Saturday, November 27/Sunday, November 28

I really thought that Saturday would be an excellent day for catching people at home.  Friday is of course the big shopping day, so it’s logical to presume that many people would treat Saturday as basically a day off, sticking close to home.  Right?  With this in mind I headed off to a community in eastern Suffolk with a stack of active and lapsed customer cards.  With just a little bit of luck I’d be able to speak with many of them, schedule some sales calls for the next week, and maybe even make a few sales.  What a nice Thanksgiving gift that would be.

Reality and expectations proved quite different indeed.  I made around ten stops and was able to find precisely no one.  In most cases no one at all was at home, in a few there were other people home but not the customers themselves.  In many ways the latter situation is worse, as I end up leaving my card in the full knowledge that the customers never will call.  About the only glimmer of hope is the fact that Tuesday’s “let me talk to my wife” sale is not completely dead.  When I called the customer I was shocked beyond belief to hear him answer the phone rather than let it go to voice mail.  He said that he hadn’t yet had the chance to speak with his wife, and asked me to call again in a few days.  Way I look at it, there’s probably about a one in ten chance that I’ll actually make the sale.

Gym: it was empty enough when I went in the evening that I was able to do alternate sets on bench press and neutral grip pull-ups.  As it was only a couple of days since I’d done these exercises (or similar, as I’d done dips rather than benches), I didn’t try for any records.  Bench press: 6 x 135, 4 x 185, 4 x 205, 3 x 4 x 225.  Neutral grip pull-ups: 4 x 4.  I also did 30 minutes on the stationary cycle, “hill” course, 19.8 mph.  On Sunday, I was planning to go to the gym in the mid-afternoon but something came up, and I wasn’t able to go before the 5 pm closing time.

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Published in: on November 30, 2010 at 3:47 am  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, November 25/Friday, November 26

Not being a morning exerciser type, I try to avoid going to the gym any earlier than late afternoon whenever possible.  On Thanksgiving it wasn’t possible as the gym was open only until noon.  Making the best of a bad situation, I went around 10:30 and had a short but reasonably decent upper-body session.  I started with neutral grip pull-ups, 6 x 4.  Instead of bench pressing I decided to mix things up and do some dips for the first time in months.  As it’s been so long I figured it wouldn’t be advisable to add weight, so I just did 10 x 4 x bodyweight.  Then it was back home to prepare for dinner, which included making a pumpkin pie (it turned out very well).  We ate in the evening after my wife got home from work, and while the turkey wasn’t bad, I had to spend much of the time slipping pieces to Sherbert the cat.  He ate an absurdly large amount of turkey and seemed to inhale it without chewing.  On Friday, I had to do some other things and wasn’t able to make any customer calls as I had planned.  Probably just as well, as what with it being Black Friday many people probably were out at the malls rather than staying at home.  I thought I’d be able to make it to the gym in the evening, but other obligations intervened.

Published in: on November 28, 2010 at 12:01 am  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, November 24

An autopsy of yesterday’s dead sales call

Today was one day when trying to sell anything would be pretty much pointless.  No one is going to be interested in buying insurance on the day before Thanksgiving, so I spent the morning running various errands rather than making sales calls.  In the mid-afternoon I headed into the office for an agents’ meeting.  While waiting for it to start I spoke with a couple of experienced agents about yesterday evening’s “let me talk with my wife” fiasco.  What I learned hopefully will help me in the future, unfortunately there’s nothing I can do to salvage yesterday’s call (and its healthy commission).

The main lesson I learned from these experienced agents is that it is completely pointless to use any of the standard overcoming-resistance phrases when a customer “wifes” me.*  It is possible to overcome other forms of resistance, but not this particular type.  Instead, as soon as the customer utters the dreaded words about his wife, I must respond with “When can I come back and meet with both of you?”  All attempts to sell to the customer must cease immediately.  If at all possible I also take back any brochures I’ve given to the customer.  If the customer sets a time for me to return to see him and his wife, there’s at least a slim chance of making a sale, albeit with another trip required.  If the customer insists on talking to his wife himself, I am to say that just as I cannot be expected to do his job, whatever it may be, he cannot be expected to do my job of explaining the benefits of our insurance products.  If he still resists the idea of a return joint visit, for example if he says “My wife and I both have crazy schedules, it would impossible to catch both of us,” I will know, once and for all, that the situation is hopeless, and should get up and leave.

Given that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, the ideal thing is to avoid being wifed in the first place.  When scheduling a sales call with a man, what I should always do is ask whether he is married (if I don’t already know), and if he is, try to schedule the call at a time when I can meet with both him and his wife.  I actually learned this in sales training, but it wasn’t emphasized and I didn’t realize just how vitally important it was.  Keep in mind that a joint husband-wife call is crucial even though only the husband is interested in coverage.  That indeed had been the case with yesterday’s failed call. Family coverage is a different situation, as in those cases both spouses will usually want to be present during the sales call.

Gym: not a bad session, I did 20 minutes on the stair climber machine, enough to climb 75 floors, and then 20 minutes on the stationary cycle at 18.6 mph.

* = what about a woman who says she has to talk with her husband?  It doesn’t happen.  Women have no problem with buying insurance on themselves without consulting their husbands.

Published in: on November 26, 2010 at 3:31 pm  Comments (1)  

Tuesday, November 23

Wifed out!

Marriage.  It’s an institution that’s been around as long as human civilization, yet after countless centuries still serves as the foundation of society.  If marriage did not exist, we’d probably still be living in a semi-nomadic/hunter-gatherer lifestyle without any of the trappings of modernity.  This being said, the fact remains that the existence of marriage makes my job a whole lot harder.  What would be ideal for me is a semi-nomadic/hunter-gatherer society … that is, one in which people still buy insurance.

It was a sales call in central Suffolk which provoked these baleful musings on marriage.  Today was more of a second-shift sort of day, as I had two evening calls scheduled, so I spent the early part of the day doing some errands and buying the Thanksgiving turkey.  While the Norman Rockwell-esque ideal Thanksgiving meal involves a multi-generational extended family with at least 20 participants, reality is seldom so picturesque.  As has been the case for years, our meal will be strictly an immediate-family sort of deal, just four people, one of whom is a vegetarian and will be having Tofurkey.  All of this is a roundabout way of saying that a mere 10-pound turkey was all I had to buy.  That will be plenty for three people – more specifically, for three people and Sherbert the cat, who has an insatiable appetite for people food.  Given the small size requirement I bought a Bell and Evans turkey, a higher quality bird than a Butterball. 

My supermarket chores done, I headed off to the far eastern reaches of Suffolk County for the first sales call.  It took me almost 90 minutes to reach the destination, in a wooded area well off the beaten path.  My drive took me through the heart of Range Rover Territory, though there were fewer of these vehicles in evidence than during the summer.  One thing still in evidence was the Tradesmen’s Parade on Sunrise Highway, as the pool service technicians and landscapers and electricians who service the luxury estates of the Hamptons head back in their vans and pickups to their houses in central Suffolk.  When I finally arrived at the middle-of-nowhere destination it was rapidly getting dark.  As I was gathering my papers I saw a large dog in front of the customers’ house.  I sure hope he likes strangers, I thought to myself, as he didn’t appear to be chained down.  Then he moved into closer view, and I saw that “Fido” had antlers.  Time for new glasses.

The sales call was a bust, as while the customers were pleasant they were too old for me to sell them anything.  They had called the company to make an inquiry about our products, and from what I can gather the customer service people passed along the inquiry to my local office but did not do any preliminary screening.  It was annoying, but the sort of thing that happens from time to time.  I headed off to the second sales call, this one in central Suffolk about an hour’s drive from the first one.  I got to the house – a very nice house – about ten minutes early.  Shortly thereafter the customer drove up with his wife and children and went into the house.  I went to the door, the customer greeted me and asked me to sit at the dining room table, and then his wife said hello and went right back out.  A little voice in the back of my head was telling me that the wife’s abrupt departure was Not a Good Thing, but I paid it no attention.  I asked some preliminary qualification questions, and found out that the customer and his wife had a very substantial combined income.  They might well have been the most affluent customers I’ve dealt with so far.  The customer expressed interest in a couple of products, and it did not escape my notice that my commission from selling these products would be at least $750.  Not bad pay for an hour’s work. 

Reality reared its ugly head, alas, when I asked the customer if he were ready to fill out a policy application.  I was Wifed – in other words, the customer said that he would have to talk it over with his wife (who had, of course, left the house 20 minutes earlier).  I tried the full repetoire of overcoming-resistance techniques, including one that can backfire and should only be used as a last resort.  Nothing worked.  The customer was adamant that he would do nothing until he consulted his wife.  He said they would make a decision by noon on Saturday, and that I could call then.  It’s 100% guaranteed that I’ll get voice mail.  Instead of leaving with a $750 commission I left with a goose egg, and with a visceral hatred of the whole institution of marriage.

While I made it home in time to make a quick gym trip, I was in such a miserable mood that I didn’t go.

Published in: on November 25, 2010 at 3:08 pm  Comments (2)  

Monday, November 22

Dragging

Whatever I’ve got, it was bad today.  Dragging myself into the office for the weekly agents’ meeting was an ordeal.  Now, it’s not as if I had to get up at 5:30 and travel two hours to get there; the meeting starts at nine and is only about a 20-minute drive away.  Sure didn’t feel like that today.  The meeting itself was fairly routine, and when it ended I headed off to the northern Suffolk town where I’ve been working.  Given the combination of the way I was, and the fact that almost all my lead cards were residential rather than business calls, I didn’t get too much accomplished and headed home in the early afternoon.  What I’m hoping is that Black Friday will be highly productive.  Most people are home from work, and because it’s not an actual holiday it would not be inappropriate to call on them.  Of course some people will be out Christmas shopping, but probably not as many as might be thought. It’s my reasoned belief that the whole Black Friday rush to the malls is more urban legend than reality.  If anything, people try to avoid the stores on that day.

Needless to say, going to the gym wasn’t an option.

Published in: on November 24, 2010 at 4:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, November 20/Sunday, November 21

Saturday was a sort-of workday, as I spent around four to five hours calling on customers.  One of the calls was definitely less than pleasant, as a woman whose policy had lapsed about a year ago started yelling at me  and claimed that coming to her house was “criminal harassment.”  I have no idea what was making her so angry.  It is possible that another agent had come to her house several months ago, though I have no way to be sure.  Whatever the case, I beat a hasty retreat and on Monday will arrange for her to be put on a do-not-contact list.

By late afternoon I had developed a headache and was feeling quite run-down.  I was able to make a fairly quick gym trip, doing 30 minutes on the stationary cycle’s “intervals” course at just under 20 mph.  On Sunday, I was really dragging, and couldn’t go at all.

Published in: on November 23, 2010 at 2:45 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday, November 19

Into the Belly of the Beast

Well this certainly counted as a Blast from the Past.  For the first time in a year, since getting into the insurance business, I actually rode the LIRR today.  My wife had some business matters in the city and I went along for the ride, so to speak.  It didn’t really matter from an earnings standpoint because almost all of my remaining lead cards are residential calls, so there wasn’t much I could do during the day.  We got the 9:11 from Ronkonkoma to Penn, the first post-rush hour train and for that reason usually a busy one.  We were able to find a parking spot near the southeast corner of the south side lot.  We weren’t in the very last row, but close.  Parking lot crowding can be used as a reasonable measure of economic conditions.  It’s hard to say for sure because it’s been so long, but it was my impression that the lot was slightly more crowded than it would have been at the same time of day one year ago, but less crowded than it would have been in, say, 2006 or 2007.

My prediction, that the 9:11 would be crowded, was right on the mark.  The mid-consist car where we sat was about a third full when we left Ronkonkoma, and all seats were taken by the time we got to Jamaica.  Being a post-peak train, two things were immediately apparent: a) because most riders were traveling in groups of two or more, with many children, the noise level was substantially higher than it would have been on a rush hour train full of solo commuters, and 2) it made many, many stops.  Specifically, it made every stop to Hicksville, including Pinelawn Cemetery, then Mineola, finally Jamaica.  I was used to rush hour trains that skipped many stops.  We arrived in Penn right on time at 10:32.  Penn itself hasn’t changed much in a year, except for the totally renovated men’s restroom in the LIRR concourse.  It’s still one of the most gruesome places on earth, of course, but at least it’s a more esthetically pleasing gruesomeness.

We took a 3 train to Fulton Street, returning some hours later on a 2.  The subways haven’t changed at all in a year, as far as I could tell, with the notable exception of the most recent fare hike.  We then got the 4:51 to Ronkonkoma, and to my pleasant surprise it was an M-3 consist.  I didn’t think many of those were still left.  As I of course was sitting next to the same person as on the morning’s ride I could immediately notice the wider M-3 seats.  It’s not a huge difference, but it’s there.  By the way, as this was a rush hour train I also noticed two things that haven’t changed in a year, namely the Cows at the Slaughterhouse Chute Half-Moons on the platform and the Baby Elephant Walk once we got underway.  Guess some things are eternal.  The car was toward the west end of the consist and got quite crowded, with no more than a handful of vacant seats as best I could tell.  After the morning’s on-time performance I was half expecting all sorts of delays, but in fact we made it to Ronkonkoma on time.

Gym: I went very late, only about 45 minutes before the 10 pm closing, but got in a decent if unusual upper body session.  Bench press: 6 x 135, 4 x 185, 4 x 205, 6 x 3 x 225.  Neutral grip pull-ups: 6 x 4.  What was unusual is that I alternated the bench sets at 225 with the pull-ups.  Normally that wouldn’t be feasible, but as there was hardly anyone in the gym at that hour I was able to manage it.

Published in: on November 22, 2010 at 2:06 am  Comments (1)  

Thursday, November 18

A notable lack of success

Ugh.  Today was one of my least successful days in quite a while.  I made two trips to the North Shore community where I’ve been working, one lasting from about 11 to 3 and a second one from 5:30 to 7:30.  I didn’t have high expectations for the morning trip because most of my lead cards are for residential rather than business calls.  Indeed, no one was home, and the two business calls also were unsuccessful because the contact people weren’t in.  After heading back home for a few hours, and spending the time in intellectual pursuits,* I headed back in the hopes that I’d be able to catch some people after they got home from work.  Once again, more surprisingly this time, I got precisely nowhere.  People must get home from work much later than one would expect.  So my sum total of these two trips was zero sales, zero scheduled sales calls.  What I’m hoping is that Saturday will be more productive.  It certainly can’t be any worse.

Gym: not a bad session, 20 minutes on the stair climber machine followed by another 20 minutes on the stationary cycle at 20 mph.

* = specifically, playing Super Mario Galaxy 2

Published in: on November 20, 2010 at 3:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, November 17

Double session

Today began with a 9:00 training session in the office.  Now, you’d think that by 8:30, when I left the house, that the worst of rush hour traffic would have passed.  Usually that indeed is the case.  Unfortunately many people today didn’t get the message, as traffic was miserably slow almost the whole way.  I arrived ten minutes late, luckily it’s more acceptable to be late for these training sessions than it is for the Monday morning agents’ meetings.  It was a fairly useful session, we did role-playing on overcoming resistance.  Yes, one of the types of resistance was the dreaded “let me think about it,” though that’s one of the most difficult types to overcome.  I headed back home after the session because some workmen were coming over to replace our water heater.  They said that they’d be there at noon.  It was just past 1:20 when they showed up, in other words 90 minutes late, which in workman-speak is pretty close to being right on time.  They finished up around 4:30, and soon after I left for the hilly North Shore town where I’ve been working this week.  I spent a few hours calling on residential customers, stopping around 7:30 as is the recommended practice.  While on my rounds I saw a very strange sight: four cats and two raccoons all sitting around within a few feet of one another, each one seeming to ignore the others’ presence.

Gym: by the time I got home I was quite run-down, so I decided with some reluctance to skip tonight.

Published in: on November 19, 2010 at 5:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Tuesday, November 16

Mountain climbing

Most people think of Long Island as basically flat, and while that’s not too far off the mark in most areas, parts of the north shore can be quite hilly.  As it turns out, the community in which I’ll be spending the next week or so is one of the hilly areas.  In fact, the main residential parts is a warren of extremely steep, narrow streets with all sorts of twists and turns.  It’s something you’d expect to see in a mountainous region.  While I don’t mind driving on such rugged terrain, the downside is that streetlighting is minimal to non-existent, so finding house numbers after dark is a major challenge.  I really wish it didn’t get dark so early.  Calling on residential customers is pretty much pointless before 5:30 or 6:00 because many people aren’t home from work until then.  Which means that it’s completely dark.  It’s somewhat surprising that so few people have visible street numbers on their houses, after all it’s a safety thing.  Nonetheless, I persevered, making a number of calls until calling it quits around 7:30.  Calling on people much after that time isn’t recommended, although legally it can be done until 9:00.

Gym: speaking of climbing, I did  30 minutes on the stair climber machine, once again surprised at just how tough it is.

Published in: on November 18, 2010 at 8:18 pm  Comments (4)