I’ve found the insurance industry to be very humbling. Just when I think things are going well, the Big Lad upstairs likes to remind me how far I am away from where I want, and need, to be. Goal setting is vital because it measures – for better or worse.
When I walked into the office on my very first day, I literally had no idea what I was doing. I mean, I understood insurance (at least I thought I did), but I didn’t know first hand what it took to be successful. I knew what kinds of things I would need to do to grow my client and referral bases, but I hadn’t done them before.
The benefit of this I think is quite obvious: I didn’t have any bad habits. If you were to ask a collection of insurance professionals which they’d prefer; a seasoned vet who has a lot of bad habits or a rookie who will run the plays in the book, you may be surprised with what they say. Now, this is contingent on how that agency operates. As in, if the Principal is some old guy who sits on his book, he will take the vet because he doesn’t care. If the agency is progressive in its operations, it is highly likely they will take the new guy.
There is also a fine line between guidance and micro-management. My bosses continue to guide me yet remind me frequently that they are “not here to hold hands”. This is great, because it suits me perfectly. Some people prefer to have their hand held during work, regardless of what they do, because they can’t function without it. Think how much that would cripple productivity.
I joined various networking and business groups to help with meeting people as that has always been the hardest part for me. I’m good at talking with people and I love to do it, but I am also not originally from the U.S. and have to battle to develop business relationships with people. Everyone battles, but most will have a good base to start with or a solid support network.
I have spent this past year putting my boots on the pavement, handing out hundreds of business cards, stopping in to businesses to introduce myself and making phone calls. This can be a lot of work and can lead to absolutely nothing other than making some stranger uncomfortable. But, I would argue even that has a lot of value.
I think I made around 250 calls my first week in the office. I don’t quite do that many now, probably closer to 100 per week. This is what I had to do at the beginning because I literally did not have a single name in my head that I could talk to about their insurance. I originally planned on going back home after college but as often as the Big Man humbles me, He throws me a bone every now and again, and did so when I met my now-wife during my senior year. The rest, as they say, is history. On top of that, my Father-In-Law is an independent insurance agent also, so I couldn’t even start talking to my wife’s family! So, I got on the phone.
As mentioned, I still get on the phone but it is not the same as it was. I enjoy cold-calling at times when I am in the mood for it, but I have had some instances where I have bore the fruit of my labor from months prior. This is something that I was not necessarily convinced would happen, just from lack of experience.
That’s how business works I think, and probably how it should, if a potential client is serious. I would suggest that most deals are not done on the first meeting. It takes at least a few well-directed meetings or conversations to even get to the point of talking business. After all, there are those out there that pay a lot of money for their insurance and their agent, so they need to think about it very carefully. I would if it were me.
I am trying to learn to appreciate the fact that this is a marathon, not a sprint (this is something I toil with back and forth, depending how patient I am feeling at that moment; sometimes I can be seen acting as if there is zero time left on the clock). I would love to commit to it right away and all the time, and even though I know how it works, sometimes my brain does not let that reality through, especially when I’m onto something. But again, so much is the effect of inexperience.
It is just so very hard to do. Things can be so fast-paced at times that suggesting it is a marathon can seem contradictory; how can I be running so hard for something that yields no immediate reward? A constant internal battle of “keep hammering” versus “is this working?” The mental game alone is the main reason, coupled with impatient or neglectful principals, that so many agents do need reach beyond their first year is because they lose the mental battle. After all, believing that something is there and working is hard to believe because there can often be no evidence of it, at least right away. Faith, I believe they call it.
I have read countless books, not on sales, but on the psychology of working within sales. How and why do people do it? What makes some successful and others move on? What is the effect of instability on the mind and therefore production results? The reason I read these and not the hardcore closer books is because I think unlocking and freeing the mind is the key to continued and consistent success.
I recently visited NYC with my wife to visit my parents who traveled over from Northern Ireland to celebrate their 29th anniversary and also my mother’s 50th birthday. It was my first time in New York, and we stayed at the Roosevelt Hotel just off Times Square. Times Square is full of salespeople; ticket agents for bus tours, people dressed as Disney characters who pose for pictures and then demand $20 EACH for doing so. Hell, even when I waved my bus tour tickets in front of their eyes to show I already had what they were trying to sell, it then transitioned to, “We can upgrade those for you”, “We can get something else added to that for you to visit”, etc. Absolutely relentless.
I know insurance agents who do the same thing. The ‘one and done’ guys who as long as they get paid once, they don’t care about the account again as they plan on replacing it with something else next year, to keep the commission in their pocket and in turn, their income more or less the same.
At times, I don’t blame them. Even the most loyal client will fire a fantastic agent just because, so why bother working so hard on the relationship side of the business? There are a few things at play here, including personal branding which for me is why I will never do business like this; I’d hate for people to think I’m like that, and not because I care about what they think, but because I know I am not like that (for better or worse, everyone needs to know what I’m really like and how I actually do business).
The point here is that it making it in the business will work for some and not for others, even if the ones who don’t make it do everything right. Now, what does “making it” mean? Everyone will have different plans and aspirations as to a certain level they want to reach professionally, so “making it” is a relative phrase. But, as a general rule, let’s assume making it means reaching the point you hoped you’d reach, whether it is income, job flexibility, whatever the case may be. On top of this, there are agents who are very successful who will not deviate from the sentiment that if someone has failed out, it was due to their own inadequacies. This I could not agree with less. Right place, right time, for example, is a huge factor, and not just in the insurance business.
Doing the right things as agents is what is important. Whether or not I have a solid future on the agent side remains to be seen, regardless of how many aspects of the job I enjoy. It doesn’t matter how much you like something; if it isn’t working, it simply isn’t working. At the end of each week, when I look down at my activity log, as long as all the boxes are ticked, there is nothing more I can do. Again, reverberating back to the ‘figure it out, always-something-more-to-be-done’ veteran agents; they will say otherwise. What they don’t realize is that young agents like myself are the ones left picking up the pieces of an industry that just a few decades ago was price-based only (no wonder clients have the negative perceptions of the industry and agents), so it is arguable that they don’t know the modern game at all. They get by because the majority of their clientele can’t be bothered to hold them accountable, or question them because they’ve been around ‘forever’.
Every dog has his day, and regardless of whether or not I get mine in this industry, what is incontrovertible is that these old dogs’ days are numbered because of their backward approach to insurance. That is, ignoring the changing landscape of the industry, and the demographic therein. The clock is ticking.