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Jennifer Mann, LUTCF, CLU, ChFC, CFP, vice president of the Chicago office of Lenox Advisors and 13-year MDRT member, got into this business 14 years ago because “the overall planning aspect got me excited,” she says. Her practice focuses on professionals in their 20s, 30s and 40s. She works from home most of the time, with 70% to 80% of her work done over the phone, as her clients live all over the country. We talked to her about her practice and path to success. Your clientele skews younger. What do you like about working with this demographic? Relative to what’s considered high-net worth, they aren’t necessarily there yet. They haven’t accumulated as much, but they’re young, and they’re going to be there. Plus, I like getting people early on, before they make too many financial mistakes, and where you’re building a relationship for the future. They’ll be clients for life, and you’ll grow with them. Where does life insurance come in? In the protection component; that’s when we start talking about it, but it also flows over into the retirement too. I do a lot of whole life, and while the primary purpose for insurance protection is the need for a death benefit, there are many supplemental uses for this great product as well. Do you layer in term as well? Yes, definitely. I typically talk about the four phases of life that life insurance can help you with. Phase one: I have a family and want to make sure they’re taken care of if something happens to me. Phase two: I’m starting to make some money, so I’m sensitive to taxes. Phase three: I’m in retirement, and I’d like the option for some tax-free income. And phase four: Whatever I haven’t spent, I’d like to pass on to whomever or whatever organization I choose versus Uncle Sam. People may be in multiple phases at once or may skip a phase all together. But that’s how I start the conversation. My strategy is to first help them get the right amount of coverage and then the right structure as quickly as possible. We start with term and convert as appropriate. Millennials often get a bad rap. What’s been your experience working with them? Younger people saw what happened in 2008 and even again in 2010, and are more fearful of the market. They like the safety of life insurance, and want more guidance on the investment side. I also find Millennials are asking more questions. From their perspective, they’re proud of doing research, asking questions and, honestly, not using “dad’s guy.” The feel like their parents’ advisor is helping them as a favor, because of how little money they have. Millennials want to be more hands on. They want to learn and not accept “this is how we do it.” What objections do you hear when it comes to getting life insurance coverage, and how do you address them? The biggest objection is the amount. $1 million sounds like a ton of money to people, but with younger clients, they’ve never thought about what that means. They say, “I would pay off my mortgage,” but that may or may not be the best thing for them to do. Or, they say, “My family would help,” but they don’t take into account a host of other things. The other objection I hear is the premium. Again, they say, “My family would take care of us.” Or they’ve heard, “Buy term invest the difference,” so they’re anti permanent insurance. But once we start looking at the numbers, a lot of times that’s overcome. What are the biggest mistakes you see fellow agents and advisors making? For new advisors, it’s not doing joint work. Half of something is better than all of nothing. I did almost exclusively joint work my first two years, and that helped. I worked with multiple people so I could learn different styles and philosophies. Also, some are afraid to prospect until they “know their stuff,” because they don’t want to look bad in front of friends and family and people they don’t know. But the reality is, you can always bring someone in to help with the product knowledge, but if you have no one to see, you have no business. What can they do to improve their business or better serve their clients and prospects? Become involved in organizations like MDRT where they are continuously learning and improving their minds, their craft and their business. And then, implement what you learn. If you‘re going to stay in this business, love what you do and care about your clients. Your sincerity shows through and that’s how you build relationships.
Aurora Tancock, CFP, FLMI, AIAA, president of Aurora Tancock Financial Services and 15-year MDRT member, says that what she does is “a calling.” She does financial planning, taking into account both the wealth side and the risk side. She takes a holistic approach with her clients, many of whom are 45+, including finding out what makes them tick. Let’s find out why. How do you bring life insurance into your client meetings? When I first meet with clients we look at their overall current financial situation including existing life insurance, and then look at what their needs are. Of course, everyone wants to talk about the wealth side of things. But I make sure that they consider the risk management side and I ask them, “What if something should happen? Is your family protected? Would your spouse be able to stay in the house?” With younger clients, I look at cash flow—where is the money you’re bringing in going? How much is paying down debt, or education costs for the kids, etc.? I make sure to ask, “Even if the mortgage is paid off, would the other spouse be able to stay in the house, based on one income?” And they truly don’t know. So we go back to the cash flow before death: What are the costs before death? Some expenses will go down, but a lot of others won’t, like property taxes and utilities. So they really should cover the income—without the mortgage—with life insurance until the kids are no longer dependent. You help clients with retirement. How do you view it? There are three stages. The first is the active stage. During the first 10 to 15 years, they are probably going to spend more money because they are more active. The second is the passive stage, where they probably won’t spend as much, because they aren’t going as many places. And then there is the third, or unknown stage, because there may be health issues or they may want to go into a retirement home. That’s also where permanent life insurance can come in. They can put the money for the third, unknown stage into permanent life insurance. Because if they get to that third stage and need some money, they can access the cash value, and if they don’t need it, it means the heirs will end up with more money. What are the objections you hear? And how do you counter them? The objections tend to be from younger clients—in their 20s and 30s. They don’t think anything will happen to them. Helping them understand cash flow really helps. If they say they don’t need life insurance, I say, “OK, then what are you going to cut out if something should happen?” And sometimes the husband will say, “She won’t stay in this house.” That comes up quite a bit. And I say, “Do you want her to make that decision right away? Do you want her and the kids to have time to properly mourn you before they’d have to make a big change in their life like that?” And the truth is, this isn’t the husband being “insensitive”. Men are much more willing to sell the house, whereas most women wouldn’t want to. Also, some of it has to do with educating them on how low the premiums are for term insurance. When you tell them the actual cost, they’re surprised. You say, “A well customized financial plan is much more than a roadmap to your financial future. It’s a roadmap to your life.” How so? It’s not just about the money side of it, it’s what they are trying to achieve for their life. I spend a lot of time with the soft facts, finding out who they are and what’s important to them. The one question I ask when I’m meeting with a client is: “What keeps you up at night? Is it too much debt? Are you stressed out at work?” I try to get to know where their head is and then plan—not just for retirement—but for the short term, and then for five years and above. I have them visualize what they are trying to achieve—what they want to do with their money, and what are the goalposts along the way. It could be education or a dream trip overseas, for example. And then I have them attach a date to achieving that. It’s not just about net worth but what that money is going to do for them—and then holding them accountable. I see my clients at least once a year, and keep them on track. What can agents and advisors do to improve their business or better serve their clients and prospects? They need to do financial planning for every client, some more in depth than others depending on life stage—how can we come up with the amount of insurance needed, if we don’t know the whole picture? That, and staying in touch with clients, as things change a lot.
Maggie Leyes posted a Post in PostsCorry Collins, CFP, ChFC, CHS, of Maritime Wealth Management and a qualifying and life member of MDRT, has been in the industry since he was 25. And while he grew up around the business—his dad was an agent—he wasn’t sure if it was for him. But once he gave it a shot, he was hooked. We spoke with him about his path to success, and why he includes disability and critical illness in his client discussions. What do consumers least understand about disability insurance? And why do you include it in your practice? My dad was 38 when he had his first heart attack—and doctors were able to keep him alive. He had disability insurance, but it was only group coverage, and it wasn’t enough. So, what used to kill people, now just makes them disabled, and that’s part of my selling process with my clients. I say, “You may not die from these things, but as time goes on it’s probably going to make you disabled.” I also sell it to separate myself from the competition. Where other agents or advisors might call you and say, “I want to talk to you about your financial planning,” Or, “I’d like to talk to you about your investments,” I can call and say, “I’d like to talk to you about your disability insurance.” And of the 600 or so advisors in my city, nobody calls and says, “I’d like to talk to you about your disability insurance.” So I don’t have any other competition. And I’ve also specialized—most of my clients are physicians. So I don’t do marketing; it’s all word of mouth. And I do seminars for medical students and residents. I’ll do lunch and learns with pizza or Subway. The good thing is, physicians don’t have time to talk, so when I meet them, we get right down to business. What about critical illness? It’s not sold much in the U.S. How do you talk to your clients about it? The bottom line is if you don’t bring it up, you’re not going to sell it. I also use a diagram, and say “Your lifeline goes along in a straight line, and your income is going to be on your Y axis, and you expect your income is going to rise steadily until it stops. And it’s going to stop because of one of four things: because you live too long, die too soon, become disabled, or have a critical illness.” Then I ask the client to prioritize what’s the most important thing in their view right now. And most don’t buy everything all at once. It’s a process, as opposed to an event. And when you bring critical illness insurance up in this conversation, they’ll ask what it is and then you have the opportunity to explain it. It’s a completely different product than disability insurance and solves a completely different set of problem. What is the biggest mistakes you see fellow agents/advisors making? They don’t treat their practice as a business as quickly as they should. Most see it as an opportunity to sell, not a business. They need to track a balance sheet, make sure the operation is continuing on when they’re out of town, and also figure out what you can pay other people to do for, let’s say, $15 an hour versus spending your time doing it. What can they do to improve their business or better serve their clients and prospects? By asking questions. I don’t know what I’m getting into with a client, but I can ask questions. For example, “If we were to get together three years from now, what would have to change in your personal and business life for you to be completely happy?” If you throw out a question like that, they’ll talk and they’ll tell you. What the best piece of advice you’d like to pass on to your fellow agents and advisors? I’d love to see more people involved with MDRT. Personally it helps me recharge my battery. Honestly, being a member has changed my career. I would also say, the more technology you use in your business, the more it helps you run that business. We have a paperless office—we don’t have any file cabinets at all. That impresses people. It makes you look organized, and we know it’s all about that first impression. People recognize that you’re using technology and helps with your overall professional status. And lastly, get your designations. It gives credibility.
Guy Baker, CLU, ChFC, CFP, RHU, a member of the Million Dollar Round Table for 46 years, and Top of the Table Member for 40 years, was at a career crossroads. He had just finished his year as president of MDRT and was tuning back into his own practice. Given the demands of the position, he hadn’t been able to market to new clients very much and realized that he had “a blank slate.” So he looked at it as an opportunity to reassess what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. This man of reinvention went back to school to get a Ph.D. in money management. Now, instead of a “lone ranger,” as he called himself, he built a team of more than a dozen advisors doing money management, and wealth and legacy planning at the Wealth Teams Alliance in Irvine, Calif., where he is the founding partner and managing director. We talked to him about what it takes to stay in this business, and also how to take your practice to the next level. What is the biggest mistake you see fellow agents and advisors making? They lead with solutions, instead of problems. When I speak to groups, I ask the audience, “Do we sell problems or solutions?” And at least 95% says, we sell solutions, because that’s the way we are trained to think. It’s not that focusing on problems means we don’t sell solutions; instead it means that we lead with the problem. We listen to the client and wait until we understand what keeps them up at night. Essentially what we do is help them understand the pain of the problem and the fact that their solutions aren’t going to work, and when they come to that realization, then they will usually ask, “What should I do?” … It’s far better to begin without an agenda. For example, I might say, “I’m a wealth coach. I’ve worked with people like you for years. I have no idea if I can help you, or what you’re interested in doing. But I’d love to sit down and talk with you and share some of the ideas and strategies I’ve learned, and see if any of them would help you.” What can agents or advisors do to improve their business? The first thing is to take a step back and be brutally honest with yourself and do a clear assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, what you like to do and don’t like to do. Find out how much time you’re spending on what you like to do versus defensive time, time that is often wasted. I saw Alec Mackenzie, the author of “Time Trap,” speak at a Round Table meeting. The first thing I did when I got back to my office was institute a time-in-motion study. I did a five-minute incremental calculation of how I spent my time for two weeks. I wanted to find out how much time I was spending on the phone, whether I was calling people for appointments or calling people to solve problems, or pushing paper and doing $10 an hour work. At the end of the two-week assessment, I saw how much time I was wasting on doing things that were unproductive and could be delegated. I then made changes in order to free my time up, so I could do the things that were most profitable and were the highest and best use of my time. After you’ve done the time assessment, start talking to the people you need to be talking to—and find two people every day who will talk to you about a specific problem. What about established advisors who want to take their business to the next level? The problem for those who haven’t been able to break through their “glass ceiling”, is they are doing way too much of what doesn’t produce any tangible results. They do this to the exclusion of those things that do result in business, even if it is a few months in the future. I see agents who don’t think like business people, they don’t have a balance sheet, profit and loss. There are two books I recommend everyone read, Michael Gerber’s “E-Myth” and Jim Collins’ “Good to Great.” Both of these books will help establish the right mind set for growth. Keep in mind, there’s only one thing in our business that you can control, and that’s the number of people you ask to sit down and talk with you. Unless you have a system for finding people to talk to you, and you keep track of that metric and force yourself to stay on track, your business is going to die. What the best piece of advice you’d like to pass on? Be grateful. And do what you need to do every day, and NEVER, NEVER give up.