Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Well Do You Care

Today was a GREAT day! I had a meeting with a few people at one of the local insurance companies in order to discuss a semi-captive agreement selling Medicare Advantage and Medi-Medi plans. Two lines of insurance I want to get experience in.

I must say that I was very impressed with their professionalism and can honestly say that it was one of the best insurance related meetings I've had with anybody from an insurance company.
Here's the scoop.

- I would be an exclusive agent (W-2) and could only sell their products.
- Very generous base salary combined with bonuses.
- Ability to keep all my non-resident licenses
- Opportunity to sell other insurance products as long as it doesn't impact my production.
- Reasonable production standards.
- Expected to scout locations, conduct seminars and manage and operate RV for marketing purposes. OH YEAH!
- NO Cold Calling or going to residential houses due to CMS guidelines.
--Networking with local doctors, get the point.
- Attend training meetings.
-Participate in direct mail follow up (warm calling) once a a week in office for 2 hours, while still working out of my home.

Here's my take on the positive aspects of the position.

1) I have wanted to conduct seminars but haven't yet due to inexperience and a feeling of anxiety about public speaking. This position will push me (Progressive Training) in a similar to how weight lifters push themselves week in and week out by using heavier weights.

2) I will need to join Toastmasters once I find a local club that I like and then research, practice, implement, videotape, rinse and repeat until I can build up the confidence and experience I desire.

2) I want to learn the MA market, but I do still love selling individual and family insurance and wish to sell medical supplements as well. I can do all three as long as I meet the production requirements, so I'm happy! I might have to look into selling on the West Coast to take advantage of the time zone difference. More on that later.

3) I need constant input about who is doing what so I can keep the motivation going and push myself. I normally talk to one or two friends daily as it is now to find out how things are going in their respective sale field so I don't feel isolated. This was an awkward feeling at first that some new agents don't expect. I'm not the type of person that can compete against himself and have fun because I need to have that wonderful feeling that I beat XXXX on particular date, week, etc. The only thing difference about my approach is that I try not to openly gloat about my production.

4) I have the ability to work out of the office or my home. Ah, the best of both worlds. Office space up here in CT is UNGODLY expensive, so this is definitely a positive.

And now for the negative aspects I've thought about thus far.

1) Not meeting quota.'s not a major issue. Take underwriting out of the equation and my sales will go up about 25%. Allow me to sell free insurance and my sales shoot up another 50%. I currently sell 2-3 deals a week so realistically I expect to sell 3-7 deals a week, which more than meets the quota requirements.

2) Looking like an idiot during the initial seminars. I cannot really do anything about that but suck it up and do it, so that's a non issue as I'm comforted by their training program combined with joining Toastmasters.

3) Spending too much time working and not enough time relaxing. The position will be a 9-5 gig, which gives me another 2 hours to sell other lines...UNLESS I start selling on the west coast which would potentially give me another 3 hours. I'm going to play it by ear and if I get tired of watching Survivorman reruns I can sell in the Western States.

4) Burning myself out from working long hours. I have to force myself to stop working as it stands now so I do not to watch that. Most people around my age are going out drinking and screwing off while I'm working, so I rather sacrifice now and have the "ability" to retire by the time I'm 45.

5) The companies marketing avenues for their agents are out of my comfort zone so I'll be more or less fed to the lions.

6) I eat lions for breakfast and bear for dinner with Rum and Coke.

7) I almost ruined my shoes today because of the rain and snow. I've been wearing the same brand for about 5 or 6 years and highly recommend you pick up a pair. You won't be disappointed.

8) I forgot how to tie a Double Windsor this morning. That can probably be correlated to becoming the infamous underwear agent.

What do you guys/gals think? Should I take the position?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Can You Call Me Back?

Those 5 little magical words put more fear into people then Al-Quada. At least we can make contact with Al Quada!

Yesterday was one of those sales days where I had to push myself in the morning due to lack of production in the week, but by 11:oo a.m. I was feeling great because one of my prospects who said the aforementioned magical words CALLED ME BACK and we agreed on a nice high deductible health plan w/ copays. That's not one of favorite plans, but I did cut their premium in half so I'm not complaining and neither are they.

Some agents would be content with the $900 I made off that one sale and call it day, but that only represents 23% of my weekly goal., which is unacceptable to me. The experience did remind of something I sometimes fail to remember. Namely, as a professional insurance agent, I'm more than capable and comfortable, controlling the sales process, but what I DON'T have control over are my clients buying habits and the outside forces in their life.

I've been working with these people for about a month. This is how the sales process went.

1) I received a request for a health insurance quote on 1/3/2008.

2) Introduction letter and 4 page quote request form sent same day.

3) I received a fax back on 1/18/2008 with the entire form filled out and questions. I love questions! Tells me my system is working and I piqued their curiosity.

4) Talked on the phone with wife for 45 minutes on 1/18/2008 about the quote from and qualified here and her husband. Promised I would send some quotes and a brochure and set follow up appointment on 1/21/2008.

5) Quote (password protected) and brochure e-mailed on 1/18/2008.

6) Left phone message on 1/21/2008 and sent a standard e-mail.

7) Husband calls me back the following day to "interview" me. We talk for 20 minutes and reach a mutual agreement that his wife and I will go over things that Friday to see if their "application will approved."

8) Answering (arrgh) machine again. Message left and e-mail.

9) One final message on 2/4/2008.

10) Call back and application completed on 2/6/2008 for $4500 AV

Total up the time I spent with these people thus far and it's approximately 120 minutes or $45o an hour! This means I can spend another 16 hours with them before I go over my minimum hourly wage of $50. Can you see what I'm doing here?

There are numerous formulas I use to keep track of finances, marketing, etc. but I call the aforementioned equation the "Get off you Ass J.R." ingredient. Combine that with a healthy dose of behavioral conditioning and listening to 1-2 songs and I'm good to go. When I don't feel like telemarketing that is the kind of stuff I do to motivate myself.

Still think an agent can make $100,000+ part-time.......... Try walking 10 miles to pick up a bucket of water that you have to HIKE back to your village and tell me things are too hard!

What do you do to motivate yourself?????

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Telemarketing for Dollars

Telemarketing for Dollars

I had a great last week! I met with some executives at a national health insurance company about working together to market some of their senior products. There are a few things that need to be ironed out, but it looks like it’ going to be a good business relationship. I submitted approximately $9000 AV. I’ve yet to break the $15,000 barrier consistently (business that sticks), but I feel I’m close. Submitted business is great, but I care more about policies that are placed, active and kept for 12+ months.

One of my gripes about selling insurance is the mystery surrounding the IMO/FMO/GA “verbal” contracts. You’re either nodding your head or wondering what I’m talking about. Allow me to elaborate.

I recently offered a contract to a friend of mine that will net him more money and a chance to earn higher overrides on his agents then his current GA offers. I also told him that I’ll give him a release in case he doesn’t like the extra money. Prior to the two of us talking he was with a GA who will remain nameless. Due to the unwritten rule between this insurance company and numerous companies he was told that he could not be released w/out waiting 6 months and having zero production. Now, here’s the kicker, he hasn’t written any business!

I spoke with the insurance carrier about this and we agreed on a few things regarding my contract, so I was able to work around the issue, but it does amaze me the lack of transparency that permeates this industry.

Fast forwarding…

I spoke with a good friend of mine recently and we were discussing the recent changes that both of us have made to our telemarketing scripts. The discussion focused on various methods we both favored and our sales process. Although our systems are very similar there are some differences I would like to discuss in how we do business.

I endorse a 1-2-3 sales system to how I conduct business. I’ll talk about Step 1 in this post and will follow up with step 2 and 3 shortly. There are sublevels to each phase, but let’s get into that later as I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information because this message is about telemarketing.

Step 1: Enrichment Call

Step: 2: First-in Appointment.

Step 3: Sales Presentation

I call and introduce myself. My main goal is to gauge interest and either, schedule a first-in appointment or a follow up call, e-mail, etc. My secondary goals are to find out the name of their insurance carrier and how much their currently paying?

The first call normally averages 10-15 minutes if they pass phase one and grant me permission to move forward in the call. My idea of granting permission is not hanging up on me and answering 1 key question...Here’s my script word for word.

“My name is John McCollough…is Bob Smith available please. Mr. Smith (I don’t use first names unless I’ve been given permission) is this a bad time? The reason for my call is find out if you are familiar with the new health plans that small business owners now have access to that allow them to save up to 50% off the cost of their premiums, while using pre-tax dollars to pay for their health care costs?” Then I shut up, pay attention and find a way to get to the 2nd phase.

It’s imperative that you DO NOT go into a sales pitch as this juncture. Ask broad questions, pay attention to the response, ask a more focused question and repeat.

This is a new pitch I’ve been using with great success. Wam, bam, thank you, next!!! After I ask the first question, 95% of the time I get a NO, followed by I’m not interested or a pause. If their not interested I move to end the conversation by asking permission to add them to my mailing list and then I close with, “One of the benefits of my newsletters is that I have access to information as an agent that allows me to keep small business owners up to date about their current insurance carrier so there are no ugly surprises…like rate increases… which carrier should I ensure you receive information on?” “Do you have the XXXX or the XXX plan?” How much are you paying a month?”

Now this is just beautiful and is a great way to finish this conversation. I may not have succeeded in getting the appointment, but now I know the insurance carrier now and I’ll use any credible resources to take advantage of that opportunity if the insurance carrier does something stupid.

Motivation starts to dwindle when you don’t know what the next step is and you let the client dictate that for you. Who is the expert? NEVER allow that to happen!

I’ll post information on phase 2 later this week

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Happy New Year

I'm sitting here on Sunday night getting my work schedule ready for the week when it dawns on me, "I need to update my blog." Where to start??

For starters, I have recently moved up to Stamford, Connecticut due to personal and business reasons. Although I do love Maryland, I needed a change and an opportunity presented itself so I took it. The interesting thing about moving is that you quickly realize how much crap you have that you don't need. Needless to say, some of my friends were very happy about the stuff I was giving away. So now I'm living up in Connecticut and I'll be here for the next 6-12 months to test out some new ideas and strategies.

After being up here for a few weeks I've been thinking to myself that I really need to move some place where's it's warmer. Yes, I could always move back to California, but I only enjoyed the San Francisco and San Diego areas and I don't have $500,000 yet to buy a house. If I could find something for about half that I might be open to moving back. Then there is South Carolina, Georgia, Texas and Arizona. All great states with a lot to offer people. I'll be checking out some areas throughout the next year and decide where I want to plunk down and live for the next 10-30 years.

I have recently revamped my business approach this year and look forward to picking up new insurance products. Although I'm still selling individual and family health insurance, I've decided to take a break on that while I'm up here in CT and focus on the senior market. Specifically, I'm currently in the process of learning about Medicare/Medicaid/Supplements, etc. etc. That's all I plan on focusing on this year. Of course, I'll continue to sell health insurance if the opportunity presents itself, but I'm not going to pursue that niche full time this year.

I'm starting to see how some seniors could be taken advantage of depending upon the agent's knowledge and ethics. Although Medicare itself is not that difficult to understand and articulate to other people, the options and numerous and many insurance companies have the hand in the cookie jar all trying to get a piece of the action. I can see many seniors saying, "huh" if the agent isn't precise in his words and recommendations.

Here are some observations I have noticed after talking with insurance companies, agents, current clients and such about the Medicare world and working with seniors.

Some companies allow direct appointments via the Independent Career Agent (ICA) contract. Essentially, once an agent signs that contract they become exclusive to that company, but, and here's the kicker, they get leads furnished by somebody being paid minimum wage PLUS a reduction in commission. Hmmm....Where do I sign up? EVERY company I contacted was adamant about having me sign up through that avenue. I requested that each one send me their contract to read over and got to read over them.

After speaking with the local manager and recruiter of one of the main carriers in the area it became quickly apparent that I knew more about the market and their own product then they did. I don't say this to boast about my knowledge of passion when it come to learning, but to illuminate the fact that their are issues that amaze me. IMHO, a local manager should know everything about their product, as well as how it stacks up against their competitors. Call me crazy, but that is business 101 stuff.

All companies I contacted in CT and MD (in the double digits) work through FMO's who may or may not offer a GA contract. I generally like to get my own contract direct as I don't like to have more hands in my cookie jar taking money out that they haven't earned. Having said that, I've found a few that I'll be working with in the near future once we come to written agreement.

I found out something very interesting recently. Some insurance companies will negotiate contracts directly. By the time I reached the end of my list I had reached my boiling point about hearing about the captive arrangement or FMO route and not being able to get my own GA contract directly. Needless to say, the final company I really wanted a GA contract with first offered me their ICA, and when that didn't work out they tried to get me to sign up with an FMO out of New Jersey. Homey don't play that anymore!

After bickering back and forth I was able to get in touch with the National Sales Director and we talked for about an hour or so about working together. He's apparently pissed off about the fact that many agents care more about quantity vs. quality. Imagine that!

It was a great conversation and I'm happy to report that I''ll soon be offering a lucrative contract for agents who sell a particular company once I've had a chance to work out the details with him and the COO and we can come to an agreement. I've received much feedback about this company and I'm looking forward to the relationship. Although I don't plan on recruiting agents in the traditional sense, this is another step in the right direction for what I have planned.