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Seven Habits of a Highly Effective Top of the Table Producer

MDRT presentations are back on the Web! Here are seven steps to reaching Top of the Table.

By Rick Thomas, CLU

The following is an excerpt from Rick Thomas’ presentation The Seven Habits of a Highly Effective Top of the Table Producer, which he delivered at the 2002 Million Dollar Round Table annual meeting.

On the flight home from my first Top of the Table meeting, I remember being very excited about the future, but I did have one nagging question. In 1976, I had sold over 130 life insurance policies to achieve that $5 million of production, and I figured that the average number sold at that meeting was more like 25 to 30. My question was: Would I still be able to generate as many sales and continue to grow as my cases became larger and more complex? The answer, 24 years later, is yes. In 2000, I had over 130 sales, just like in 1976, only now they are larger and more complex.

Our objective is to get to potential clients faster with solutions and underwriting.

I am going to talk about the seven habits my group has taken to maintain our high level of activity. Our seven habits are in Thomas Financial “speak.” They are bits of wisdom we’ve picked up along the way from those both famous and not-so famous.

  1. The first habit is “rest when you get there,” the campaign slogan for Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign of 1862.

    In other words, we begin with the end in mind. Every year we establish goals that will assure our 18 percent compound growth rate. In the ‘70s I had to have approximately 350 meetings to get 100 sales, because occasionally we didn’t make a sale in the first meeting. Today, it still takes about 350 meetings for 100 sales, although many of those meetings are not with the economic buyers but with technical buyers such as accountants and attorneys.

  2. The second habit is to get there “firstest with the mostest.” Some may recognize this quote as General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s response when he was asked to reveal his most significant military secret.

    My objective is to spend 80 percent of my time in the marketing phase. Marketing includes client meetings, moving a case along on the phone and case design. It is interesting to note that I spend twice as much time in case design as I do in front of the client. That’s because we believe we make all our sales in our office before the prospect or client sees our presentation.

  3. Our third habit is that we make a business that is “hard by the yard become a cinch by the inch.”

    Knowing that an 18 percent compounded return means that your business will double every four years can make the actual execution a daunting task unless you break it down into bite-sized pieces. To solve this, I start every year with my calendar to determine how many workday opportunities I am going to have. This is easy to determine because I have many annual events already on my calendar, plus meetings and vacations. Then I schedule accordingly.

  4. Of course, after breaking down the goals, the key to the system is to monitor those goals regularly—which brings us to our fourth habit: “Inspect what you expect.”

    Once each month we have a company-wide staff meeting to review our goals and make mid-course corrections as necessary. We review our goals and standards in virtually every phase of the business including marketing and underwriting, client service turnaround and in-force business growth.

  5. Even with strong fundamentals, we all know that we have to constantly make adjustments to grow—our fifth habit is something I learned from my sister who is an owner-operator of 26 24-hour restaurants. She says, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten” and “If you can’t do better, you have to do different.”

    Because I was having trouble making all of my meetings, I hired a full-time associate producer who meets with clients, advisors and centers of influence on my behalf. She takes applications, gets trust work and legal documents signed and policies delivered. We implemented this program in 1997, and we could not have kept up our growth rate without it.

  6. Habit No. 6 is the old expression to “make the exception the rule.” Let’s face it, the people we do business with can afford the best of everything. They are looking for the best advice, the best service, the best underwriting, the best products, and they are willing to pay for it.

    We have long ago determined that our competition will not be from traditional sources but from bankers, brokerage firms, accounting firms and consulting firms. Most of them are bigger than we are with more resources. Our objective is to get to potential clients faster with solutions and underwriting. We also want to deliver the kind of service people will tell their colleagues about.

  7. Finally, our last and most important rule is the rule of prosperity, to “help enough other people to get what they want in order to get what we want.” This rule has to start with our most important customer: our associates. Our firm has two staff members celebrating their 20th anniversary this year and also two at 16 years. All of our associates are paid monthly bonuses based on their performance and firm production. Each staff member has educational requirements and all are involved with CLU or LOMA study courses. Upon completion of educational requirements, which are reimbursed by the firm, staff members receive an educational bonus.

Rick Thomas is a 30-year MDRT member, with 25 Top of the Table qualifications. He is CEO of the Thomas Financial Group, which specializes in wealth transfer, business continuation and executive benefits. He can be reached at

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