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Foundations of Success

Four top advisors give you nuggets of wisdom you can use to grow your practice.

By Maggie Leyes

Principal Box Ad Click Here has had one-on-one podcast discussions with top industry experts and has chosen their best answers to our questions about how to succeed in insurance and financial services. Here is what they had to say—and if you like what you’ve read, be sure to click on the podcast arrow and listen to their complete interview.

How can an advisor make MDRT’s Top of the Table?
“Here’s what I did. I took a serious look at my practice and asked, ‘What is it that I really, really love to do?’ And I narrowed it down to two things: I really love to do retirement plans and I really love to manage money. I decided to start focusing on those. Amazingly, shortly after that, I qualified for [MDRT’s] Top of the Table and have qualified since. ? I thought my income would actually drop because the areas I liked doing were not the most profitable in my practice. However, I found that clients were invigorated by my enthusiasm and I got more referrals—and additional business just followed.”

Michelle L. Hoesly, CLU, ChFC, a 28-year MDRT member and incoming president of MDRT’s Top of the Table

What do you wish someone had told you when you first started in the business?
“You have to understand that this is not a job. It might not even qualify as a profession—it’s really a lifestyle. If you're going to be successful in this business, it has to be part of you. You have to be able to talk about it in a conversational way in every part of your life: in your personal life, in your business life, in your social life. Also, I wish someone had told me to learn a professional sales presentation that I knew backwards, forwards, upside-down and inside-out so that I would immediately feel confident in front of prospects. And then [the prospect] would know that I had information of value that I could deliver to them and help them go through a ‘process of discovery.’”

Van Mueller, LUTCF, 18-time MDRT Top of the Table qualifier

How do you build a million-dollar practice?
“While I was writing the book, I thought about what [the 70-million-dollar advisors I spoke with] all had in common. And while each of them was different and had their own style and way of doing business, there was an overlap: There were five characteristics they all had:

  • No. 1: They set business and activity goals and tracked their progress. They were almost obsessed about where they wanted to go and their progress toward that.
  • No. 2: They were all highly motivated—in a way regular advisors were not.
  • No. 3: They were always marketing. ? They marketed socially; they marketed through nonprofit organizations; they marketed through client and prospect events. They were always ‘on’ and always thinking about how they were going to get their next client.
  • No. 4: They were good time managers. ? They naturally spent most of their time with their clients and prospects on appointments.
  • No. 5: They understood that this is essentially a relationship business. True, it‘s about finance and investments ? but they understood that having great and deep relationships with their clients and prospects was the most important thing they could do.

David Mullen Jr., retired Merrill Lynch director and author of The Million Dollar Financial Services Practice

What is an essential habit you need for success?
You need to know what your time is worth. We all have 24 hours in a day. How we choose to spend those 24 hours is what separates us—and that’s a philosophy I live by. How effectively, how efficiently are we using this time? What do we do with this time that makes us different? I would challenge everyone to examine this. ? What's your time worth? On a new case your time might be worth $300 or $500 an hour. ?

“When you start a case, you ought to have an idea of what a potential [financial] outcome is. Does that mean you’re going to get it? No, but you should have some idea when you meet with [a prospect] as to a general range of what fee revenue or commission revenue you might generate from the case. Then you should also have a feel for how much time it’s going to take you to complete the case. For example, you may generate $5,000 of revenue and 10 hours of total time—including the initial meeting and the service and follow-up. That’s a higher rate than any attorney or accountant or any other professional.”

Randy Schuster, MDRT Court of the Table qualifier and author of The Power of Habits

For more great ideas on how to grow your practice, go to to listen to the more than two-dozen podcasts in the Building a More Successful Practice series.

Maggie Leyes is a contributor to


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