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Create Your Own Board of Advisors

Tap your best clients to get your best clients.

By I. David Cohen, CLU, ChFC, LUTCF

At 8:30 a.m. on June 10, 1958, I attended my first training session as a brand new insurance agent. I was 23 and a college graduate in the school of business. The training supervisor began by explaining the difference between whole life and term insurance. He covered everything from nonforfeiture provisions to the convertibility of term insurance. I was excited to learn so much about our products.

At the end of the two-hour session, he asked if we had any questions. As you might expect, there were the usual questions concerning the products, but no one in class asked the most important question—“To whom do I sell these policies, and how do I find these people so we can have a meaningful discussion?” So I did. His response was what I later found to be the norm: “We will get to that next time.”

I quickly found out that very few—if any—of us are experts on prospecting.

As you might guess, the next time never came. I quickly found out that very few—if any—of us are experts on prospecting. It occurred to me from that first day that if I didn’t determine how to find prospects, all the product knowledge would mean absolutely nothing. Therefore, I decided that I was going to spend most of my efforts not on product knowledge, but on prospecting. It worked! Some 48 years later, I am still in the business and thriving.

Prospecting 101
Before you can sit down with qualified clients, you’ve got to find them. To do that, you must first:

  • Identify your target market
  • Learn their primary needs and wants
  • Have a deep understanding of your products and services and how they help your clients

Once you have identified your market, the age-old problem rears its head: How do I get to people and businesses under favorable circumstances? Universities, nonprofit organizations and some companies have boards of advisors, directors or trustees. It’s required by law. Why? The answer is simple: accountability. After all, leaders in positions of power cannot have absolute power. They must answer to someone—especially in situations where the leaders are responsible for managing assets that belong to others. An example is publicly held companies. There are checks and balances used on effective boards that create a sense of accountability to hold senior management’s feet to the fire. This is the value of creating a personal board of advisors, which is a group of three to five “centers of influence”—people who share your vision and want to see you succeed. To reach your goal, your board should give you:

  • Advice
  • Counseling
  • Encouragement
  • Pressure to follow through on your commitments

Prospecting 102
To begin, ask a few of your best, most influential clients to serve on your board. Why clients? The answer is simple: Only a client can truly grasp and understand the value of what you offer.

You share your mission statement and business plan with your board. Their commitment is to meet with you as a group two to three times a year. This is not a new concept. In his book Love the Work You’re With, author Richard Whitely describes six key “jobs” that together can make up an effective board of advisors.

  • A mentor to care about your success and have ownership in your future development
  • A strategist to anticipate future challenges and opportunities, and then alert you of them
  • A solution provider to focus on the present
  • A coach to help you stay focused on what you want to achieve and how you can achieve it
  • A butt kicker to motivate you to challenge yourself in ways you never before imagined
  • A cheerleader to always reinforce a positive attitude

Your board of advisors may or may not have a professional relationship with you. They can be suppliers, clients or work associates. Once you have created your board of advisors, you need to make certain that each person takes his role as your advisor seriously. He needs to know that you mean business. So, follow these steps and you will have plenty of qualified prospects to see.

I. David Cohen has written Prospect or Perish—a textbook and curriculum designed for financial-service professionals. Reach him at or 614-258-0444.


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