By no means would I consider myself an elder statesman of the Life Insurance world, but more and more I am finding myself being introduced to newer/younger advisors as an asset. When someone asks me for advice I am floored and humbled.
I am floored because I consider myself a failure in Life Insurance sales. The four and a half years I spent as an advisor felt like a constant battle to make minimum production goals while struggling to distance myself from the label of “Insurance Salesman”. Fortunately for me, a few of the established advisors at my firm were happy to offload the grunt work of illustrating, planning, underwriting, etc., in exchange for a few percentage points on applications. This gave me an unbelievable amount of experience I could have never dreamed of getting on my own.
The reason I am humbled is that I likely have some form of imposter syndrome (self-diagnosed). I have had the fortune of being surrounded by actuaries, attorneys, advanced markets personnel, executives, and a list of accomplished professionals that is nearly endless. Then, there is me, a guy who could barely spell Life Insurance a decade ago.
So, I have now been introduced as an asset and the person I am introduced to starts asking me questions. When it invariably gets to advice I usually answer with the following:
- The best advice I ever received was to always be a student of Insurance. This is an industry with an incredible amount of diversity and complexity where things change regularly: Products, regulations, plan designs, etc. If you sit back and plan on doing the same things tomorrow that you do today, you will fail.
- Always ask the questions you are thinking. This is my first answer when I am asked how to be student of insurance. I cannot tell you how long it took me to understand split-dollar arrangements. Then, when I finally thought I understood them, I learned that I only knew about Endorsement and not Loan Regime.
- You have no competitors. This is one that I had to learn on my own. To most people, this sounds silly, if not, it sounds counter-intuitive. Here is why it isn’t. First, as I mentioned earlier, I could never replace the experience I gained working with older advisors who were – theoretically – my competition. Second, some of the best education you can get is when you have a meeting with a client or prospect, and they show you what they have purchased or have been proposed. This is a great time to see how other people give advice, what types of products are out there, how they are being sold, how older products are performing, etc. If the client goes with someone else’s advice, find out why, see if it is something you can replicate (provided it is honest and good). The best advisors I know have camaraderie with those who are their “competition”.
The last point I like to make is how much I respect what they are trying to do – what all advisors try to do. I know how hard it is to succeed in this industry. How embarrassing it can be to call on your “Project 200” (or whatever your firm calls it). How disappointing it is to work on a case for months and then have it declined in underwriting. What it feels like when you present a concept to a prospect and then find out that you lost the case to nepotism, but they loved your idea so much, their nephew copied it to a “T” for them. And that I am happy to help them with anything I can do to help make the “hurt” hurt less.