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A firm purpose brings solid sales

par Jim Ruta | September 19 2013 08:03PM

What do you think is a life insurance agent’s number one job?
Despite the movement away from life insurance as a career and business, I still believe it is the noblest of professions. Bringing dignity to those who need it most and have it least cannot be overvalued in my opinion. It’s wrong that it has been marginalized over the years.I understand the importance and value of investment planning and financial advising, but I believe it’s separate from life insurance. I was reminded of this at the recent Advocis Atlantic School when my good friend George Sigurdson spoke about his work. Simple, practical advice on what to do when you live too long, die too soon (it’s always too soon) or get disabled. It’s as simple and as powerful as that.

But there is more. After we buried an under-insured, 40-year-old father of four from our neighbourhood this summer, the real number one job of traditional agents was made clear to me. It took losing a friend at this young age to cancer to remind me of the real number one job of a professional life insurance agent.

That job is to prevent the ten words that appeared at the end of his obituary from ever appearing at the end of anyone else’s. These words are the saddest, most unnecessary words ever written but, there they were. The message was clear and painful. “A trust fund has been set up for the children.”

It broke my heart. The necessity of these words proves the value of the life agent’s job and the reality of what it’s like to die without the peace of mind of knowing everything will be okay for the people who matter most and you love most. I can’t imagine the pain of knowing those words were necessary. Helping to make sure that those words need never be written, is an ideal purpose for any life insurance agent who wants to help more.

With this firm purpose you will have a passion that makes your job easier. People buy passion. They believe passion. They trust passion. They take action on passion.

Passion, after all, is just the outer expression of an inner purpose. The greater the purpose, the greater the passion. The greater the passion, the greater the action. It’s not very complicated.

But, we can overcomplicate the job of the life insurance agent. And from what I can see, we surely have. We’ve overwhelmed agents with all sorts of additional jobs that only make the job harder and force people to ask questions like this one. The other jobs are important but they don’t take precedence over taking care of a widow and four orphans.

Please let’s remember, life insurance integrates with financial planning, it just isn’t contingent on financial planning. It, and its sister disciplines of income replacement, critical recovery and long term care protection can stand alone as a noble profession. Then, working in concert with financial planners and investment advisors provides the best possible service for consumers.

When life agents know their number one job, consumers get number one advice and service.

When we help more, we sell more.


I’m speaking at a client seminar soon. How can I do the most impressive, professional job?

Jerry Seinfeld says that public speaking is so scary that at a funeral, the guy giving the eulogy would rather trade places with the guy in the casket. That may be true here are 5 keys I use all the time:

Your first 6 words are critical to your success. Choose them wisely. After you are introduced, be sure to start right in with a compelling and dramatic line. This is not the time to thank the introducer or the audience or anyone else. Do that at the end. Take 10 seconds to look at the audience and smile then give them what they came to hear – your wisdom. These first 6 words set the tone for your presentation. It’s the one line you need to know to start. It works if you are speaking with a large group or one-on-one with a prospect.

Beware the “speaker shuffle”. Many speakers apparently think that pacing across the front of the room makes them more effective. They are wrong. It’s distracting to the audience. You appear nervous. What’s worse, when you pay attention you’ll see that there is usually a pattern to the steps. It’s the speaker shuffle. On the other hand, I watched Ben Stein do a full 40 minutes on the MDRT Main Platform and he did it all from behind a podium. He didn’t move an inch. He was awesome. You can walk from side to side to speak to the audience but only with a purpose. You don’t have to glue your feet to the floor to speak effectively, but it’s much better than purposeless wandering. Move your body. Plant your feet.

Have a firm purpose for your presentation. Make it clear at the beginning what you are talking about and then talk about it. Often, it’s good to use a number in the title - “Three things you didn’t know about personal finance.” Or, make it a “how to” talk - “How to keep your family’s dreams alive with Will Funding”. Wrap up the talk with 2 or 3 major takeaways so the audience understands your value.

Work from an outline. My outline is a PowerPoint so the audience can follow along too and get better value. Make a PowerPoint “3 to a page” handout as a back up too, just in case technology lets you down. Use the handout for practice at least the day before and the day of – always. And write notes to yourself there too. This works great for sales presentations too.

Stick to the time allotted. A professional doesn’t compromise the agenda. Even in the 18 minutes we gave speakers at the Canada Sales Congress, they did an amazing job. In fact, many people thought it was the best approach they ever saw. MDRT main Platform is routinely 20 minutes. When you have to stick to a time constraint, you use only your best material. That makes you better.

That’s how to be more professional, impressive and effective giving a speech.

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