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The Science of Selling

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Al Granum was born to sell life insurance.
 
Through his legendary One-Card System, he left a legacy of teaching others how to perfect what came naturally to him. 
 
Granum, who died at 91 in January 2014, left behind a system for selling insurance that remains universally accepted and used today.
 
Granum grew up in northern Wisconsin and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1943, simultaneously earning his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Life Insurance. 
 
After serving three years during World War II in the U.S. Navy, Granum began a long career with Northwestern Mutual. After just eight years as a life insurance agent, Granum qualified as a life member of the Million Dollar Round Table. 
 
He was appointed managing partner in Chicago in 1963, and his agency became the first office in the industry to write more than $150 million of new business in a 12-month period.
 
The agency ranked first in company volume and/or premium 37 times, and 42 of Granum’s 45 agents qualified as MDRT members. During this time, Granum conducted the research and developed the methodology for his famed One-Card System.
 
The “paper and pencil” system was developed in the 1960s (before computers and cell phones) as a way to keep track of activity, prospects and clients. It was designed based on his research and client-building philosophy to promote cultivating and maintaining long-term relationships. 
 
There are two main components of the OCS. The first is a system to help manage relationships. Granum used colored index cards to capture key information about suspects, prospects and clients. 
 
The system provided a reminder to call on birthday/life events, and provided a quick, at-a-glance reference of client interactions. Granum’s research showed there is a time lag between meeting with a prospect and purchases being made. 
 
Only 60 percent buy the first year, with 30 percent in the second and 10 percent in the third. The OCS created a system of follow-through to avoid missing out on 40 percent of the sales. By tracking prospects and clients, Granum turned client management into a predictable science. 
 
The second component of his OCS is a system for tracking activity. Granum created a booklet called “The Success Manual” to help representatives focus on the science of the business. Based on his 10-3-1 research, the manual provided a place to track and analyze daily activity.
 
This component of predictable relationships meant that the representatives could predict based on his/her activity what production would follow.
 
Another Granum system involved sifting and winnowing clients. Granum directed representatives to take an honest look at their client base to determine who met the definition of a client — someone likely to purchase again. This let reps identify the clients on which they should focus their time and efforts.
 
In June 2012, to honor his legacy and commitment to lifelong learning, Northwestern Mutual and The American College formally launched the Northwestern Mutual Granum Center for Financial Security. The center provides original, cutting-edge research, thought forums, webcasts and advisor resources.
 
Granum is the only person ever to be honored with the industry’s top three awards: the John Newton Russell Award from NAIFA for outstanding service to the institution of life insurance in 2002, the Solomon S. Huebner Gold Medal from The American College in 2003, and induction into the
GAMA International Management Hall of Fame in 1983.  
 

InsuranceNewsNet Senior Editor John Hilton has covered business and other beats in more than 20 years of daily journalism. Follow him on Twitter @INNJohnH. John may be reached at [email protected].


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