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Planning your own personal incentive trip

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A few months ago, I voiced my opinion about FMO and carrier incentive trips, and why they are not good for the industry. The securities industry eventually got rid of them, and it’s only a matter of time before the same thing happens in the annuity world. Recently, I saw a carrier offering “credits” for an agent to plan and take their own trip based on specific sales volume. Pretty cool idea I must say, and I applaud them for taking a positive step and a creative take concerning this incentive madness.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why agents would want to hang out with other agents. That would be my version of entering the gates of annuity hell, and one of the reasons I don’t participate in these “atta boy” nightmares. I get the fact that it’s “open bar” for four days, but I would really encourage you to plan your own incentive trip instead of defaulting to the next Cabo “Agentpalooza.” Yes, I’m talking about just you and your significant other, family or friends going on your own incentive trip without the distraction of your industry colleagues. If you think about it for one second, it has to be a much more appealing vacation alternative.

So far, I have only taken a couple of “me only” incentive trips, but am planning on taking more because they are unbelievably and unexpectedly profitable. Before you poo-poo the idea, let me tell you some of the strategies I am using on these trips, and how to maximize this possible new marketing bonanza. 

Take your logo along for the ride

If you don’t have a specific logo, then start the process of getting one immediately. It’s really not expensive to do, and there are some online sites that will create one quickly and cheaply for your business.

Let’s face it, all independent agents can sell and have access to the same annuity products. The only difference from a consumer’s standpoint is how the strategies are presented and who is presenting it to them. That’s where your brand, and subsequent logo, becomes very important.

Because I have a tendency to do nothing in moderation (understatement), I have my “Stan The Annuity” logo on everything. Yes, I mean everything. Of course, I have baseball caps, T-shirts (short and long sleeved), and golf shirts with my logo displayed large and proud. But it gets worse! My rolling briefcase I use in airports has my logo so hugely displayed that you can see from 50 yards away. All of my luggage has been customized with my logo (large and prominent), so even picking up your bags at luggage claim is a marketing opportunity. Also, when I flip my laptop up to work at an airport or hotel, my logo covers the entire top of my computer that points out. I even order shoes off of Nike ID customized with “Annuity Man” on them, and embroider everything I wear casually with my logo. Yes…everything!

Do you get the point? I’m proud of what I do. I’m proud that I recommend annuities only. I’m proud to be Stan The Annuity Man. Let’s just say that I get a lot of questions about my logo over the years, and those inquiries have turned into some great clients. Obviously, you need to apply the “logo strategy” to your own tastes and aggressiveness, but understand that it works in a big way.

Never talk about business unless asked

Don’t fall into the trap of the “enough about you, let’s talk about me” sales conversation reflex. Try to never talk about you or your business the entire trip until you are asked. You might already do this, but when you initiate conversations, only ask questions about them and genuinely have an interest in their answer. I’m serious! You’ll find out pretty quickly that people love to talk about themselves, and most have very interesting personal stories and backgrounds.

As you can guess by now, I am always wearing something with my logo, so usually the person ends up asking about it and what I do. If they never ask, I never offer my story voluntarily. I’m sure that they have seen the logo and hopefully will remember it for the future and “Google” me when/if needed.

Write it off and maybe write some business

Anyone who has been on a carrier or FMO incentive trip has received the tax bill and winced/realized that the trip wasn’t really free after all. When I ran the “create my own incentive trip” idea past my CPA, he loved it and found a myriad of legal and above-board ways to write the majority of it off. It was definitely a better mathematical deal to say the least.

Even though I have only been on a couple of these “Annuity Man” trips, I have cultivated some very good long-term clients from these travels. It’s been a profitable venture from start to finish, and now that my lovely wife has figured that out, next year’s travel plans seem to have increased. But you know what? The profitability factor really doesn’t matter at the end of the day. Don’t get me wrong, making money on these trips is fantastic, but what I really enjoyed was spending time with my family, and not having to go through the motions of the typical FMO/carrier incentive trip niceties.

You need to give this a try. It just might be exactly the unique and personalized idea you were looking for.

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