Agents Get Started On 2003s Business

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With the hustle and bustle of closing year-end sales behind them, agents working on commissions find themselves in a familiar place: starting all over again.

Aside from their renewal accounts, these agents are forced to “start over” with zero sales generating zero new income. This can be quite unsettling for even the most experienced sales professional.

“Its always a little bit scary at the beginning of the year,” says Robert Buxbaum, a partner and estate-planning specialist with Bay Financial Associates, LLC, Waltham, Mass.

Even after 30 years in the business, Buxbaum faces the same uphill climb all sales professionals face at the start of a new sales period–finding new clients, servicing current ones and setting goals for the coming year.

But many agents come back to work in January with a full schedule, a result of planning done in December.

“I rarely make appointments that are less than a week in advance–most are two or three weeks ahead of time,” says Buxbaum.

James Grooms, a Mass Mutual representative from Knoxville, Tenn., takes a similar approach to planning his schedule. He strives to have 12 to 15 appointments in his schedule all the time. “Usually, Ill have seven to nine appointments in a week,” he says. If Grooms completes five appointments by midweek, hes busy hitting the phones, “trying to stay 15 appointments ahead.”

Lining up these new people to speak with is a continuous process all agents must carry out, but veterans like Buxbaum and Grooms usually start off the year with a few extra irons in the fire.

“My prospecting is done exclusively through referrals from existing clients and centers of influence,” Buxbaum says, adding that this helps ease some of the stresses the new year brings about. “It takes a little bit of the scariness away.”

Working referrals from existing clients is a great strategy for producers who have built a large book of business.

But, according to Richard English, a planner from Arlington, Texas, even for new agents, getting referrals from existing customers is the best way to build business. English explains that just one quality referral can get a new agent on track to growing his book. “It only takes one,” he says.

Formerly, English marketed himself to new prospects through direct mail and seminar marketing programs, but last year these techniques started coming up short. So, instead of continuing with these methods, he focused more on serving his current client base. “I stopped worrying about getting new business. I decided to focus on people–and that works every time,” he says.

The end result for English is a short list of high-quality referrals who are always willing to refer him to others. “You might only get a handful of names, but the probability exists that theyre going to be great clients, and they’re going to generate the kind of income you want,” he says.

English describes how one referral hes still following up with may create a chain reaction that will open the door to a number of new, quality prospects. “She had been sold a variable annuity, and she just had a horror story. There was absolutely no service given and a lot of money was lost,” he explains.

English took the time to provide her with quality service: He helped analyze, adjust and re-allocate some of the subaccounts in her variable products–products someone else had sold her. Now, shes had some gains in her portfolio, and shes started directing English to other people who may benefit from his help. “I couldnt believe what she was sharing with me in terms of new people and others to talk to,” he says.

And, while English hasnt made one cent in new sales to this prospect, potential commissions from other planning ideas theyve discussed “are substantial, certainly five figures, and that can get a new person off the ground quite easily,” he says. “And from her, there may be one more quality person,” he adds.

In addition to working with existing clients and getting quality referrals, some agents find the beginning of a new year is a great time to revisit last years accomplishments and develop a new roadmap to ensure this years success.

Grooms starts out his year by reviewing all the business hes done over the last 12 months, and then reevaluates his marketing plan for the year to come.

He looks at the sales hes made, the markets hes been successful in and then determines whether the business from those markets will be enough for him to meet this years production goals.

“First you review what youve done, and then you explore how much business you feel is going to come from the markets you have in place.”

By taking the time to look at his past production, considering all his business and personal expenses, Grooms determines where his breakeven production level is. “If those markets wont support it, you need to look at additional markets,” he says.

When adding new markets, Grooms develops a new marketing plan that takes into consideration “what kind of mailings you need to send out and what kind of contacts you need to make in order to generate the cash flow you need for the year.”


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, January 13, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.