By Author: Norman G Levine

In the past 35 years I have had the pleasure of giving speeches in South East Asia, including, Hong Kong, several hundred times. Each time I featured, based on my career, selling life insurance as a professional salesman. I did that as that is how I began my career and it was appropriate for my audiences as they were all pure life insurance sales people. Also all the companies they represented only had guaranteed life insurance products in their portfolio. I think those talks were valuable for the attendees at that time as I have received hundreds of letters and phone calls thanking me for helping them achieve success in this business.

Times have changed. Today most companies now have additional products, including investment products, etc. and government regulators and companies, are asking their representatives to become financial advisors. It is now time for me to more accurately describe my own practice and how I got there. I have been a diversified product, Financial Advisor since the 1960’s. My agency also has recruited and trained our representatives to be financial advisors, not just life insurance sales people. Though that is the case understand that the life insurance sale is the first sale I and my associates address as that buys time to do the rest of the plan, and guarantees security while you build a financial plan for the client.

The first question you might ask is why change. I did it, on my own, over 50 years ago because when I came in the business I was told my job was to help people protect themselves from the 3 most serious financial risks. What happens if they die too soon, to their loved ones and business concerns, what happened to themselves if they live too long and run out of money, and what happens if they, as they always will, have an emergency such as health issues, loss of job, economic problems, etc., along the way? I accepted that mission but only had one product to sell to solve all those problems. I became aware that that was like a doctor with one medicine, Aspirin to use for headaches and cancer and everything in between.

Frankly my company didn’t like it but as the number one agency in the company they allowed me to diversify on my own. It was difficult and expensive but I created an investment company,a medical insurance company, a property and casualty company, a group insurance company, a pension company, etc. In most cased I provide the distribution for existing companies but in some cases I started from scratch. My life insurance agency continued as before. We continued to lead our company in life sales and the average income for our  representatives was the highest in the industry. I was the pioneer, or at least one of the first to have a diversified financial service practice in the world. I was asked to write a book on how I did it and wrote “From Life Insurance to Diversification” in the 1980”s which is still available and a best seller.

I am thrilled that for over 50 years my personal clients have gotten complete financial plans from my work and from all my agents, almost all of whom are MDRT qualifiers, and they are also are enjoying the same feeling of satisfaction.

The next obvious question is in the modern world is it difficult to do? Any change is difficult for most people. I am lucky in that I don’t fear change but embrace it. I love a challenge and keep exploring for new things. If that is not your personality you can do it but it requires discipline and motivation. Why be left behind or why be less effective for your client, your company and our industry then you are capable of being?
You have one great advantage over my career. The method has been established and can easily be learned and the products are now available, or will be soon, within your company so you don’t have to spend your time and money to create them. One caution, only use the products and techniques available now in your company but stay open minded as new things come along.

The next question might be what is the difference between life insurance selling and advising? There is a tremendous difference but for many practitioners it is subtle and sometimes difficult to understand. The simple explanation might be that selling a product is not advising. Finding out what the prospects dreams and aspirations are and then helping them achieve them is advising. Of course in both cases in the end products have to be purchased but in selling it is for one specific purpose but in advising the ultimate plan is being implemented which often requires multiple products.

To illustrate this I use and teach 3 specific differences.
1 In selling the sales person talks a lot, usually too much, while an advisor asks questions and listens a lot. They don’t just listen with their ears but also with their eyes and their heart.They are trying to learn and feel what is important to the prospect.
2 The sales person tries to sell what they think the prospect needs. They often guess wrong and fail to make the sale. The advisor doesn’t decide what the prospect needs but listens until they really know what the prospect wants. It is want selling not need selling. Once they
agree on what the prospect wants to achieve they put together a plan to make it happen and if the prospect can’t do it all at once they start with the most urgent piece, usually insurance, and begin a life time relationship to complete the plan.
3 The sales person is product oriented and spends too much time describing and illustrating the product. The prospect, except the technical type, doesn’t care or understand the product. The advisor spends the time explaining the solution in non-technical terms to achieve the prospect’s wants. This is solution versus product selling. If your doctor prescribes a medicine to make you well you don’t ask for a description of what drugs it includes. You take the medicine because you want to get better and you trust the doctor’s judgment. That’s advising

In conclusion, if you know me you already know of my love for this business. I have been very fortunate in that my career, which began in 1948, 66 years ago, to have been a very successful agent at the same time I built two agencies, one on the East Coast of the US and one on the West Coast, both of which were industry leaders. I am often asked what the secret is and there is no secret. I share everything I know and everything I have done with any fellow practitioner. The key is work hard, believe in what you do, be enthusiastic, don’t worry about what is in it for you but rather what you can do to help others, and hang in there and you will surely succeed. Advising is a technique and skill I helped create because I knew it was right for my clients, my agents, my company and the industry and with time and hard work it took very good care of me. I wish you the same.being?