To find out what it takes to operate a thriving disability insurance (DI) practice, we recently interviewed NAIFA’s immediate past president John Nichols. The insights he shared with us should be top of mind as you seek to expand your DI practice.
NAIFA: You have achieved great success in the DI industry, have served as NAIFA president and have received lots of industry awards. What are some of the keys to your success?
John Nichols: The five keys to my success are:
1. Albert E.N. Gray’s book, Common Denominator of Success – which describes the formation and implementation of habits with a strong purpose (the “why”).
2. Having a mindset of daily victories, gratefulness and service to others.
3. LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman said it best: Successful people invest in themselves, their network and their industry. By doing this, you give yourself the best chance for success.
4. Successful people have a mission that never ends. They are always striving forward – miles to go before we sleep.
5. Successful people surround themselves with the people, resources, and programs they need to learn, grow and be held accountable.
NAIFA: What made you decide to focus your practice on DI insurance?
Nichols: A mentor and an accident led to my focus on the disability insurance market. The mentor encouraged me to specialize and become the best in the world in one area. That one area just happens to be DI insurance. So I studied, read the books, learned from other specialists, practiced and branded myself as a DI specialist. My disabling accident accentuated my passion and purpose, and it literally accelerated my activity. The results followed.
NAIFA: Briefly describe your first few years in the DI business. What lessons did you learn, and how have they shaped you as a businessperson and leader today?
Nichols: I learned that this is a numbers game. The more cases I worked on, the better and deeper my knowledge became. The more practice I had, the better I could share or teach, and position the story of income protection to my clients and prospects.
I also was willing to do joint work with other professionals, which led to bigger and better cases. In addition, I recognized the need for continuous learning. The industry and marketplace are always changing, so it is important to learn and adapt continuously. It is also important to learn from those outside the industry and to apply relevant strategies to your business.
NAIFA: Every business has its highs and lows. How do you stay motivated when things are not going your way?
Nichols: I remind myself of my purpose daily, and surround myself with people and programs that support my mission and purpose. Participating in industry associations is one way to do this. I also serve in the disabled community as a reminder of the value our products provide.
NAIFA: What is the best piece of business advice you have received?
Nichols: Serve others with all your heart, your resources and your mind. Also, make sure you have positive beliefs daily.
NAIFA: Who are some of the best prospects for DI insurance?
Nichols: Some of the best targets are millennials, and those in the technology field and in startup communities. The traditional markets – such as medicine, dentistry and law, as well as other service professions – are still viable.
However, I would not overlook the middle market if you are working in that market. Review your book of business and determine the best markets and prospects to leverage.
NAIFA: What is the most important thing you want readers to take away from this interview?
Nichols: The key to a successful practice is the relationship between the client and the advisor. So, work on being the best at building relationships. One concept I use is called positioning. How can I position myself within the company, the market, the industry, the community and the neighborhood so that people in these areas either ask me what I do for a living or what my firm’s brand is? The product sales will follow – you can always bring in a product expert.
Help your client upgrade their life and their benefits so that they can have a better life – one that will lead them to their dreams and goals.