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How One Agent Overcame a Fear of Cold Calling to Find Success

William J. Howery is a former Air Force Intelligence Officer. He retired in 2012 as a Lieutenant Colonel and began his career as an insurance agent with Physicians Mutual that same year. He has a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and a Master of Business Administration from Norwich University. He is currently enrolled in the Certified Financial Planner ®; course at Syracuse University. Will speaks near-fluent German, is married to a native German and has a 2½-year-old daughter at home.

LHP: As a relatively new agent, what are some of the biggest challenges and struggles you face?

WJH: When I first started, I had no real experience in insurance, sales or cold calling, and call reluctance sidelined me more often than I care to mention. I just didn't know how to handle the objections, and I was taking the rejection personally. I've since learned how to overcome call reluctance. The objections no longer bother me the way they did. I'm still working to be better at keeping my pipeline full. I know that I need to have a good mix of prospecting approaches. I just need to get a strategy and be more intentional in my prospecting.

LHP: Why do you think the "survival rate" is so low for new agents, especially in the first few years? What tips, advice or encouragement would you offer to other new agents who might be struggling?

WJH: I think work ethic and cash flow are perhaps the two biggest obstacles for new agents — the former having a dramatic impact on the latter. Being an insurance agent offers a great deal of freedom, and the income potential is simply amazing. What many new agents don't understand is that with the newfound freedom comes a great deal of responsibility. When new agents aren't making enough sales, it's very hard to generate the income needed to stay afloat. Then they start thinking: "This insurance business is much too unpredictable. I can work at XYZ and earn more money each week." I have had those same thoughts.

However, what I've learned in the last two years is that discipline and consistency pay dividends. For those who treat their insurance business with the same commitment that they give their jobs, the sales will come.

LHP: Talk a bit about the current state of the Med Supp market. How is it changing, and what are your predictions for the next few years?

WJH: I see the Med Supp market as a great opportunity! I'm always amazed when I visit with a prospect just one or two months from their birthday and find out that they have never been contacted by another agent. That, to me, illustrates the vastness of the market. I don't know if there are enough agents out there to meet the demand.

LHP: How do you adjust your sales approach for each prospect based on age, income, gender, etc.?

WJH: I have found that asking questions helps me to zero in on their needs as well as identify important clues on how to handle them. Some people just want the facts; others want to be more relational, and some just want to get it all over with. I'm sensitive to the cues that I'm given and adjust accordingly, while making sure they have the information they need to make informed decisions. I make it a point to make sure they feel like they're in the driver's seat and not just having a product pushed on them.

LHP: How do you expect the demographics within your client and prospecting base to shift in the coming years, and how will you adjust as more boomers retire?

WJH: More and more seniors are choosing to continue working beyond 65, so those who have decent group coverage are choosing to postpone their Medicare Part B enrollment and Medigap coverage. Many of the baby boomers are still energetic and active contributors in the workplace, and they're not ready to hang up their hats. That shift will naturally require me to adjust my prospecting to include more people who are beyond 65 years old and perhaps eventually make them my primary focus.

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