6 Priceless Principles of Production

In my 57 years in business, there are six principles of production that I’ve found to be priceless. Following these six principles will help you produce successfully while providing your clients the products and services they need.

1. Prospects - Without one we are unemployed, and without several we do not have a career! Thus, prospecting is a preeminent principle in the recipe for a successful career in sales -- particularly the sale of life insurance and just about any other product you choose to mention.

My dad, Joe, was an icon in the life insurance business in Canada after serving six years overseas in World War II. Fifty-seven years ago, he shared with me a fundamental aspect of our business: the two buckets principle. The first is “prospect bucket A,” which he made clear was my primary responsibility to keep as full as possible with the best quality prospects I could find.

Naturally, the quality of the prospects changed over the years as my confidence level and abilities improved. However, he made it clear that without someone in “prospect bucket A,” there would be no one who I could transfer to “customer bucket B!”

The second bucket is “customer/client bucket B,” into which we hope to move as many of our prospects as possible. However, we also have a significant responsibility: as soon as we move a prospect from “bucket A” to “bucket B,” we must replace the original prospect in “bucket A.” Thus, we have a constant merry-go-round to deal with: find a new prospect and ultimately move them from “prospect bucket A” to “customer bucket B.” The sooner we make this a habit and part of our “career DNA,” the sooner we will soar in our business.

2. Process is the second principle. Without a process, we won’t know what to do in an efficient and effective manner with the prospect – instead, we’ll be flying by the seat of our pants in terms of getting in to see the prospect, knowing what to say when we’re in the first meeting, understanding what’s important to the prospect, and being able to translate that back into how we may be able to help this individual with our products and services.

My process involves four quadrants:

● Target: target your prospect
● Know: know your prospect
● Sell: educate the prospect, and identify how we can help them help themselves
● Serve: serve a prospect into a position of being a customer, then a client and finally an advocate of you and your services

Advocacy will result in new prospects and new referrals introduced to us by our new client with which we can then replace or fill up “bucket A.”

Just as a commercial airline pilot would not dream of taking off without having a flight plan filed ahead of time, we as financial pilots must also have a flight plan that hopes for the best but is prepared for the worst in terms of storms, objections, requests for reassurance, communication failures, cancellations, disinterest, etc. Without a flight plan that is well known to the advisor, well-rehearsed, and with which the advisor is comfortable, the advisor is setting sail, taking off, taking flight on a dangerous and potentially stormy path, which should otherwise be a productive one with a proper process, or flight plan, in place.

3. Prepare – Thirdly, prepare for the worst, as mentioned, but hope for the best. This is the motto of Outward Bound, which prepares its leaders for difficulty, stormy weather, muddy roads, treacherous jungles and danger ahead, but which also hopes for blue skies and great results.

Have you prepared each step of your initial approach? From a pre-approach letter to a telephone call, to confirmation of an appointment, to an agenda of items to discuss, to third-party influence materials, to pictures which are worth 1,000 words and millions in compensation, to follow up materials, and the habit of under promising and over delivering, all wrapped up with your ability and willingness to listen to what it is that your prospect really wants. All are focused on the educational process of helping the prospect understand how you can help them get what they want and not necessarily what you think they need, as that comes later.

If you are not prepared to properly follow a process that allows you to make contact with a prospect, meet them under favorable circumstances and begin to develop a relationship that ultimately will be based on trust -- then you are short changing yourself, and your prospect. Without interpersonal communication and a trusting relationship, nothing positive will happen.

4. Present - This is where the rubber meets the road! Are you doing so in a fashion that will allow your prospect to understand what time it is and not how to make the watch? You know that people buy what they understand, and they don’t buy what they don’t understand.

Let’s recognize that the professional salesperson reduces the complex to the simple while the amateur makes the complex even more complex in a fruitless attempt to impress the prospect with their knowledge -- and in so doing, often loses the sale. The use of analogies, metaphors, pictures and comparatives are all helpful when describing what is a particularly sophisticated financial instrument (i.e. life insurance) and applying it to the world and mind of the prospect.

Your presentation skill will determine the end result of your contact with the prospect. Therefore, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! And use a script that works. As the late Paul Harvey said, “If you have a talk that works, don’t change the talk, just change the audience.” However, in order to have a talk that works, one has to rehearse that talk over and over and over until it becomes a part of your DNA and thus improves the result of your presentation.

5. Perform - It is said, “Actors sell and salespeople act.” Our performance as a salesperson, while comprising many aspects and moving parts, depends heavily on the sales advisor knowing their script at the point of sale, at the time of education and at the moment when the prospect is primed to listen. We need to know our lines and have them tailor-made for each prospect. That does not mean writing a new script for each prospect, but it does mean having a talk, presentation and process that works, and inserting the prospect’s key data into it.

Much like a play where each actor has a role, ours is to educate prospects as to how we can best help them achieve what they want to achieve in order to get what they want to get -- and to ultimately be where they want to be and be there with them as their friend and financial advisor.

So, ask yourself a question: “Would you buy from you?” Rehearse in front of a mirror, in front of a video camera, in front of your telephone or iPad and ask yourself: “Would I buy from me?” If the answer is “Yes,” then keep on rehearsing! And if the answer is “No,” then keep on rehearsing! In both cases, work to be able to perform as best as you possibly can!

6. Persist - Nothing can take the place of persistence. In fact, if asked to summarize my 57 years in business in but a few words, my answer would be: “See the people and love them again, and again, and again -- and yet again!”
At the end of the day, if you prospect, have a process, prepare, present, perform and persist -- the world of sales will become your oyster!

Bruce Etherington, BA, CLU, ChFC, CFP, is the owner of Bruce Etherington & Associates in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. A 53-year Life and Qualifying Member of MDRT, Bruce is also a past Chair and Charter 46-year Member of the Top of the Table.