NAIFA members Kathleen Owings, Taylor Sledge, and Corey Anderson presented a panel discussion workshop at NAIFA’s Performance + Purpose conference in Orlando. The session, sponsored by NAIFA's Young Advisors Team, offered six key focus areas that have helped them accelerate their achievement of success in their careers and lives.
One: Business Development
Anderson told attendees that a key to developing and growing his business has been simple persistency. For every “yes” he gets from a client or prospect, there are six or seven nos. Financial professionals who don’t remain persistent in the face of rejection will never get to the yeses.
“No is not forever,” Anderson said. “You need to be pleasantly persistent.”
It is also important to delegate tasks. “So many advisors don’t want to delegate to their staffs,” Anderson said. “We’re all control freaks in this business.” Allowing associates to do the jobs they are best qualified for frees you up to keep a balance to ensure you always have new appointments and opportunities for new business in the pipeline.
It’s also a good idea to leverage technology to work more efficiency and build your practice. “Many appointments don’t need to be face-to-face,” Anderson said. “Phone appointments are often better for time management and provide clients with flexibility.”
Two: Team Building
Financial professionals should build two teams: One for growth and another for support, Sledge said. Both growing the business and bringing new clients are vital, but so is performing the tasks that keep the practice running.
Different team members may serve different roles, including:
- Relationship management
Sledge acknowledged that not everyone can hire staff, especially in young practices, but there are always resources available. Company connections, for example, can provide support. But spending money on good staff is worthwhile.
“A human being is never an expense,” Sledge said. “A human being is an investment. This is not gas money, this is your future. It’s about doing for your client what you’ve said you will do for them.”
Three: Professional Development
Owings said she is always testing herself, and constant challenges keep her moving forward. She believes you should never get complacent, just because you’ve reached a high level.
"Have a mentor and be a mentor," she said. "Learn from other people’s mistakes. No one can get ahead in this business by themselves."
Coaching has been a big part of her professional development. In her career, coaches have kept her motivated and on track. She is also a firm believer in annual goal planning, and constant monitoring of goals, keeping objectives top of mind. If you don’t commit to ongoing professional developing it becomes “too easy to fall into the trap of just going through the motions,” she said.
Four: Keeping Balance
How do you keep a good balance in your life? For Anderson, one key is keeping a good calendar and using it to ensure that you don’t miss appointments. That calendar should not just include business engagements, but also personal and family ones. For him, family comes first, and it is just as important for him to keep his family and personal calendar items as it is to keep business appointments.
Everyone faces struggles that can threaten to throw them off balance. Anderson’s key to working through his struggles is to create goals and follow through on doing what is needed to achieve them. “Everyone has struggles,” he said. “Break it down to the daily things you need to do.”
It’s always important to maintain freedom. “Get out and have fun with your friends,” he said.
Five: Referrals and Marketing
Sledge had all the workshop attendees repeat after him: “Traditional advertising is dead.”
The good news, he said, is that as long as human beings make decisions based on emotion, insurance and financial professionals will have career opportunities. Even as some parts of the insurance industry become more automated, many clients still need a personal touch.
Producers can reach them by understanding the human condition and gearing their marketing to address client’s specific needs. It’s not about selling the products.
Sledge offered the marketing equation: Shared experiences + constant communication = great relationships. And great relationships are the key to moving beyond traditional advertising.
Marketing today consists of being on social media and convincing others to speak well of you and your business and market on your behalf.
Sledge presented what he calls “The Board Model,” which he uses to get influencers invested in helping him succeed. “I am treating you like a board member of my company – I share struggles and successes,” he said. “They become the greatest advocates for your business. They will bring you more business than you need.”
Podcasts social media help build a personal brand, and reach consumers on devices that go with people wherever they go. To steer clear of compliance problems, Sledge develops personal branding that doesn’t talk about business or finance or products. He does podcasts interviewing entrepreneurs – asking how they found success, how they struggled, and how they grew their business -- and broadcasts them on social media.
“The podcasts give people a reason to want to talk to me about business,” he said. “I’m giving them something they can use, not just something serving my own business.”
Six: Community Service
To get the most out of their community service endeavors, Owings said, insurance and financial professionals need to go in with a truly giving mindset. “Don’t go into volunteer positions asking what you are going to get out it for yourself,” she said. Entering with a focus on services allows her better opportunities for “building relationships with professionals like me – like-minded professionals who are not asking what’s in it to me.”
“You’ll be more relevant if you are passionate, not just looking for a return,” she added.