Monday, October 18

At least I didn’t use much gasoline

No, I didn’t make any sales today.  At least I didn’t have to do much driving.  After spending the morning in the usual Monday meeting at the office, I went back home and worked the phones for a while, both in the early afternoon and then again in the early evening.  Calling at different times is supposed to be a better way of catching people at home.  At least that’s the theory; in reality, I got a pretty much endless array of voice mail messages.  It looks as if my Grand Experiment in saving gasoline did not succeed, and I’ll be back on the road tomorrow.  Hey, it was worth a try.

Gym: another stationary cycle session, this time 35 minutes on the “Cascades” course.

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Published in: on October 20, 2010 at 4:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, October 16/Sunday, October 17

Not one of my better weekends, in gym terms, but not one of the worst. All I did on Saturday was use the stationary cycle.  For a bit of variety I did 30 minutes on a programmed “random” course, which changes the resistance level every ten seconds or so.  It wasn’t bad, probably better than doing the same amount of time at a constant level.  I was planning on doing leg work Sunday, but some lingering upper back soreness, no doubt from Friday’s pull-ups, made trap bar deadlifts or squats seem inadvisable.  Instead I did a better-than-nothing machine session.  Precor leg extensions: 5 x 8 x 190.  Life Fitness seated leg curls: 4 x 8 x 185.  Seated calf raises: 3 x 12 x 150.  Horizontal leg presses: 3 x 8 x 450.

Published in: on October 18, 2010 at 12:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday, October 15

A last-minute salvage job

What would have been a lousy week turned into a reasonably decent one at just about the last minute.  Weekly sales are tallied up in the office at 3 pm on Friday afternoons.  After a morning spent doing some existing-account sales calls farther east, I ended up making a pretty nice sale at around 1:30, in a central Suffolk community that’s usually not my regular stomping grounds.  It was a very easy sale too, one of the 43% in which the customers are ready and willing to buy, and basically all the agent does is fill out applications.  Making things even better, the two policies in the transaction are types that require little underwriting.  More commonly, I sell disability policies, which are the most likely to get rejected during the underwriting process.  Rejected applications reduce my commissions.

One of the sales calls I had made earlier in the day clearly illustrates the difference between a customer who is interested and one who isn’t.  I called upon an existing customer, hoping that she might be willing to update her existing coverage.  She was quite friendly – which, alas, means little – and said that although she would be too busy to meet with me for the next couple of weeks, would early November be fine?  I said that would be great, and we set a date and time to meet.  If she weren’t interested, she also would have said that she would be too busy to meet with me for the next couple of weeks, but would not have been willing to set a time for early November.  Instead, she would have told me to call her in November … and it’s 100%  guaranteed I would have been voicemailed.

Gym: no shortage of neutral grip pull-ups today.  I did 1 x 5, 4 x 4, 3 x 3 for a total of 30.  In addition, I ran one mile on the treadmill at 4.6 mph and did 20 minutes on the stationary cycle at 18.8 mph.

Published in: on October 17, 2010 at 1:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, October 14

I cannot believe it took me so long to figure it out

Today started with another training session in the office, a session that ended up running over three and a half hours.  While I generally don’t like lengthy meetings or sessions of any sort, this one was interesting enough that I didn’t really mind.  Most interesting of all were some statistics concerning the outcome of sales calls.  While the statistics, from a nationwide trade organization, specifically involve life insurance, the instructor said they apply reasonably well to the mix of policies ABC Insurance sells.  While we sell some life insurance, it’s a relatively minor part of our business.  I’ve yet to sell my first life policy.  In any event, 43% of sales calls are pretty much guaranteed to succeed; the customers are ready and willing to buy, and the agents don’t really have much selling to do.  Another 22% are hopeless cases; no matter what the agents do or say, the customers are simply not going to buy, period.  It’s the remaining 35% of sales calls where agent skills are tested.  Do a good job and the customer may buy, do a mediocre job, no sale.  Of course it seems as if I’ve been getting way too many of the 22%-ers!

My manager and I were planning on making some calls together in the late afternoon and evening.  I went home for a couple hours, and at 4:00 went to the park-and-ride lot near Exit 63 of the Expressway.  The manager would meet me there, we’d leave his car, and go off in mine to make the calls (if a manager is accompanying an agent, under company rules the agent is expected to do the driving).  Just after I arrived the manager texted me to say that he’d be about a half-hour late.  I decided to wait in the car.  While waiting, I noticed something peculiar: men were sitting in their parked cars, while other men drove slowly up and down the rows.  Between the two groups there probably were at least 50 men.  That’s odd, I thought, why would people be spending so much time in a park-and-ride lot?  Then it dawned on me at all of the 50-odd men were, well, men; there wasn’t a woman to be seen.  If you’ve seen the movie There’s Something About Mary you probably remember the incident at the highway rest area.  It was based in reality, because highway rest areas often are noted for that particular sort of activity.  As Long Island has no real highway rest areas, it appears that park-and-ride lots, this one at least, serve as a substitute.

The manager arrived around 4:30 and we spent about four hours calling on policyholders in central Suffolk.  We weren’t able to set any appointments, let alone make any sales, but I may still be able to reach some people and, if I’m really lucky, make a sale or two.  It began raining torrentially, and by the time I dropped the manager off at his car in the park-and-ride lot all of the, ahem, patrons had gone elsewhere.  I do not care to think about what “elsewhere” may be.  It was late enough by the time I got home that I didn’t have any motivation to go to the gym.  Tomorrow, for sure.

Addendum: I have been informed that my judgment as to the park-and-ride lot was completely correct.

Published in: on October 16, 2010 at 2:53 am  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, October 13

Cluck cluck!

No question about it.  I was totally chicken today.  Not having anything else scheduled, and with my supply of lead cards dwindling, I had decided yesterday that I would spend today doing some business canvassing. It works very well for some agents, and we spent quite  a bit of time on it in sales training.  I decided that a small-to-medium town in central Suffolk would be suitable territory, as it has a number of small businesses and no other agents have been there in some time.

I drove to this town in the late morning, parked near the center, got my sales materials ready … and couldn’t even get out of the car.  To say that I was completely paralyzed with fear would be only a very slight overstatement.  I’ve done business canvassing with other agents, but the mere thought of doing it alone was petrifying.  I’m still not clear exactly why this is so.  In part it’s because I dreaded having to deal with rude receptionists and other so-called “gatekeepers.”  They most definitely can be rude and sometimes demeaning.  There also was the fear of being put onto a guilt trip.  In past canvassing attempts we encountered more than a few business owners who responded to our presence by whining about how bad business was, how they could scarcely manage to pay their present bills much less take on any new expenses, and so on.  Hearing these sob stories – which may or may not have been true – always served to put me on a major guilt trip.  Trying to sell something to a dying business, how low can you get?  Being with another agent makes these unpleasant situations easier to handle.  For example, we can joke afterward about the loathsome receptionist we encountered.  Dealing with these situations on one’s own is much harder.

Of course, I fully acknowledge that there is no logical basis for fear or guilt.  That hateful receptionist is not going to get off her rapidly enlarging posterior and attack me.  As for the guilt-trip scenario, it’s not as if I solicit businesses I know to be failing, and in any event a business owner’s whining might just be a get-rid-of-the-annoying-salesman tactic.  Business owners love to whine about how broke they are.  Unfortunately, logic did not win out over fear.

I spent a few hours trying to run down some long-shot leads in various parts of eastern Suffolk.  All I accomplished was putting more and more miles on my car, as none of the people I contacted were interested in getting together.  It was in a deep gloom that I headed home in the late afternoon, no sales for today and quite possibly none for the rest of the week.  I was in such a gloomy state of mind that I couldn’t even get sufficiently motivated to go to the gym.  If there was any glimmer of hope in this rotten day, it was hearing from my manager in the evening.  He wants to go around with me later tomorrow, after a morning training session.  Maybe that will help.  I certainly can’t tell him how I totally chickened out.

Published in: on October 15, 2010 at 4:39 am  Leave a Comment  

Tuesday, October 12

I’m glad I didn’t wear that shirt outside

Today was a non-productive day in terms of making or even soliciting sales, though that hadn’t been my intention.  It started out with a training session in the office that lasted about two and a half hours.  To avoid any danger of being late for the 9:00 start I left almost 45 minutes early, and thanks to light Expressway traffic I made it well in advance.  While waiting for the session to get underway I told an experienced agent how the customer took out a notepad at the start of yesterday’s sales presentation.  He immediately replied “kiss of death!” even before I said that the presentation was a failure.  Coincidentally, one of the things discussed in the session was what to do when a prospective disability insurance customer utters the dreaded phrase “let me think about it.”  Just like yesterday’s customer.  The trainer, who was from the home office, showed how to create a simple chart comparing premiums to potential benefits, a chart that makes it plainly obvious that disability insurance can be an excellent choice from a cost-benefits perspective.  He cautioned that about one-quarter of all sales presentations are doomed to failure no matter what the agents say or do.  I’d like to think that yesterday’s presentation was one of these hopeless cases, and that what I said (or didn’t say) was why the customer failed to make a purchase, but realistically I don’t know for sure.  In any event, it was a useful session, and I’m going to try to put into practice some of the tips I learned.

At the end of the session, my manager said that if I wanted I could go on a couple of appointments with him in the afternoon.  Of course I leaped at the opportunity, as these presumably were call-in leads, in other words people who had contacted ABC Insurance and asked for information.  Leads of this sort have a high rate of turning into sales, and as they involve new rather than existing customers they have a higher commission percentage.  He said he had some things to do and would call me in a little while.  For a variety of reasons, however, I didn’t hear back for a few hours.  My original plans were to do some business calls in the East End, and by the time the manager called me it was too late to revert to those plans.  I’ll make the business calls tomorrow, and on Thursday I’ll go with the manager.  With any luck I’ll get some decent sales during the rest of the week.

With not much else to do in the afternoon while waiting for a call, I played some Super Mario Galaxy 2 on the Wii.  As always, Baci the cat decided to sit on my shoulders as I played.  She adores me, the other thing is that she is not quite fully domesticated.  As I was playing, Baci began fighting with another cat who was on a nearby table.  She dug into me with her rear claws to maintain her balance as she slashed away with her front claws.  It was a distinctly painful experience, but after a few minutes I thought no more of it.  I’m pretty much covered with cat scratches, one more is barely worth mentioning.  More than an hour later, however, I noticed a bloodstain on the shoulder of the white dress shirt I’d been wearing.  Baci’s scratch must have been deeper than I thought.  While the stain washed out, it’s a very fortunate thing I didn’t go out on a sales call without noticing the stain.  You can imagine what sort of reaction that might have gotten from a customer!

Gym: a decent weight session.  Bench press: 6 x 135, 4 x 185, 4 x 205, 4 x 225, 3 x 235, 2 x 245, 1 x 255, 1 x 255, 1 x 255.  Looking back, I’m sort of sorry that I didn’t try for 265.  Kettlebell swings: 2 x 10 with a 50-pounder.  Neutral grip pull-ups: 4 x 4, 3 x 3.

Published in: on October 13, 2010 at 4:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, October 11

The Notepad of Doom

What with today being a semi-holiday, the drive to work was a breeze, no slowdowns on the Expressway and only a few cars at a brutal traffic light near the office.  There was a new twist at the regular weekly agents’ meeting, the branch manager mentioned the amount of commission income some of the agents had earned last week.  I was most surprised to hear just how much some were making.  About a third of the 20 or so agents earned commissions that, on an annualized basis, would give them incomes in the six figures, mostly by comfortable margins.  Several others weren’t far off that mark.  I’m not at these levels, but now I know they’re reachable.

Today’s much-anticipated sales call sure didn’t get me launched toward a six-figure income goal.  The customer had been quite friendly when I spoke to her last week, and although we didn’t talk long she seemed to express an interest in our disability income product.  I arrived at her place of business with all my materials ready and with a well-rehearsed presentation.  Right away I noticed that she seemed a bit cooler than she had last week, not unfriendly by any means but definitely not like she’d been.  These vague misgivings were confirmed as soon as I began my presentation, when the customer took out a notepad and began writing things down.  While this isn’t something taught in formal sales training, one learns very quickly in the insurance business that a customer who writes things down during a presentation is almost certainly not going to buy anything, not now and not ever.  I don’t know why this is so, but it’s definitely true.  If I had to guess a reason, it’s that taking notes is a way of feigning interest.

Aside from the note-taking the customer seemed impatient, so I hurried through the presentation in less than the recommended time.  When I finished, about all she had to say was “I’ll think about it.”  Words of doom.  I used the standard overcoming-resistance techniques, to no avail.  Another, somewhat ambiguously bad sign was that the customer asked almost no questions.  The absence of questions doesn’t necessarily mean anything, sometimes people will buy without asking much of anything, but if she had asked more questions it would have been an indication of at least some interest.  The one question she did ask concerned ABC Insurance’s corporate ownership, and try as I will I cannot think of why this would have been at all important to her.  If there was any glimmer of hope, and indeed it’s a very, very faint glimmer, it’s that when I asked her if it would be okay for me to call if I don’t hear from her within a couple of weeks, she said that would be fine.  If she had said “no, I’ll call you,” my chance of making a sale would be zero.  As things stand, however, I have maybe a one-in-fifty chance of selling a policy.

After leaving the presentation I went to the west-central Suffolk community where I had been spending some time a couple weeks ago, to try to track down a few active customers who had proven elusive.  I managed to speak with some, but none were interested in buying anything else. If there was any consolation it’s that I actually got definitive “no” responses from several people.  Imagine, people actually having the courage to say what they really think.

Gym: 45 minutes on the stationary cycle, at a pace of 18.8 mph.

Published in: on October 12, 2010 at 5:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, October 9/Sunday, October 10

Did I finally get over my lack of gym-going motivation this weekend? It’s hard to say. Definitely not on Saturday, as I didn’t go at all. True, I did some work-work in the early afternoon, but that still left more than ample time. Sunday, fortunately, was a different and better story. I spent close to 90 minutes in the gym, doing what amounts to a full-body session. I might want to try that sort of thing for a while. It began with a one-mile run on the treadmill at 4.6 mph. Next came some bench pressing, 6 x 135, 4 x 185, 4 x 205, 4 x 4 x 225. As loading and unloading the bar for trap bar or regular deadlifts seemed like too much work (hey, my motivation’s still shaky), I used the Hammer Strength deadlift machine: 6 x 270, 6 x 320, 6 x 360, 6 x 380. It’s not the same as the real thing but will do as an occasional substitute. Then I did some neutral grip pull-ups, 4 x 4, and ellipted for ten minutes. I finished the session with kettlebell swings, 2 x 10 with a 50-pounder. All in all it was a decent session, let’s hope that trying something new will give my motivation a sorely needed boost.

Published in: on October 12, 2010 at 4:45 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday, October 8

Quality, not quantity?

No driving to the far eastern end of Long Island today. Instead, I stayed in the smallish town in east-central Suffolk County where I’d been a couple of weeks ago, calling on a few more active leads. Got a couple of “check back later” responses but no actual sales. Better than nothing, but obviously a sale is best of all. In the early afternoon I headed to the office for the weekly check-in. A few other agents and I were talking about the numbers types of policies we sell, and it dawned on me that I mostly sell just one type, namely disability policies. Compared to most of the other newer agents I make fewer total sales, but because disability policies tend to have higher premiums than other types my total sales in dollar amounts – and of course my commissions – are more than the modest number of sales would suggest. I guess this is a good thing, or at least not a bad thing. It wasn’t that I planned on specializing in disability policies, it’s just that of all the policy types ABC Insurance offers they make the most sense to me. That, in turn, must somehow translate into my giving a more convincing presentation on disability insurance than is the case with other policy types.

Gym: my lack of motivation is still continuing, but I managed to do 40 minutes on the stationary cycle at 18.6 mph.

Published in: on October 10, 2010 at 11:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, October 7

Traffic in Range Rover territory

I spent much of the day today in what has become familiar territory, namely the far eastern end of Long Island (the South Fork, to be specific).  Chances are I won’t be spending more than a day or two in this area starting next week.  Today was actually my most productive day so far in this area, in terms of commission income, in fact it was just about as good as it could have been.  Still, I’ll be just as glad staying a bit closer to home, what with all the time on the road and gasoline use.

Speaking of time on the road, I got a pretty good idea of just how long it takes to drive in this area during evening rush hour.  And keep in mind this is off-season, everything is much worse in the summer.  It was exactly 5:00 on my dashboard clock when I got into my car after finishing my last sales call.  I was on Route 27 in the (small) center of the next-to-last town, the one whose name rhymes with “Narragansett.”  Route 27 continues several more miles farther east until it gets to the very last town, the one whose name rhymes with, well, I can’t really think of anything – maybe “flan talk?”  In any event, I was curious to see where I’d be in one hour.  Traffic heading west on 27 was crawling for much of the way.  There was a film festival going on in the next town to the west, the one whose name rhymes with “beast frampton,” but that didn’t seem to cause more than a couple minutes’ delay.  When the dashboard clock read 6:00 I was a couple miles short of the point at which Route 27 becomes a divided highway.  One hour to travel maybe 15 to 20 miles.  I’m just glad I wasn’t trying this in the height of the summer season.

Other things intervened, so no gym tonight.  I’ve been slacking off too much lately.  This has to change.

Published in: on October 8, 2010 at 6:09 pm  Leave a Comment