Sep 04 2023
Cultivating genuine relationships with prospects and centers of influence
By Therese Panganiban
Most financial advisors have found prospects and centers of influence working primarily within prominent or affluent circles. However, Christianne Santos, a one-year MDRT member from Quezon City, Philippines, has met them by working with people from all walks of life.
Before stepping into insurance, Santos was balancing her day job at a social good renewable energy company with her projects as the sustainability director of a non-government organization (NGO) she co-founded as a teen to empower underprivileged youth through education and church volunteer activities. Despite her full plate, Santos embraced the world of financial advising because she recognized the potential of life insurance to empower and protect individuals economically.
Santos's "Insurance, assurance, abundance" mission statement reflects her commitment to support clients through life's challenges and her vision of enabling them to enjoy the good the world has to offer. However, her journey into financial advising was challenging. Initially hesitant to approach her network for insurance prospects, Santos feared being judged as unfocused and trying to do a lot. A pivotal moment changed her perspective.
A tragic lesson on the value of persistence
As a rookie financial advisor, Santos reached out to a colleague she thought would have disposable income as the spouse of an overseas Filipino worker, only to be declined. Santos was worried about being seen as pushy and decided to step back. Unfortunately, soon after the pandemic spread, her colleague succumbed to COVID-19 complications and struggled to pay the hospital bills. During her colleague’s final days, Santos drew from her community-organizing training and poured her efforts into raising funds to help her, but it was not enough.
Santos reflects, "I regretted not being able to persuade my colleague to consider life insurance. Her family would not have to suffer financially on top of the pain of her loss. While fundraising can contribute thousands of pesos, life insurance coverage, which can be in the millions, is much more helpful especially with critical illnesses." This became her “Why” — a driving force urging her to integrate her financial advising into her identity.
Becoming and bringing your whole self as a financial advisor
She first turned to family, friends, schoolmates, and professional contacts to find prospects and centers of influence that led to a diverse client base. Despite her initial concerns, she discovered they appreciate her holistic self-expression and development. Because she has established her sincerity and integrity through her various relationships and community involvements, people trust that she would bring these attributes into her financial advising, which made them happy to endorse her to others.
Her immersion in social impact gives her a unique focus when meeting prospects and centers of influence. She tries to connect primarily with potential clients from vulnerable sectors who might need insurance more in the event of illnesses, emergencies, or disasters. Even if she cannot close the sale, she considers it a win because they have gained more financial knowledge about preparing for unfortunate circumstances. She has also convinced fellow financial advisors to join her for the financial literacy classes she arranges in the communities she serves, with the most recent one held for women and youth in Smokey Mountain, an impoverished neighborhood in Manila.
Her background as a social worker imparted invaluable skills that helped her enlighten and convert prospects into clients. Santos says it trained her “to have empathy, engage in active listening, and meet people where they are and build from there." Additionally, her project management acumen, budgetary discipline, communication skills, and devotion to lifelong learning defined her standards of professionalism.
The lifeblood of social work and financial advising
For Santos, financial advising isn't transactional; it's about nurturing enduring relationships. She maintains regular contact with clients and centers of influence, celebrating their milestones and sharing in each other’s mundane moments. She prioritizes connections, meeting them during her personal time to keep these relationships current. Beyond her expertise in life insurance, Santos goes the extra mile, connecting individuals with other advisors for their non-life insurance needs. “My network is their network.” During the pandemic, she helped find gig opportunities for those who needed additional income to make ends meet, establishing herself as a center of influence for them.
While financial advisors are used to doing favors for prospects and clients to deepen relationships that they hope can blossom into future contracts and referrals, Santos applied a secret from social work that can be surprisingly effective. "Asking people for help in different aspects of your life is an underutilized approach for financial advisors,” she notes. “Offering people the opportunity and power to do good for others makes them feel good about themselves and appreciate the deeper purpose of life. Then show up and prove that you are doing right by them.”