Vanessa Bucklin, an advisor based in Conrad, Mont., built her flourishing practice using a three-pronged approach: trust in herself, trust in the process of building relationships, and trust in paying it forward for future advisors.
Trust In Herself
After a 15-year career in agricultural lending, Bucklin, with three young children and a husband who runs their family farm, decided to take the leap into insurance at age 35. Given that she lives in a town of 2,500 where seven agencies already existed, the competition was fierce. Told countless times that she would never make it and that there was no room for another agency,
Bucklin did what she always does — got up each morning, ran for an hour to train for her next marathon, and then journaled her way back to self-confidence and calm. She obtained her property/casualty license and opened an independent agency. She quickly gained clients through her willingness to drive long distances and sit at kitchen tables and talk.
Bucklin soon sat for her life and health licenses and joined New York Life due to their training program and support for women who are changing careers. She hired new agents to handle the P/C side of her business while she focused on planning. Despite her expanding business and focus, Bucklin kept to her formula for success: focused effort, personal touch and sheer work ethic.
Trust In The Process
Bucklin kept with the same sales process she had learned early on — primarily focused on the personal touch with a focus on beating the competition in work ethic. “You get out what you put in,” she said. “If the training said make 10 calls, I made 12. If the training said meet for coffee, instead I brought coffee to the farmers in the field.” Bucklin was well known in her area as the mother of three who ran each morning, dropped her kids off at school, and then would drive seven hours to see a client for coffee. “Many of my clients don’t have time to sit at the kitchen table,” she said. “I meet them where they are. If they need to run the combine that day, I would ride with them and we would go through their financial plan.”
With many advisors moving to virtual meetings, Bucklin noted that although she does more Zoom meetings to cut down on the driving, Zoom is no replacement for in-person interaction.
“One of the things I routinely do is bring the farmers harvest lunches,” she said. “We sit around and snack while talking insurance. The trust I’ve built because I fit into their time and not the other way around is immense.” These personal touches are baked into the scorecard that Bucklin still follows each week.
“I practice Three Minute Miracles,” she explained. “Every day, my staff and I take three minutes to just reach out to someone and let them know that we are thinking about them. We do not do this for a new sale, for renewals, or to check in on updating a policy. We do this purely for goodwill.” Bucklin and her team credit their Three Minute Miracles program with building the deep trust that she has established with clients who bring referrals.
To get the word out about her agency using her signature personal touch, Bucklin takes on challenges many other advisors won’t touch, such as selling group policies in underserved populations. “You can’t sell whole life insurance in a 30-second Super Bowl commercial,” she explained. “Instead, I take the time to talk to large groups of people, which may or may not result in any new business. What it does do is open a connection to a real advisor who cares enough to listen. Inevitably, new business comes from someone in that group who remembered me talking, has just encountered a significant life event and needs help.”
Trust In The Industry
The last ingredient in Bucklin’s success formula is her belief in paying it forward in relationships. Every year, she hires an intern to get more people exposed to the insurance industry. “I pull kids up in high school and get them involved in the practice,” she said. “I don’t know if they will choose this as a career long term, but they will always have that seed planted about this as a career option.”
Bucklin also believes in giving back to the industry that has given her so much. She actively speaks to Million Dollar Round Table and NAIFA about the importance of bringing more people into the business and works with colleges and universities to get more insurance programs into the curriculum. “Insurance has had a bad name for too long. We need to be incredibly proud of what we do, and all of us need to get out there and actively and aggressively make a new name for ourselves while inviting more people in.