Tuesday, September 28

My aching head

Today didn’t rank as one of my better days.  About the only saving grace was that I did some canvassing reasonably close to home.  For much of the day I had a largely aspirin-resistant headache that was never quite bad enough to be incapacitating, but definitely was bad enough to be annoying.  The canvassing was relatively successful, as I set a couple of appointments for sales presentations next week.  Still, I would have liked an actual sale, to make up for yesterday’s Guaranteed Sure Thing that wasn’t.  For a bit of semi-comic relief, I had another policyholder yell at me over the telephone.  He was so loud and irate that I wasn’t able to find out why he was so angry.  Chances are he had filed a claim that got denied, there’s really nothing else that would cause such intense hatred, but he didn’t give me the chance to see if there was anything I could do to help.  His loss.

What with this headache, no gym tonight.

Published in: on September 29, 2010 at 10:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, September 27

Yep, it was anything but guaranteed

My expectations were pretty high today.  At 11:30 I had a sales call scheduled, and it was a Guaranteed Sure Thing.  Another agent and I had spoken to the prospective customer a couple of weeks ago while canvassing the area.  She had been very nice and quite interested in some of our policies.  Even though I’d be splitting commissions with the other agent it still promised to be a lucrative call.  Terrific way to start the week, right?

I left home about 8:10 for the regular weekly agents’ meeting.  Traffic on the Expressway was moderately heavy but moving, and I had uncommonly good luck at a traffic light near the office where I often get stuck for an eternity.  All this meant that I arrived over 20 minutes early for the 9:00 meeting and spent some time in the car checking my Twitter and Facebook accounts.  The meeting itself was fairly interesting, though I could scarcely wait for it to end around 11 so I could head off to the sales call.

When I pulled up to the prospect’s house the other agent was already there, and as we walked toward the front door the prospect came out with some news.  It was not good news.  Turns out that she checked her family files and found out that she already had more than enough coverage through her husband’s job.  Some of this coverage was actually with ABC Insurance.  She didn’t need anything else.  As we headed back to our cars the other agent said that things of this sort are an inevitable part of the business.  He didn’t seem perturbed, which makes sense because he had twelve other sales calls scheduled for the next few days.  I have fewer than twelve scheduled for this week, more specifically, I have zero scheduled.  This certainly gives me the right to be a bit perturbed.

The rest of the day did not bring any sort of redemption.  It was raining quite heavily at times, and I decided that canvassing would have to wait until tomorrow.  Instead I worked the phones for a lengthy period of time, trying to call active and lapsed customers to see if any would be interested in meeting with me.  Whether anyone would be interested I can’t say, because I ended up getting a nearly uninterrupted stream of voicemail.  All I can hope is that tomorrow will be more successful.  It hardly can be any worse.  And at least I’ve learned one thing, that until the application is signed and the check handed over, there is no such beast as a Guaranteed Sure Thing.

Oh, by the time I got to the gym, late in the evening, I was so worn out that all I could manage was to walk on the treadmill.  What a humiliation.

Published in: on September 28, 2010 at 5:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, September 25/Sunday, September 26

Didn’t go to the gym on Saturday, my motivation level not being the highest.  One thing I did do was clean out my car, which definitely had been on the fetid side.  Tip: Armor All car cleaning wipes do a terrific job.  On Sunday, I ran 2.1 miles on the treadmill at my usual 4.6 mph pace.  I’d like to do a total of eight to ten miles during the course of this week, which should be a reasonable goal as I’m taking the week off from doing weights.

Published in: on September 26, 2010 at 6:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday, September 24

Why “let me” is such a popular phrase

Let’s assume that you are somewhat cowardly and somewhat passive-aggressive, with “somewhat” being the key word.  Your cowardliness and passive-aggressiveness do not quite reach pathological levels.  “Let me” is the perfect expression for you, for use in one of those things I utterly detest hearing: Let me think about it, Let me talk it over with my wife, Let me check my schedule and get back to you. By using the “let me” phraseology you can fit comfortably into your “somewhat” notch.  This may be easier to understand by considering other ways of expressing the same sentiment.  Saying something firm and direct such as  I have to think about it/talk it over with my wife/check my schedule and get back to you wouldn’t be possible, as that would require more courage and less passive-aggressiveness than you have.  On the other hand, you have enough courage and non-passive-aggressiveness (is that a real term?) that you don’t have to resort to terminology as meek and non-assertive as Can I think about it/talk it over with my wife/check my schedule and get back to you. You’re in that middle ground where you can’t quite make a direct, assertive statement but aren’t so bad off that you have to seek everyone’s permission.  It looks like being in the insurance business for a few months has taught me far more about human nature than working at office-based jobs for years and years.  Of course, what it’s taught me about human nature isn’t necessarily a good lesson …

I did a bit of canvassing today but concentrated on telephone work.  Not much accomplished, as I’ve finally exhausted the last round of active and lapsed cards.  I’ll be getting a few more on Monday and a bigger pile toward the end of the week.  In any event, I’m relying a lot less on working the cards and more on canvassing.  There were a number of administrative things to do in the office, and I finished up around 4:30.  Thanks to yesterday’s high-commission sale it’s been a fairly decent week in money terms.  Hopefully next week will turn out decent too.

Gym: I ran 2 miles on the treadmill at my usual pace of 4.6 mph.  Most likely I’ll be taking a week off from weights, it’s been a while since the last time, and concentrate instead on running.

Published in: on September 26, 2010 at 3:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, September 23

Making it worthwhile

One thing about being in the insurance industry is that it may not take many sales at all in order for you to earn a decent amount of money.  And so it was for me today.  As I mentioned yesterday, I had set a solid-seeming appointment by telephone.  The customer, a 40-something woman in the central-eastern Suffolk community where I’ve been spending time lately, has had a couple of small policies for years but said she was interested in getting disability coverage.  Music to my ears, what with the nice commissions paid on that product.  We agreed to meet at her house in the early afternoon.  Now for a bit of gender-specific sales protocol.  If the customer had been a man, I would have strongly suggested that his wife be present.  Were I to meet with just him, it’s a very safe bet that he’d be unwilling to sign an application without consulting with his wife.  Either I’d have to come back, or depend on his convincing his wife that the policy would be a good idea.  Guaranteed she’d say no.  As the customer in this case was a woman, I had no qualms about meeting with her outside the presence of her husband.  If a woman wants a policy she’ll just go ahead and take it, she’s not going to say “let me check with my husband.”  Why the genders differ so radically in this respect, I’ll leave it to others to analyze.

In any event, I arrived at 1 pm as scheduled and gave my presentation.  It was pretty easy as I could tell that the customer was all set to buy right from the start.  It helped that she already had a disability policy through a trade organization, and it cost more than ABC Insurance’s policy while paying lower benefits.  To make things even nicer, I was able to sell a health policy as an add-on to the main disability policy.  My commission on this one sale is enough to give me a decent if unspectacular income for the whole week – a very handy thing, as my training salary has come to an end and I’m now on straight commission.  If I could average two sales of this type per week I’d be earning a very nice income.  Which is quite do-able, some of the experienced agents in the office are doing that, and more.  About the only downside of this sale was that the customer declined to give me any referral names.  I tried the so-called memory joggers (“Any co-workers or neighbors who might be interested in what [ABC Insurance] has to offer?”), without success.  Referrals are an excellent sales method, one that many top agents use with great success.  If I call a person and say that Mary Smith suggested I speak to them, my chances of making a sale go way up.  If nothing else, having a referral from a satisfied customer instantly establishes my credibility.

Because success begets success, as soon as I left the customer’s house I stopped at a nearby business, the owner of which has been considering buying a few smaller policies.  I was hoping that he’d finally come to a decision, and that it would be a “yes” decision (well, duh).  He told me that he needs a couple more weeks to decide.  It wasn’t one of these “let me think about it” passive-aggressive responses.  He instead was clear about why it was taking so long to decide, he was comparing ABC’s costs and policy terms with those from other companies to see what was the best deal.  Can’t argue with that.  I’ll check back in a couple of weeks.  In addition to these stops I spent some time trying to track down a policy applicant who hasn’t been cooperating with the underwriting department’s request for additional information.  She’s not answering the telephone or returning voicemail messages, and I wasn’t able to  find her at home.  What I ended up doing was leaving my card in her screen door, and wrote on the back that it was absolutely essential for her to call underwriting so her application could be processed.  If she doesn’t respond within the next week her application will be rejected, and my commission advance will be charged back.  Wonderful.

Gym: a strange session tonight.  I wasn’t in much of a mood to run on the treadmill, instead I decided to do some pull-ups after yesterday’s lack of success with them.  As a result I had what I believe is the first pull-up-only session in all my years of gym-going.  Neutral grip pull-ups: 4 x 4, 5 x 3, 6 x 2.  That’s 43 total, probably a record for a single session.

Published in: on September 25, 2010 at 1:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, September 22

Where have I heard that line before?

Today began with a fairly lengthy training session in the office.   I was a bit concerned about making it by the 9:00 start time, as I got a fairly late start leaving the house, but Expressway traffic was much lighter than I ever would have expected.  Where was everybody?  The training session was a pretty good one, as we went over the disability insurance product, which is basically ABC Insurance’s flagship product.  Not to mention the one with the highest premiums and highest commissions.  Following the training session I went with a manager and another agent to do some business canvassing in a reasonably affluent central Suffolk community.  I’m not a complete neophyte at business canvassing, as I had done a limited amount of it when I was at XYZ Insurance.  It hadn’t been successful at the time, which isn’t surprising because XYZ’s product line was pretty much limited to life insurance, something that’s hard to sell to business owners.  ABC Insurance offers many other products, especially the disability policy, which are more suitable for them.

The business canvassing went reasonably well, no on-the-spot sales (not that I was expecting any) but some decent leads for next week.  It also had a dose of humor, or bemusement to be more precise.  One of our last stops was at a rather upscale-looking restaurant.  The manager seemed interested, but said that any insurance purchasing decisions would have to be made by the people at the corporate office.  When I asked her for the location of the corporate office, she said that they were in the process of moving and “really don’t have an address right now.”  Something sounded familiar.  Later on it occurred to me – when doing business canvassing for XYZ Insurance some months ago I heard the very same “between addresses” line at another, completely different business.  This must be the business equivalent of The Dog Ate My Homework.  It’s a pretty lame excuse, too – since when does a business not have an address, even if they’re in the process of moving?

After the canvassing I spent some time trying to track down a few people, and then worked the phone for a while.  I set what sounds like a pretty solid appointment for tomorrow, and got a totally cliched brush off (“I’ll call you as soon as I get home and check my schedule”) from another person.  Really, if you’re too cowardly to say that you’re not interested, and feel compelled to lie, at least say something semi-original.  Deal?

Gym: I was very pleased with my bench press work.  6 x 135, 4 x 185, 4 x 205, 6 x 4 x 225, 4 x 3 x 225.  That’s 36 total reps at 225, I hoping to manage 10 x 4 before long.  After the benching I tried some neutral grip pull-ups, with limited success: 1 x 4, 4 x 3.

Published in: on September 24, 2010 at 3:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Tuesday, September 21

Overcoming fear

It’s an accomplishment.  Another agent and I spent several hours today doing home canvassing in a couple different communities.  What makes this different from last week’s canvassing is that the other agent is a newcomer too, in fact he started a week or two after me.  I couldn’t rely on him to step in if things got difficult, and of course it was the same way for him.  I’m glad to say that I was able to overcome my fears of home canvassing, in fact I may soon be able to do it completely by myself.  We got a couple of attitudes from people, but nothing I won’t be able to handle.  And most people weren’t rude or angry at all.  It probably helps that we use a neighbor’s/policyholder’s name at each stop.  After several hours’ of work we ended up with some promising leads, and best of all with an essential dose of courage.

Gym: a 2.4-mile run on the treadmill at my customary plod pace of 4.6 mph.

Published in: on September 23, 2010 at 12:35 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, September 20

Being a poster child isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Today began with the regular weekly agents’ meeting, and after it ended I spent a while talking with several experienced agents about my recent slump.  It was almost as if I was becoming an object of pity, sort of a poster child of the insurance industry.  It was a decidedly mixed blessing.  I mean, I really appreciate the way other agents were showing concern for my difficulties, but being pitied, even to a modest extent, isn’t so nice.  At least I got more useful advice, which basically comes down to following different activities as opposed to chasing down active and lapsed accounts as I’ve been doing.  One highly successful agent made over 100 stops at homes and businesses last week.  Not surprisingly, he also made some very nice commissions.  Another agent had a truly magnificent week, with something like $6,000 in commissions.  My best week so far wasn’t even half that much.  I guess this means I’ll have to shake off my fears about canvassing.  Hey, the worst that can happen is that people can tell me to get lost.

I didn’t actually do any canvassing the rest of the afternoon, as I chased down a few leads and did some administrative-type work.  Tomorrow’s going to be a much busier day, as another agent and I will be doing some extensive canvassing.

Other things to do tonight, so no gym.  That’s two days in a row, tomorrow I’ll have to be sure to go.

Published in: on September 22, 2010 at 2:44 am  Comments (2)  

Sunday, September 19

I was bad.  Didn’t go to the gym.  But I did some yard work, that should count for something, right?

Published in: on September 21, 2010 at 1:58 am  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, September 18

A discourse on my ego: can something that’s already been completely destroyed be damaged even further?

Today turned out to be a partial workday, as my manager texted me in the late morning and asked if I wanted to go on an appointment with him not too far from where I live. We got to the prospective customer’s house at 1:00 as scheduled, and – what a surprise! – no one was home.  For the next couple of hours we tried calling on some active customers in the area.  You’d think that Saturday afternoons are a good time to catch people at home, and you’d be wrong.  Not all was lost, as the manager gave me the lead cards for these people and I can try them during the week.  It’ll be nice having some calls just a short distance away.  Around 3:30 we returned to the house where we had the 1:00 appointment, and while the customer wasn’t home we were able to speak with his wife.  She seemed interested in the idea of his getting a disability policy.  He had been called away on an emergency job (he is in the home-repair business) but should be available on Monday evening.  Now, it’s best not to get too excited, as the wife also told us that earlier in the day he had been at the doctor’s office undergoing heart tests.  Any history of heart disease is an automatic rejection for purposes of disability insurance, though I don’t yet know the nature of the tests.

Oh, as for the further destruction of my already annihilated ego … a few weeks ago I had made a presentation to a 50-something couple, both of whom were interested in disability policies.  Given their ages and the large policies they were seeking, my commission could be in excess of $2,000.  Unfortunately, both gave us the standard “let us think about it” response, and after we left the manager (who had observed my presentation) said he had seen no buy signals at all.  Subsequent attempts at calling them have been voicemailed, and as they live in a gated community I can’t drop by unannounced to see them in person.

I decided to make one more attempt at calling the couple.  When the voicemail message came on I just hung up without leaving a message.  Shortly thereafter I got a text from their number asking “what’s up?”  They must have seen my number on their caller ID and wondered what it was about.  I immediately texted back, reminding them of the recent presentation and asking for a return call or text letting me know what they’ve decided.  It should go completely without question that no one bothered to respond.  Apparently, texting back “thanks, we’re not interested” is just too time-consuming for their busy schedule.  That sound you hear is my ego, plummeting into the Abyss.

Gym: leg day today, with another weight increase from last time.  Trap bar deadlifts: 4 x 6 x 265.  Seated calf raises: 4 x 10 x 160.  Precor leg extensions: 4 x 8 x 205.  Life Fitness seated leg curls: 4 x 8 x 197.5.  Neutral grip pull-ups: 3 x 4.

Published in: on September 19, 2010 at 3:11 pm  Leave a Comment