LIFE AS A FINANCIAL PLANNER
Insurance Agents they used to call us, now its rebranded and comes with a sexier name Financial Planner. Well I started my career in 2006 as a Financial Planner aka Insurance agent with AIA. A highly reputable company then, still is i suppose.
I actually chanced upon the idea of joining as a financial planner because of my friend and army buddy Tan Gay Siong, Edmund. His manager was his cousin Kerwyn Yeo, at that time this guy was THE name in the industry. He was definately my idol, he was then drawing something around $20,000 per month, driving a BMW Z3, living the life !! I sure had my motivation to be on par or supersede him in terms of achievments in the company.
So there i was all convinced that im going to be a financial planner, but then lay a few obstacles called the M5, M9 and HI. Well if you are a financial planner you know what I’m saying, well for those who do not. M5 is a study on Rules and Regulations for Financial Advisory Services, M9 is a study on Life Insurance and Investment-Linked Policies and HI is a study on Health Insurance. Upon successfully aceing the exams for all three papers are you recognised as a certified Financial Planner whom people can receive financial advise from. It wasnt easy but I passed all first time through, I have had friends who took each paper 7 times each, thats a wopping 21 tries but you know what i still salute them for their determination.
So once you are a financial planner, you gotta set yourself up for business. Now comes the professional photo taking with a suit, selecting your business name for the Namecards, organising your files, folders and presentation kits. Then comes putting them all together and training how to present, there is a course that all newbies had to attend prior to meeting live clients, so all the know hows by experts will be shared, what to say what not to say will also be covered. It was pretty good handholding I thought.
But you know as much as the training and practise gives you that confidence, when I met my first client, happened to be my dad’s friend, I crashed. I stumbled and mumbled, tried my best to stay close to the script and “Know your customer” booklet but you know how clients work, they want to hear what they want to hear not what you have to say. Thats where the problem was, i wasnt prepared. I was only ready for a A — Z style presentation and not the B to G then to A then to R x 2, you get the idea. So that meetup didnt go too well, i apologized and told him i will bring my manager for our next meetup.
I did, and i was just awed at the way my manager presented, what i took 1.5hrs to present and crystalize was done in 30mins and he closed a deal ! I was like thats why you drive the BMW z3 and i take the MRT.
I brought my manager to my first 3 appointments, all were closed by him only a little on my part. But what i learnt over a span of 4 weeks were tremendous. I earned a total of $6,000 in my first month in business. That was a great deal for me. All of my customers were my friends and relatives and things were going great !
Second month I did another $5,000 with a further extended group of friends and relatives, it was great too !
Then it hit me, i didnt have anyone else to meet or sell to. Thought i’d run my phone book again to see those i didnt get to meet due to schedule but they started avoiding my calls or giving excuses not to meet to talk about insurance. I started getting that vibes that people are starting to avoid me for the fact that i sell insurance. Although there are a rare few of my clients who remind me how noble this job is, how important it is to have me to explain what plans are available and how it helps them give a peace of mind to know that they are covered. But the point was i was running out of numbers to call and talk to.
Then i was introduced to cold calling; a process of calling random people and telling them about the services you provide and try to clinch an appointment. Well i did hear about it, but i was afraid to do it in the beginning but now i had no choice. I was also introduced to taking surveys outdoors, I will ask to take a min from a passerby, asking him a few questions related to investments or health coverage and get him to leave his contact details to setup an appointment. Then I started out doing road shows, road shows usually has a fee to be paid to get involved due to the rental cost and other resources but that didnt matter as compared to the exposure and the number of leads I got. I would have done close to 15 road shows in that first year itself, as I kept doing it i got the hang of it, it started becoming second nature to meet someone, talk to them and fix an appointment. Conversion rate from appointment to a successful deal took time to get better. In the begining it was like 10 appointments to 1 closure, then i brought it to 10 appointments to 5 closure.
I often hear Financial Planners complain that this isnt for me, i cant do sales and all that negative stuff. In fact it had run in my mind a couple of times too, but the very fact that I withheld the test of time, with patience, practise and determination i understood that I can. I must be honest not everyone month was bountiful, there were months where i had $100 or even $20 of commision to survive on, those months were hard to get over as you are battling financial burdens as well as trying to meet more customers but after all that storm comes a gentle wind of victory.
Insurance in my opinion is a numbers game. The more you meet the more you close. The business has evolved over the years i must say but some fundamentals dont. Customers still buy the experience rather than your specialised advise. With the speed at which customers get their information from the internet, Financial planners have an onerous task of keeping up to date and reading a lot on financial news. Sometimes news just happens to be the conversational ice breaker, in some occasions thats the way they judge to see if you are well learned.
Customer care is still the key to retaining and receiving more referrals till today. I still remember how difficult it was for me to grow my customers database, and once it grew it was so difficult to stay in touch with those who supported you from the begining. From the clients perspective if you become too busy for them, they will forget you and once a new financial planner swings by, they take your clients away instantly. So building rapport and staying in touch to make that connection personal is still key.
With the help of softwares like Gifttag, www.gifttag.com.sg it becomes so much easier to be at one place and stay on top of your game. You can organise all that contacts, stay in touch with them, giving individual attention, and send gifts to them on their birthdays and sending them an sms on their seasonal celebrations all on auto mode. This frees up time to do the more important, farming and closing new deals. Customer care is still the core reason for most financial planners to survive, grow and flourish till to date.
I did a personal survey on the very successful financial planners myself to find out what do they do so differently that makes all the difference in their paychecks.
I noticed that all of them were very organised with their customers details, all of them knew their customers by name and they had all the details of their clients in an excel sheet, now in Gifttag, www.gifttag.com.sg
Secondly I learned that they are not afraid to ask for referrals. Who needs to be when they offer unparalleled levels of customer experience and service. They find sending gifts, greeting cards and emails as the holy grails of staying in touch and reminding their customers that they are there for them. They build an experience around them, so that customers can relate to it once they think of them. Now how will any customer think about choosing another planner?
Lastly, they have a very strategic schedule filled with activities ranging from farming, networking and exercising customer care. I noticed this is something that most financial planners dont incorporate in their course of work. Most of them only concentrate on sales, sales and just sales. One of these gurus told me, the trick to having such a schedule is to not tire your mind on that onething. Sometimes when you head on straight for sales, it just wont happen due to many reasons, take a break and do something else or you will tire yourself out and soon resent to the infamous “This is not for me” decision. I thought that was a bullseye when he mentioned it. Very true indeed, when somethings dont happen the way you want it to be, take a break and dont break yourself. Do things that can still be productive and maintain your energy to end the day on a positive note. You will come fresher and more motivated to challenge the next day. Some wise words from wise men.
Well thats pretty much my experience by being a financial planner, it was fun, rewarding and enriching