Monday, March 28

I’m actually not trying to sell anything this week

I know, it sounds very very weird for a commissioned sales representative to say that, what with no sales meaning no income, but there’s a method to my madness.  Bonuses were the main topic of discussion at today’s weekly agents’ meeting.  With the calendar quarter ending on Friday, we learned where each of us stands in terms of earning a quarterly bonus.  Suffice to say that I’m not remotely close to bonusing, it would take a truly spectacular four days for me to reach that goal.  It’s not just me, by the way, as at least half of the agents are very unlikely to bonus and some others are relatively long shots.  In any event, starting on Friday with the new quarter, there will be a new bonus plan that should make it somewhat easier to get bonuses.  What with carrots and sticks and all that, there also will be new minimum quotas.  What this all means is that making sales this week won’t help me nearly as much as sales made on Friday and thereafter.  I was able to postpone tomorrow’s scheduled group presentation in Chipmunk Junction to next week.  After leaving the meeting I didn’t do much of anything work-related for the rest of the day.  Tomorrow and Wednesday I’ll try scheduling calls for next week, because calls tend to fall through if scheduled too far in advance I figured it wouldn’t make sense to try scheduling next-week calls today.

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Published in: on March 30, 2011 at 4:31 am  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, March 26/Sunday, March 27

I actually dragged my lay carcass back to the gym this weekend.  After Wednesday’s debacle I just didn’t have the motivation to go.  By Saturday, I’d gotten enough motivation back to make the trek, and did a leg session.  Horizontal leg presses: 5 x 8 x 360.  Seated calf raises: 5 x 12 x 140.  Life Fitness seated leg curls: 4 x 8 x 185.  On Sunday, I ran one mile on the treadmill at 4.6 mph and then did 20 minutes on the stationary cycle at 18.4 mph.

Published in: on March 28, 2011 at 4:56 am  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, March 24/Friday, March 25

One entry will pretty much do

I rarely if ever cover two weekdays with a single entry, but this is a reasonable exception as both days were pretty much the same: calling on customers in Opossum Hollow, making no sales but getting some things set up for next week.  Most of the people I was trying to see weren’t in this week.  It looks as if Monday’s relatively small sale will be it for the week.  Not disastrous, but I was hoping for more.  After Wednesday’s tragic melodrama I barely had enough energy to make it through these two days.  One interesting thing is that when I met with my manager on Friday afternoon he told me that Opossum Hollow has a reputation as a tough town in which to make sales.  Sort of like a more upscale version of Groundhog Crossing.  I also related the facts of Wednesday’s failed sale, and he told me that it was doubtful if anyone could have done any better.  Frightened customers are possibly the most difficult of all.

Addendum: What with having a few days to reflect on matters, I’m increasingly convinced that Wednesday’s failed sale was perhaps more complicated right from the start than I had originally thought.  When I arrived for the sales call, the customer’s wife was watching television in the other room, though she did not participate in the discussion.  A few minutes after my arrival she got her coat and went out, saying “Bye Honey” to her husband.  A few months ago, a different customer’s wife went out during the course of my presentation to the customer, and the sale failed when the customer gave the typical “Let me talk it over with my wife” response.  That was one of the responses Wednesday’s customer gave, along with “Let me think about it.”

My theory, suspicion, hunch, whatever, is that the wife’s departure may have been planned out in advance, so that the customer would be able to deflect sales pressure by trotting out the “Let me talk it over with my wife” line.  Call it advance creation of plausible deniability.   If this is so, it means that I had greatly overestimated the customer’s degree of interest.

Published in: on March 27, 2011 at 12:02 am  Comments (5)  

Wednesday, March 23

The condensed version of today: it started out horribly, and then got worse

Am I being subjected to some sort of cosmic punishment?  Does reincarnation exist, and was I evil in a prior life or something?  Days like today bring these questions to the forefront.  It started out with a lengthy trip to a part of Suffolk County outside my usual sales territory.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s entry, a lapsed customer in Opossum Hollow named Chauncey said that he would mention my products to his workers.  He also said that his brother Farnsworth ran another branch of the company and was more involved in insurance matters.  Chauncey said that I should speak to Farnsworth, and see about making a presentation to Farnsworth’s workers.  This sounded pretty good to me, referrals are an ideal way of getting business, and few things are more effective than making a group presentation.

I eagerly made the long trek to Farnsworth’s location, not really minding the fact that I could practically see my car’s fuel gauge dropping.  When I arrived, I introduced myself to Farnsworth and said that his brother Chauncey in Opossum Hollow had referred me to him.  Just the way we’re supposed to do.  Imagine my dismay when Farnsworth snarled “I’m not interested!”  Somewhat taken aback, I asked for permission to speak to his workers, and got an immediate and distinctly non-courteous rejection.  Chauncey had been a very likable guy, could this schmuck actually be his brother?  My fuel-consuming trip had been a complete waste.  As I was well outside my normal territory I couldn’t even try to cut my losses by canvassing nearby businesses.

My woes were just beginning.  Last week I had stopped by another business in Opossum Hollow and spoke to the owner, Fenwick, whose policies had lapsed just in the last few months.  He had been too tied up to speak with me at the time, but asked me to call Clarabelle, his office manager, and set up a time to come back.  In the parking lot of a 7-11, where I stopped to drown by Farnsworth-induced sorrows with a Diet Pepsi, I called Fenwick’s business and asked for Clarabelle … and ran straight into one of the most evil gatekeepers imaginable.  After I identified myself and my company, she demanded – in a most unpleasant manner – to know what business I had in wanting to talk to Clarabelle.  When I told her that Fenwick had suggested I call, she did not appear to believe me.  It was really, really hard for me not to get angry.  She never did tell me whether Clarabelle was available, just that she’d let her know that I called.  It’s now more than 48 hours after this encounter, and Clarabelle has not called.  I would be most surprised if she ever does.  Count this as yet another lost sales opportunity.

Even after these two miserable encounters, I was still holding out hope that today would turn out well.  I had a 6pm sales call out in Chipmunk Junction, the customer had expressed interest in a high-commission disability policy, and I had called him yesterday to confirm.  Once I began my presentation every sign pointed to a sale.  The customer was pleasant but not overly friendly (if a customer acts like you’re his very best buddy it’s a guarantee that there’ll be no sale), he expressed concern about his lack of disability coverage, he asked a number of questions indicative of serious interest, and last but not least the Notepad of Doom was nowhere to be seen.  I spent some time showing the various coverage options and the associated premiums, and when prompted he selected the option that would best serve his needs.

My hopes came to a shattering end the moment I took out an application form.  Back when I was in training with my manager, a customer had acted downright frightened when faced with the prospect of filling out an application.  It was the very same story today.  The customer acted as if applying for an insurance policy would be an irretrievable, life-changing commitment that would separate his life into before and after phases.  I told him that it would take only one month’s premium to get started, and if he changed his mind within 30 days we’d return that payment no questions asked.  When this reassurance got me nowhere, I brought up a last-ditch response for saving a failing sale: I told the customer that there was no long-term binding commitment on his part, that his billing would be on a month-to-month basis, and that if at any time in the future he decided he no longer wanted or needed the policy  he could just stop paying with no liability whatsoever.  This response is not to be used lightly because it can lead to more canceled policies and more commission reversals, but I figured it was my only chance of saving the deal.  It didn’t work.  The customer muttered the typical lines – Let me think about it, Let me talk it over with my wife – and when I asked him when I could check back, he gave the “I’ll call you” response that makes it certain that he won’t call.

It was a long drive back from Chipmunk Junction, especially now that it was dark and had begun to snow, but had I made a nice sale I wouldn’t have minded.  As I had failed miserably, however, the drive seemed even longer than usual.  I called my manager and told him what had happened, and got a small measure of comfort when he said that based on my description even a highly experienced agent probably wouldn’t have done any better.  Something obviously had spooked this customer, and when people are in thrall to fear, they are not receptive to logic.

So that was my day.  An in-person encounter with a thoroughly unpleasant man, a telephone encounter with a vile harridan of a gatekeeper, and a promising-looking sales call derailed by a customer’s fears.  Oh, did I also mention that I must have used up at least $30 of gasoline?  If there was any saving grace, it’s that I was able to set up a couple of things for next week in Chipmunk Junction, a sales call with a hard-to-pin-down customer and a group presentation to the employees of a small service business.  These don’t make up for my setbacks, however.

Published in: on March 25, 2011 at 11:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tuesday, March 22

Much effort, few results

One thing about being in sales is that both good days and bad days are bound to happen.  Today was of the latter type, at least for the most part.  I spent several hours calling on existing and lapsed customers in  Opossum Hollow, which is the moniker I have bestowed on an eastern Suffolk community just to the west of the Two Non-Pseudonymed Towns.  It’s a good deal bigger than either of those towns and there are many more customers.  Which most emphatically did NOT mean that I was able to find anyone today who actually wanted to, you know, buy something. What made my lack of results especially hard to take was the fact I made two full presentations without getting a sale from either one.  That is not common, usually with two presentations I would get one sale and possibly two.  One of the two presentations may not turn out to be a total waste, as the customer said he’d mention ABC Insurance to his workers and I may be able to speak directly to them.  The other presentation failed mainly because the customer just wasn’t able to afford anything.  My information card showed him to be X years old.  He looked really old for his age, and during the presentation I found out why: the card was wrong, he was actually X + 11 years old.  Premiums for the type of policy in which he was interested are age-based, and while he might have been able to afford the premiums had he actually been X years old they were out of reach at X + 11.

I headed back home in late afternoon and spent over an hour calling customers.  Or trying to call them.  As had been the case on Saturday, I got voicemailed repeatedly.  My hour-plus on the telephone yielded precisely zero scheduled calls.  I figured I’d make a way-too-delayed gym visit in an attempt to drown (so to speak) my sorrows, but other things intervened and I couldn’t go.

 

Published in: on March 24, 2011 at 4:37 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, March 21

Any closing location will do

It was an utterly miserable morning, with a cold rain that had some wet snow mixed in, to my surprise Expressway traffic was moving at a semi-decent pace.  Overhead electronic signs warned of delays, but these were a few exits ahead and I got to the Monday meeting right on time.  Of course the 50-foot walk from my car to the office building door was enough to get me semi-soaked.  The meeting itself went okay, though it was a bit longer than usual.  As I had to do some paperwork and restock my form supply, I didn’t end up leaving until almost noon.  I headed back home for a while, the rain having mostly stopped by this point, and took care of some non-work issues.  In the late afternoon I headed out to one of the Two Non-Pseudonymed Towns for a sales call.  It was for a customer who was a no-show last week, but whom I had been able to reach on the telephone (“Sorry, I forgot”) and reschedule for today.  Sure enough, I got to his house at the scheduled time … and no one was there.  Oh, no.  I called him, expected to get voicemailed, but to my very pleasant surprise he answered and said he was running a bit late.  He suggested meeting at a diner about five miles away, and I said fine.  For one of my biggest sales the customer and I filled out the application on the hood of his truck at a Burger King parking lot, so there’s precedent for unusual locations to work just fine.  As happened today, I made a decent sale, not enough to make the week but certainly more than enough to get it off to a good start. 

Published in: on March 23, 2011 at 3:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, March 19/Sunday, March 20

Dunno what it is about Saturdays and telephones.  I figured that last Saturday’s unsuccessful telephone work was a fluke, and that today I’d be able to get some customers on the phone.  Figuring that people might be running errands earlier in the day, I set aside a block of time starting at 4 pm to make calls.  Suffice to say that my results were distinctly sub-optimal, in other words voice mail all the way.  Some of the calls were to people who had voicemailed me when I had called last Monday.  I marked their cards accordingly and will add them to the recycling bin later in the week.  There’s no sense calling a third time, as clearly if the customers don’t try to reach me after two voicemail messages they’re not interested.  On a somewhat better note, I did 30 minutes on the stationary cycle in the evening, at a nice clip of 18.7 mph.

Published in: on March 23, 2011 at 3:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday, March 18

It won’t be a bonus week, but that’s okay

I was really hoping that I’d be able to sell enough this week to earn a production bonus.  It didn’t turn out that way, but my sales this week were good enough that I’m not about to complain.  In the morning I made a last attempt to meet with some existing customers in the not-yet-pseudonymed town located next to the Two Non-Pseudonymed Towns (I know, I’ve got to come up with a decent moniker), unfortunately no luck.  Hopefully next week will be another good week.  In the early afternoon I headed into the office for the weekly check-in, and got a few more details about the geographic realignment that I hope will allow me to work slightly closer to home at least some of the time.

 

Published in: on March 21, 2011 at 3:35 am  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, March 17

A dirty girl!

I began St. Patrick’s Day bright and early (well, not too early) with a trip to one of the Two Non-Pseudonymed Towns for a sales call I had scheduled last week.  It was at a nice house in a wooded area.  The sort of nice house where the people may well have money to buy some fairly large policies.  With great expectations I rang the doorbell and waited.  As you’ve undoubtedly guessed, no one answered.  I couldn’t tell whether the customers had forgotten I was coming or whether I’d been porched.  I called and left a voice mail message.  To my mild surprise the wife called me in the evening, in fact she and her husband had forgotten I was coming.  She was quite apologetic, but added that the family financial position was such that they just weren’t in the position to buy anything.  Of course that begs the question of why they had wanted me to come over in the first place.  It also shows that just because people live in a fancy house doesn’t mean they actually have any money.  It can work the opposite way too – one of the very largest sales I made, back in the training phase, was at a cluttered and dirty little shack, to a customer whose personal hygiene standards were on the left tail of the Bell Curve.

I headed back home after the failed call and after a short break met a manager and several other agents in western Suffolk for some field training in residential canvassing.  One thing I found out is that due to some office restructuring I will at least temporarily have some central Suffolk communities in my territory.  Just what communities will be decided next week.  It is very good news, because I will be able to do some work in areas reasonably close to home.  With today’s gasoline prices, it’s more like very good news.  As for the canvassing, I got to see an expert in action, though we didn’t end up making any sales … most of the people home, in a working-class community in western Suffolk, were either old, broke, or non-English-speaking!  Still, it was good training, and the group canvassing will be a regular Thursday afternoon activity from now on.

Gym: nothing too exciting, just 30 minutes on the stationary cycle at 18.4 mph.  Well, there was something interesting; as I was entering the gym, a distressed-looking young woman came up to the front desk and said “You’ve got to do something about the women’s locker room!  There must have been a dirty girl in there and it’s disgusting!”  I really, really wish I knew exactly what happened.  And what a “dirty girl” specifically means.

Published in: on March 20, 2011 at 3:02 am  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, March 16

Right place, check.  Right time, check.

It’s funny how a day that gets off to a bad start can turn out much better.  Getting to this morning’s training session definitely qualified as a bad start, as a huge traffic jam on the Expressway turned a 20-minute trip into an hour-long crawl.  It was raining quite heavily, but that shouldn’t have caused all the delays, and while the traffic radio reported a crash farther west it was far enough away that it shouldn’t have had any effects in my location.  Whatever the case, I arrived at least 20 minutes late, it would have been much worse if I hadn’t gotten an early start.  It’s not as if there’s a time clock or anything, but I loathe being late.

As the training session involved role-playing, which takes some time, it didn’t wind up until around 11, as opposed to the usual 10:30.  I stayed around for a while afterward, tossing many old lead cards into the recycling bin and picking up some new ones.  They are for a town in central-eastern Suffolk just to the west of the Two Non-Pseudonymed Towns.  I’ll have to think up a new moniker.  It’s a fairly large town, much bigger than its Non-Pseudonymed neighbors (not saying much, both are literally one-stoplight towns), about the same size as Chipmunk Junction, and somewhat smaller than Range Rover Territory.  What’s nice is that it’s not too far of a drive for me.  Nothing like the endless trek to Chipmunk Junction.

In any event, I decided to head out to this new town and call on some of the business customers.  The very first one was in an industrial area at the edge of town, and because the owner’s policies had lapsed a few months ago I wasn’t holding out much hope.  Surely he must have let his policies lapse for a reason, right?  To my considerable and very pleasant surprise, he was perfectly willing to take out a new health-related policy for himself and his family.  It was one of the easier sales I’ve ever made.  No resistance, no price negotiations, nothing.  As it was a family rather than individual policy the premium, and hence my commission, was quite substantial.  But wait!  It gets even better.  He said that a relative of his, who runs another branch of the business in Range Rover Territory, also might be interested in a similar policy.  He called her, and she said fine.  Accordingly, I headed over to R.R.T. and made another sale.  While this was an individual rather than a family policy, the customer was near the maximum eligibility age and therefore the premium was almost as high as the first policy.  Even better, this second sale counts as a new-customer sale, which carries a higher commission percentage.  When all was said and done, this was a very, very good day for me, enough to give me a most satisfactory income for the week even if I don’t sell anything else.  I am so glad I decided to stop in the business despite my misgivings about it being a lapsed customer.

Published in: on March 18, 2011 at 2:50 am  Leave a Comment