This is part two of a two-part series.
Asking the right questions may challenge the ol’ boy mentality when young advisers pitch a prospective client, but how do these advisers get these employers to take them seriously in the first place? To counter the appearance of youth and inexperience, they have to telegraph maturity and credibility before they even walk in the door.
The first step is to know your audience, says Mark Fox, vice president of the Collateral Benefits Group in Birmingham, Ala. When he first started selling benefits, that meant doing a fair amount of homework to gain an understanding of the prospect’s business.
“Before the meeting, I would do a lot of preliminary research about the prospect,” Fox says. “If it was a car dealership, I would read up about it along with any relevant news articles, and I would bring those up in conversation. That way I would appear professional with some knowledge of their industry.”
But the 26-year-old did more than just read. He would alter his style of dress to increase the comfort level of whomever he was meeting and grew a beard to make himself look more mature.
“I purposely grew out my facial hair because I wanted to make myself appear older,” Fox recalls. If I was dealing with a blue-collared industry client I wouldn’t wear a suit; I’d wear bright solid colored shirts, because it helped me better identify with the demographics at the type of company I was dealing with.”
Despite the advantage of being associated with his father’s firm, Derek Rine also had to change his look to acquire meetings with prospective clients.
“These employers know if you’re wearing a cheap suit,” says Rine, now a vice president at David Rine Insurance of Cleveland, Ohio. “For a meeting with a white-collar professional, you have to dress to the max – suit, tie and even throw in a pocket square if you have one.”
Using a mentor
Something else that Fox and Rine agree on is that, regardless of the prospect’s background, young advisers are more likely to acquire the business if they are accompanied by an older colleague.
Rine confides that he would bring a carrier representative to his meetings just to have an older face in the room. “If I had someone in the room with a little more experience, that gave me more credibility,” he acknowledges.
Fox took a similar tack, using his former boss from Aflac as a mentor and sounding board to help him refine his sales pitch.
“I asked him a ton of questions when I first entered the industry. It was like having the cliff-note version of ‘How to be a broker,’” Fox chuckles. “Anyone who is younger and trying to push through good ol’ boy syndrome should definitely get a mentor and learn as much as he can from them.”
Like Fox and Rine, Braden Monaco entered the industry in his mid-20s with very little experience. Now a partner at Blue Horizon Benefits of Danvers, Mass., Monaco says there is a synergy between a young broker’s business model and his firm’s reputation, and that working with an established firm can give him an edge.
“Being a part of an established firm provides credibility for a new broker entering the industry,” Monaco notes.
Brian Tolbert, benefits practice leader at Bernard Health, says the key takeaway for any young benefits adviser is to not be afraid to make use of the traits that set him apart from the older crowd.
If a young broker shows up at a meeting and pitches good service just like all the other brokers, Tolbert agrees the more youthful broker will lose every time. But if he takes advantage of the new things he has to offer, then the outcome can be entirely different.
“If you look different, talk different, sound different and your ideas are different, then you should lean on it,” Tolbert says. “It’s important to call out the incumbent and point out that 20 years of experience can be having just one year of experience 20 times,” he adds. “I think you can really call into question the validity of all that experience, if that is all these older brokers can come up with.”
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