…Perform a Google search about the agent who you are consider buying from. Ask for a few referrals; visit their website and go to the Better Business Bureau to gain background on the individual.
As a part of our series about the “5 Things You Should Ask Before You Purchase a Life Insurance Policy” I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Williams, president and CEO of Brokers International.
A thought leader in the financial and insurance sectors, Mark Williams has been muscling his way up the ladder since age 16, when he went to a local business owner to ask for a job. He didn’t walk in with experience or a resume, but he did have guts and an enviable work ethic. Today, Mark is the CEO of Brokers International, earning his seat at the table every day and expecting others to do the same.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My entire family is in the insurance business. My dad, who is 80, has been an insurance agent his entire career. Mom owned a property and casualty agency. My sister is a wholesaler for an insurance company. My destiny was already written for me. Holidays are awesome in our house, because all we talk about is insurance!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting in the industry? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?
I’ve always been a very direct person. Early on in my career I was in a meeting with my peers, brainstorming marketing ideas. In response to someone’s idea, I said “That’s a really dumb idea. That will never work.” My teammate pulled me aside and said, “While you are often right, you have a really crappy way of delivering it sometimes.”
She taught me that day that there is a better way to deliver hard news than sheer bluntness. At the end of the day, the truth isn’t effective if it isn’t received, and learning to communicate with empathy and emotional intelligence is huge in being not only heard but developing into an effective leader as well.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Getting people to seminars through social media is something we’re seeing great success with. The cost is relatively low and it puts our agents in front of potential clients when meeting face to face is challenging — if not impossible.
From a more personal perspective, I’m also excited about my new book, “Lead, Don’t Manage.” As with many other people, I found myself looking for new projects during the pandemic; my hope is that the book will provide guidance for people looking to step up their leadership abilities. It will be out early in 2021, and I can’t wait to get a copy in my hands and see how it can help others grow.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lessons that others can learn from that?
I started listening instead of talking. Years ago, I read a book about intentional listening that was transformational in my personal and professional life. I began to talk less and listen more. I’ve learned that asking questions and listening well is the secret to building long-term, meaningful relationships.
What advice would you give to other people in the insurance field to thrive and avoid burnout?
You must be willing to meet as many people as possible. Opportunities come from people you engage with. The more you can engage with people, the more opportunities will come your way. Even introverts can excel at this. Learn how to be comfortable meeting people and introducing yourself — it’s the key to sales success because it creates an everlasting well of contacts and leads.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our discussion. As an “insurance insider”, you know much more about insurance than most consumers. If your loved one wanted to buy a policy from another person, which 5 things would you advise them to find out about before committing to a policy? Can you give an example or story for each?
First, perform a Google search about the agent who you are consider buying from. Ask for a few referrals; visit their website and go to the Better Business Bureau to gain background on the individual. Second, look for ratings on the companies the agent is selling policies for to ensure the products you are being offered are good ones. Third, understand why the agent is recommending the products they are. For example, there is term insurance, permanent insurance and insurance that provides permanent value. Each one can be sold individually or together. I would encourage them to understand how each product would fit with their lifestyle and financial portfolio. Fourth, they should learn if they will be able to increase or decrease the face amount of the life insurance policy in the future, as many policies allow for that. Fifth, I’d want them to know what would happen if they cancelled the policy or didn’t need it anymore. Specifically, what happens to the money they paid into it? Some policies allow you to recoup cash value while others return none. The difference between those types of policies is similar to buying a car vs. renting one.
Insurance agencies or companies are often known to be very creative and innovative marketers. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
There are a few insurance companies that displayed fantastic marketing by running a commercial on TV. Right before the end of the story, the commercial stopped. If you wanted to find out the ending, you had to visit the company’s website to enjoy three or four alternative endings. It was a phenomenal strategy to engage potential customers and attract them to your brand. It was a really creative take on a traditional advertising method that I think can still inspire agencies today to push the envelope on their advertising strategies.
At Brokers International, we plan to use my book and speaking engagements to drive awareness of our corporate brand. Look for executives at your company who are willing to do the same.
I often tell agents to do two things to drive local awareness of their practice. First, become a Toys for Tots drop off location. It’s free and generates goodwill. Second, I tell the agents we help, people love pictures. Find a good, young photographer who’s willing to offer their service for a reasonable price. Set up a free family photo day at your office and invite the community. Offer a few photos for free, and if anyone purchases any additional photographs, donate the proceeds to a charity in their name. The photographer enjoys exposure, you market your business and the people who show up gain something of value as well.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
While numerous people have been instrumental in my life, the most influential is my father. A consummate salesman, every day is an opportunity for him. Every day he is convinced that he is going to make a million dollars. He taught me the value of meeting people with a handshake and a smile. He was the first person to walk me through call reluctance and overcoming common sales obstacles. He taught me that every problem is an opportunity for growth and that failure is the best teacher. For him (and now for me), every mistake is one step closer to success.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
While I may not have a movement, per se, I’m a firm believer in kindness and goodwill being good for everyone. I love the movie “Pay it Forward,” because I believe it has a beautiful message. I believe a rising tide really does lift all boats and that one of the best ways to improve your own life is to do what you can to make someone else’s life better. The old Liberty Mutual commercials that showcased strangers helping strangers from peril in simple ways really communicated the heart of insurance. In the financial world, there’s not a product that personifies that philosophy of helping others better than life insurance. It’s one of the few things you can buy in life to show the people you care about your love and provision for them.
How can our readers follow you on social media?