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Midcareer Crisis

In a slump? Here are six steps to get you back on track.

By Thomas John Wolff, CLU, ChFC

Because of the visibility of “Back Page,” I receive letters from agents looking for guidance. And in the last couple of years, the subject matter has been strikingly consistent.

Typically, the writer is a successful, middle-aged industry veteran who is in a protracted slump. The situation has reached a point where self-confidence in and enthusiasm for our business has hit rock bottom.

These individuals typically have gotten caught up in the multiproduct and replacement craze. With the changes that have occurred in the last few years, their business has suffered, and they want to get back to selling life insurance. Only one problem: They have forgotten how.

Think back to a policy you sold that helped a family remain in its own world; a business that paid off a partner’s interest with life insurance; a keyperson policy that saved a business.

Six-step program
As a solution, I suggest a six-step formula. A good number have reported to me that applying the formula has put them back in the life insurance business with a simultaneous return of confidence and enthusiasm. Here is the formula:

Step 1: Dig out the sales system that worked for you when you were selling lots of life insurance. (I’m partial to Financial and Capital Need Analyses.) Relearn the system. Practice it until you know the system as well as you know your own name. When you know that you know it, confidence replaces fear.

Step 2: Restore your belief in life insurance. Think back to a policy you sold that helped a family remain in its own world; a business that paid off a partner’s interest with life insurance or cash values; a keyperson policy that saved a business; a policy loan that helped a client in an emergency; etc. Realize that every time you sold a policy, you provided peace of mind to a client. Speaking of peace of mind, do your own analysis and if you need insurance, buy it now! You must believe before your prospects will believe.

Step 3: Make a list of all clients, family, friends and acquaintances who could possibly be prospects. Contact them and ask the magic question—“Would you have any objection to discussing your overall financial plan with me?”

Point system
Step 4: Use a point system to monitor your activity. The best one I know I learned from Million Dollar Round Table Past President G. Carey Hauenstein, CLU. You must earn 20 points every day. Here is how you earn points:

One for a referral. Count each referral obtained.

Two for an appointment request. Count every call for an appointment, whether it was successful or not.

Three for a meeting with a prospect. Count each face-to-face meeting. Do not count it if a closing attempt was made.

Four for an attempted close. Do not count it if a sale is made.

Five for a sale. Count each sale. (Count multiple sales. For example, two sales = 10 points.)

Step 5: Motivate people to act. At the end of your presentation ask, “Do you believe this plan is the right one for you and your family/business?” If you get a positive response, say, “Have you ever been sorry for doing the right thing?” If a negative response is forthcoming, ask your prospects why they feel that way.

Step 6: Bind coverage! When I started my career, I kept a list of sales. Each week, I had to report to my general agent. He scrutinized my list and put a red circle around any cases without a binder. His comment was, “When you get a check, you have made a sale.”

My grandson, Keith, has been in the business about three years. He attributes much of his success to the fact that he binds coverage. He told me, “I prepare an agenda for every closing interview. The item on the agenda after life insurance needs is always binding coverage. I explain that there is no risk because the binder is fully refundable if prospects change their mind.” Binders prevent you from having to make the same sale twice.

Lost love
If you have lost your enthusiasm and love for this business, it may well be because you have stopped selling a significant amount of new life insurance. Too many agents are merely moving money around. You and I are special because we possess the necessary skills to help people create new money for themselves and their loved ones by buying life insurance. When you rekindle your career as I have suggested, your midcareer crisis will be over.

Thomas John Wolff, CLU, ChFC, served as 1979-1980 president of NALU (NAIFA). A member of MDRT since 1958, he is a recipient of the John Newton Russell Award. He is a member of Hartford (Conn.) AIFA. His address: P.O. Box H, Vernon, CT 06066.


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