Monday, June 27/Tuesday, June 28

Two not-very-productive days

One thing about working in sales is that not every day is going to be a good day.  It’s inevitable.  Neither Monday nor Tuesday was particularly good for me, even though I put in very long hours on Monday (not quite so much on Tuesday).  It wasn’t due to lack of trying; I was on my “A Game” both days, especially on Monday as my manager was with me much of the time.  I am not discouraged, as the Law of Averages hasn’t been repealed.  It says that for X number of approaches to customers there will be Y sales.  Now, this does not necessarily apply in the short run, indeed it’s entirely possible to make, say, 2X or even 3X approaches with zero sales, but over time the numbers work out.

I actually made a mid-week gym visit on Tuesday, although I was way too drained to do anything but arm work.  Triceps rope pushdowns: 4 x 10 x 100.  Cable curls: 4 x 10 x 110.

Published in: on June 30, 2011 at 2:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, June 25/Sunday, June 26

I had considered working a half-day on Saturday, but decided against it.  While I obviously am not going to make any money today, I knew that if I spent any more time on my feet I’d be nearly unable to walk tomorrow and maybe Monday.  My throbbing feet therefore got a much-needed rest.  When I went to the gym on Saturday evening, I decided to use machines for back work rather than the T-bar row, as I could use the machines while seated and not risk stressing my feet any further.  Hammer Strength MTS High Row: 4 x 8 x 100/100.  Hammer Strength MTS Front Pulldown: 4 x 6 x 100/100.  Life Fitness lower back extensions: 4 x 10 x 225.  Cable curls: 4 x 10 x 110.  Although Sunday was my birthday, I decided to make a quick gym trip rather than just goof off.  All I did was some benching: 6 x 135, 6 x 185, 6 x 205, 3 x 4 x 225, 10 x 185.

Published in: on June 29, 2011 at 2:31 am  Comments (2)  

Friday, June 24

Inside information

As my manager was off today I spent much of the day working with an experienced salesman.  We had worked together briefly last Saturday but today spent a much longer amount of time together.  It was productive, I’d have to say, because I learned quite a bit about JKL Sales and how it operates.  The sort of things you don’t usually hear from management.  All in all it was pretty useful stuff to hear.  I’ve now got a better handle on what sort of advancement is possible and what the normal time frames may be.  Nothing is guaranteed of course, it all being dependent on production, but it would appear that advancement here is both more likely and more rapid than it had been at ABC Insurance.  If nothing else I certainly have some goals in mind.  Today also turned out pretty well sales-wise.

Published in: on June 28, 2011 at 12:46 am  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, June 22/Thursday, June 23

Oooh, my achin’ feet

One downside of working with JKL Sales Corporation is that I have to spend several hours each day on my feet.  In fact, counting both the morning meetings in the chair-less conference room and my actual sales work, it’s probably at least eight to nine hours a day.  Of course this is nothing new for many people, but it definitely is new for me.  At ABC Insurance, for example, I spent much of my time driving around trying to find people who weren’t there.  Other people at JKL have reported success using gel shoe inserts, and after work on Wednesday I got a pair.  They indeed seem to help.  In any event, as time goes on I’ll certainly become more used to things.

While it doesn’t really matter as I’m still drawing a training salary, I did reasonably well on both days in sales terms.  Better, I’d say, than most other people when they’re new in the field.  Thursday started off slowly due to the rain and my location in a rather drab working-class community, but things picked up in the early evening.  Speaking of sales numbers, I found out something rather amusing on Wednesday.  Last week I had gotten a voice mail message from a former customer of mine at ABC Insurance.  A couple of months ago I had sold him a small policy, and now he wanted me to call him back.  I texted my former manager so he could handle the matter and promptly forgot about the whole thing.  Chances are the customer had a question about billing or wanted help filing a claim.

Early in the afternoon on Wednesday, as I was taking a short break, I got a call from another agent at ABC.  We’ve spoken a couple of times since I left.  It turned out that this former customer was the talk of the company at this morning’s meeting.  After receiving my text last week, my former manager sent another agent to see the customer.  After mentioning how helpful I had been (nice ego boost!), the customer said that he wanted to buy more policies.  Some very large policies.  When all was said and done the agent who made the sale got almost $2,500 in commissions and fulfilled an entire month’s worth of sales quotas.  Yes, had I still been with ABC this would have been mine.  It doesn’t bother me, however, as what with the Butterfly Effect and all that, I don’t know what really would have happened.  It was still quite a story to hear!

Published in: on June 25, 2011 at 5:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, June 20/Tuesday, June 21

Venturing out on my own

Following the usual morning meetings, I headed out to a nearby work location on Monday morning for my last day spent in my manager’s company.  After the first hour or so spent observing him, I began speaking to potential customers myself.  At first I was concerned that I’d do something terribly wrong, but that didn’t happen at all.  In fact, my customer interactions went quite well, better than I would have dared to predict.  It’s just amazing how much nicer people are, when compared to my days of selling insurance.  Yes, there were a few schmucks, and even one man who gave me the dreaded “let me think about it” reply (it was hard not to laugh), but these were very much the exceptions.

Tuesday marked even a bigger change, as I went to a work location all by my very own.  It was in Groundhog Crossing, the nearby town in which I never had much success while with ABC Insurance.  After a slow start today turned out pretty well too, and working on my own was not scary at all.  So far, so good.

No, I did not go to the gym either day.  Monday was an 11-hour workday and Tuesday was closer to 12 hours.  I just didn’t have the energy for the gym, although I’m hoping that as I become more used to these long workdays my energy level will get better.

Published in: on June 23, 2011 at 4:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, June 18/Sunday, June 19

Saturday was about a half-day of work at JKL Sales.  I had been dreading the idea of working on a Saturday, but it wasn’t so bad.  I started at nine – what a difference in driving on the Expressway compared to a weekday rush hour – and was done around two, which left plenty of time for “weekend stuff.”  As my manager was away, I followed a more experienced salesman, who proved to be a good teacher.  I helped refine my approach to potential customers, which is good because starting on Monday I’ll be doing it for real, in other words I won’t be getting my training salary and will be earning commissions.

I had a decent back-and-biceps session at the gym on Saturday.  T-bar rows: 8 x 95, 8 x 120, 8 x 130, 8 x 140, 8 x 145.  Cable curls: 4 x 10 x 110.  On Sunday I planned to do some serious benching, but because my energy level was rather low I had an abbreviated session: 6 x 135, 6 x 185, 6 x 205, 6 x 225.

Published in: on June 21, 2011 at 3:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday, June 17

It’s not ALL salesmen

I know, after just two days in the field, both of them working under my manager’s supervision, it’s probably way too early to jump to any conclusions.  Nonetheless, I will take the liberty of saying that I had been wrong in concluding that everyone hates salesmen.  It is more accurate to say that people hate insurance salesmen.  The reason for this (premature?) conclusion is that the potential customers I’ve encountered in these past two days – more people than I would have encountered in two months selling insurance – have almost always been pleasant or at least civil.  They’ll say “no, thank you” instead of the dreaded “let me think about it.”  Hardly any bad attitudes.  Believe me, it makes for a very pleasant change.

Why the difference?  In part it’s due to differences in context.  When selling insurance I called on people at their houses or tried soliciting businesses.  Although I would not acknowledge it at the time, it is very clear to me now that people generally don’t like getting unsolicited sales calls and really do not like salesmen coming to their doors.  As for businesses, the fact that so many post “no soliciting” signs pretty much says all that needs to be said.  In contrast, my approaches to people at JKL Sales are done at times and places where people do not have such defenses in place and for the most part are more receptive to the approaches (I really wish it wasn’t necessary to be so cryptic).  Even more so, however, is the fact that people often have a special dislike of insurance salesmen.  Partly this is because insurance salesmen have a reputation (partially but not completely undeserved) for being especially persistent and annoying.  They also play to peoples’ fears (“how are you going to support your family if you become disabled?”), which doesn’t always go over well.  Another factor is that in many cases there may not actually be a need for a salesman’s involvement, and people know that.  We’ve all seen enough ads to know that it’s entirely possible to buy car insurance online without ever meeting a salesman face to face.  Some people also have bought term life insurance the same way.  With the perception that insurance salesmen are sort of redundant comes a particular dislike for them.

 

Published in: on June 20, 2011 at 3:22 am  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, June 16

Not every company has the same ideas when it comes to office decor … or decorum

Today was my first long day at JKL Sales Corporation.  Long as in almost 12 hours.  One thing I’ve figured out already is that even though the office is only a few more Expressway exits further than ABC Insurance’s offices had been, this translates into at least 20 additional minutes of driving time.  Traffic seems to slow down markedly at Exit 62 and doesn’t begin to clear until about Exit 56.  Following the morning meeting, a bit shorter than usual today, I headed off to the business location of my group’s main customer for some technical product training, a location that coincidentally was not far from ABC Insurance’s office.  When I say “customer” I mean in the sense that it is this business’s products and/or services which my group markets.  This training session lasted about two hours, in a conference room that was more than a little overcrowded. There would have been enough room if just the people from my group were in attendance, but our counterparts from the Nassau County office (technically a separate company) were there too.  Despite the crowding I found the training quite informative.  It involved a product and/or service of which I had little prior knowledge, so learning something new was interesting.

In the early afternoon my manager and I made the relatively short trip to the day’s work location.  As this was my first day of field training I didn’t participate in any sales or marketing activities, but instead watched what the manager did.  Learning about these activities in the office for the last two days was one thing, but to actually see them in action was much more informative.  Tomorrow I’ll be participating myself, under the manager’s supervision, and I’m eager to start.  (Note: sorry about being rather cryptic, but I can’t give more details without risking loss of anonymity.)  We worked until about 7:30, which made this just about an 11-hour day for me.  That’s what weekdays are going to be like, in addition to about five hours on Saturdays.

It occurred to me this morning just how sharp the contrast between the facilities  and atmosphere of XYZ Insurance (where I spent six months last year) and JKL Sales really are.  ABC Insurance was somewhere in the middle.  At XYZ Insurance – heck, it’s been long enough, I’ll come out and say that it was New York Life – the offices in Melville were plush.  All deep carpeting, wood-paneled walls, nice furniture.  About what you’d see in the lobby of a 5-star hotel.  Everyone was well-dressed, New York Life not having gotten onto the “business casual” bandwagon, and the overall level of decorum was high.  No one ever would play a radio at his or her desk loudly enough for anyone else to hear, for example.  The whole atmosphere was that of a highly esteemed professional corporation providing insurance and financial services to an upscale client base, and last but not least I would guess that the average age of the agents and staff members was at least 40.

JKL Sales Corporation is about as different as one could imagine.  It operates out of some sparsely furnished rooms in an industrial park, sparsely furnished even if one discounts the (presumably intentional) lack of chairs in the meeting room.  There’s always loud music playing.  The energy level is not just high, but bouncing-off-the-walls high, and as I’ve noted the workers are very young.  I really mean that, the average age is probably no more than 25.  People dress at different levels, but it’s much more casual than at New York Life.  Despite all this, I believe that there’s some quite decent money to be made, far more than at New York Life and its odious “sell to people you know” philosophy.  “Relationship marketing” and “networking” (pardon the short delay while I vomit) simply have no application to what we do here.  Besides, I actually think I prefer working with enthusiastic 25-year-olds as opposed to dour middle-aged types.

Postscript: Remember how I said that I’ve gotten some calls and e-mails from employers who saw my resume on Careerbuilder and now want to offer me sales jobs?  I’ve actually gotten two such calls from (drumroll please) … New York Life.  Trust me – my chances of ever wanting to go back there are far below zero!

Published in: on June 18, 2011 at 5:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Tuesday, June 14/Wednesday, June 15

First impressions

I’ve combined these days into one entry because they are very similar.  I started at JKL Sales Corporation on Tuesday, for in-office training, and continued with the training on Wednesday.  Thursday I’ll start doing field training with my manager.  My first impressions of the company are favorable.  It has a completely different atmosphere from what I experienced at either XYZ or ABC Insurance.  Most notably, the 25 or so other salespeople tend to be much younger than the largely middle-aged or older crowd at the insurance companies.  I’d guess that the average age is under 30 with at least a few of the people barely into their 20’s.  On what’s probably a related note, the energy and enthusiasm level seems sky-high, although given the generally dour atmospheres at the insurance companies that’s not saying much.

Based on what I’ve heard from other salespeople, JKL seems to offer pretty good earnings opportunities.  While some people obviously are going to do better than others, as far as I can tell there’s much more equality in earnings than at the feast-or-famine insurance companies.  During a typical week at ABC Insurance, a few agents would make $3,000 or more in commissions, some others would be lucky to make $500, and almost invariably some would make nothing at all.  It does not appear that anything of the sort will happen here. 

Of course there’s a trade-off, namely the fact that the hours at JKL are going to be very, very long.  Long as in 60+ hours per week.  That’s not too far off from what I experienced when I worked in Manhattan, if you counted commuting time, and is typical for many self-employed people and business owners.  Still, it’ll make for a long week.  There’s a company-wide meeting and training session in the office from 9 to 10:30 – in a room notable for the lack of chairs, everyone stands – followed by a 30-minute meeting of each of the three managerial groups.  At about 11 the salespeople leave the office, and in my group at least we’re expected to be at our off-site work locations from 12:30 or 1 until about 7 or 7:30.  This leaves about a 90-minute to two-hour break in the middle of the day, which probably isn’t going to be particularly useful.  Still, as time goes on I’m sure I’ll settle into the routine.

Gym: on Tuesday, I did 40 minutes on a new type of elliptical, one which seems much harder than the other ones.  Didn’t go on Wednesday. 

Published in: on June 16, 2011 at 3:33 am  Comments (2)  

Monday, June 13

A backup plan, maybe

On my last day prior to starting work at JKL Sales Corporation, I headed into Nassau County for an interview with one of the companies which had contacted me after seeing my resume on Careerbuilder.com.  This company sells communications-related services to residential customers, sorry if that’s vague but if I were any more explicit it might give away too much information.  I noted while driving to the location that the road seemed familiar, but couldn’t quite recall why.  Later on it came to me – on my very first day in the field at ABC Insurance, undergoing field training with my manager, we called on a customer right on that street.  My manager was slightly acquainted with the customer, which is why we went into Nassau, and assured me on the drive over that the customer had expressed strong interest in a disability policy, and that a sale was all but guaranteed.  This call also turned out to be my very first encounter with a phenomenon I was later to encounter way too many times: “Let me talk it over with my wife.”  So much for a guaranteed sure thing.

In any event, after speaking with the manager of this sales company today, he offered me a job starting next week.  Unlike most people hiring for sales jobs, he gave me a pretty good idea of what salespeople in the office can expect to earn.  People without prior sales experience start out bringing in about $700 to $1,000 per week in commissions, while those with prior experience (like me) can expect about $1,200 to $1,500 at first.  That’s pretty good money.  On the other hand, this job would require me to be on the road quite a bit, if not to the same extent as at ABC Insurance.  In addition, the type of activities I would have to do aren’t really what I like.  What I ended up doing was asking the manager if I could have until Wednesday afternoon to decide.  That will give me two days at JKL Sales, and while those days will involve training rather than actual selling I should be able to get some idea as to what the working atmosphere is like.  It’s also possible, though less likely, that I might get a better idea what sales reps are likely to earn. If by chance I get the idea that JKL isn’t a very good place at which to work, something I certainly do not expect to hear, I will have this Nassau County offer as a backup.

Gym:  first time bench pressing in a while.  No records, but a decent performance.  6 x 135, 6 x 165, 6 x 185, 6 x 205, 3 x 6 x 225, 8 x 185.  I then did some cable curls, 4 x 10 x 100.

Published in: on June 14, 2011 at 5:17 am  Leave a Comment