In this column from Insurance Journal’s archives, Jim Ruta provides advisors with tips on how to prospect better. 

Question: Prospecting is killing me. I don’t know where to find prospects and get appointments. Is buying leads or books of insurance business my best option? 

Prospecting is a lost art and it will kill the business if we don’t find it. Sadly, we have apparently stopped teaching advisors prospecting and replaced it with lead services and, more commonly, book buying. But, to paraphrase that wonderful Chinese proverb, “Give someone a prospect and they have business for a day. Teach someone to prospect and they have business for a lifetime.”

Learning how to prospect has many advantages. You are independent of someone else’s efforts and can create your own business. One of my former sales managers, now an MGA executive, once told me that their goal was to learn how to prospect well enough that they could be dropped into the middle of any city, anywhere and build a business. That is a skill you want to have.

When you are a prospector you can create the type of business you want. Sell the people you want. Sell the product you want. You’ll also create a homogenous business that creates better long-term value. 

When you are a prospector, you don’t have to deal with someone else’s business mistakes as we often find embedded in bought books of business. Or, you don’t have to deal with the wide quality variability of bought leads. 

When you are a prospector, you never run out of prospects. You know how to “manufacture them”. This is a popular topic my Advisorcraft Reports. When you have this confidence, the business is fun, and you are always in business. It changes the game. That’s why Top of the Table, icon advisor, Van Mueller is always 100 appointments behind. He over-prospects and can’t catch up. Imagine how that changes your perspective every Monday morning. 

So how do you manufacture prospects? 

Names are one thing. Prospects are quite another. You must start with the former to create the latter. And as Van says, “Increase your appointments and you increase your income”. It’s simple but not easy and simple to do and simple not to do.

How do you start? Do what I do and have promoted for decades. Get in the way of potential new business. Show up where your prospects show up. As Ben Feldman said and George Sigurdson says, “See the People”.

This means actually “seeing people” and being seen - meeting them on their own turf. I spoke with top producer Libby Wildman recently and she said the same thing. Get face to face with potential prospects. Do this at social events, community events, your religious gatherings, sporting events – either professional or amateur, charitable events, parties – anywhere people you want to work with congregate.

When you see those people you would like to work with, don’t pitch them on the spot. Connect with them. Say hello. Maybe you leave one of my “million-dollar bills” as a novelty. Even surreptitiously write their names in your smart phone. Make a list. That’s all. 

At a large charitable event recently, I would have been able to write down at least a dozen names of good insurance prospects.

Then what? Everyone you want to sell has their contact information on a LinkedIn profile or Facebook page. That means you don’t have to ask for that information anymore. You only look for it. 

Make contact by phone, email or text. You can use email to set up a “phone date” (my favourite) to make a lunch date like Gail Goodman, the “phone teacher” says.

Ask for a breakfast or lunch to catch up – remember you just touched base at the event. Whatever happened to business meals as an inducement to meet? It was part of the Granum System for a reason. People eat. Who doesn’t like free food? I’ve been doing this since I was 22 years old. Still works.

And, if you can ask a great question or two related to your business on the call, you further induce your friend to meet. For instance: “I’ve been asking this question of a lot of people lately, ‘Would you like to know how to be the beneficiary of your life insurance policy without dying?’ and there is a lot of interest. Love to show you how.” Maybe the question is “Would you rather be rich or have an absolute, positive guarantee that you would never be poor?”. Just questions. No answers on the phone. No telling over the phone. Just showing in person.

Voila! You buy lunch and you have a meeting. You are on your way and building the business YOU want with the people that YOU want to work with. There’s no magic, just effort. And, anyone can do it, but you must get out there. Manufacturing prospects and appointments only starts on the street, not in your office.

Make your own connections and you are a prospector. You will never have to buy leads or books of business just to survive. You will thrive on your own. 

This column by renowned advisor coach Jim Ruta was first published in the November/December 2019 edition of Insurance Journal magazine.

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Jim Ruta’s mission is simple – to preserve, promote and propel the financial advisor business. A former insurance advisor and executive manager of a 250-advisor agency, Jim is a highly regarded coach, author, podcaster and keynote speaker. He has spoken 4 times at the MDRT Annual Meeting including the Main Platform. Jim Ruta is an Executive Coach and Keynote speaker specializing in life insurance advisors and leaders. He works with top advisors around the world and re-energizes audiences with his deep insight and passion. 

If you have a question for Jim, you may send an email to [email protected]