I was on my way to one of the biggest appointments I had ever made. I had been a Financial Advisor for less than two years, so my manager suggested I bring our Regional Vice President. I had not even made the turn out of the office parking lot when I boasted that I was not a salesman, I was an advisor. He told me to pull over.
He looked me in the eyes and said, “If you are not a salesman, quit now”. I was shocked. Didn’t Prudential want advisors? Didn’t they want people who did their best to educate clients to make the best decisions?
He shook his head and asked me how old I was. “Twenty-five, why?”
“If you want to earn a living, anywhere, you need to understand that you are a salesman. Attorneys have to sell themselves, CPAs have to sell themselves, barbers have to sell themselves. Of course we want you to give great advice, but at the end of the day, if you don’t sell yourself to your clients, they will buy from someone else and you will not make it in this industry.”
A few years later I had another appointment that I felt was above my skillset. This time I brought a fellow advisor who I had (and still have) immense respect for. We had discussed the case at length and prepared several illustrations and concepts that we felt could be strong suggestions for the clients based on the information we had. We went to the client’s house, I opened up my folder with all the work we did and five minutes in the husband said, “Do we really need to go through all this? We just want some Term Insurance for now.” Before I could open my mouth, the advisor I had brought replied, “Absolutely not, we can take an application this evening and discuss your other options at a later date.”
When we got back in the car, I was mopey. “Why didn’t you push for more permanent coverage or tell him some of the planning we went through?” He explained to me that sometimes we are order takers. Fighting with a client or telling them what to do is not only an easy way to lose a client but you are likely leaving them under-insured. If they need real planning, there are other “advisors” out there constantly bothering them. If you bother them, they will not do business with you today, or in the future.
So, what happened?
The first meeting went great. The RVP I brought answered all the questions the clients had and really helped to close the sale. The other thing that stood out to me about that appointment was that due to Prudential’s company policy, he did have to walk outside the room during the application signing.
A few years after the second meeting, the advisor I had brought on the meeting said that the clients had called him up and told him they were looking for me and ready to start talking about deeper planning. He ended up writing a policy that was near identical to one of the ones we had created years earlier. He had offered to put me on the case, but I was worried about my NDA at the time and settled for a nice steak dinner to celebrate.
I know that “Salesman” sounds sleezy and no one wants to think of themselves as an “Order taker”, but we need to embrace the fact that being salesy and taking orders is part of our jobs. Sometimes, it is the part of our jobs that is the best thing for the client. “Selling” a client insurance that has none, is better for that client’s family than teaching them about the different types of coverage without taking an application. Similarly, letting a client dictate what they want – even though your experience tells you it is not ideal – is better than fighting with them and letting someone else walk in that may not have the client’s best interest in mind.
Amor Fati translates to “love your fate”. I interpret it as an instruction to embrace all the aspects of what we do. Sure, we all love giving advice – especially when clients listen and heed it. And yes, it can be very frustrating when our advice is ignored. However, I would argue that being the best advisor means understanding that even in situations where advice is not heeded, being involved with the client is better than not.