Gregg Anthon Mannette, LUTCF, FSCP, doesn’t wait to start asking new clients for the names of their friends and family when they sign on the dotted line. And he doesn’t spend hours each day cold calling to find new clients. Instead, Mannette, whose business is built almost entirely on referrals, has taken a more strategic approach to gaining new clients.
“I was always taught to ask for referrals when the ink is drying on the application form, when that decision to buy and move forward with a plan is most present in someone’s mind,” said Mannette, a 13-year MDRT member from Arima, Trinidad and Tobago. “But now I ask even before that time. When I first meet with someone, I let them know that how I am introduced to them is the way I operate in my business.”
By planting the seed of referrals in the very first meeting, he has made it part of his process. In subsequent meetings with clients, he’ll more formally ask for the names of four people like them who could use his services.
Mannette, who has more than 1,000 clients, works with those who are a few years on either side of retirement.
He then asks for a fifth person — someone who is the most successful person they know personally. This might not be their closest friend or a family member, but it must be someone the client knows. “That way, I get a business lead, a possibility,” Mannette said. “So typically I ask for four, plus that one special one, and that’s how I keep it going.”
The result? Mannette has more than 1,000 clients on record.
Expanding client offerings
Mannette also expanded his client base by taking a more holistic approach to financial services. He started off in the traditional applications of protection products, but over the past five to seven years, he has done more work with annuities. He is also doing more estate planning, something he sees as an untapped market in Trinidad, and where he has an opportunity to differentiate himself.
Because Mannette works with clients who are a few years on either side of retirement, he finds it is an advantage for both the clients and his business to look at all the aspects of financial planning. “Sometimes I realize they have their life insurance needs taken care of and they have a decent amount of investments that will relate to the lifestyle they want,” he said. “So then the need might be looking more at an estate plan to see how those things work together.”
To service the hundreds of clients on his book, Mannette has three full-time staff members, which include an assistant, an underwriter and a receptionist who also handles HR. He brought in his first assistant when he was three years into the business and had more than 300 clients.
“I wouldn’t have been able to expand my business without hiring. I started with life and annuities, but now I have a multiline practice where we also cross-sell for things like clients’ homes and cars,” Mannette said.
Tracking tough times
Unfortunately, it’s not all linear growth for Mannette’s business, especially in 2020. Even though he considers himself lucky — most of his clients haven’t lost their jobs or had businesses shut down due to the pandemic — his revenue still took a hit in 2020.
With 25% less total revenue from the previous year, Mannette spent the end of 2020 trying to stave off any changes for his staff. But finally a decision had to be made.
“For a top producer with one assistant, it’s easy to make adjustments. But when you have three staff members and a reduction in revenue, it becomes a challenge,” he said.
Although Mannette fully expects things to turn around in the near future, near the end of 2020, he sat down with his staff. “I was very open. I showed them all the finances and asked, ‘If you were in my position, what would you do?’”
Mannette laid out the two options: terminate one member of staff or have all four staff members (including himself) take a pay cut. “We decided we would all take a pay cut. It’s not ideal or desired, but we made an agreement that we are all going to try to reinvigorate the business,” Mannette said. “At the end, they still had a job and we still have a company and we will work to make it better.”
Tips to balance work and home life
Gregg Mannette has had to develop strategies to balance the various roles he has, which include being a husband and father to two young children.
One of the first — and to Mannette, most important — steps he has taken to create work-life balance is to schedule out what he refers to as “sacred time” when he is not going to work. He blocks these off in his calendar for things like exercise (scheduled at the start of every day) and family dinners (scheduled for at least three evenings during the week).
“There was once a time when I hadn’t seen the sun set on my home for months because I would leave early and come back late,” Mannette said. “So I start my week by blocking out those three nights for family.”
Mannette spends about half his work time training his advisors or going on appointments with them (currently via Zoom or Microsoft Teams because of the pandemic). To make scheduling easier, he has a shared calendar that shows when he’s available. If a junior advisor would like Mannette to meet with a particular prospect with them, they can plug it into his calendar.
Maintaining control of his calendar and the sacred time is what keeps Mannette organized and able to balance his family, clients, advisors and staff.
“Calendaring for me is something that should not be work first and then your life fits around it,” Mannette said. “That is against the whole grain of the Whole Person concept. Make time to enjoy the life you’ve worked hard for.”