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WOW! MDRT's Annual Meeting

Top producers gathered this year in Anaheim, Calif., for the annual MDRT meeting.

By Maggie Leyes and Ayo Mseka

All of us like to be wowed. And it makes sense. When we are wowed, we experience something wonderful, something unexpected. Those who attended the MDRT meeting this June were wowed, and it had nothing to do with the fact that Disneyland was just a stone's throw from the convention center.

Imagine what can happen when almost 7,000 of the top insurance and financial advisors come from over 70 countries around the globe to share their experiences and listen to the best of the best—in the industry and beyond—talk about what it takes to succeed. This is the recipe for a “wow” event. It’s fitting, then, that Wow! was the theme of this year’s meeting.

How can you not be wowed when Dr. Marius Barnard, part of the first team to transplant a human heart in 1967, says that he admires you and the work that you do? His reason: The insurance industry made it possible to fulfill his dream of creating critical illness insurance. He understood that while he could enhance the quantity of a person’s life with medical treatment, only you, as an advisor, could help that person improve the quality of that extra time with the right insurance.

How can you not be wowed when Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan reminds you that dialog—not just talking—is the essential first step to true understanding? ... And that using dialog, and turning it into action is a simple, although difficult, solution that can help you improve your business—and bring peace to the world?

And how can you not be wowed when 12-year-old Matt Savage, who was diagnosed with autism as a young child, steps up to a grand piano and plays his original compositions with the ease and grace of the jazz greats? With five CDs behind him, and his own jazz band, the Matt Savage Trio, he reminds you that you never know the upper limits of your own potential.

These exceptional people were joined by many greats in the insurance and financial services industry who shared their special talents with the attendees. While it is impossible to squeeze three days of wow experiences into these pages, we would like to share a few great ideas from the industry’s top performers.


Client-centered planning
Is traditional insurance and financial planning dead? Are all those techniques we learned, like how to overcome objections, going the way of the 8-track tape? Barbara Culver, CFP, ChFC, CLU, of Resonate Inc., certainly thinks so.

Our industry is undergoing a dramatic change, and we, as advisors, need to change along with it. “The traditional techniques we were taught to use are outdated because life insurance and financial planning are systems, and like any system, they must change and evolve in order to survive,” said Culver, who spoke for an hour on client-centered planning. “We are beginning to understand that the ultimate possibility of planning is to help clients plan for and create the life of their dreams.”

But before you panic, this process may not be as radical as you imagine. What she is asking you to do is step back and begin to see your practice from a new perspective. Your practice consists of clients. Nothing less, nothing more. When you turn your practice into a client-centered practice—putting not just their financial needs, but also their emotional, psychological and spiritual needs into their financial plan and creating a true life plan—you convert them into passionate clients for life.

Where to begin
To start this new process, there is some housecleaning you need to do. The first thing to be swept away is your need to be judge and expert. With the old way of planning, Culver said that the advisor took control and often the client was the bystander. Now, with client-centered planning, the client is front and center and the advisor becomes a facilitator. That means you should “bring no agenda or script, no desire to fix, change or sell anything,” she stressed.

Some examples of Culver’s Profound Questions:

  1. What is the purpose of money in your life?

  2. Is money an excuse for doing something in your life?

  3. Is it an excuse for not doing something in your life?

  4. What are some of the highest uses of your time or talent?

  5. What lessons have you learned from having money?

  6. What lessons have you learned from not having it?

  7. What are your family’s assets?

  8. Where do you want your family to be in 50 years?

The second item on your clean-up list is how you speak with your clients. You are there to provide them with the opportunity to talk about their life values, their purpose and goals. As such, the questions you ask should reflect that. Culver said that you should replace your old questionnaire with what she called “profound questions.” These are open-ended questions that are client-centered, which reach clients on an emotional, psychological and spiritual level. (See box.) This, Culver said, invites “the entire person into the planning process. We were taught to plan for the financial, to care for the physical. The problem with this is that we are leaving out 60 percent of the client’s being in the process.”

By changing your practice to focus on helping clients define their purpose, clarify their values and design a living legacy, Culver said there will be no objections to overcome: “When they get excited and grasp the potential—and they are hungry for it—they push you to finish the case. ... It’s about us being real and connecting heart-to-heart with our clients.”

The wonderful world of fees
In the session $1 Million in Fees, the soft-spoken Lee Johnson, CLU, ChFC, CFP, of Lee Johnson Capital Management, was clear about another change in the industry: charging clients fees. With almost 30 years as an MDRT member, 15 Court of the Table and 13 Top of the Table honors, Johnson knows from whence he speaks, “Fees are here to stay.”

That’s not to say it wasn’t a difficult decision for him to switch to a fee-based business. But he ultimately decided that his reluctance to charge fees was based on fear—fear that clients wouldn’t want to pay those fees. That turned out not to be true. “People pay for professional advice; look at attorneys,” he said. “You need to remember that your ultimate product is your advice. You are your ultimate product.”



Convert your base
To change to a fee-based practice, Johnson said that you truly have to believe it is the right thing to do; your clients will know if you feel otherwise. With his business, he started by informing his existing client base. He asked them to come to group meetings; he held three meetings with about 50 clients at each. When he explained his new business model, he was shocked at the overwhelming support he received from his clients. One client actually said, “I wondered all these years how you could afford to keep seeing me.”

With new clients, Johnson offers them a free first meeting, implying that subsequent meetings will require a fee. Prior to the first visit, he has the client fill out what he calls a financial peace-of-mind discovery. Then in that initial meeting, he starts with a soft-data factfinder so he can “try to get behind what they are feeling deep inside.” The most important question of this meeting, he said, is asking the clients if their parents are still alive. If they are, he asks about their health and finances. If they are no longer alive, he inquires about their financial and health status when they died. “This question shakes people at a core level. They begin to see themselves as their parents ended up,” he said.

After completing the factfinder, he clearly explains his charges. With candor he also informs clients that there are other people in town that will do free of charge what he is asking them to pay for. Do his clients walk out of his office when they hear this? Not at all, said Johnson, “Our clients don’t understand much about the rules of the financial services industry, so they are willing to pay us to help them maneuver through the labyrinth.”

Johnson’s challenge is for you to ask yourself: Do my clients have a reluctance to pay fees, or do I have a fear of asking my clients to pay fees?

The power of referrals
During the meeting, attendees also received help on how to get their clients to do all of their prospecting for them from Kevin J. Murphey, RFC, with Murphey Financial Services. High on Murphey’s list of prospecting dos is the use of public seminars. However, although seminars are great, he cautioned that they can be expensive, are labor intensive and must be done right. “A lot of people make a lot of money doing public seminars,” he said, “but they have to be done on a regular basis with a system in place for them to be effective.”

Another powerful strategy is to use what Murphey calls OPI, or other people’s influence, which is essentially leveraging your existing clients’ influence and relationships to get new clients. For example, you can use a referral letter addressed by the referrer to a prospect, stating that you have helped the referrer in the past, and the prospect should talk with you. Another is to send your existing clients a postcard inviting them and two friends to a free lunch.

Murphey also hosts client appreciation events once a quarter for his clients and their families. For example, he throws an annual Christmas party, which costs him anywhere from $1,300 to $2,000. However, this amount is nothing compared to what he gets in return. “Do you have any idea how much money I make from this and how many new clients I get?” he asked. “A bunch,” he replied. “Two-to-one odds are not bad, are they? You invite someone to dinner. If, for every two people you invite, one becomes a client, that is good.” He also shared what he considers the most powerful referral question any advisor can ask his clients: “Will you please call them for me?”

In the end, he urged attendees to appreciate their clients “and they will constantly reward you and look for ways to help you grow your business.”


Selling replacement value
Another strategy advisors can use to successfully grow their practice is to use the full replacement life insurance selling approach, advised Bob Castiglione, CEO and president of Leap Systems Inc.

According to Castiglione, agents are leaving the industry in record numbers, the agent survival rate is at an all-time low, the public is substantially underinsured, term life insurance sales are at an all-time high, and permanent life insurance sales are in steady decline.

The main reason for this general malaise is needs selling, he said. “Needs selling has trained the agent to believe he must first identify a need, prove the need to the prospect and then calculate the need mathematically and sell insurance based solely on the need established,” he said. “In so doing, advisors automatically establish a wall of resistance and the real power of permanent life insurance remains undisclosed. Needs selling and analysis are preventing the entire industry from reaching its peak performance.”

To remedy this, advisors can use the full replacement life insurance selling approach, he said. To do this, they should:

  1. Make the prospect understand that life insurance is the first and most important financial purchase he should make.
  2. Use the full economic replacement value for the insured’s death benefit coverage and avoid the word “need.”
  3. Show prospects how to get life insurance without any additional out-of-pocket funds.
  4. Sell term life insurance only when there is not enough money to buy permanent life insurance.
  5. Demonstrate the fact that permanent life insurance has one of the highest overall rates of return for living values in anyone’s lifetime. The prospect must be shown how and why permanent life insurance is a win-win-win scenario.
  6. Show the prospect each added benefit created by the ownership of permanent life insurance above and beyond death benefits and its cash values.
  7. Prove that permanent life insurance enhances all other financial products that the client owns.
  8. Be an expert on every aspect of permanent life insurance, memorizing and understanding each provision in the contract.
  9. Have a visual, tactile and auditory presentation that captures the prospect’s senses and moves him toward learning about the numerous benefits of permanent life insurance.

Successful use of these techniques will help advisors soar to new heights, he said. How high? Over the course of the year, and assuming an average client age of 40, the agent who uses this approach will have three sales per week, resulting in a total weekly premium of $45,000 and an annual commission of $990,000.

The public thirsts for a positive message about the purpose and value of permanent life insurance, Castiglione stressed. Needs selling and financial planning are failing because they are not what consumers really want. “Once consumers see that you have what they want and it is verified for them, they will act in a big way and with big numbers without remorse or hesitation,” he concluded.


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