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From Generalist To Specialist: Strategically Creating Your Niche

When I was a new agent, I was perplexed every time I heard speakers at industry meetings talk about how much they love their careers. I was jealous because loving my career seemed entirely out of the question.

Then one day I realized I can choose with whom I work, what products I sell and what types of planning I execute. If I made different choices, I could find love for my career. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I discovered narrowing my focus and thinking mindfully about the work I consistently enjoy are the first steps toward developing a niche. The more you hone in on a topic, the more likely you will master it, positioning yourself as an indispensable source of credible advice.

How To Begin

You likely began your career as a generalist, working with every product you are licensed to sell to give yourself the best chance of survival in a competitive industry. This is a necessary stage in any new financial representative’s development. But the more areas you claim to be an expert in, the less credible you become and the harder it is to brand your niche.

To create a brand, we must establish what differentiates us over the competition and articulate our value proposition. So, if you want to be a generalist, build your brand around being the most unique generalist out there and leverage how that provides convenience to your clients: “We can provide a more coordinated approach because we have expertise in multiple disciplines relevant to you. Let us be your advocate, and we will work with other advisors as needed.”

From Generalist To Specialist

The top end of the market prefers to work with and be referred to specialists, which makes honing your expertise even more important. Our clients appreciate convenience, but not at the expense of expertise. Claiming too many specialties dilutes our brand and our client’s perception of our expertise. The key is picking the right practice area for you specifically and building from there.

Narrow Your Focus

Four criteria exist in your niche and they ideally align: credibility from claims experiences, demonstrated expertise from credentials or background, preferred professions and products.

Firsthand claims are the most effective way to explain the benefits of your advice to a prospect. Early in my career, I broke my leg playing soccer and made a disability claim. Although I didn’t need my leg as part of the job, I discovered the pain and exhaustion were enough to affect my performance.

I connected personally with and became an expert on the product. My claim story served as a point of reference for clients to realize it really doesn’t take much to disable you. While a personal connection is impactful, your claim story can focus on someone else, such as a client or friend. However you choose to frame it, ensure your claim story would move you if you were a client.

After you identify your meaningful claim stories, make a list of your three favorite products to work with and preferred professions for each. Perhaps you like to work with life insurance for business owners or disability insurance for physicians. If you have a claim story about the product and group you pinpointed, put a star by it. If you don’t, consider whether you enjoy the work you do with your product and market niche, and any adjustments you can make to create more personal connections and sales opportunities.

Brand Your Niche

If you have a niche, you know it. If you have a branded niche, your clients also recognize it and can reference it as a reason to conduct business with you. We need to brand ourselves as the expert or advisor of choice in our niches. Consider writing for insurance journals and referral source trades. Communicate your skills through these media to brand yourself as a credible specialist and receive public validation of your expertise. To leverage your exposure, tell clients you were quoted or wrote an article; consider adding an “in the news” section on your website or promote the content on LinkedIn.

Continue To Evaluate

Your niche can change as you progress through your career. Even now, I know it is time for a change in my niche to realign with my passions and expertise. For example, you may start volunteering and find you can build a business around working with the other volunteers in the organization or the constituents the organization serves. Continue to evaluate who you work with, what products you sell and what types of planning you conduct. When I strategically narrowed my focus and stopped trying to be everything to everybody, I found my niche, and I have been finding it ever since.

Brad Elman, CLU, ChSNC, CLTC, is a 27-year MDRT member and his life insurance practice focuses on business and estate planning. In 2013, Brad founded Special Needs Life Insurance Solutions, LLC, dedicated to helping families with developmentally disabled children plan for their financial security. Brad may be contacted at [email protected] [email protected].

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