By Author: Norman G Levine

In my previous article I briefly explained why I pioneered financial advising in my country and what some of the differences were between product selling and advising. Now let me try and share some concepts that resulted in my agency associates and I selling more products, making more money, and helping our prospects and clients find wealth, happiness and security through financial advising. In fact my agency sold more life insurance than any other agency in my company while our average per capita income was the highest, or among the very highest, of any agency, of all companies, in our country.

One of the first questions my associates asked me, when I transitioned the agency from pure product selling to advising, was how can we meet our sales targets without pushing product sales.A good advisor actually sells more, insurance plus more other type products then a pure sales person does. Here is why.
When a person, perhaps a referral or a friend expresses a desire for any product we make the sale first, with the understanding that as part of our automatic service, which is the reason they are smart to use us as their agent, we will concurrently help them put together a comprehensive plan to give them total financial wellbeing. Further in our agency, we do that service free of charge though we are aware others charge a lot of money for that service. Sometimes, therefore, we sell first but always try and create a financial advisor relationship after the sale.

On the other hand, if the prospect has not come to us for product recommendations we offer the financial planning service at the beginning, again free of charge, in order to help them achieve their life time financial wellbeing. During the first interview we always try to fill out a fact finder with information about themselves, their family, their business and their current financial situation, and then we come back, on the next interview with a proposed plan. The plan addresses not just dying but all 3 of the risks I mentioned in the previous article. Those are, living too long so their money runs out before they do. Or dying too soon leaving their family or business in jeopardy, and third addressing the inevitable hazards along the way, such as health, economic down turns, loss of a job or disability etc.

Initially we try and sell the entire plan but that is usually too costly for most prospects so we suggest they at least get started on the program and begin by buying what they can comfortably afford at this time. We never try and sell too much at the start as a financial burden will stress our relationship for the future permanent client relationship. At the very least we try and make the life insurance sale as that buys time in case they die before the rest of the plan is completed.
This absolutely works but you don’t become a financial advisor by simply changing your occupation’s name. You must study and learn the multiple products available, you must develop an expertise in getting fact finders and having an advising process, you must be capable of developing an advisor relationship with your prospects and clients. If you do you will sell more products and make bigger sales then you are now doing and you will do a much better job for your clientele and you will be perceived as a professional not a product pusher.

The next question I am frequently asked is how do we do this and get prospects and clients confidence when they think we are only life insurance product pushers. That is a very good question and the secret for good financial advising. Advisors have a much more difficult sale to make then a product. To develop a good client relationship the first sale is not a product but you must learn to sell yourself. You trust your doctor, or your attorney and will do whatever they suggest you do without question. I believe my clients feel the same way about me. Perhaps even the people that hear me speak or read my books feel the same way about me. That has come from a lifetime of doing what I can do to help you not what is in it for me. That is the basis of my entire life and I communicate it in everything I do, 24 hours a day. Also people want to trust their advisor which means they must be knowledgeable, never lie, are always on time, always available, hard worker, etc, etc, etc. Why would they trust their money, their future, their family wellbeing to someone they didn’t like or trust. Would you?
That means the first time I meet a potential prospect, before I ever start a business conversation I spend time visiting as a nice person talking to a nice person. How long do I do that? As long as it takes to feel a mutual friendship. It may take more than one visit or interview but it comes before a business transition. I may never get to the business interview if I don’t feel a warmth and comfort with the prospect as I have learned if they don’t like and trust me they won’t buy my recommendations so why bother continuing?

Once a good interrelationship is achieved a client will come to you and seek your guidance and advice on many subjects besides just financial advising. Let me caution you that all the things I am discussing in this article and the previous one are just door openers. It takes a doctor 8 to 10 years to be a doctor in my country and a financial advisor is also a professional. It won’t take years but you must spend a few months practicing your expertise and studying to be knowledgeable in your new persuasion.
The last question I will answer, that is often asked, is how does one get started in this business and for those already insurance sales people how do you make the transition?
The skills necessary for advising are best done using the skills learned to be an insurance agent. For that reason agents are in the best position to become financial advisors. Many people have tried financial advising in my country and most have failed. Why is this the case?

To succeed you must have people to see. Prospecting is the number one challenge for most sales people. It is not an easy skill. Learning to be an advisor is not the biggest challenge. Having enough people to see and being able to sell yourself to them is the biggest challenge. A successful life agent has done both before transitioning to an advisor. The bank employees and accountants, new people to finance do not have that skill and without it they will fail.

There is a second big reason. The toughest sale is the life insurance sale. It is a sale of love and caring and not at all selfish. Pensions and wealth accumulation, health insurance and property and casualty insurance are all at least in part selfishly motivated. They are a lot easier to sell. Therefore the most successful financial advisors are those who know, through trust and caring relationships, how to sell the altruistic caring life insurance sale. They can prospect for new people on a daily basis, and they have the people skill allowing them to sell themselves to clients and prospects.

As an example people in the investment business are selling greed using the “what’s in it for me methodology” and we total financial advisors are selling what I can do for you. We find out what our prospects dreams and aspirations are and then we help them achieve them. We help them get what they want by asking questions and listening, not just with our ears but with our eyes and our heart.
In my agency every new recruit was started in pure life insurance training. We put a heavy emphasis on prospecting, seeing lots of people, people skills and how to sell themselves and initiating life insurance sales. They then learned other products but from the first day they were

taught a two interview, with a fact finder first interview selling procedure and then slowly, during the first year we added other products and eventually addressed all 3 risk areas mentioned above. Without the emphasis on life insurance and the skills necessary for it they would never fully succeed at becoming objective financial advisors. As a matter of fact a few of my former MDRT qualifiers failed in the transition and eventually completely left the business because they found it so easy to sell investments to their existing clients they stopped prospecting, seeing new people, and using the people skills that got them to MDRT. They made a lot of money for a short time but without using the skills that made them successful in the first place they eventually quit. I learned from that, and you should too, never stop prospecting, seeing lots of people, and selling yourself and we monitored that in our agency

When I entered our great business every product was a specialty and each persuasion only did one thing. Life insurance, property casualty insurance, investment people, banks, pension companies, etc. were all separate. I recognized in the 1960’s that was wrong. Now every one  of those specialties’ is branching out and doing other specialties and is competing with the other persuasions. The ultimate winner will be chosen by the consumer. In my opinion we are by far the best candidates to give the consumer what they properly deserve. Someone who cares about them, who know what their dreams and aspirations are, someone in a position to understand all their financial concerns and how to solve them, and someone who besides their own expertise has a portfolio of products that can effectively provide the solutions to their problems. I believed 50 years go, and am I sure today, that winning practitioner is a total financial advisor and has the sales skills of a life insurance agent.