You can easily spot Cleo Castillo – at Costco, the library or the checkout lineup at your local grocery store. He’s the friendly guy, chatting away with everyone in the queue. No one would ever guess he’s prospecting, asking each of the people three simple questions in an attempt to sell life insurance.
Do you have life insurance?
Are you Catholic?
Can we talk?
Originally a veterinarian in his home country of the Philippines, Castillo came to Canada in 1998 and worked in rural Manitoba as a veterinary technician. In February 2008, he was recruited as a field agent for Knights of Columbus Fraternal Insurance, the largest Catholic life insurance company in North America. Members of the fraternal order must be Catholic, while insurance products can be sold to a member or a spouse/relative of the member.
Many life and benefits advisors find prospecting to be one of the most difficult, sometimes tedious parts of the insurance business.
He told the Canada Sales Congress (CSC) in May that for him prospecting is as easy as standing in the free sample line at Costco, waiting in the doctor’s office or the queues at the grocery store – but never the express line.
Castillo said he used to make contacts with parents when he waited to pick up his kids from school. Now that they’ve grown up, he volunteers to pick up friends’ children, arriving 20 minutes earlier than school starts to chat with the other parents.
“Everywhere I go, I prospect,” he said. “Everywhere I go is a potential gold mine of contacts. Everywhere I go, I have prospects. When you think about prospecting – it’s talking to and asking people if you can help them.”
Castillo has a three-part philosophy about prospecting: 1. Be patient and have time to talk because if you are in a hurry, it won’t work 2. Be observant. For example: to strike up a conversation talk about what’s in the prospect’s grocery cart 3. Be adaptable and responsive.
Castillo said he treasures his clients and treats them well, asking them for referrals all the time.
To him: “Prospecting is not a burden, it’s a pleasure.”
Dr. Guy Baker learned early in his career that activity breeds activity when it comes to prospecting.
Even when the odd slump occurs, Baker says the best prescription for getting out of it is to call and go see a prospect.
“You’re not going to get momentum…unless you are actively pursuing prospects in all the things you have to do,” says Baker, founder and managing director of BTA Advisory Group in Irvine, California.
He has a formula: get two names every day to put on his list. In a month that comes to 60 names. Doing this over and over again provides a sound basis on how to prospect.
When you meet with a new client ask and listen to their issues, rather than talk about everything you know, he suggests.
“Are you a professor or are you a consultant? Professors want to tell you what they know – what they want you to know. Consultants want to find out what you know. And the secret to success in our business is to be a consultant.”
He suggested that advisors start every meaningful discussion with a question. Often they revolve around subjects like what will happen if they live too long, die too soon and become sick and deplete the family resources – all of which can be solved with the proper insurance product.
He cautioned against using an insurance industry illustration, saying they are a “trap” because people don’t understand the product. Instead, he said, ask people if they know how insurance works.
And while it may sound counterintuitive, Baker believes that insurance advisors should sell problems rather than solutions.
“If we sell solutions the problem is we get into an adversarial situation because we’re talking about costs and benefits and as the costs get heavier the benefits get lighter. So we have to argue with them about the benefits and show them how much more powerful the benefits are than the costs.”
While we live in a world of constant change, especially with ongoing technology, regulations and demographics, Joseph Jordan, a New York City-based speaker, author and behavioural finance expert, says advisors have a big foot up on robo advisors.
Advisors, says Jordan, build relationships, exude empathy and provide coaching, guidance, advocacy, meaning, experience and strategy.
“The machines can make things more efficient, a machine can enhance a client relationship but it can’t replace the client relationship. It has no empathy,” he told the CSC. “What I’m emphasizing here is that the future of our business will be built on our ability to create trust.”
Earlier this year, a survey conducted by Hennick Wealth Management showed that only about three per cent of Canadians who use financial advisors were dissatisfied with the services they received. The results are almost identical to a survey conducted last year, reinforcing the trust factor.
When it comes to prospecting, Jordan suggested that advisors set up a daily contact commitment schedule and stick to it.
The goal, he said, is not to sell, but to understand the needs of the client and generate trust.
“The more you prospect, the better you feel. The better you feel, the more you prospect. This is not just something you do. It’s a reaffirmation of faith – faith that you do something worthwhile.”
Choice, dignity, control
Sun Life financial advisor Brian Burlacoff learned the hard way about how a product can help someone.
A year ago June he noticed a lump under his armpit and was soon diagnosed with cancer.
Undoubtedly he was concerned, but there was one issue that he didn’t have to face.
“The one stress that I didn’t have at that time was financial stress. I knew that if I was to pass away prematurely I had significant life insurance; if my illness would be prolonged, I had disability and critical illness insurance. I had peace of mind.”
He also learned that critical illness insurance gave him choice, dignity and control, including the ability to go to a U.S. cancer treatment centre without fear of the US$375,000 price tag and have a vacation after he recuperated from chemo treatment.
“When we talk about our products to our clients, we have to talk about what they do…not what they are.
“Everything we do preserves clients’ cash flow. If a client passes away prematurely, that’s life insurance. If they get sick or injured, that’s disability, critical illness insurance. We even protect our clients if they live too long. That’s retirement funding.”