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From prospecting to client service

Bruce W. Etherington, CLU, CH.F.C.

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Etherington reviews his process for prospecting, fact-finding, selling and serving clients that has garnered him 40 Top of the Table qualifications — making him one of only 12 people in the world with that distinction. He shares simple transferable ideas, strategies and tactics that have worked for him for more than 50 years, and can work for others. His process will enable you to dramatically grow your business and achieve results that aren’t limited to personality and persuasion skills.

My process consists of four parts or quadrants, each of which is related to the other and follows a progression through the relationship building, which takes place with the prospect whom I hope to turn into a customer, then a client, and then an advocate of our products and services.

First Quadrant: Target

For years, my process has been based on a referral system, which creates virtually an unlimited source of qualified prospects for me, all coming from satisfied clients. I have made it a practice over my 51 years in business to generally not ask anyone who has not done business with me for referrals. I much prefer to call upon the good offices, good will, and reference support from an individual who has experienced and benefited from my services, thus putting me in a position where I believe I have earned the right to ask for the client's help. At the end of the initial phase wherein which a policy is being delivered to a client, I always make it a practice to say the following:

John, I want to take this moment to thank you for your trust and confidence. I appreciate the fact that you have become a client and look forward to being of creative service to you over the years that lie ahead.

As you know, John, I'm in a people business and thus rely solely upon the goodwill of my clients for introductions to new people to talk with. It's important that I be focused on the same quality of person as yourself. While I don't expect you to know anyone who is in the market for life insurance, I do expect that you will associate with people who possess, like yourself, three specific characteristics that set you apart from the crowd.

The first is a sense of responsibility, which you have. The second is the ability to make a decision based on fact, which you can. The third is excellent economic resources and/or growth potential, which as you know, you have.

Again, John, while I don't expect you to know anyone who is in the market for my products or services, I do expect that you will associate with people who, like yourself, possess these three characteristics. Who are your three best friends?

In this era of gatekeeper, email, text, electronic screening, limited attention spans, and many other defensive systems, which the prospects can throw up around themselves, to my mind, the bunker-busting bomb is a personal referral. It cuts through all of the defense mechanisms just as a laser cuts through steel. The reason for this is that there is a personal connection between the referrer and the referee which, once made, will elevate your position well above the crowd and cause the recipient (i.e., the prospect) to at least pay attention for a moment or two, thus giving you an opportunity to make an appointment.

Our process does not involve a telephone call initially. The next step is a letter. Having asked my clients for their introduction to new people to talk with, in 75 or 80 percent of the cases, I immediately get two or three names. The most I've ever received in one sitting is five with an average of three. However, in 10 to 20 percent of the cases, I'll get this answer, "Well Bruce, I'd really like to help you, but you know I haven't made it a practice of referring my friends to, no disrespect, life insurance salesmen. However, please know that if a friend of mine ever said 'I'm looking for a good person in the life insurance business, you'd be at the top of my list.'"

To which I would say,

Well, I can appreciate that, John. However, let me be a little more specific. You see, most people in our business spend most of their time looking for new people to talk with and very little time serving their existing clients. We don't do that. We spend the vast majority of our time working on existing client situations, helping our clients design, implement, and fund their programs and very little time asking or searching for new people to talk with. Thus, in order for me to be able to devote a similar percentage of my time to looking after you and your business and family's life insurance program, you will give me your help now that I've earned it, won't you? So, who are your four best friends?

Or John may say to me, "Well look Bruce, this is great, let me think about it. I'm a little pressed for time today. Give me a minute or two and let me think." To which I will say, "Absolutely John. Take all the time you want. As a matter of fact, how much time wouldyou like?" To which John will say, "Give me a month." I say, "Fine, you've got a month; I'll call you in a month." And in a month, I call. I say, "John, it's Bruce calling. Do you have a moment to talk on the phone?" John says, "Yes, I do."

I say, "Great. A month ago you said to give you a month. Do you have some introductions for me? My pen is ready. Whom should I be talking with?" Then John says, "Well Bruce, I feel really embarrassed. I'm terribly sorry, but I haven't really done anything about this. Can you give me another month?" And I say, "Well for sure John, you've got another month."

Now in some cases, the month, upon month, upon month, turns into a year, and we're sitting back down for the annual review meeting, and you get the picture. And quite frankly, the longer the person takes, the better the quality prospect I'm generally going to get because they can't put it off any longer, and they've really got to focus.

Once we get the names, we then write a letter. The letter is very simple and straightforward, and it's accompanied by our brochure, which again separates us from the crowd.

For years, I sent a cartoon attached to the letter, and I'll share the cartoon with you in a minute. The letter says:

Dear Fred,
While we haven't met, John Smith speaks very highly of you. As a result, I would like to meet you in order to learn some specifics about you and your particular situation. In anticipation that arrangements for a mutually convenient appointment can be made, I plan to telephone you in the near future.
Kindest personal regards,
cc: John Smith

A copy goes to the client and the original to the prospect. Now, the cartoon that I attach to this letter has been very effective, and I still use it from time to time. It's a picture of a medieval king rushing out of his tent to address his troops, who are all armed with spears, bows and arrows, and swords. The king ignores the suggestion of two of his knights who want him to look at a new weapon—a machine gun! The caption under the cartoon is the king speaking over his shoulder to the knights saying, "No, I can't be bothered to see a salesman, we've got a battle to fight!"

The analogy is that we have machine guns for sale in a financial planning world of spears, swords, and bows and arrows. That cartoon has opened the door to many good situations for me. Today, I send the same letter, but I send a copy of our brochure. It's a sophisticated, good-looking brochure that costs $25 apiece, and it separates us from the crowd. What we then do is take the copy that goes to the client, and we write a note on the copy.

Dear John,
Many thanks for your introduction to Fred. As promised, please call him and say a few good words about our relationship, which I would appreciate. I'll keep you posted.
Best regards,

Now, 50 percent of the time, John calls Fred, and 50 percent of the time, he doesn't. The letters go out—the original to the prospect, the copy to the client. And I do not phone right away. The reason I do not phone right away is because the prospect and his gatekeeper are expecting my call and are, therefore, armed and ready and waiting for it. So I am not going to call them. I'm going to wait three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine weeks before I make the call.

In my 30s, I waited three weeks. In my 40s, I waited four weeks. In my 50s, I waited five weeks. And now in my 70s, I wait generally a month and a half to two months. Why? Because just as a piece of Atlantic salmon tastes better after it has marinated for a while, your prospects will be much more receptive to your call after they have marinated in the knowledge that it is coming.

When you call, this is what happens. "Good morning. May I speak with Fred Jones please?" "Yes you may. Can I tell him who's calling?" "Absolutely you may tell him who's calling; it's Bruce Etherington." "Is he expecting your call?" "Yes, he is expecting my call, as I am following up a letter I sent him some time ago."

With that, 99 percent of the time I'm through. The phone rings, and it's picked up by Fred, who says, "Fred Jones here."

I say, "Fred, it's Bruce Etherington calling. Do you have a moment to talk on the phone?" He says, "Yes I do, but Bruce who?" I say, "Bruce Etherington, a friend of John Smith." "Oh, you're the guy; you're the life insurance guy." I say, "That's right." "Yeah, John's talked to me about you." Now here's my process line. "Great Fred. I hope he said a few good words. In any event, when in the next six to eight weeks do you think you and I can find an hour to meet one another?"

Eighty percent of the time, this is the response:

"Well, let me see. Next week I'm busy, the week after that I'm out of town, but the third week of June, I look pretty good."

"Fine, would Tuesday the 14th be convenient, or would Thursday the 16th suit you better?"

"Well, Thursday the 16th looks fairly good."

"Good, would 10:00 in the morning be convenient, or would 2:00 in the afternoon suit you better?"

"Well, 2:00 in the afternoon looks pretty good."

"Terrific. Now, Fred, I'm located at 372 Bay Street on the 18th floor, and if you'd be good enough to meet with me here, we'll have an efficient hour together. Looking forward to seeing you here then."

That was the process back in my 30s and 40s. Now I do most of my business in my clients' offices because of cross-country travel. But it isn't any different. Before I was doing business with clients who were in a six- to eight- to ten- block range of my office on Bay Street, the financial center of Toronto. Now I'm doing business with people who are all across the country. However, the process is the same. "Would Tuesday the fifth be convenient, or would Thursday the seventh suit you better? Would 10:00 in the morning be convenient or 2:00 in the afternoon suit you better?" It's the choice between something and something rather than something and nothing. The process works.

You've heard of the 10, 3, 1 process—10 suspects, 3 appointments, 1 sale. My numbers are 10, 8, 7—10 referrals, 8 appointments, 7 sales within a year of meeting the individuals. And that's only because of the process, and the process is based on the Golden Rule of "doing unto others what you yourself would want them to do unto you." Thus, step one is finding the qualified prospects and setting an appointment with them.

Second Quadrant: Know

Know your prospects. Know their goals and objectives. Understand what it is that they want to achieve. Charles Green's famous trust equation says that trust equals three numerators divided by one denominator. The three numerators are reliability, credibility, and intimacy. The denominator is self-interest. So let's look at this.

Reliability: How reliable are you in terms of showing up on time, in terms of following up with what you said, in terms of delivering your promises?

Credibility: How credible is the information you share with your prospective client? Is it, in fact, true? Is it based on fact, or are you just making things up?

Intimacy: How well do you understand what it is that your clients want to be able to achieve? Are these their goals you're trying to achieve or your goals?

Then you divide those three numerators by one denominator, and the denominator is self-interest. So if all you do in a meeting is talk more about you than listen to the prospect talk about himself, you are not going to build a very effective trust relationship because the denominator will be larger than all three of the numerators. So what we try to do in the knowing is to get to know our prospects and get to know what's important to them because obviously this is a test meeting for both us (i.e., do we want to do business with this person?) And for the prospect, does he want to do business with us? So I'm going to give you two knowing examples—one that I used from age 30 to age 60 and the other that I've used from age 60 to age 74 (almost 75, God willing).

First, I would start off with "the deal before the deal." And the deal before the deal is an idea, a concept that I got from my dad 50 years ago. He was an icon in the insurance business and really understood the psychology of people and selling and buying and relationship transactions. So I took his idea, which he gave to me when I was a young, struggling salesman making presentations to which people said, "thanks a lot" and then took the ideas and did business somewhere else. So I took his idea and modified it, and here's the version I have used ever since—for 30 years (ages 30-60).


It's great to meet you. What I'd like to do today is simply ask you a number of questions based on three conditions in order to learn something about you and your particular situation because I have no idea if I can be of any assistance to you. On the other hand, I may be able to be of help to you and your family, but only if I understand what's important to you today. So, the first condition is that anything you share with me will be kept in the strictest of confidence.

The second condition says that I'd like to have some time to think about what you share with me, and if I feel there is something that is going to be helpful to you and your family, then we'll arrange for another meeting. If I don't feel we can help you, I'll tell you so right up front.

The third condition is that if we continue to dialogue, and you like our ideas, and you decide to implement them, then naturally we would expect you to do so with us and not with anyone else in the insurance business. Are you comfortable with this deal before the deal?

So 99.9 percent of your prospects will say, "Yes, I'm comfortable." They'll respect you for thinking outside the box, for separating yourself from the crowd, and they will wind up sharing the information with you and, ultimately, becoming a client. We will then launch into the discovery questions, and do so as follows. We say, "OK, let me start off with a question that seems kind of general, but it's really quite specific." (This is really Dan Sullivan's Relationship question, which I have turned into what I call the Three-Year Question.) "Fred, if we were sitting here three years from today looking back on those three years, what would have to have happened over that period of time in your business and personal life in order for you to feel that you had made good to excellent progress?"

That's a powerful question, and the answer to that question is going to significantly drive where you're going to go in terms of the prospect's mission, vision, purpose, and goals. It's going to tell you what's important to the prospect. And, that will fulfill, to a great deal, the intimacy factor.

The next question would be, "OK, let's back up a little bit. Tell me a little bit about your family, your background, where you went to school."

"Who are the people whom you most trust in your life?"

"If you had to go to somebody for advice today, who would that person be?"

"Who's your lawyer, who's your accountant, who's your banker, who's your investment advisor?"

"Do you have a financial advisor?"

"Do you deal with a multifamily office?"

"What's the most money you've ever lost in a business deal?"

"What's the most money you've ever made?"

"What's been the best financial decision you've ever made?"

"What's been the worst?"

"Who gives you your financial advice today?"

"When you make a financial decision, do you and your spouse or partner make it together, or do you make it and tell them, or vice versa?"

"Tell me about your kids."

"Tell me about your hobbies. What do you like to do when you're not working?"

"Tell me about your charitable interests."

"Do you expect to be financially responsible for anyone else other than your immediate family?"

"On the other hand, do you expect to inherit any capital in the near future that would change your lifestyle?"

"What do you think is the most important thing you can teach your children?"

"What do you know about life insurance?"

"Do you own any life insurance?"

"Did you use a specific formula in arriving at the amount of life insurance that you decided to have?"

"What would be your net worth today if everything you owned less everything you owed was added up and put on the face of one check? What would the number be?"

"You're a business owner. If someone walked through the door of your business today with a blank check and said fill in the number, what would the value of that business be? What would the number be that would have to be on that check in order for you to be willing to consider selling?"

"If you died last night, what percentage of your income would you want to continue to flow to your family, while they were growing up, and then for the rest of your wife or partner's life?"

"If you became disabled or critically ill last night, would your cash flow suffer?"

"Do you buy lottery tickets?"

"What are the educational plans that you and your wife have for your children?"

"How would you like to be remembered?"

"Is there anything that you fear?"

"How is your health?"

Asking these questions over the course of 45 minutes to an hour, one winds up with a pretty good idea of who this prospect is, including annual income, capital base, investment strategies, investment results, monetary philosophy (i.e., the question, "What is the importance of money to you? Or what is the most important thing to you in your life? Or are you a person of faith?")

So that's the process I've followed for some 30 years, and I take that information. And it's pretty obvious as you're going through it that there's going to be another meeting. And when there is another meeting, that other meeting is invariably going to be focused on a number of things including the subject of life insurance—could be a will review, could be a trust review, could be a buy-sell agreement, but it will also include life insurance. And in that next meeting, I would propose certain steps be taken. In the majority of cases, the clients took them. And I wound up doing 150 to 200, and in some cases, 250 applications a year.

From age 30 through age 50, I would have appointments at 7:30, 9:30, 11:30, 1:30, 3:30, and 5:30. I booked six appointments a day. That was for four and a half days a week, so that's basically 30 appointments a week. Maybe 10 to 20 percent—call it 20 percent—would cancel, so that would be six, so I'd have 24 meetings a week. Run 24 meetings a week over a 40-week period, and you've a got a lot of meetings—960 in fact! Over a 20-year period, that totals 19,200 meetings. Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers: The Story of Success, told us that one needs 10,000 hours at his or her specialty to become an outlier. Therefore, 19,200 hours should qualify.

Let's suppose it's four meetings per case. That's 240 applications! Some meetings were more, some were less, but that's the scenario.

Now, shift forward to today. I realized moving into my midfifties that my clients "had the T-shirt" for financial planning. They had their lawyers, accountants, financial advisors, and stockbrokers, and they didn't see a reason for introducing a new person into their alliance of trusted advisors. Therefore, it became very important to me to find a way, once I got in, to do something different because they didn't want to take an hour to an hour and a half to "open their kimono," to open their T-shirt, if you will, on the subject of financial planning until they saw what was in it for them. What's in it for them? Stephen Covey said adults learn best by knowing up front what's in it for them, what the purpose of the process is, whereas children want to know at the end. For kids, it's a mystery or adventure story, and they like to follow the storyline and be surprised at the end. However for adults, they want to "begin with the end in mind," to quote Covey.

So I hit on the idea of "the showroom." We get the showroom concept from the movies or car dealerships. When you go to the movies, you see previews of the coming attractions. When you go to the car dealership, you see previews of what the dealers hope will be a coming attraction in your driveway, and they try to entice you into acquiring one of their products—a movie or a car.

I was reminded of the nursery rhyme my mother shared with me as a child in England about the pie man who would come down the high street of the town selling his pies. And it would be "Pie man, pie man, show me your wares. . ." And you would pick a sausage pie, a pork pie, a beef pie, an apple pie, or a cherry pie from his tray. But only after seeing what he had to sell, and so "the showroom" was born. The showroom is a brief summary of what it is we do, and that is preceded today by our "7 Whys." We basically begin as follows: "Look, we don't know anything about you, other than you come highly recommended. However, before we take any of your time and talk about your financial dimensions, we thought it would make sense for us to describe to you the business that we're in. Why we're in business. Simon Sinek's TED Talk called "Start with Why" is on YouTube, and he talks about the importance of being able to articulate to a person why you are in business. So here are the seven reasons we're in business. And if any of them appeal to you, then we should keep talking."

  1. Income tax reduction
  2. Tax-loss redirection
  3. Yield enhancement
  4. Capital preservation
  5. Estate-tax elimination
  6. Intergenerational wealth transfer
  7. Philanthropic magnification

At the end of which the prospective client simply looks at this and says, "This is very interesting." And we say, "How many of these are you interested in?" And he says, "All of them," or "three of them," or "two of them," but nobody has ever said "none of them." This, then, allows us to focus on the specific area of interest in which he has expressed interest.

We now have a prospect saying to us, "This is the area I'm interested in." We then say, "Well, tell us why," and then we gather some specific intel on him relative to the particular subject to which he has referred.

So once again, the three-year question: "If we were sitting here three years from today, looking back on the three years prior to today, what would have to have happened in your business and personal life in order for you to feel that you had made good to excellent progress?" What happens then is we get the client talking about himself, and now we're into a brief overview situation, which in many cases expands into financial data backing up the reasons why the client said he was interested in items one, three, six, and seven, or whatever the numbers are. So it's a slightly different tactic. However, it's the same strategy. The strategy is to know your client. Remember Charles Green's Trust Equation—this deals particularly with the intimacy factor.

Third Quadrant: Sell

The synonym for sell would be educate, because we are in the educational business. It's all about education, and what we are doing is educating. We're enlightening the prospect about the services we bring to the table and how they can help the prospect in the areas in which the prospect has already said he's interested in talking (i.e., tax reduction and or tax redirection). And so we present a showroom, and the showroom is based on a very simplified series of pages of examples that deal with income tax reduction, tax-loss redirection, yield enhancement, capital preservation, efficiency of yield, estate-tax elimination, and charitable magnification. Growth in a taxable account versus growth in a nontaxable or tax-sheltered account. Plus the barns. Put the same amount of money in two different barns. One barn yields much more than the other barn, and why is that? Tax-loss redirection. Yield enhancement.

At the end of this, the client generally says, "Well, I had no idea. This sounds too good tobe true." In general, we deal in general with two main questions or statements. Number one, "Why haven't I heard of this before?" And number two, "This sounds too good to be true."

So we say,

Well, let's address each one of those. You probably haven't heard of this before because, even though this asset class has been around for 275 years, over 150 years in Canada, of the 100,000 or so financial advisors in Canada, there are about 6,000 of them who are licensed to deal with this instrument. Now the technical name of the instrument is a mouthful. It's called, "investment-grade, cash value, permanent life insurance. The street name for which is whole life."

We've simplified it. We call it what it is because people buy what they understand, and they don't buy what they don't understand, and the name we use is the insured deposit fund. You make a deposit, it's life insured, and it grows a tax-sheltered fund.

Of those 6,000 people licensed to deal with this asset class in Canada, there are probably 10 percent of them who are really doing something with it. There's another 10 percent of the 10 percent, or 60, who are working in the wealthy marketplace, and there's 10 percent of them, or about six advisors in Canada who, like myself, deal with multimillionaires and billionaires. So we're sharing with you ideas that billionaires put into place, which are obviously going to work for multimillionaires and regular millionaires because these ideas are scalable.

Now again, let's put this into perspective, as to credibility, the resources that are brought to the table for you the client. I belong to an organization called the Million Dollar Round Table, and it's been in business for over 80 years. It's the world's preeminent association of financial advisors. We have members in over 80 countries. We have over 7,000 people attend our Annual Meeting, and our membership of some 51,000 advisors represents about 5 percent of all financial advisors in the world. In 1977, a special group inside the Round Table was formed called the Top of the Table, which represented about 3 percent of the members of the Million Dollar Round Table, which is about the same today. Since 1977, there are only 12 individuals who have qualified for Top of the Table for at least 39 years. Three of them are in Canada, and I'm one of the three. So to say that the ideas I bring to you are credible, and my performance is reliable, and that they are going to be based on my intimate knowledge of your mission, vision, purpose, and goals with a focus on helping you and not on helping me, would be a fair statement. However, while that is no reason to do business with me, it's certainly no reason not to.

Another reason why you haven't heard about this in this way, in this manner, is because this material is proprietary. It's a result of 50 years in business, and it's worth millions of dollars of time, education, energy, market testing, compliance, computerization, actuarial, mathematical, tax, accounting, and legal analysis. It's priceless, and it's yours, as long as you like it and decide to fund it.

Now, as to why it sounds too good to be true. Yes, I know, this probably does sound too good to be true. These kinds of yields in the 1 percent interest world we're living in today no doubt sound too good to be true. However, let me ask you a question. Could you describe to me, if we had bumped into each other in the waiting line to board an aircraft, could you tell me in 10 words or less how $150 million worth of steel and plastic stays in the air? How does it get up there, and how does it stay there for five hours to fly from Toronto to Vancouver, or three hours to fly from Toronto to Orlando? I'll bet you that less than 2 percent of the people on board could explain how it stays in the air, and yet 100 percent of the passengers get on board and trust their lives to something people are operating, yet which they cannot explain or which they do not understand.

(By the way, the answer to that question: How does the aircraft stay in the air? The air, when the aircraft is moving, flows more quickly over the top of the wings than it does under the bottom of the wings, and that creates what's known as "lift.")

Let's address your question that it sounds too good to be true. Getting on an aircraft and avoiding a six-day drive from Toronto to Vancouver and getting there in five and a half hours instead of six days 75 years ago probably sounded too good to be true. On the other hand, pull your device out of your pocket, and there's a device that has more computing power in it than the Apollo 11 moon-shot team had, and yet here we are using this for virtually all of our business days, all of our business times, everything to do with our lives, and yet how many of us can explain how it works? It sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? So yes, this entire talk about the insured deposit fund does sound too good to be true, but we're happy to educate you to the point where you come to believe, as most of our clients do that yes, it is true, and I better get some of this into my portfolio.

Now, as a reinforcement or third-party piece of influence, let's talk for a minute about the book Pirates of Manhattan by Barry Dyke. Let's talk about chapter seven in Pirates of Manhattan and the fact that 98 percent of the 6,000 banks in America put between 20 and 30 percent of their Tier 1 capital into this investment class. The reason is that analysts have found that over the last 75 years, the average rate of return on the New York Stock Exchange for Fortune 500 companies after tax and commission is 5.8 percent with a variance or volatility factor of over 15, whereas the average rate of return inside a cash value permanent life insurance policy over the same period of time for someone between ages 35 and 55 is 5.1 percent without any volatility and a standard deviation of 1.5. So we give the client Barry Dyke's great book Pirates of Manhattan. If you don't have a copy, get a copy because chapter seven says it all. It deals with life insurance. Chapters eight, nine, and 10 deal with other applications of life insurance and why businesses and individuals should own it as the world's safest asset class. Chapters one, two, and three talk about the pirates of Manhattan and the negative factors that caused the 2008 market crash and economic recession.

So what is selling? Selling is educating. And educating is taking the time to build a trust relationship with your client and sharing the facts and figures. We have assembled an insured deposit fund (a whole life) information kit with various articles about the instrument coming from people other than sales people, such as accountants, lawyers, business owners, and satisfied clients. We also show the financial facts of the various insurance companies we do business with and the historical performances of their whole life funds. Education, there is no substitute. As the Book of Proverbs says, "Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel."

Fourth Quadrant: Serve

Serve is what leads us to Target. Because as we serve our clients, as we meet with them once, twice, three times, or four times a year depending on their circumstances and their growth, depending on their goals and objectives and their needs and how often they change, and depending on their family members' health and economic requirements. No two people are the same. We're all snowflakes. We're all raindrops. We appear the same on the surface, but once you get underneath, you know we're not the same. The fact is that as we serve our clients, as we build that trust relationship, we earn the right to ask for introductions to new people to talk with. And it brings us right back to Target. But if we don't educate our prospects properly, if we don't do what's right for them, as Abe Lincoln said, "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time." And therefore, as long as we're in the business of not fooling anybody, as long as we're in the business of being reliable and credible, as long as we're in the business of putting our clients interests ahead of our own, we will earn the right to ask our clients, and they will be happy to refer us to more people than we ever thought was possible. So that after four, five, six, seven years in the business of doing this regularly and systematically, we will have a vineyard full of wonderful prospects from which to choose and with whom we can do marvelous business.

My first life insurance trainer, Jack Fowler, told me 51 years ago that people will buy life insurance an average of seven to nine times in their lives. He was right—personal, family, kids, grand kids, nieces, nephews, retirement, business, key person, deferred comp, buy-sell, estate taxes, philanthropy—you name it. We have a ton of opportunity as long as we do what Ben Feldman told us over and over again to do, "Look after your clients and they will look after you."

So how do we serve?

  • See the clients at least once a year for an update (or more as required).
  • Educate yourself about their changing circumstances and how you can help.
  • Review what they have purchased from you and others.
  • Verify that what they have is still good and still works and if not, then make the appropriate changes.
  • Enlighten them as to how you and your services and products can help them help themselves and others in the most efficient and effective ways possible.

And most importantly, prepare.

  • Read the file.
  • Know your clients' situations.
  • Review why you recommended what they bought and if not, why not?

There is no substitute for preparation, which when combined with caring, produces magical results.

So my process is, Target, Know, Sell, Serve.

From my early days in the business, when I asked university students if their future was worth $7.50 a month to the marketplace, I focus upon today where the prospect must have at least $25 million of capital, with my top 20 clients having in the average range at least $50 to $75 million. A journey of growth, challenge, adversity, triumph, and mistakes.

Let's recognize the fact that the great writer Oscar Wilde said, "Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes." And I have a lot of experience because I've made a lot of mistakes along the way. But this business is a great business. It's a great cash-flow business; it's an incredible capital business. I said to my two boys when they came into the business some 14 and four years ago, respectively, "You will be underpaid for the first five years, and then you'll be overpaid for the rest of your life." Well it's the truth, and it doesn't necessarily take five years, as both my sons Michael and Jay know.

I encourage you to have a process because without a process, you are just like an airline pilot without a flight plan. And who would ever want to board his aircraft? If you think you can just wing it by the seat of your pants, you're wrong. If you were to interview the vast majority of Top of the Table or MDRT members, particularly Top of the Table members, you will find that they have a process. They have a system that allows them to focus their energies, their efforts, their time, and their talents on a specific niche market, which they choose to serve and then to be effective and efficient in the serving of their clients therein.

So may I wish you good selling and encourage you to see the people and love them, while always using a process.

Corry Collins

Bruce W. Etherington, CLU, CH.F.C., of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, is a 48-year MDRT member with eight Court of the Table and 40 Top of the Table qualifications, as well as a former Top of the Table Chair. Named one of MDRT’s 12 “greatest living members” in “The Greatest Insurance Stories Ever Told,” Etherington has spoken to major insurance and financial planning organizations around the world.


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