By John Alves
This article appears in the new June issue of InsuranceNewsNet magazine. Click on the link to read more.
It's no secret that we do not have enough successful young annuity advisors in the business. But instead of complaining about the lack of new talent, we can step up and develop our own.
Helping others succeed in this business has been a passion of mine and I’d like to share what I’ve learned about the mentoring process.
This process is as good for the mentor as it is for the mentored. For example, I was able to help an advisor who knew very little about the annuity world to make nearly $25,000 in his first three months. Not only did this success help motivate the advisor, it also gave me a boost. You can’t help but become enthusiastic when assisting others achieve their dreams.
Orientation Means Re-Orienting New Advisors
First, I believe you must enjoy and at least like the advisor you work with or little success will come out of the relationship. Training a new advisor takes precious time and I like to use mine wisely.
As I mentioned, we don’t find many people ready to sell from day one, but initial success is paramount. Most new advisors walk in with depowering beliefs and poor work habits. Help them feel empowered, strong and establish new work rituals for success to come quickly. The longer a new advisor lacks any success, the greater the pressure to move onto a different endeavor.
Start out with establishing expectations and dispel misconceptions about the industry. Most people need structure to accomplish objectives. If there is no structure, advisors tend to wander in day after day and accomplish little. Set work, training and meeting schedules with every advisor. Take time to sit down with each advisor, to get to know them and establish business and personal goals. These goals should be a must to accomplish. Hold each other accountable.
Once new advisors are familiar with expectations, they must clearly understand and continuously work on their psychology. The way they think, speak and act at all times plays a huge role in their overall success. You may have the best leads or referrals but if you’re telling yourself that you’re not going to get an appointment, that’s not the state of mind of top producers.
Teaching How to Sell
Once the advisor has committed, it’s time to teach them the sales process — the in-the-field training. This sales process was taught to me by extremely successful advisors who developed it through years of experience.
The sales process consists of three steps:
1. Starting the conversation.
2. The first and second appointments.
3. Handling objections.
Starting the Conversation
For most advisors, this is the toughest part of the process. It can be intimidating and awkward. There are several ways to break the ice and start the conversation with annuity prospects. Of course, starting with people they know is a classic way to break them into the process. They can start with sending personal letters, emails or a phone call to their family and friends to introduce their new services. That’s a warm lead rather than a cold call.
This is a conversation, so advisors should start with a mutual interest and build rapport. Without this, it is difficult to build trust and move onto personal finances. This is a relationship, not a quick sale.
Now is the time to ask personal finance questions, which gets the ball rolling and creates credibility.
• Did you lose any retirement money last year?
• Do you own annuities?
• How much research have you done on annuities?
• Do you have a pension or will you have a pension income in the future?
• What is your biggest financial concern?
• In order to maintain your current day-to-day living requirements in retirement, what is your total required annual after-tax dollar income in today’s dollar?
• Do you have a 401(k) with your current employer?
• Are you working or retired?
At this moment the advisor must also stand out. This prospect might also be in conversation with another advisor. The advisor should come from place of power, and know exactly what the prospect is looking for.
Most of my clients are looking for security more than growth. They would rather play it safe than gamble their retirement away. This is how I was able to define what type of advisor I wanted to be. My identity and philosophy is “gain and retain.” But whatever it is, advisors should have an identity to separate them from other advisors to their prospects. This is where advisors should ask for the opportunity to share their philosophy and secure the first appointment.
The First and Second Appointments
I tell my advisors that 90 percent of the time, they will have two appointments with each client. Seldom is the sales process accomplished in one meeting. Clients who considered not buying an annuity were the clients that I met with only once.
In the first appointment, advisors can review any fact-finding information they might have gathered in the meantime. After that, move onto retirement goals and dreams and find out if this money will be for retirement income or an inheritance. This is very important to know, because most people do not buy with logic but with their emotions. Review the goals and go over any possible concerns. If advisors do a great job of connecting with prospects and their goals, they can move to the next step.
I like to ask the prospect that if I were able to put together a plan that would accomplish their goals and eliminate any concerns, would that be of any interest to them? This is where I ask for my second appointment.
The second appointment should be easier than the first. My mentor once told me, “You never have a hard time closing on your second appointment if your first appointment was done correctly.” I keep my advisors very aware of this principle.
Objections are inevitable and welcome because that means prospects are seriously considering the options. First, make an objection into a question.
1. Listen carefully and politely.
2. Return the objection back in a form of a question (nicely).
3. Ask permission to ask them the reason for their concern.
4. Find out their real concern.
5. Ask if you we’re able to eliminate that concern if that would make them comfortable with the annuity.
This way, most concerns turn into questions that need answering. Concerns usually come from advisors not fully disclosing the product properly and clients not being fully committed. Answer any and all questions, and I believe your clients will have no problem buying an annuity from you.
Once advisors have been oriented and then led through the sales process with proven methods, success is more likely. And success builds on success.
John Alves is president of Freedom Annuity & Life Insurance Solutions in San Diego, Calif., which serves the safe money market . He can be reached at [email protected].