The unspoken key to high performance

By Jim Ruta | June 21 2012 03:33PM

What’s the common characteristic among high performance advisors?

High performance advisors make themselves do the things less successful people just won’t do. They don’t wish for magic. They work with reality. I just interviewed seven of Canada’s top insurance advisors and that message came through every single time.

For all the posturing about business secrets and success systems, the high performance I see results from just three things: courage, discipline and persistence. It’s the courage to do what must be done; the discipline to make it a part of your daily routine and the persistence to keep doing it. It’s as simple, and difficult, as that.

What are these “things less successful people just won’t do” in the life insurance business? Here’s a partial list:

Prospecting – Wishing that “when you build it, they will come” is a low performance strategy. High performance means asking for business. Every high performer does. Self- promotion is a never-ending job regardless of who you are. Waiting for a call is not a success strategy. High Performers realize they just have to work at getting business. It’s a searching and finding thing. It takes large numbers of trials. The more you try, the more successful you become.

Making cold calls – I’m amazed at how many high performers say they still make cold calls. Ongoing contact makes them warmer over time but they start cold. Frankly, unless you already know everyone, eventually you’ll have to call someone you don’t know. That’s a cold call. It’s how you expand your sphere of influence. A very successful agent once told me that success in this business came down to who you knew and who you cared to know. If you didn’t know anyone and didn’t care to, you were done. It’s still true.
Risking their self esteem – Whenever you take a chance to feel rejected, you are opening yourself up to high performance. No risk, no riches. No guts, no glory. Remember this.

Working smart, hard and long – Low performance advisors fall for the propaganda that they can work smart, rather than hard and work less too. High performance advisors know it takes working smart, hard and long. There’s a ladder to success, not an elevator.

Asking for the sale – Low performance advisors believe that if they do a good job, prospects will just sign up. High performance advisors know that it you don’t ask, you don’t get. They know that the same goes for referred leads.

Getting it done, not thinking about it – High performance advisors have a bias to taking action rather than pondering their next move. They don’t over-think and under-do. Action alleviates anxiety. Do something and you get the power to do more. Favour taking action every time.

Delivering and Finishing – High performers deliver as promised. They guard against over-promising and under-delivering. They also finish what they start especially when it concerns a client. Low performers find excuses why it just didn’t happen as planned. High performers make it happen. High performers do the tough stuff and make it look easy.

Work these powerful attitudes into your life and you can be a high performer too.

How do we get more young people into the life insurance business?

Imagine a gathering of 3,000 advisors where half are under age 25. I saw it in Singapore. They were young and enthusiastic “life insurance sales agents”. It was inspiring. We can do it again.

When advisors were just agents, this was a sales business. You could come from humble means, start young, do a good job for people and do very well for yourself, quickly. It was perfect for young people. Most of today’s leaders joined the industry under that philosophy.

But, the business changed.

Now a “profession” with “junior associates” caretaking aging blocks of business, the potential for big money has faded. It’s almost like making a good income helping others do well with their money is now a bad thing. This does not attract good young people.

Selling life insurance is a very tough job. With the inherent ego abuse and level of difficulty, there must be commensurate rewards for excellence to attract good people. Professional sales offers that promise.

The further advisors get away from their “prospecting agent” sales roots, the less apparent potential there is. There is also less obvious opportunity for young people to make a great life and livelihood for themselves.

What’s more, many recruiters often target “career changers” and not young university graduates or other sales people. We’re not even trying to get more young people. Adding much older recruits also artificially increases the average advisor age. We might not even have the trouble we think we do. I wonder what the average tenure of all agents is today?

Regarding increasing average advisor age - who decided that 57-year-old advisors were too old to be useful? I say, grey hair represents experience and even expertise. Today’s advisor force is likely the most expert and experienced of all time. That means consumer advice is better today than ever.

Still many senior advisors want out. One reason is that the business is complicated beyond manageability. Look what happened to licensing. The complicated business we created ATTRACTED complicated regulation and compliance. We’ve added layers of process for little purpose. We did it to ourselves. We took the fun out of the business and made it too hard to start.

We need to make the basic business easier to master. We can simplify it – for advisors and clients. This will help consumers buy more of what they need and understand it better too. It’s financial literacy and agent progress in one.

There must be room for “primary financial care” life insurance agents who handle lifestyle assurance basics for ordinary Canadians. It’s the ideal job for young people. Give them a chance at making a good income helping consumers with simple needs. Let them grow with their natural audience to specialties and financial planning later if they like. But let them stay in simple practice if they choose.

If we make this business easier, simpler and more rewarding early on, young people will understand it better and consider it again. But the industry has to change first.