Thursday, April 28

What’s that strange sensation?  Oh right, it’s called “breathing.”

It would be an exaggeration to say that I’m now able to breathe for the first time in weeks.  But only a slight exaggeration.  April has been a very nerve-wracking month for me due to quota pressure.  Not “try to sell as much as you can” pressure, but “sell a particular amount or else” sort of pressure.  While I’ve had good days and bad days, for a while I was behind schedule to a non-insignificant extent.  I didn’t even want to think of what would happen if the month ended without my meeting quota.  Fortunately, I won’t have to think of such disturbing things, because today I sold enough to make the month’s quota.  You  cannot imagine what a relief this was.  Of course there’ll be more quotas as time goes on, but there should be considerably less pressure.  What with this huge sense of relief, I also should be in a mood to get back to the gym (thanks to the GPS app on my phone I’ll be able to find it).  Tomorrow is an all-day meeting in Rockland County, and I probably won’t get back home until quite late, but Saturday should be the first Gym Day in a longer period than I care to think about.

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Published in: on April 30, 2011 at 1:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Tuesday, April 26/Wednesday, April 27

Two more days that blend together

What could be said for Tuesday applies for Wednesday, and vice-versa.  With the end of April – the big quota month – drawing closer I spent much of my time running around calling on customers.  Or trying to call on them, as the case may be. It never ceases to amaze me just how hard it is to find people.  One man, in particular, my manager and I have both been trying to track him down for over two weeks.  He’s said that he wants to buy a disability policy.  That’s good.  What’s not so good is that he’s never available.  Normally I would take that as a sign that he really isn’t interested notwithstanding what he said, but my manager has spoken to him more than I have (and of course is better at sensing these things) says the interest seems genuine.  I hope so.  Meanwhile, I made a couple of relatively modest sales that together push me almost all the way to satisfying the April quota, if not quite all the way there. 

Published in: on April 28, 2011 at 8:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, April 25

Explain this to me

Last week I had spoken to a customer about a large disability policy.  He had expressed some interest, but wanted to look through a brochure over the weekend.  I was to contact him today.  Now, I had tried to point out that reading through the brochure wouldn’t do much.  It’s really just an advertising flier, with only a few details on the policy.  This is especially significant with respect to a disability policy as it’s a complicated sort of policy, capable to being customized as to amounts, duration of benefits, and waiting periods.  Premiums are based on these factors in addition to age, type of occupation, and whether or not the applicant has worker’s compensation.  In fact there are probably over a thousand possible premium amounts, and needless to say they aren’t in the brochure.  But whatever.  I gave the customer the brochure last week and told him I’d check back in today.

Following the morning meeting, and some administrative tasks, I went to see this customer just before noon.  The moment I walked into his place of business, I knew it wasn’t my day.  He was annoyed at my presence and said that he and his wife had not yet had the chance to review the brochure.  Things really went south when he added, in a very terse tone, “I will call you after I’ve gone through the brochure.”  In other words, don’t contact me.  It’s a near-certainty that I’ve got no chance of making the sale, as customers don’t call agents.  I tried to repeat my caution about how the brochure doesn’t say much, but the customer wasn’t interested in hearing anything more I had to say.  I was so disturbed about this lost sale that I called my manager and explained what happened.  To my sort-of relief, he said that it didn’t sound as if I’d done anything wrong, and that some customers are just impossible to explain.  I’m glad to know that … but I would have been even gladder to have made a sale.  As it was, I earned a goose egg for today.

Published in: on April 28, 2011 at 4:27 am  Comments (1)  

Saturday, April 23/Sunday, April 24

I gave some careful thought to the issue of whether I should try calling on customers on Saturday.  Eventually I decided against doing so, for two reasons: (1) some people might not appreciate being called on Easter weekend, and (2) experience has shown that it’s very difficult to reach people by telephone on Saturdays, voice mail all the way.  So I ended up not doing anything, and as a result was on a big guilt trip.  Sometimes you just can’t win.

Published in: on April 28, 2011 at 4:15 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday, April 22

Office stuff

After some generally unsuccessful canvassing attempts in the morning, I headed into the office to handle some administrative chores and then to attend the regular weekly check-in.  Naturally enough I shared the story of the loathsome customer I’d encountered at the retail business yesterday.  It turns out that he’s well-known around the office … and not in a good way.  A couple of years ago another agent had gone to speak to the same customer and had fared even worse than I did.  Sure wish I’d been warned!  Needless to say, this customer won’t be getting any repeat visits.  Following the check-in I headed back home, glad that I’d met my quota and had a decent week.

Published in: on April 26, 2011 at 2:06 am  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, April 21

Bad customer, nice customer

One of my first stops today was at a retail business not far from me.  The owner and his wife had had a number of policies with ABC Insurance, but all of them had lapsed over a period of several months ending about a year ago.  Had the policies gone down all at once it would have been less promising, but with these gradual lapses experience has shown it’s often possible to rewrite some business.  There were enough lapsed policies that even if I rewrote only some of them, I’d make a nice healthy commission.  I also knew that the business appeared to be thriving, so money wasn’t likely to be an object.

As soon as I identified myself to the owner it was plainly obvious that I wouldn’t be making any sales.  He snarled at me that I should have called for an appointment rather than just walking in. Leave aside the fact that the information card said “Do Not Call.”  Also leave aside the fact that there’s nothing intrusive about walking into a retail business when it’s open.  I explained that I was not there to make a sale, only that I wanted to set a convenient time when I could return.  The customer then snarled at me that he had canceled the policies because ABC Insurance had switched to a system of making automatic monthly debits for the premium payments – “We don’t do business that way!”  I patiently explained that most customers prefer this system as they don’t have to worry about remembering to send checks each month.  Finally, the customer seemed to relent a bit, and said that if I came back after his busy period he might be able to spare a few minutes.  Okay, I said, when will your busy period be over (I was thinking maybe on Monday.)  The customer gave me an icy stare and replied, “August.”

Angry at the way I’d been treated, I headed out to Quaint Historic Village for a call I’d scheduled two weeks ago.  I had been debating whether I should call prior to making the long drive, just to confirm that the customer in fact would be available.  After some consideration I decided to take the risk, fearful that calling would somehow jinx the situation … one thing about working in sales, it does tend to make one superstitious.  During the drive I was thinking about all the things that could go wrong: the customer might not be home, she might be home but would say “things are totally crazy” and ask me to come back another time, or that I’d make my presentation and she’d reply “let me think about it.”

None of these things happened.  The customer was home, she was happy to meet with me, and she bought a large disability policy with hardly any discussion.  This sale was big enough for me to make my latest quota and earn a pretty decent commission.  Had the customer been a man, I would have been reluctant to meet with him unless his wife were present.  This case was the opposite, the customer being a woman, which meant that she went ahead and bought the policy without wanting to talk it over with her husband.  Funny how these things work.  In any event, my drive back from QHV was a happy one.  I almost didn’t even care about the schmuck I met earlier in the day.  Almost.

Published in: on April 24, 2011 at 3:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, April 20

False courtesy is no courtesy at all

Today was basically a continuation of Monday and Tuesday.  I put in another long day calling on active and lapsed business customers in a nearby community.  Another smallish sale, enough to make this a sort-of-somewhat-semi-decent week, but still not where I want it to be.  Three active customers to whom I spoke today all had a very similar reaction, a reaction I normally don’t hear more than once every other week ago: after I introduced myself, each customer said “I’m good!” with a bouncy tone (an imprecise term, but the best I can do) in his or her voice and a broad smile.  I did not like hearing this.  Not so much because each case represented a lost sales opportunity, but because the customers’ friendly or  courteous reaction was not so friendly or courteous at all.  It was very easy for me to sense what each one was thinking: Ugh. A salesman.  I hate salesmen.  I’d better get rid of him as quickly as possible.  If I just say “No” he’ll probably try to talk me out of it, and that could mean – horrors! – that I actually might buy something.

Acting faux-friendly therefore was the customer’s way of assuring my quick departure from the premises.  My reasoned guess is that each one figured that a friendly “No,” even though the friendliness was obviously fake, would be more conclusive than a businesslike rejection.  I’ll say one thing about being in sales, you get insights into the human mind well beyond what you’d get from working in most other fields.  And it should go without saying that most of the insights are not nice insights.

Published in: on April 22, 2011 at 9:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, April 18/Tuesday, April 19

Into the whirlwind

I’m treating these days as one entry because they’re already running together in my mind.  Suffice to say that they were hectic to the extreme.  I put in 11 hours each day and drove about 200 miles … the latter is especially remarkable in that I never went beyond about a ten-mile radius from home.  During this time I stopped in to see at least 30 active or lapsed customers, did some business canvassing, and made a slew of telephone calls.  Yep, there’s nothing like quota pressure to keep one busy.  Monday was cold as ice, Tuesday I made a fairly decent sale, and I also was able to get some things set up for next week.  It looks as if the rest of this week and at least part of next week will be just as hectic.

Published in: on April 21, 2011 at 12:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, April 16/Sunday, April 17

Saturday was very much a working day, as I spent several hours doing some residential and business canvassing.  Quota pressures that have been ratcheted into the Red Zone made the mere idea of a nonworking Saturday wholly unthinkable.  It was a miserably day to be out on the road, cold and rainy, fortunately I stayed fairly close to home.  Sunday was a day off, though the fact that I was thinking constantly about the quotas put a damper on everything.  What with working so hard under so much pressure, I’m not in much of a gym-going mood these days.  Hopefully that will change soon.

Published in: on April 20, 2011 at 1:40 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday, April 15

At least it provided a good war story

A busy start to the day, as I called on a number of nearby businesses in an attempt to make presentations to their employees.  I’ve been concentrating on restaurants, as they almost never provide their workers with fringe benefits.  This (hopefully) makes restaurant employees especially receptive to ABC Insurance’s offerings.  Another advantage of restaurants is that they seldom if ever have gatekeepers.  If I approach a hostess or other employee, identify myself, and ask to speak to the manager on duty, my request will be granted without discussion.  Now, it may well be that the manager on duty does not have the authority to discuss insurance matters, but if that’s the case he or she will give me the name of the general manager or owner and will let me know the best time to check back.

The first restaurant owner with whom I spoke knew about ABC Insurance, as years ago he had a policy himself and had collected a couple of nice payouts.  He noted that getting the workers together for even a brief presentation could be complicated from a logistical standpoint given the different shifts they work.  I knew about this already, having heard similar stories from other agents.  Speaking of stories, when I went into the office for the afternoon check-in I regaled those present with my experiences at yesterday’s woefully failed sales call.  Just about everyone in the industry has busted calls from time to time, and it’s always fun to swap stories.  On a more serious note, I talked with my manager about my efforts to meet quotas, and he said that he would be willing to work more directly with me if need be, as would the two other managers in the office.  That should help.

Published in: on April 18, 2011 at 3:22 am  Leave a Comment