Nitin Gandhi’s journey from being a construction material retailer to one of the top LIC agents is a truly inspiring one. His mantra of ‘Meet People, Ask People and Stay with People’ has been the catalyst for his success. He set up his own LIC Agency in 1997 while working alongside in his shop, oblivious to the success that awaited him in the years to come.
“When I started in 1997 , I was not satisfied with the performance. So I used to give full time to my retail shop and I used to run LIC agency from my shop that too on a part time basis only. That continued until 2005. It was after that only I could venture into LIC agent job on a full-time basis,” he recollects.
These were the rudimentary but seminal years for Nitin as they helped him learn about the life insurance industry while constantly improving his understanding of the business.
Working hard to the top
“I took the life insurance agency because a friend, who was a Development Officer, needed more agents,” he says.
The initial years were tough since life Insurance is a push product in India, where customers have to be convinced about a purchase. It required a 360-degree approach from reaching out to a prospective customer and convincing them to buy the insurance cover.
Nitin then began his research to understand the needs of prospective clients and sharpened his selling technique for a life insurance product. “Indians believe it is okay to be dependent on their children post retirement. So, I had to explain to them the need for insurance, which most people think is the last priority. Therefore, I began to mould my pitches by understanding the gaps between what people’s actions and their needs and would accordingly try to convince them.”
And since he himself belonged to the business community when he started his career, he knew their requirements well. So Nitin focused more on business customers instead of salaried people, which made it easier for him to achieve his goal.
“When I look back at this journey I feel I have come a long way from being a wage earner to becoming one of the biggest agents for LIC,” says Nitin, whose initial monthly income was just Rs 5000.
The strategies that worked
Currently, he employs 4 people at his life insurance agency. Nitin became a Million Dollar Round table (MDRT) agent after 14 years in 2011 and continues to maintain this feat. MDRT is an exclusive forum for the world’s most successful life insurance and financial services professionals. Membership to MDRT (USA) is based on agent productivity and includes criteria for commissions and premium.
His next goal is a Corporate Club Membership (COT), where the commission levels are much higher.
Nitin says he has been able to grow in this field because he believes in selling plans based on the needs of his clients of which include income protection plan, pension plan, and child education plan. “The base of any investment pyramid is an income protection plan and a health protection plan. So, both are equally important.”
Nitin is a strong advocate of training and believes that they have enabled him to learn new techniques. “Training is a must for sharpening our knowledge and skills and even during the pandemic, we made sure that we attended every online training programme,” he says.
Policy-based performance implies that he tries to retain the existing policyholders by ensuring timely payment of renewal premium by them. At the same time, he also tries to woo the same policyholders to buy new policies, which helps increase his premium base.
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There is a balance between premium and commission. So, what does he do?
“Well, I focus on both of them,” he says, adding that he sells single-premium policies which give him a one-time commission. But the sale of other life insurance policies like term and endowment allow him to grow his premium base.
“Even if the returns are less by around 5 per cent in life insurance policies, the case with other financial products like mutual funds and bank fixed deposits are not different,” he says. Every sector’s return has gone down, Nitin explains to his clients. Also, he tells them that life insurance policies, which are normally meant for a long-term investment, also help a person achieve his financial goals like children’s marriage or their higher education.
His advice to aspiring LIC agents: “Keep working; don’t focus on commission, rather, focus on your work. Continue to meet new people and the money will automatically follow.”
LIC does offer policies online with some discounts. However, Nitin says that LIC can only offer products through its digital platform, whereas the agents provide complete and end to end life insurance solutions to their customers.
(Kumud Das is a Pune-based teacher and freelance journalist, who writes on insurance, banking and human interest stories)