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Making the jump
Making the jump

Jan 03 2023 / Round the Table Magazine

Making the jump

Top of the Table members share how they moved from Court of the Table to the next level.

Topics Covered

There are no easy answers when it comes to success. But there are answers.

After reaching out to Top of the Table members around the world about how they elevated their businesses from Court of the Table to Top of the Table, they shared what were the biggest challenges preventing them from moving to the next level and what were the most significant changes they made to overcome those difficulties. These are some of the insights we learned.

Members included

Robert Cullen, FSCP, MBA, an 11-year MDRT member from King City, California, USA
Nektarios Karkotis, CFP, B Econ, a six-year MDRT member from Perth, Western Australia, Australia 
Craig L. Kirsner, MBA, a six-year MDRT member from Coconut Creek, Florida, USA
Corey A. Metz, CLU, a 23-year MDRT member from Dallas, Texas, USA 
Reem Shukha, a 10-year MDRT member from Nazareth, Israel 
Glen Wong, an eight-year MDRT member from Hong Kong, China 

Driven by systems

Cullen: When I reached Court of the Table, it was the result of putting systems and processes in place. I realized that if I aimed a bit higher, it wouldn’t be too difficult to make the jump to Top of the Table. So, the biggest challenge? Myself! I knew if I pushed myself and stuck to a system, I’d reach Top of the Table. I reached it in 2018 and have made it every year since.

Karkotis: Needing the mindset to continue the hard work. I had diligently tracked my prospecting in considerable detail and made it into a game, which motivated me to make one more call, send one more email until it became the norm and resulted in pleasing returns. Then I got tired and bored and treated it with less fun and enthusiasm. It became less of a game when the results started drying up.

I went back to my original goals and why I set them to confirm whether they meant the same to me and held the same importance. Then I stepped back and looked at my tracking spreadsheets and realized the amazing results and information I had been able to gather about myself, my prospects and my clients in those numbers, words, notes and graphs. Checking in with myself, I realized my best results happened when I didn’t take the results as seriously but instead had fun through calling, emailing, chatting with people and refining my words. When I took it less seriously and personally and had more fun, the results came in spades. Check in with yourself, track your progress, keep it fun.


Kirsner: Seeing enough high-net-worth (HNW) clients.

Metz: I cast too wide of a net for a large part of my career. I recast the net to a micro-subset of people who would go to Mavericks professional basketball games, have cocktails, come to webinars. If I had done that sooner, I think
I would be more successful. I think the casting of the wide net was great when I was young, but if I had to do it again, I would have dug down to relationships reactive to me and dug deeper quicker. 

I stepped back and looked at my tracking spreadsheets and realized the amazing results and information I had been able to gather about myself.
—Nektarios Karkotis

About eight years ago, I decided to drill down on my 100-person list and dig into the 20 people who were reactive to me and would spend time with me. I have since drilled down and created a subset list of three or four CPAs, attorneys and money managers I concentrate on who I actually have built relationships with over time. Since that point, I’ve had very good success with certain CFPs in town who have sent me large deals, and I have very tight relationships with many attorneys as well. That’s been the key ingredient: center of influence (COI) structuring. One thing I’ve also done is set a goal to have six COI connections per month. This could be a breakfast, a lunch, a seminar or webinar I hosted, or a Zoom call. Whatever it is, I have six connections per month with a COI, and I track them in my notebook. I’ve been doing that for a few years. Just today I referred a nice deal to an attorney I’ve been working with for two years. I referred this guy two large clients, and I know for sure if insurance came around, this attorney’s going to think of me now. I track everything I do, and I’ve zeroed in on these people, so I communicate with them more.

Cultivating COIs

Metz: COIs are a big deal. A long time ago, I created a list of COIs: attorneys, CPAs, CFPs, money managers, property and casualty, and even private equity. I created a list of all the people I knew, and for several years I went after the large list, which was probably 100-plus deep. I sent them newsletters or industry updates or ideas from time to time and would send it to each group depending on which group mattered. I would also invite them to webinars. As time went on, I realized the 80/20 rule is more effective. 


Shukha: It took a lot of effort to get to Court of the Table, and I thought that this was enough and that I could rest. But I found out I can’t stop because I can’t keep the level of Court of the Table without continuing to work hard and thinking of many other new ideas that can help me boost sales and find more clients. So, I can say that the biggest challenge was myself!

Wong: Some people may say it’s the network, the quality of your prospects or the knowledge. I’ve always said these are important pillars for getting to Top of the Table, but the keystone of this is belief. It’s the belief that whatever happens and however much time is left, we still believe we are at the Top of the Table level. We believe we deserve to have success.

Continuing to believe is the toughest. To overcome these difficulties, I always have to be very aware of my self-talk and my state of mind, especially during challenging periods. Some of the things that have helped me are meditation, daily morning exercise, reading, self-affirmations, visualizations and reviewing my goals. I do these things from 5:30 to 7 a.m., and this morning routine has really helped me.

Target marketing

Cullen: A component of the system I put in place was a focus on assisting people enroll in Medicare Advantage, supplement and prescription drug plans. That’s a demographic of people who are retiring and helping them with Medicare easily opened the doors to having a conversation about their investments. People are so thankful for help navigating Medicare that they happily entrust me with their investments. Since both count toward MDRT, it’s helped me stay at Top of the Table the last several years.

Kirsner: We do dinner workshops to meet new prospects, and one of the best things we did was add an expert estate planning attorney to speak at our workshop. They discuss strategies to help keep the assets you leave to your children protected from divorces, lawsuits and creditor claims. They also discuss keeping your assets in your family bloodline. These are important goals of HNW clients, and that has made a huge difference in our practice, as many HNW clients come to our workshops to listen to the attorney. You must find the right attorney to work with, which is sometimes challenging. Generally, attorneys at big firms might not be a good fit; it’s better to find a firm with one or two estate planning attorneys who are usually more flexible to work with your clients on your terms as part of your team of planning specialists. The attorneys we work with are able to give our clients a discount on their estate plans, as we can save the attorney a lot of time, so it makes it easier for the client to choose our team approach.

Shukha: During the last 10 years, I realized that I need to strengthen my digital marketing and create more connections with my clients by using emotional signs to shortcut the distance between them and me to keep in touch and to be present at all the important events in their lives. So, I posted a lot of emotional campaigns, which can be SMS messages or social media posts celebrating clients’ major life events like marriage, the birth of children, those kids’ sweet 16 and much more. These strengthen relationships with clients and also generate a lot of leads that helped me raise my sales.