Friday, February 25

At last, a decent gym session

Not too much of interest happened today at work.  I spent some time making calls and stopping in to see a few existing customers, all in hopes of getting things set up for next week.  As of today I have just two scheduled calls for next week, less than I’d like to be sure, but on Monday and Tuesday I should be able to schedule some more.  In the early afternoon I headed into work for a training session on the new underwriting rules to take effect on Monday.  I was especially glad to get a new underwriting manual, as my existing one had been getting a bit weatherbeaten.  It was a pretty useful training session, now I have a decent idea of how to take advantage of the changed rules and sell some more products.

In the early evening I headed off to the gym for a weights session, and it turned out much better than I expected.  It began with Life Fitness seated shoulder presses, 5 x 8 x 110/110, followed by Hammer Strength MTS front pulldowns, 6 x 6 x 100/100.  I then decided to do some leg work, starting with horizontal leg presses, 5 x 8 x 370, followed by Life Fitness seated leg curls, 4 x 8 x 185.

Published in: on February 28, 2011 at 3:12 am  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, February 24

The autopsy of a dead sale

As not too much of interest happened today, I’ll take the opportunity to analyze a failed sale from last week and try to figure out why it failed.  Doing so does not mean that the sale will make a Lazarus-like resurrection from the dead, of course, but I have the sort of inquisitive mind that prefers to know why something bad happened even when the results won’t change.  As for today’s activities, I went into the office in mid-morning to take care of some administrative matters.  I was supposed to meet my manager to spend a while going over the underwriting changes that will be taking effect on Monday and to receive a new field underwriting manual.  After waiting around for a while I got a text from him, saying that he was tied up with a customer some distance away.  Rather than wait around any longer I opted to attend a group training session that will be held early tomorrow afternoon.  The time I had spent in the office wasn’t totally wasted, however, as another manager was giving me advice on canvassing methods.  He’s pretty much the canvassing specialist and I’m hoping that his advice proves helpful.

In the early afternoon I headed off to two smaller towns in central-eastern Suffolk in which I had a new supply of customer lead cards.  As I’m not sure how much work I’ll be doing in these communities, Chipmunk Junction will remain the center of my activities for the time being, I haven’t yet decided whether to give them monickers of their own.  Whatever the case, I didn’t have much luck in contacting anyone, though that’s to be expected given the time of day.  I headed home later in the afternoon, hoping to get in a nice gym session, however other things intervened and I wasn’t able to go.  My gym attendance has been rather spotty lately, I’ve really got to change that, and soon.

As for the dead-sale autopsy, I have in mind the one from last Thursday in Chipmunk Junction and the customer’s “let me talk it over with my wife” response.  I hadn’t thought too much about my failure at the time because I immediately followed it with a very nice successful sale.  In retrospect, however, it’s not immediately apparent why the first sale had been such a miserable flop.  I had called the customer on Tuesday evening and left a voice mail message.  He called me back late Wednesday morning, a very unusual event  in and of itself, and said that he was glad I had called because he’d been meaning to contact ABC Insurance all along.  He said that since he had taken out a small health policy a few years ago he had gotten married, and his wife had just had a baby. Being self-employed and with a family to support, and working in a physically demanding trade, the customer said he was concerned about having coverage in case of disability and knew that we offered that sort of policy.  We arranged to meet the following day when I’d be in town.  Given the customer’s expressed need for a disability policy and his sense of urgency I had every hope of making a nice sale.

As I noted in a prior entry the customer seemed interested during my presentation.  It came as quite a surprise when he “wifed” me and said that he’d call me the next day, and as no surprise at all when I never heard back from him. My initial concern was that I’d somehow blown the presentation.  Looking back, however, I now have a pretty good idea of what went down.  A possible key to understanding is something I had (deliberately?) overlooked during the presentation, namely the fact that the customer had taken out a piece of paper from his printer and wrote down some things as I was speaking.  That’s of course a classic means of feigning interest and usually means that no sale will be forthcoming.

With no further ado, here’s my reasoned guess as to what happened.  After the customer spoke to me on Wednesday and we scheduled the call for the next day, he told his wife about it and she came out with the Typical Wife Response: We already have enough insurance. Never mind the fact that the customer had told me that he had no disability insurance and was very concerned about the issue.  As I’ve noted many times, there’s a major difference in the attitudes of women as women per se and the attitudes of women in their status as their husband’s wives.  Women as women understand the role of insurance and can be perfectly willing to buy policies on themselves.  Women as wives usually think that insurance on their husbands is an unnecessary frivolity.

In any event, after the customer told his wife about his plans to meet with me, and the wife sent the idea down in flames, my reasoned guess is that he figured that it would be better just to meet with me and pretend to be interested rather than calling to cancel.  I had told him that I was going to be in Chipmunk Junction and had another call scheduled after his, so presumably he knew that meeting with him would be no major inconvenience for me.  He also had no way of knowing that getting to Chipmunk Junction was a long drive for me. Again, I have no way of knowing if my theory is true, but it would account for the customer’s feigned interest as expressed via note-taking, and for his somewhat sheepish attitude when he came out with the “let me talk it over with my wife” response.  One thing I now realize is that my failure to suggest that I meet with both the customer and his wife was surely irrelevant.  She probably wouldn’t have been willing to meet with me, and if she had she almost certainly would have said “let me think about it.”  I know for sure who is the dominant partner in that marriage, and it isn’t the husband.

Published in: on February 26, 2011 at 3:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, February 23

Sometimes postponements are okay

Driving into the office for the 9 am new agents’ training session yielded quite a surprise.  Expressway traffic was extremely light, no more than half its usual volume at that time.  I have no idea why.  Most schools are closed this week, of course, but that shouldn’t have such a major effect on traffic flow.  Whatever the case, I had an easy time on the road and arrived more than ten minutes early.  As always, the training session was helpful.  Today we practiced closing techniques, what to say – and not to say – when the presentation is done and the customer is making a final decision on whether to buy a policy.  It is important to remain silent while the customer mulls over his or her options, speaking only in response to questions.  It should go without saying that this is much easier said than done.  I experienced this last evening when I made my second sale of the day.  After I finished the presentation, and asked “What would work best for you?”, the customer sat there silently before making his choice.  Although he was silent for no more than a minute it felt utterly interminable.  I had to fight a tremendous urge to break the silence and repeat my “what’s best?” question.  Had I spoken it’s quite possible that the customer might have decided against buying anything.

Following the training session, which ran almost two hours, I headed back home to do some paperwork.  Within a couple of hours I was on the road, headed for a sales call in Chipmunk Junction.  The customer had inquired about life insurance, but it turned out that she wanted policies not for herself (she already has a couple huge policies from another company) but for her daughter and grandson.  Her daughter would have to sign the policies even though Mom would be paying.  I arranged to come back next week, when the daughter will be around, and barring any last-minute change of mind I should be able to make the sale. 

I left Chipmunk Junction to meet my manager at a call in a town about 20 miles to the west.  As I haven’t done much work in this town I don’t yet have a suitable moniker for it.  Due to heavy traffic on the main road through Range Rover Territory I just barely made it to the call in time.  If I hadn’t been able to make it, the manager would have gotten the commission (managers get regular salaries and bonuses, so they don’t mind too much if agents get commissions on sales in which they participate).  All of these considerations proved completely irrelevant.  The customers were a 30ish couple, and as soon as we got started the wife pulled out a legal pad and began writing things down.  That’s a sure sign that there won’t be any sale … no, I do not know why.

After leaving this failed call I headed off to Groundhog Crossing for yet another call.  While on the road I got a call from a customer on the North Fork whom I was supposed to meet tomorrow, asking to postpone the call until next week.  This theme continued when I got to the customer’s house in Groundhog Crossing; she had forgotten I was coming, said she was quite sick, and once again asked to reschedule for next week.  I wasn’t annoyed because Groundhog Crossing is close to me and also because the customer really did look sick.  In addition, as already noted there are some policy-issuance changes that will be taking effect next Monday. Right now, a customer who has policy type A is not eligible for policy type B, and vice-versa, even though the two types complement each other and having both types would provide enhanced coverage for relatively little extra cost.  Next week this restriction will be lifted, and I have reason to believe this will make it easier for me to make sales to the North Fork and Groundhog Crossing customers.

Tomorrow I will be heading into the office to get a new supply of lead cards.  My plan is to work the phones in an attempt to schedule as many calls as I can.  While there’s an outside chance I might be able to schedule something for Friday or Saturday, it’s more likely that anything I get will be for next week.  What all this means is that yesterday’s two sales are probably going to be my only sales this week.  I’ll earn a tolerable amount of money for this week, though I’d been hoping for more, and with a bit of luck next week should be pretty good.

Published in: on February 24, 2011 at 5:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Tuesday, February 22

Breaking the dreaded Curse of Groundhog Crossing

Amazing!  Based on my own and other agents’ experience, I had given up hope of ever selling anything in Groundhog Crossing.  For reasons no one’s been able to explain that seemingly unexceptional community has developed a reputation as the most bad-luck acreage in Suffolk County from a sales standpoint.  You can imagine my surprise when an early afternoon sales call in that neck of the woods actually resulted in a sale.  Now, it wasn’t a huge sale by any means, it’s no real tragedy that I don’t have the local Mercedes dealer on speed-dial, but anything helps.  In addition, the customer is a “new face,” in other words he doesn’t already have a policy with ABC Insurance, and as such he will count extra toward any bonuses.  Tomorrow evening I have another sales call in Groundhog Crossing, and now that the curse has been broken I might get lucky once more.

Following the call I met up with my manager, and we headed out to eastern Suffolk to call on some existing customers.  Every few weeks every agent is supposed to spend a day with his or her manager.  Commissions still go to the agent.  We went to the North Fork, a somewhat more bucolic part of the county, especially in comparison to the South Fork where I usually work.  The first two customers we met weren’t able to talk with us at any length, but I set appointments for calls at later dates, Thursday afternoon and a week from Saturday.  The third call was a success, as the customer decided to buy a fairly substantial policy.  It wasn’t the type of policy about which he originally inquired, but even though my commission was slightly smaller I didn’t really mind because the policy he bought is “field underwritten,” in other words it does not require approval from the home office.  That means I don’t have to be concerned that it will get rejected and my commission reversed, a relatively uncommon but by no means unheard-of event.  So today turned out much better than I had anticipated, and I didn’t mind not getting home until almost 8:30.

Gym: despite my late return I was able to get in a decent bench press session.  6 x 135, 4 x 185, 4 x 205, 4 x 4 x 225, 8 x 185.

Published in: on February 23, 2011 at 3:55 am  Comments (2)  

Monday, February 21

Under the weather in snowy weather

After recent warm temperatures today’s snow came as quite a surprise.  It wasn’t a heavy snowfall, in the range of four to five inches, but after the winter-is-over feeling of recent days it seemed much worse.  I was very worn out in the morning and really did not want to head into the office for the regular weekly agents’ meeting.  Somehow I forced myself to go, thankfully traffic was light due to the Presidents’ Day semi-holiday.  While today’s snowfall was anything but cataclysmic, it was enough to keep some agents out of the office.  We learned about a couple of changes that are taking place at the beginning of March, changes that should make it easier to sell a couple of policy types.  I had enough energy to make it through the meeting, but that’s about it, so instead of going on the road I spent the rest of the day at home, making some calls to line up business for the rest of the week.  Going to the gym just wasn’t an option.

Published in: on February 23, 2011 at 3:25 am  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, February 19/Sunday, February 20

On Saturday I managed a 2-mile run on the treadmill at 4.6 mph.  Sunday was a different story; I had planned to do weights, but physically just wasn’t up to going at all.

Published in: on February 22, 2011 at 3:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday, February 18

Another administrative day

There’s not much to report about today because not much happened.  In the late morning and early afternoon I dropped off more of those door hangers in Groundhog Crossing, in the process using my last lead cards in that town.  Next week, most likely on Monday, I’ll get some new cards to go along with my still-extant supply from Chipmunk Junction.  Not sure what town they’ll be in.  In the mid-afternoon I headed into the office for some administrative stuff, nothing too boring at least.  Friday afternoon meetings give everyone a chance to see how things went during the week.  My nice sale yesterday afternoon makes it a pretty good if not spectacular week for me, with any luck next week will be at least as good.  Oh, one more thing: yesterday’s first customer, who told me he’d have to check with his wife and would call me today, most assuredly did not call.  Which comes as no surprise whatsoever.

Gym: more back work, once again machine-based.  Hammer Strength MTS High Row: 2 x 8 x 100/100.  Hammer Strength MTS Front Pulldown: 5 x 6 x 100/100.  Life Fitness shoulder press: 8 x 100/100, 3 x 8 x 110/110.

Published in: on February 21, 2011 at 3:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, February 17

Lose one, win one

Another day, another trip to Chipmunk Junction.  I had two calls in town scheduled for today and was hoping that yesterday’s failure would not be repeated.  Just as success builds on success, failure builds on failure – something known at least instinctively to anyone who has been on a prolonged losing streak of any sort.  My first call was a dismal repeat of yesterday’s flop.  The customer seemed interested, asking a number of intelligent questions about the policy he was considering.  I was fully expecting him to go for at least a smaller policy, unfortunately he came out with the dreaded “let me talk it over with my wife” line.  Oh, no.  In retrospect it probably was a mistake on my part not to have suggested that I meet with both the customer and his wife.

Fortunately, my losing streak proved short-lived.  Following the failed call I went directly to another one at a small business a couple of miles away.  This customer had taken out a policy more than a decade ago and had decided that it no longer met his needs.  I went over his current needs and helped him decide on a disability policy.  He then asked for help in determining the appropriate monthly benefit amount, and I was pleased to be able to assist.  It was almost as if I acted as a financial advisor as much as a salesman.  To make things even better, I spoke to a couple other people at the business about policies they might use, and will come back next week to speak to them further.  So today’s trip to Chipmunk Junction turned out much better than yesterday’s, and may lead to even more sales next week.  The only downside is that by the time I got home in the evening, I was just too worn out for the gym.

Published in: on February 19, 2011 at 5:23 am  Comments (1)  

Wednesday, February 16

When your best isn’t good enough

Today being a Wednesday it began as usual with the weekly new agents’ meeting.  I left a bit earlier than usual and encountered no more traffic than usual, so I arrived in plenty of time.  The meeting itself went quite well, with some role-playing as part of the training.  One interesting tip we got from the manager who led the meeting was to watch a few episodes of The Dog Whisperer on National Geographic TV.  He said that you can learn some very useful tips about taking control of situations, which can help overcome sales resistance.  It sounds a bit strange to me, but I’ll give it a try.

After stopping home for a while I headed off to Chipmunk Junction for a sales call I had scheduled on Monday evening.  The customer has had a couple of small policies for many years, and had said she wants to consider upgrading them due to changing needs.  I met her at her (very nice) house in a semi-rural part of town right on time.  Now, I’m not much for bragging or anything, but I believe that I did everything just the way I should have.  I went over the customer’s needs, found out what type of policy would best suit her current requirements, and explained that policy type in detail.  She seemed quite interested and acknowledged that the policy would fulfill a current unmet need.

And after all this … the customer replied with the dreaded “let me think about it.”  I tried all the overcoming-resistance techniques, pointing out in particular that the best time for her to bring up any questions was while I was there to answer them.  No luck.  In fact, not only did she say that he had to think about it, but went on to say that it would be at least three months before she could come to a decision.  I cannot explain why she was so reluctant.  From what I had been able to determine, the cost of the policy would be utterly trivial given the customer’s financial position.  What made things even worse, in a way, is that the customer had many years’ experience in a different type of sales and said as I left that she really liked my sales approach.  Well great.  Guess she didn’t like it enough to buy anything.

I was in a very bad mood after failing so abjectly.  In an attempt to get some value out of the long drive to Chipmunk Junction I called on a couple other customers, though without much luck.  At least the day was not a complete failure, as in the evening I made a relatively small sale closer to home.  Any sale is better than no sale, of course, but the commission on this one was barely a fifth of what I would have made on the one that failed.

Published in: on February 18, 2011 at 3:55 am  Leave a Comment  

Tuesday, February 15

A mediocre follow-up

Today was a day for which I had moderately high hopes.  After making some calls in the daytime, and going to the gym in the afternoon, I spent the early evening following up on those door hangers I had distributed yesterday.  Based on what I’ve heard from other agents I was really hoping to get a sale or two.  That alas was not to be.  I was able to schedule a future sales call but otherwise didn’t have much to show for my efforts.  There still are a couple of possibilities out of the round of door hangars, so I’m still hopeful of more results.  But nothing immediate, which is what I really wanted.

One of my phone calls stands out as sort of amusing in defeat.  I spent over 20 minutes talking with a current customer about ABC Insurance’s disability insurance product.  After hearing what I had to say the customer admitted to a need for disability protection and seemed interested in a policy.  When it came time for me to suggest setting a time for me to come over and discuss his situation in greater detail, however, the customer got such cold feet I could see the frost on my cell phone.  Oh no, he said, I want you to send me all your literature in the mail.  I said that I’d be in the area tomorrow and could drop it off, but that would not do – it had to be in the mail.  Not that it would have made much of a difference, as the disability policy is can be customized in so many ways that there’s really no substitute for an in-person discussion.  What presumably happened is that the customer is afraid to meet with a salesman because he might – gasp! – be talked into actually buying something. You can tell that his sales resistance is pretty close to zero!  Anyway, I can scratch this one off the list.

Gym: my afternoon session went well, as for the first time in longer than I care to remember I did some deadlifts.  Because it’s been so long I kept them light, 5 x 6 x 225.  I then did some quick bench presses, 6 x 135, 4 x 185, 4 x 205, 3 x 3 x 225.

Published in: on February 17, 2011 at 4:03 am  Leave a Comment