A young Stephen Mathieu began his financial services' career by finding a smart guy who could teach him the business.
That guy was named Bill Walsh and he had qualified for Top of the Table the previous year. Walsh eschewed Mathieu's lunch offer, instead inviting his protege-to-be to join him on a 5 a.m. run on the Villanova track in Philadelphia.
Walsh was 65 years old at the time and could run a mile in under 9 minutes, recalled Mathieu today during the NAIFA Performance + Purpose virtual convention. The older man delivered a lesson without a word about life insurance, annuities, or any financial discussion at all.
"I thought I was in pretty good shape," said Mathieu, president of Legacy Financial Solutions in Manchester, N.H. "But I gotta tell you, there was a lot of huffing and puffing going on."
When the runners finally did get to the shop talk, Walsh explained how hard work equals success in financial services. It's the "law of large numbers," he told Mathieu.
"Even if you're an idiot, he says, if you're persistent and you keep going you've got to make money sooner or later because the law of large numbers dictates that you're going to get some hits here and there," Mathieu said.
Mathieu, who ran an unsuccessful auto parts store in Trenton, N.J. before changing careers, spoke about the need to get referrals. As any good agent knows, the line between long-term success, or short-term failure is often the ability to generate referrals.
And it is hard, Mathieu conceded.
"I know sometimes you feel really squeamish about doing it," he said. "I think, for me, the toughest part of my job is asking for it. There were a number of times where I walked out of the house and I was kicking myself because I didn't ask for the referrals."
Ideally, you want to target your 10 best clients for referrals, Mathieu said. To be successful, he shared a few things he has learned in 35 years in financial services:
First impressions. A seamless onboarding process makes a huge first impression on a client, Mathieu noted. Asking the right questions, being professional, and making the client feel comfortable are all crucial.
"It's pretty critical that all these things are done right the first time," Mathieu explained. "And if you do them right the first time, it's extremely helpful. And it creates a great lasting impression."
Ease of doing business. Can clients access their accounts online? Or schedule meetings with you online? Are you generally easy to get ahold of in their time of need? All of these things fall under common sense, customer service. But those things matter when people talk about you to other people, Mathieu said.
Create a wow factor. Mathieu gives out a quart of maple syrup to every client. It's something they cannot forget if they tried. As the old saying goes, "people don't remember what you say, but they remember how you made them feel."
"I can't tell you how many times people come in and say 'That maple syrup was awesome. It's all gone,'" Mathieu said. "And I'll say to my assistant, 'Hey, go to the closet and get him another jug of maple syrup.'"
Have a team trained in customer service. Mathieu has two offices and five people and he preaches customer service to all team members.
"When somebody walks through that door, whether they do business with me or not, I want them leaving better off than they were before they walked in," Mathieu said. "I can't tell you how many times we've had referrals from people that never did business with us simply because we treated them with decency and respect."
Deliver what you promise. If you don't know the answer to something, tell people you don't know, Mathieu said, but you will find out.
"Always be honest with them," he added. "Always be accountable for your actions or whatever recommendations and be that valuable resource for your clients."
'Strong Self Image'
Those tips must be accompanied by a "strong self image," Mathieu said. Breaking into financial services and building that book of business take time and it is a hard road. As Bill Walsh told him, the young advisor will be "grossly underpaid" for the hours he or she puts in.
Later on down the road, however, the advisor is "grossly overpaid" for their work, Mathieu said.
The key is believing in yourself and augmenting a strong self image by reading and listening to mentors through books, podcasts and other means, Mathieu said. Likewise, you want to associate with industry people who have been there and made themselves successful, he added.
"You really have to have passion, and you have to set goals for yourself," Mathieu said. "If you don't have the passion, and you don't set goals for yourself, it's not going to happen. You've got to realize that I want to achieve something."
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Editor John Hilton has covered business and other beats in more than 20 years of daily journalism. John may be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @INNJohnH.