The six-way test for professionalism

By Jim Ruta | April 18 2013 02:45PM

How can I be sure that I’m making the right recommendation for my insurance clients?



To be a top sales professional, ask yourself The 6 Way Product Test whenever you make a recommendation to a client. When you do, you’ll always make the best recommendation you can. You’ll also build your litigation resistance. Ask yourself:

1.    Is it honest? Nothing is more important than honesty. Without it, you are doomed. Your recommendation must honestly be the best solution you can give for your client. Failing this test is why “fiduciary responsibility” discussions are so popular. There is no right way to do the wrong thing.

2.    Is it appropriate? There really aren’t any “bad” products. But, there are bad applications of products. Put even the best product in the wrong place and it can do more harm than good. Putting Rolex parts in an Omega wrist watch and bad things happen. A sales professional’s key role is to fit the right product in the right portfolio of the right person the right way. One solution does not necessarily fit all. Always make appropriate recommendations.

3.    Do they need it? You can be honest and appropriate but can still be wrong. Filling a need is critical to professional selling. Your role is to first determine true need and then ensure your client understands their need and how your recommended solution fills it. In addition, while you may be honest and appropriate, your recommendation might still tie up money necessary for something else in their lives with a higher priority. This is a higher level of need. It’s priority of need for the specific client. If you can successfully defend your sale to their accountant or lawyer, you are selling professionally – doing the right thing.

4.    Does it help? Your professional duty is to help clients improve their situation. The improvement has to be legitimate and significant. In some countries, it’s called “best advice”. Never fear such thinking. If you aren’t giving expert advice, what kind of advice are you giving anyway? Remember the physician’s oath, “First do no harm”. Then help.

5.    Can they afford it? You can do everything else right but if your client can’t afford your solution, you haven’t helped much. The best solutions are the ones that a client can keep as long as they need it. Starting and stopping due to financial stress is no good for them, you or the industry. We have to make our recommendations affordable for them. Good life insurance professionals have always helped find the premium and make it comfortable for the client. Affordability is a standard of the sales professional.

6.    Would you do it for Grandma? A good test of your recommendation is whether you would do it for your favourite grandmother if she were in similar circumstances. If you would, you are probably safe. Thinking about every recommendation this way helps “practically discharge” your fiduciary responsibility too. Not exactly, because that’s a legal standard, but it helps. If you pretend you are advising Grandma, you’ve made an excellent start.


What are the biggest issues coming up for the insurance business?

Success has always been like walking up the down escalator. Today, that escalator is speeding against you. The pressure comes from three issues that will soon define the life insurance business: value for money, transparency and attracting new business.

Advisors who accept these issues first and handle them with confidence will have a big advantage over those who don’t. Honestly, if you take your time on these issues, you could end up on the outside looking in.

Quality advisors have always earned their commissions but you’ll have to be more obvious about what “earning it” means in the near future. It will take more than “soft value” like birthday cards and newsletters. But, you’ll need them too.
You’ll have to do more. You’ll have to demonstrate “hard value” to get a place in the client’s winner’s circle soon. You’ll have to be crystal clear about your service and its hard value. You will have to demonstrate quantifiable value prospects and clients can understand and appreciate to stand out and excel.

The good news is that addressing these demands will make you a better advisor. Your service and advice will have to improve to live up to these new expectations.

So, the challenges of the near future are a blessing in disguise. The better you become, the more you will achieve.
“Value for money” leads right to transparency. Great value is its own reward. It’s a prime business attraction device when used effectively.

Transparency already means “relationship engagement” to ensure mutual understanding. It means proper disclosure and compliance with the necessary regulations. It means saying and then delivering what you promise. There’s no overpromising and under delivering in the near future.

Transparency may even include insurance commission disclosure. It’s already done by many Canadian advisors, it can be done. But, it requires real value for money and transparency about it.

Transparency means advisors have to “value their value” to be winners in the near future. Transparency already equals trust today. And, it will be vital to success in the near future.

Finally, the near future will require you to attract business connections rather initiate them all yourself. Bureaucrats in the “Federal Business Prevention Department” may be successful in blocking even more ways to connect with clients. First, it was the Do Not Call List, then the Email Spam List... who knows what’s next?

Whatever it means, you’ll do well to find a way get prospects to call you. Legislation won’t get that. Create demand for your service by having a service with such obvious value that consumers are likely to contact you for help rearranging their portfolios. You can do it. You can create a business service like that. It’ll take your very best thinking and will be critical to your success in the near future. The short story is that the greater the demands ON advisors, the greater the demand will be FOR advisors who meet the needs of consumers in the near future. You can be one of them.