Terry Zavitz, president of Zavitz Insurance and a living benefits specialist, says her experience has taught her that specialization and focus on a particular market leads to sales success. If advisors and their support staff deeply understand their clients’ needs and the products available to meet them, then “your competition decreases and you are able to do a better job,” she says.
An example of how she applies this specialization philosophy is that she hired a planner to take care of financial and retirement planning for clients. This planner is on salary to avoid conflicts. The financial plans are presented to the advisor who makes the risk assessment with regards to insurance.
Another example is that her firm has systematically stayed away from investments “because we believe that insurance and investments are two skill sets.” Instead, she prefers to work in coordination with other advisors, such as the client’s accountant, lawyer and investment advisor.
“We say we’re like a wheel and the client is at the hub of the wheel and each one of those spokes represents a different advisor to the client. We call that methodology Partners in Practice.”
Knowledge and soft skills
John Jordan, a certified financial planner, teams up with investment advisors as an insurance specialist who comes in to work with their clients. To be successful as a specialist, the key is a combination of knowledge and soft skills.
“Depth of specialty is not just the technical aspects of things, we also look at the personal attributes, the soft side – listening to the client and letting the client tell their story.”
Clients today are increasingly savvy and may ask surprising questions. The specialist has to be ready to give the right answer without fumbling or stumbling, or they may lose the case. “You've got to be able to take a product, rip it apart, blindfold yourself and put it back together and know exactly how it's been done and all the concepts and strategies.”
Once you show that you know your stuff, you will also gain the investment advisor's trust. When you gain trust, you have opened the door to future joint business opportunities.
Dave Patriarche, founder of Mainstay Insurance Brokerage, is an employee benefits specialist in the SME market, who says his definition of success may be a little unusual. “I define it as having a business that allows me to, first of all, be flexible, to avoid a commute, to be here for my kids, to help some family members through some difficult challenges, to have a healthy work life balance and a bunch of that involves sailing.”
Last year he took 12 weeks of vacation and he has enjoyed sailing in many beautiful destinations. “To me that has huge value. Could I have spent that time developing the business more – yes. But, I wouldn’t enjoy it as much as I do.”
Patriarche says he also has fun working because he likes his clients and their employees. Having a client roster of pleasant clients did not happen by accident. He puts time into establishing trust and building relationships with the goal of working with clients over the long-term.
His overall business strategy? “Choose your clients wisely. Train them well. Over service them, stay in touch and then go sailing to retain your sanity and then repeat as necessary.”