After 34 years selling insurance, Lowen Rosenthal has learned a thing or two about the art of selling. He has even found renewed vigor and passion in his work by taking on the role of mentor to his son Peter.
Mr. Rosenthal is owner of Westmount, Quebec-based Rosenthal Life Group Inc. His son Peter Rosenthal joined the firm in 2005. Mentoring Peter has made Mr. Rosenthal reflect on how to develop the necessary sales skills to make it in the industry.
"To be a great salesperson is to be able to build relationships with people," says Mr. Rosenthal, who is a Million Dollar Round Table Top of the Table advisor.
"To be good in sales is only one ingredient. There are so many factors involved with selling a product. Education is extremely important. Knowing how to evaluate a prospect is important; who to call is crucial; what to say on the phone in order to get an appointment; how to evaluate your surroundings with the person you’re in front of; how to deal with clients, and how to warm up to them and have them warm up to you; and how to find out what their needs are. It doesn’t happen over night."
For over thirty years, Mr. Rosenthal has had new experiences to learn from and varying challenges to test and hone his knowledge. "To meet new people is a challenge. To be able to deal with them and make new friends is very satisfactory." He says this includes fostering relationships with prospective and current clients, as well as building workable relationships with insurance companies and underwriters.
When asked what his greatest successes were, he didn’t say qualifying for Top of the Table. Instead, he spoke of his dealings with people. "Everyday is a success. Talking to people, to me, represents being successful."
All the effort and all the little victories are now paying off. When he first started his business, Mr. Rosenthal was working 12 to 14 hours a day trying to see as many people as he could. He found that if he made ten calls he would usually get three appointments and from those three appointments he would make one sale. Now when Mr. Rosenthal contacts someone he finds he has a 75% chance of making a sale.
"Most of the people I call are receptive to me because of the way I call them, the tone of voice, the questions and the way I try and get an appointment."
Developing these people skills has not been easy. Mr. Rosenthal’s response to what was his biggest challenge was the same answer he gave for his biggest success: people – both his clients and from the insurance companies.
Over the years he has made some mistakes, but has learned some valuable lessons: how to be non-confrontational, how to deal with different personalities, how to not get frustrated and, most importantly, how to listen. "In a nut shell, learning how to solve problems with honey rather than with acid."
How does one acquire such people skills? Mr. Rosenthal answered with a golf analogy.
"When you play golf – if you hit a nine-iron five times a day as opposed to once a week, you’re going to get better at hitting a nine-iron.... It’s the same example. If you’re meeting people on a regular basis you get to learn how to deal with these people."
One technique Mr. Rosenthal uses is to not take a briefcase into first meetings with prospective clients. He always makes sure he is nicely dressed and goes with the sole purpose of finding out about the person.
Another important consideration when dealing with new clients is doing thorough research. "Get as much information as possible," he advises. Most of Mr. Rosenthal’s clients are people he knows or people who have been referred to him. Before he calls someone for the first time he makes sure he has as much information about that person as possible. "Before I make that call I’m going to know who I’m calling."
To direct his endeavours, Mr. Rosenthal sets monthly sales goals; he considers annual goals provide too much pressure. He also plans his months and weeks in advance. Every Friday morning he spends a couple of hours preparing for the week ahead.
While Mr. Rosenthal found he had a natural flair for selling, it was not always his main pursuit. After finishing school, he did an MBA at York University in Toronto, which lead to a job as a research analyst with a stockbrokerage. When he saw the 20 or so brokers in the firm having more fun and earning more money than he was, he was lured into the world of sales and hasn’t looked back.
While doing an MBA would not be considered the normal route to the insurance industry, what he learned has proved invaluable for both developing his business and in sales.
"Anything you can do to enhance your education and put you a little bit ahead of most other people is beneficial," he said. "It also allows you to be able to deal with your clients in a much more sophisticated and easier manner."
The most important attribute to have in sales is passion, states Mr. Rosenthal.
He says that at this stage in his career and life, money is not a motivating factor. His passion for people and drive to succeed are what keeps him going. He strongly believes that with these fundamentals he would succeed in any business.
"To be successful is to get up in the morning and be happy with what you’re doing. I love what I do… I’m in great shape and I’ll do this for as long as I can."
He recalls that during the three or four years before his son Peter joined the business in 2005, his interest was wavering. When he began mentoring his son, Mr. Rosenthal was re-inspired. The results speak for themselves. Last year was the best year Mr. Rosenthal has ever had.
"[My son Peter has] made me have more desire in my own business, to build my own business to another level I never intended to build. The fact that he’s with me gives me creativity and ambition to do even better."