks remain standing. Now, how many of you here learned the secret from one of these folks who are standing up right now or from someone who is not here that learned it directly from Wise Abraham? Please stand up."
Almost every person in the hall stood.
"Thank you, Wise Abraham," Robert said. "Without you there would not be a person standing or sitting in this room today. Now, please sit down and let me briefly tell you my story. Wise Abraham worried that I would not benefit from or share the secret. I was a player, a party guy, with many shallow relationships and no real connection with the people I worked with. I quickly discovered that I needed to learn to build lasting relationships and I turned to my peers in the insurance business to teach me. I soon realized that working with you, my professional peers, allowed me to practice the secret, and led me to build my business as a broker where I could share the secret and serve you so you could serve your clients..."
Think you've learned the secret that guarantees success for advisors? Don't be too quick to decide; more will be revealed in the upcoming part two.