Friday, January 28

Setting things up

After two weather-related delays I finally moseyed out to Chipmunk Junction today.  I was really hoping that I’d be able to make at least a small sale and save this from being a zero-commission week.  Thanks to last week’s big sale it won’t hurt too much financially if I sell nothing this week, nonetheless it’s demoralizing not to have any sales to report.  The bad news is that I didn’t end up selling anything, the hopefully-maybe good news is that I got a couple of calls scheduled for next week.  One of them might turn out to be promising (I know, chickens and eggs and all that).  It didn’t seem promising at first, as the customer’s policies had lapsed in early 2010 and I haven’t had much luck bringing lapsed customers back into the fold.  I stopped at the customer’s office, gave my card to the receptionist and briefly explained why I was there, and then she went into another room to speak with the customer.  She came back out in a minute or two and said that the customer could see me next week.  This indicates to me that the customer must have some interest in taking out a new policy, as otherwise he would have had the receptionist send me away (that’s her job, after all).  I’m coming back on Wednesday, let’s hope my luck will change.  I also spoke to another, current customer, and he seems at least somewhat interested in a disability policy.  I’m seeing him on Tuesday, along with another two customers.

It was late afternoon when I got home from Chipmunk Junction, plenty of time to go to the gym, unfortunately I was really and somewhat inexplicably worn out, and didn’t go.

Published in: on January 31, 2011 at 2:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, January 27

Psychoanalyzing Tuesday’s failure

What with last night’s heavy snowfall keeping me off the road until afternoon, I had ample time in the morning to think about what I did wrong on Tuesday.  One of the failed sales calls would have been nothing short of magnificent if it had gone through.  Three members of an extended family who ran a business together were considering life insurance policies, and because two of them were older than most other customers the combined premiums would have been equivalent to the monthly payments on a very nice car.  My commission would have been enough to constitute a more-than-decent income for a period of three weeks even if I sold nothing else during that time.  It also would have triggered a nice bonus and gotten me on track for winning a quarterly sales award.

When I made the presentation last Thursday the family members did not appear to show much resistance to the combined premiums.  At least that was my take on the matter, it is possible that one or more of them might have been displeased but didn’t show it.  Or, even worse, that they did make their dissatisfaction apparent but I was too dense to pick up on it.  I just don’t know.  One thing I do know is that I did not bring up the refund option.  All policies which ABC Insurance sells come with a 30+ day money back guarantee.  When a new policyholder receives the policy in the mail, which usually is about 15 to 30 days after signing the application, he or she has 30 days to return it for a complete refund of the one month’s premium that the agent had collected upon application signing.  Now, if this happens the agent will get charged back for the commission already paid, so from my standpoint I would very much not want it to happen.  Better not to make a sale and earn no commission, than to have the commission charged back.

Despite these risks, mentioning the refund option can be a viable means of salvaging a sale that otherwise looks like it’s going to fall through.  I did not mention it when I made the presentation last Thursday.  As a result I’m now endlessly psychoanalyzing whether my failure to mention the option was a mistake.  I might have been better off running the risk of a commission charge back.  It’s a fairly remote risk.  I tell myself, however, that when I made the presentation the customers showed no real resistance, so I had no reason to trot out this potentially dangerous “weapon.”  But wait!  The fact that they had asked me to return the following Tuesday, rather than signing up on the spot, may itself have been a form of resistance.  I attributed the delay to the customers’ natural desire to give a major purchase – it would have been like buying a new Volvo or Infiniti – some careful consideration.  Was that naive on my part?  I just don’t know, all I do know is that it may be a long time before I stop all this amateur psychiatrist stuff.  The only thing that definitely would stop it is actually making an equivalently large sale, and that’s the sort of event that sure doesn’t come along too often.

As for today, when I finally finished shoveling and doing some other chores, it was around 1 pm, and even though the roads were okay I decided not to drive out to Chipmunk Junction.  Instead, I went to a closer town where I’d done some work a couple of months ago and did follow-ups on a few business calls I had made.  A couple of them seemed promising at first but ultimately did not work out.  It’s looking as if this will be a no-sale week, not a pleasant thing, but fortunately I had made enough money off of last week’s big sale that it won’t matter too much from a money standpoint.

Gym: for the time being I’m going to concentrate on running and other weight-loss exercise rather than weights.  What with all my time on the road and eating junk food, I’ve begun to notice that some items of clothing are getting a bit snug.  I’ll do some weights, but they’re not going to be my focus.  Tonight I started out with 20 minutes on the stationary cycle at 18.6 mph, ran one mile on the treadmill at 4.7 mph, and ellipted for 15 minutes.

Published in: on January 29, 2011 at 3:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, January 26

Weather is bad for business

It was snowing lightly when I headed into the office around 8:30 for the weekly new agents’ meeting.  Forecasts called for some light snow and sleet during the first part of the day, with a significant snowfall beginning in the evening.  While I generally don’t mind winter driving, it’s become more significant now that I’m working out in Chipmunk Junction.  It’s not just that the town is more than 50 miles away, it’s that there’s only one main road in and out of the area.  If the road were to become blocked, or if traffic started moving at a crawl, I’d be stuck with no real alternatives.

Despite these concerns I was planning on heading out to Chipmunk Junction after the meeting.  If I got there about noon, I would be able to make customer calls for maybe five hours, then head back before the heavy snow got underway.  Or that was the plan. During the meeting, which ran from 9:00 until 10:30, it was impossible not to notice that the morning’s light snow was actually getting quite heavy.  It looked as if the forecasts were wrong and that the storm was starting earlier than predicted.  Given my concerns about access to Chipmunk Junction I decided to play it safe and headed home after the meeting.  And wouldn’t you know, after a period of sleet, the snow ended in a couple of hours.  By 1:30 or 2:00 it was largely over.  Which didn’t do my plans much good.  What with the forecasts still calling for heavy snow starting early in the evening, I figured that if I headed out to Chipmunk Junction I wouldn’t have enough time to make the trip worthwhile.  Given the travel distance it doesn’t make much sense making the trip unless I have at least three hours on scene for making calls, and I wasn’t sure that would be the case.  At times like this I really wish I had at least a small number of customer cards for a closer-in town.

Oh, to add insult to injury, when I went to the gym around 7:30, with no snow falling, I was greeted by a “closed due to weather” sign on its door.  All of the 15 or so other businesses in the plaza where the gym’s located were open for business as usual.

Published in: on January 28, 2011 at 1:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tuesday, January 25

A rotten day

I really wish a space-time warp could erase today as if it never happened.  In the mid-morning I headed out to eastern Suffolk (“Chipmunk Junction”) for two sales calls.  Both were follow-ups on presentations I had made last week and both looked very promising.  Making both sales would have gotten me a commission in the four figures and would have triggered an additional $250 or so in bonuses.  I also would have gotten on track to get a monthly and/or quarterly bonus.

You can guess what happened.  Both potential sales crashed and burned, leaving nothing behind except some scorched debris.  I don’t think I did anything wrong when making the presentations last week, at least that’s a measure of solace.  None of the customers (one of the calls involved multiple members of a family in business together) were interested in going forward.  One customer gave a not-very-convincing explanation of why he had lost interest, while the family members on the other call just said no without further elaboration.  Chances are that an agent with more experience would have come up short just like I did.

If there is a lesson in this whole sad story, it’s one I know perfectly well but can’t seem to grasp – don’t count your (proverbial) chickens before they (proverbially) hatch.  In fact, looking back at these calls, some faint warning signs were apparent last week, but I just wouldn’t acknowledge them.  At yesterday’s meeting I told an experienced agent about how I had made the presentation to the family members last week, that they seemed interested in some big-commission policies, and that I was going back tomorrow.  He asked a simple question: “Why didn’t they take out the the policies right after your presentation, instead of asking you to return the following week?” I made my best effort to disregard his question … because I was too scared to think about what the likely answer would be.

Gym: despite today’s massive setback, I somehow mustered up enough willpower to go to the gym.  I began with a one-mile run on the treadmill at 4.6 mph, ellipted for 20 minutes, and finished up with 10 minutes’ ellipting on a different style of machine.

Published in: on January 26, 2011 at 5:01 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, January 24

Was I a chump?

A bit of background is necessary before one can answer my question.  Last week I got about 120 lead cards for active and recently lapsed policies in an eastern Suffolk community that we’ll call Chipmunk Junction.  Each card shows the name of the agent who wrote the most recent policy.  The standard practice at ABC Insurance is that when these cards are distributed on a town-by-town basis, any ones that show policies written within the past 18 months are given to the agents who wrote those policies, rather than to the agent (me, for Chipmunk Junction) who is now assigned to that town.  Cards for older policies go to the assigned agent.

There is an experienced agent in the office we’ll call Eddie, who has been around for many years and is very successful.  Several years ago he worked a territory that included Chipmunk Junction.  He now works in a different part of Suffolk County.  At today’s weekly agent meeting, Eddie asked if I could show him the Chipmunk Junction cards, he said that he might have ongoing relationships with some of the customers and if possible would like to have their cards.  While I didn’t have to give him any, as all of his were much more than 18 months old, I figured I’d be nice and let him look at the cards.  Eddie probably writes 300 policies a year, so there wasn’t much chance that he’d remember people for whom he’d last written policies five to ten years ago.

Eddie looked through the cards, and to my bemusement he took out every single one of the 35 or 40 cards with his name on them, saying things like “Oh, Charlie Jones, I know him well,” or “Mary Smith, we talk on the phone all the time.”  Charlie’s last policy might have dated from 2002 and Mary’s from 2005.  Now, maybe Eddie really knows his past customers very well and stays in touch with them … but considering he’s written over a thousand policies since theirs, I have my doubts.  I sorta think he just likes to hold onto his past work.  Understand, this is no skin off my teeth, so to speak.  I hadn’t yet contacted any of the customers whose cards he took, and I easily can get new cards to replace them.  In fact I had asked my manager to get me some cards from a town closer to me than Chipmunk Junction.  It’s just strange how possessive some people can be.

As for the day in general, following the meeting I made a few calls in central Suffolk, unfortunately without much success, and spent the late afternoon and early evening taking care of some non-work-related business.  By around 8:30, when I had the opportunity to go to the gym, I was too worn out to go.  I’ve gone three of the last four days, so not going tonight is not a disaster, and my right wrist is still somewhat painful from Saturday’s benching.

Published in: on January 26, 2011 at 2:12 am  Comments (2)  

Saturday, January 22/Sunday, January 23

Some reasonable bench pressing on Saturday: 6 x 135, 4 x 185, 4 x 205, 2 x 4 x 225, 3 x 3 x 235, 8 x 185.  When I went to do barbell rows a few minutes, however, my right wrist was so painful I couldn’t make it through the first set.  Dunno what happened, nothing had gone wrong during the benching.  On Sunday I did 30 minutes on the stationary cycle at 18.7 mph.

Published in: on January 26, 2011 at 12:51 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday, January 21

Women vs. wives

Dunno what made me think about it today, maybe it was yesterday’s Guaranteed Sure Thing customer who had to “talk it over with my wife,” but it has occurred to me that there is a massive difference (in insurance-sales terms) between women acting in their own capacity and women acting as wives.  Selling policies to women is not significantly different from selling policies to men.  Just like a man, a woman will buy a policy if it meets her needs and is within her price range.  When selling policies to men, however, their wives can be major obstacles.  It’s almost as if women believe in insurance for themselves but not for their husbands.  This is why “let me talk it over with my wife” so often leads to no sale at all.  Almost invariably the wife will say “you already have enough insurance” even if that is not the case.  No, I cannot explain why women act so differently when they put on their wife hats, so to speak.

As for today, I spent most of the time doing various things in the office, and didn’t go out in the field to try to make any sales.  This is still going to be a good week, and I have enough things lined up for tomorrow that it should work out okay.

Published in: on January 25, 2011 at 3:43 am  Comments (2)  

Thursday, January 20

Semi-up, semi-down, way up, semi-up

Such were the path of my fortunes today.  The day began with a visit to a prospective customer in central Suffolk, on my way out to the East End.  He has been considering two policies, one relatively small one and one relatively large one.  Today he said that he had decided to go with the smaller one and is still considering the larger one.  As he was quite busy I’ll have to come back to get him to sign the application for the smaller policy.  Most likely I’ll do so either tomorrow or Monday.  Given that he’ll be taking the smaller policy and may or may not go for the larger one, count this stop as a semi-up.

Upon arriving in the East End community that’s becoming my regular stomping ground, I called upon another prospective customer who, coincidentally, had been considering the same two types of policies as the prior customer.  Based on what this second customer had told me when I met him on Tuesday, I was counting on this stop as a Guaranteed Sure Thing … yes, I should have known better.  Within the first few seconds of speaking with him I knew that I wasn’t going to be making a sale today.  While he wasn’t unfriendly by any means, his whole demeanor was noticeably cooler than it had been just 48 hours earlier.  He didn’t say no, but said that he wants to talk over the proposed policies with his business partner (not necessarily a bad thing) and his wife (a very, very bad thing).  My reasoned guess is that I’ve got a 50-50 chance of selling the smaller policy and a smaller but not zero of selling the larger one.  I told him that I’d stop back next Tuesday, and because he didn’t say anything along the lines of “I might be busy, let me give you a call” there’s still some hope. Call this stop a semi-down.

After doing some canvassing, and helping an existing customer with a claim, I stopped at a family-run business where I had made a presentation on Tuesday.  At the time I had been somewhat doubtful about my chances.  No Guaranteed Sure Thing at this stop.  To my very pleasant surprise I sold two policies that together will yield a very nice commission, the sort of commission that gives me a quite respectable income for the week.  My dealings were with the 20-something daughter of the company owners, who works as the office manager.  She was quite possibly the most pleasant person with whom I’ve dealt in my several months of selling insurance.  People like her are evidence that my generally misanthropic outlook is perhaps a bit unwarranted.  She took one policy for herself, and then her mother took another one for her and her husband.  To make things even better, I’m going to stop by next week to see if I can sell something to the company’s two or three non-family employees.  We’re definitely in way up territory.

I left that business and headed to another call a couple of miles away.  This was also a family business, though in a completely different line of business.  I spent about 30 minutes going over their existing coverage, and then gave a presentation on ABC Insurance’s life insurance product.  Two of the family members were interested, one of whom is a woman in her mid-60’s.  Her age is relevant because premiums are quite substantial for people in that age category, and as you’ve undoubtedly figured out by now my commissions are expressed as a percentage of premiums.  They will make a decision by Tuesday, when I’ll be stopping back, and my reasoned guess is that I’ve got a reasonable chance of making a sale or two.  For this reason I’ll count this stop as semi-up.

In an uncharacteristically happy mood I headed on home, with traffic being noticeably better than yesterday.  At the gym, I did 20 minutes on the stationary cycle at 19.2 mph followed by 10 minutes of ellipting.  Although my cough and cold have mostly vanished, one lingering effect is that I didn’t have quite the same stamina as before – the total of 30 minutes’ exercising left me as drained as 45 minutes would have, pre-cold.

Published in: on January 21, 2011 at 2:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, January 19

I hardly recognized what it looked like

Not much sales-related activity today.  In the morning there was the weekly new agents’ meeting in the office, which lasted close to two hours.  Worth it, though, as I found out some potentially useful approached when calling customers on the telephone.  Best tip of all: do not say “how are you” after introducing yourself.  Customers know that you don’t really care, so using that line comes off as insincere.  After the meeting I had to handle some non-work-related business matters, which took up a good chunk of the afternoon.  Later on I went to a nearby community to meet a potential customer, unfortunately I wasn’t able to make contact with him.  He’ll be available tomorrow, however.

Gym: Yep, I made it in.  What a relief.  Had a decent leg session, too.  Horizontal leg presses: 4 x 8 x 360.  Life Fitness seated leg curls: 4 x 8 x 185.  Seated calf raises: 4 x 12 x 135.  Precor leg extensions: 3 x 8 x 190.

Published in: on January 20, 2011 at 11:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tuesday, January 18

Life on the road

I probably put at least 175 miles on my car today.  The morning started with an unscheduled early trip into the office, as some new files had come in and were ready for distribution.  Expressway traffic was almost as bad as yesterday’s, though street traffic wasn’t quite as glacial.  One thing that helped is a back way into the office I discovered last week.  It’s not any shorter than the usual route, in fact it might be about a half-mile longer, the advantage is that I go straight through at a particularly gruesome traffic light rather than making a left turn.  There is a turning arrow at the light, which is timed so poorly that only a handful of cars can get through on each green – quite an issue, as there can be a line of 35 or 40 cars trying to turn.  Being able to go straight might well cut several minutes off the trip.  I ended up spending about 90 minutes in the office, sorting through the new customer files and selecting some for canvassing.

It was about mid-morning when I got on the road for the eastern Suffolk community where I’ve been working.  It’s about 50 miles each way from where I live but a good 60 miles each way from the office.  Once I got into town I spent several hours making customer calls.  To my mild disappointment I did not make any sales, however my disappointment is mild because I got some things set up for Thursday.  Unless I’m really star-crossed I should be able to get at least a couple of sales then.  My trip back home took a lot longer than the other way, due to surprisingly heavy traffic on the one main road through the area.  All I could think about it what a disaster this trip would be in the summer, when the area’s population grows exponentially.  By the time I finally got home I was just too worn out for the gym.  This is not a good thing, because my cough has finally ceased, more or less.

Published in: on January 20, 2011 at 10:57 pm  Leave a Comment