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Staying Power

Learn how four leaders, including NAIFA CEO David F. Woods, kept their sales careers on course.

By Maggie Leyes

A key to making it in this industry is not only sales know-how (see this month’s cover story, “Master Class”), but also knowing how to find the right help to keep you on course--and in the business.

It was general agent John Mann who taught David F. Woods, CLU, ChFC, LUTCF, NAIFA CEO and LIFE president, a fundamental career lesson while he was a young agent with MassMutual in Springfield, Mass. “[Mann] taught me what integrity meant when it came to this business and career. It meant doing the right thing for people,” says Woods. “The easy life insurance sale is term insurance because it’s cheap. The harder sale is the permanent life insurance sale. And yet most people need more permanent life insurance in their portfolio than they think they do, or than they ever think they can afford.”

Yet human nature always intervenes. People are reluctant to think of the future and secure it with the more costly permanent life insurance. That’s what tests an advisor’s mettle. “They’ll push back and won’t want to spend the money for [permanent life insurance],” says Woods. “And yet, the right thing to do for people is to really urge them to [buy permanent life insurance]—to help them understand and risk getting them upset because you’re forcing them to think about things they don’t want to think about.”

That was Mann’s lesson to Woods—that this difficult situation is part of integrity: to be willing to take a personal risk for the sake of getting your client to do the right thing. And that lesson was the yardstick Mann used to measure the success of Woods’ sales calls and what Woods used to measure his own success in the field. When he would return from an interview with a client having only sold a term policy, Mann would push him to think about “whether I had just taken the easy sale,” says Woods, “or whether I really stayed and did the job right.”

That was Mann’s lesson to Woods—that this difficult situation is part of integrity: to be willing to take a personal risk for the sake of getting your client to do the right thing and buy permanent life insurance.

Group-think
While Dick Koob, CLU, ChFC, AEP, NAIFA president 2002-03, did not have a mentor early in his career to keep his spirits up when his sales sagged, he did join a study group during those formative years—one he has been active in for 25 years. As a young agent with Northwestern Mutual in Waukesha, Wis., Koob saw the group as a “multiple-mentor” situation. “A mentor is there every day … to reassure you, to help you get your self-confidence back. A study group is a collective way to do this—a collective support group.”

Koob also invested heavily in his business by going to meetings and seminars, and “buying the stuff that would help me grow.” This is a sentiment that Shelley Rowe, LUTCF, of the Rowe Financial Group in Westminster, Colo., (2003-04 NAIFA membership chair) wholeheartedly agrees with. “The whole industry is a sharing industry, a unique industry. I use a lot of audio and video tapes—everything LIFE has ever done, MDRT tapes, LAMP … I buy all the NAIFA convention tapes and share them with my agents.”

In fact, Rowe was so impressed by Van Mueller’s presentation at NAIFA’s convention last year that she bought tapes of it for all the agents in her company and gave the tapes to them as Christmas presents. “Our business is like any other. It’s a craft, and you have to master your craft. You have to learn things that you can make your own. … You have to listen to other people’s stories and gain some wisdom from them,” she emphasizes.

Make the choice
Commitment and education. Those, says Randy R. Kilgore, CLU, RHU, LUTCF, NAIFA president 2003-04, of Randy Kilgore and Co. in Colorado Springs, Colo., make all the difference for a struggling advisor. “All of us have had to learn that when you start in this business, it’s a job; later on, it becomes a career. But you have to make a commitment that it’s no longer a job, but a career,” says Kilgore. How long it takes for that to happen is different for each person, he says. It may be one year or it may be five years. But once you do, “then you have made a big turning point—a leap,” says Kilgore. “You say to yourself, ’I will do what I have to do—go to school, continuing education, get my LUTCF, CLU ... whatever it takes. When this happens, then you have made the switch to having a profession.”


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