Despite all the chaos that 2020 has put on the table and the subsequent shift to most people doing business in a virtual world, there are still many who apply and wonder if they should work with an independent life insurance agent who lives close by. There are some people who really like to have a personal experience with their life insurance agent. We get it and we always like to meet our customers in person whenever possible. <! – ->
But since 2011 we have used the internet to reach people in a way that was not possible a few decades ago. We started doing this for two reasons:
- There's a big big world out there and as companies grow, so does their geographic footprint (usually)
- Brandon lives in Vermont, the second least populated state in the Union and I live in Georgia, it makes it impossible for us to primarily work with “local” customers as a team. We made a strategic decision to work together because our strengths are complementary and our values are consistent.
Things have worked quite well for us, but every now and then I come across push-backs – usually from insurance companies – if the whole thing does not sit down face to face thing.
This made us think about how important face time is (and I mean face time as I feel the smell of your breath, not like the app on your iPhone). But that thinking spurred others while discussing business with another agent about my days as a career agent (the career shops, ie Northwestern Mutual, Guardian, MassMutual, live by the importance of local agencies – of course). <! – ->
How important is it to have an independent life insurance policy nearby?
Well, obviously we do not think it is important at all. I'm pretty sure there's a contingency of people who do not agree with that statement and that's okay. We can agree to disagree on that point. And honestly, we are not trying to convince anyone else.
But I would like to dispel some of the arguments against working with an agent from across the country as opposed to the guy who trains your son's little league team. How do I know there are people who still feel that way?
I've talked to them about believing it or not. <! – ->
I had some sort of idea for having pursued this type of practice for several years but I was convinced that it could not be done. Actually, it was not until I met Brandon that I was convinced that this business model could actually work. You have to understand the "old school" programming that is so pervasive in the insurance industry to understand my concern that this might actually work.
Fake It Til You Make It
When I started in a career agency in 2000, it was my general agent's favorite phrase.
What did he mean by that?
He meant that you should act "as if" …
As if you already succeeded.
As if you owned the business.
As if everyone you met would make the biggest mistake of their life by not being your client.
Failure in forgery
Yes, as you can imagine, it did not work so well for me. <! – ->
I looked around at all the agents who had worked there for 10-15 years, driven expensive European cars, lived in McMansions and sent their children to expensive private schools. But … I also looked at sales numbers for the office because all of this was published to promote a sense of competition among the office.
Now it does not take a real financial genius to find out what income these guys had. After all, we all had the same basic contract and the commissions were based on the premium sold – which was shown for everyone to see in the break room.
Let's just say that most people did not earn close enough money. to comfortably afford their lifestyles, they drowned in debt and in many cases owed their souls to the corporate store by also thanking the general agent a lot of money. The mechanics of how everything works are far beyond this piece but be sure it's a reality.
I clearly remember thinking, ' we do not sell vacuum cleaners, we sell people financial security for the future and if I destroy it, they can not go back and fix it. “I obviously felt a certain responsibility to make sure that customers took care of and offered the best options for their situation. <! – ->
I was trained to never enter into any in-depth discussion with people by phone or by email. The phone was just a tool to plan your next meeting / meeting. I can clearly remember a sales coach who says "we do not sell on the phone" over and over and over again.
Why is that? Why insist that we sit across the table from our future prospects every time?
I must admit that when I got started I was completely naive. I honestly thought it was to always show people that they were important enough for me to get in my car and drive out to see them, that they deserved this kind of one-on-one attention from me. The real causes are much more tactical and rooted in understanding human psychology.
Why we really do not do business over the phone
So I guess you would really like to know why the "old guard" in the life insurance industry teaches that you should not " do business over the phone "? <! – ->
This is because you can not look anyone in the eye, read their body language and easily choose which emotional threat button you need to press to get that person to act. Yes, I know it sounds cynical but it's true.
Our industry, the life insurance industry, has been relying on face to face for years because of the emotional connection to selling people in a way that makes the emotional screw harder as the conversation progresses. The question we all learned had very little to do with facts and had much more to do with identifying emotions that a true "salesperson" could use to move sales closer to the finish line.
Some people are pretty good at doing this and others (I) are not. There really is an emotional aspect to all life insurance purchases. After all, it is bought mostly by those who have loved ones they want to protect when they die and it evokes some pretty strong feelings for most people.
You should choose the best life insurance agent
Why are we so confident in our business model? Do you know that two guys who work together separated by over a thousand miles build a company where we work with people from all over the country?
Partly because it works and every day our idea gets a little more valid. And this year, it has proven to be more valid than ever.
But mostly because we know we have a very specific group of people who will choose to work with us. Not because we hammer them out with annoying phone calls, use personal relationships to get introductions, or play emotional hockey with them.
We attract customers who appreciate real expertise and can look beyond the clothes in Class A office space, custom suits, and a President Rolex. Not that any of this is bad, but they really do not mean that your insurance guy will succeed in helping his customers get what they want. This means that he has been a fairly successful seller.
We are not misleading, and if we did not make any sales, my children would be very hungry. However, we do not have to compromise our integrity to succeed. On the contrary, the public nature of this site and our business mean that we must constantly question our motives. We must be sure that all advice we give or sell that we do is in the best interests of our customers.
Unlike Bernie Madoff, we do not run a company that works in the shadows. Madoff ran an exclusive club that was private and had a members-only policy.
Our business is wide open. We take our professional lives and dangle them out there on the internet so that everyone can see, criticize and review at every turn. If we were not honest, we would sink and quickly get out in a very public way. Our business operates in a way that remains profitable, but we are not looking for ways to maximize our profits from each customer relationship.
Everyone knows car dealers, right?
If you went into a car dealership and you were willing to pay $ 450 / month for a car … guess what they would sell you? In our opinion (if we ruled the world), if we could sell the same car to you for $ 275 / month and make money, we would love to do it. Why? Because we know (proven by experience) that if we give you the best possible deal, you will get the maximum benefit and you will get exactly what you wanted.
There is no shortage of business in the world for us – that is, one of our core beliefs. Most agents have a mentality of scarcity that leads them to believe that they need to maximize their commission in each case. We do not see it that way. The goal of an independent life insurance agent should always be to design an insurance policy that is most beneficial to our clients.
Selling life insurance is not easy
Most life insurance agents do not like working with engineers, they are too difficult. It's a provocative statement but I hope you will hang out with me just a little longer and I will take everything back.
It's not true that a memorandum is flowing telling new life insurance agents to avoid selling to engineers, but I know I heard that and I know Brandon was too. Why is it like that? Well, it has nothing to do with engineers per se but was more general advice to avoid analytical types of people. You know people who are deep thinkers and like to analyze things.
Because they ask too many darn questions … that's why! You can not waste your time answering questions when you need to sell.
Why? Because your sales manager only gets paid when you sell something … that's why! Duh.
For many years, life insurance agents have avoided people who asked too many questions – those who wanted to understand what was in the black box and how it all worked.  But you know what? People who ask questions are our best customers. We love dealing with people who feel the need to understand how it all works. They do not buy a new washing machine at Sears; our customers are considering a decision to make significant financial commitments that can take years to produce fruit.
I do not know about you, but I may want to understand the finer points before I jump out of the cliff? Our customers want to know the details and we think it's good.
Local is only nearby, not better
If we only worked in our local areas as independent life insurance agents, we would never have the opportunity to take our process and our expertise to people on the other side of the country. That would not be fair to the world – right?
Forgive me if this at all sounds preachy or complacent and understand that it is not my intention at all. We just felt it was time to turn to some of our naysayers and explain why we are not likely to put life insurance on your kitchen table.
And if our way of doing business appeals to you the least, we want nothing more than to see how we can help you. Feel free to contact us, we would love to hear from you.