Focus on your natural market

By Jim Ruta | January 24 2012 09:51PM

Can I be super successful in any market or do I have to aspire to the top markets? “The business insurance market is where the money is”. It’s a phrase that has slowed the development of advisors for years. This idea that only big cases can bring a big return is just plain wrong. Anytime you hear a comment that this market or that product is the only road to success, you’re listening to someone who doesn’t know.

The value of a particular market is a function of fit – your fit with the audience or market. It’s about how well you work with these people, understand their needs and connect with them. It’s about your passion for solving their problems and their interest in listening to you. One isn’t better than the other, they are just different.

Judging markets based on the potential other people may have with it is a losers game. It can keep you away from your true potential. Even believing that there is somewhere else you could be working will hold you back. Unless you are fully committed to a market, it will not be fully committed to you. Believe me, they can tell.

A young advisor called me in once to consult with him. “Why?” I asked. He said, “I want to go into the business insurance market”. I probed further and he said “Because that’s where they say the money is.” Yet, he had no business background, knew few people in business (neither did his spouse), never studied business, and had few, if any business connections. Still, he wanted to be in the business market because “That’s where they say the money is”.

But, I discovered that he had a tremendous connection with the family market in his area. Clients and their children loved him. He was a natural with them. He held large parties for families and they came. He was a hit there. But, he didn’t focus there because he thought the potential was greater elsewhere.

He was wrong. I gave him “permission” to stay in the family market and stop looking back. He did. In just 10 months he doubled his production over the previous year – from one times MDRT to two. He was amazed because he wasn’t doing anything differently, except not wondering about the other market. He was just focused on the people he knew best and that knew him. The results came.

I say the same thing about products. There are no bad insurance products in our marketplace, just bad applications of them. But, if the fit is poor, any product can be “bad”.

Likewise, there are no bad legitimate markets either, just advisors trying to work places where they don’t fit. Products and markets are alike that way. The idea is to find the right fit.

That fit is where you have natural influence – your natural market. Market selection is all about the advisor not about the market. If it’s right for you, you can be super successful. High performance comes from matching your talent with the audience that is best suited for you. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Should sales people be able to sell $100 per month RESPs to guarantee the kids’ post secondary education funding without financial planning?

How much financial planning did you do the last time you bought a car, house, cell phone or even a satellite TV subscription? If you’re anything like me, likely none. Did you consider the relative value of one versus the other? I doubt it. And, the lifetime cost of Satellite TV is significant.

Does that mean that you shouldn’t buy a car without a financial plan? Or satellite TV? Would you even consider it? Again, not likely.

In fact, where did the money come from for those discretionary expenses? People just make it work because they want it. Is that wrong?

I understand the problem but the industry caused it. We’ve elevated our products to a special status that people can’t buy just because they want to. They are not discretionary in the conventional sense. They have to fit formally into a financial plan or they shouldn’t be able to buy it. Isn’t this a little overly self-important?

I’m not saying that budget isn’t a consideration. Of course it is. Even that RESP sales person (and the satellite guy too) is very concerned that the money commitment continues. The business that pays is the business that stays there too.

But what of the people for whom education is so important they will change their budgets and lifestyles to make the payments that matter to them? Isn’t it really a matter of personal priorities – of the client? Really, how is an RESP or any insurance different from a guaranteed child’s education or a TV subscription? Honestly?

There are no bad products in this industry, just bad application of products. If it’s the wrong product to the wrong person with the wrong budget, it will fail and everyone loses, regardless of what it is. But, just like I spent several thousand a month for a car once, (don’t ask) it’s a matter of personal priorities. Even our products are just products that fulfil a need in a priority list.

We have to refocus on “personal priority selling”. What if instead of digging into a family’s budget, we inquired into their personal priorities? It might just be that their children’s educational security is a huge priority and one they are prepared to sacrifice for. And if they are, who are we to say they cannot? Or that their motives are incorrect? I say that to do so is high-handed and mistaken. The same applies to life insurance products too.

Some people complain that my friend, Top of the Table member Van Mueller shouldn’t be praised because he sells in one interview and does no financial planning. That’s also a mistake and born of the same ignorance of personal priority selling. He helps like few others anywhere. While we’ve wrapped insurance in a cloak of planning and complication, it’s still a simple product that meets a simple priority – protecting what matters. I say that anyone who honestly helps people fulfil their serious priorities is doing a good job. You can too.