After you’ve run through your beginner’s list of friends, relatives and college classmates, whom do you call on next?
“I never did work off that list. I hated the idea of calling on family and friends. It’s like, ‘Hi! Let me practice my sales pitch on you.’ I figured that if I was going to make beginner mistakes, I’d try them out on strangers first.
“I got started doing cold calls and X-dating. [X-dating is calling a client from a company roster when his insurance is about to expire.] We all did that, but I’ve known agents who have X-dated themselves out of business. You have to move on.
“One of the best ways to start out is to find a niche market, then do your homework before you start making calls. You can’t just say, ‘I want to work with attorneys,’ and start right in. You have to learn the terminology of a business, how it works, what concerns the employees, what concerns the owners.
“Entering the small-business market is a natural for beginning agents. Those businesses have a need for medical plans, retirement plans, employee benefits. And they’re usually easier to approach than bigger businesses. You can’t just walk into the offices of a company like U.S. Steel and get to talk to the president, but you can usually get in to see the owner of a local business.
“The key is to know what troubles your client. Be able to give him an alternative plan to the standard golden handshake, or be able to offer him affordable group medical. In short, be his on-call expert.”
Nancy H. Hauser, CLU, ChFC
The MONY Group
“I didn’t just call on my family and friends; I called on everybody I could. That’s what you have to do to survive. You do it all: cold calls, direct mail, preapproach letters, everything you can.
“When I got started 25 years ago, I affiliated myself with the Welcome Wagon. Remember them? You used to have the Welcome Wagon lady drop in on the new people who move into a neighborhood. She’d give them discount coupons for the dry cleaners and for dinner at the restaurant. ‘And by the way, here’s our local insurance agent.’ Then she’d introduce me. I usually went on these calls with her. We’d shake hands and talk about life insurance, mortgage insurance, whatever their concern was. I was right there to answer questions or set up an appointment.
“I did Welcome Wagon for the first five years I was in the business. I’d work all day at the office or on sales calls, then go out on Welcome Wagon calls in the evenings. It was nice.
“Agents today don’t want to work that hard, but that’s the only way you’re going to be a success. I used to just get in the car, see a business, pull in and introduce myself, tell the owner what I did for a living and what I’ve done for other small businesses. You get some rejection, but what of it? Many others were interested.
“There’s no magic wand. You just have to see the people. I sold a lot of $10,000 policies that way. It’s how you survive.”
Jerry Brownstein & Associates
“I didn’t start off calling on friends, neighbors and relatives. I didn’t feel comfortable doing that until I felt I was seasoned enough. I didn’t want to appear naive or green. I guess I felt like I would be practicing on the people I knew, and I didn’t want to come across as inexperienced.
“What I did do was work off the referrals from friends, neighbors and family. I started out by calling friends and telling them I was now an insurance agent, and did they know someone who just got married, someone who had a baby, someone who just bought a home? I think it was a way of reducing my anxiety. I didn’t want to just give a spiel to people I’d known for some time.
“Over time, I eventually did sell to my friends. I remember hearing stories at sales meetings and the Million Dollar Round Table of agents not approaching their friends about life insurance, then having to look those friends in the eye at a funeral of a spouse or child, or into the eyes of a friend’s widow. I came to realize that I was doing a disservice to them by not giving them the opportunity to buy coverage. I guess you can chalk that up to me being a new kid just out of the gate.
“It’s a matter of hitting the street, getting out there and seeing people day after day and hitting them between the eyes with what they know they need. It’s not glamorous, but it works.”
Barbara Brazda Dietze, CLU
New York Life