Jonathan articulates the issues far better than I. Enjoy the article!Sales School: What Your Insurance Agent
Is Learning From the ‘Annuity Gladiator’
June 8, 2005; Page D1
I can’t recall precisely when I got my first message, and I have no idea how I got on this particular email distribution list. But at some point last year, I started receiving emails aimed at insurance agents, offering to pay me commissions of 8%, 10% and even 13% for selling annuities.
Initially, I trashed every message. But they kept coming and my curiosity kept growing. Before long, I was voraciously reading every email, signing up for magazines like “Boomer Market Advisor” and “StraighTalk” and frequenting Web sites such as www.lifeinsuranceselling.com and www.producersweb.com.
And I have to tell you, it’s been a revelation. Maybe I don’t have to spend my remaining days as an ink-stained wretch. Maybe my future lies in selling annuities and other insurance products. Maybe, in fact, my personal financial security is just a few cold calls away.
• Helping yourself. “Score a bull’s eye for your annuity clients … and yourself!” promised an advertisement. “Convert your client’s term policies to permanent life insurance at FULL COMMISSION,” screamed one Internet offer.
Make no mistake: There’s lots of money to be made in insurance products — assuming you’re selling, not buying. “Not all annuities are created equal,” contended one email. “Some pay MUCH higher commission while still providing GREAT benefits to your clients. Introducing … a 13% commission equity indexed annuity.”
But no advertisement was more inspiring than the one for the Spectrum Rewards Choice 7 Indexed Annuity from Baltimore’s Fidelity and Guaranty Life Insurance.
On a palm-tree-lined beach, a couple looks lovingly into each other’s eyes.
They seem oblivious to the handsome young man nearby, an annuity salesman leaping into the air with joy, presumably ecstatic over his just-completed sale. Says the ad, “what’s good for your clients is good for you.”
• Ensuring success. Clearly, to cut it as an insurance agent, I will need to learn how to sell. And there are all kinds of folks who seem anxious to help.
“Overcoming objections without making your prospect squirm!” shouted one of my daily emails. “Order your SALES IDEA BOOK today!”
Meanwhile, an ad promised to reveal “the magical one sentence client question that triples index annuity sales with zero effort!” One Web site even offered to send me information that would put “clients and customers at your marketing mercy” using something called “maximum persuasion.”
Online, I also found a slew of helpful articles, including columns on how to sell variable annuities to reluctant customers and on how to overcome my own unwillingness to make cold calls. One tip: Use a potential client’s name frequently. According to one article, “people love to hear their own name.”
To round out my education, I might even attend the “Annuity University” taught by “annuity gladiator” Tyrone Clark. “Spend two days with me and I will turn you into a premium machine or suggest that you get into a different type of work,” boasted his ad.
Alternatively, I could curl up with a good book, such as “11 Amazing Secrets of Outrageously Successful Insurance Agents,” “Kick Your ‘But’: 18 Steps to Removing the Obstacles to Sales Success” or “Red-Hot Cold Call Selling: Prospecting Techniques That Pay Off.”
• Taking a break. Armed with these selling techniques, I would no doubt be ready to strut my stuff. But where would I meet clients?
How about dinner? An ad for Response Mail Express in Tampa, Fla., notes that “we are the originator of the dinner seminar marketing concept that has helped thousands of advisors across the country generate the highest commissions and see more prospects in one month than most advisors see in a year.”
I would probably also want to sign on with an insurance-marketing outfit. For instance, I received an email about Professional Planners Marketing Group in North Palm Beach, Fla., listing the “top 10 reasons to partner with PPMG,” including “sales scripts for prospecting,” “100 leads in your area” and “10 day Caribbean cruise for 2.”
Selling must be tiring, because a lot of the marketing outfits are offering vacations. DNA Brokerage of West Des Moines, Iowa, recently sent me a flier about selling annuities to qualify for both a five-night stay in Cancún and a seven-night Caribbean cruise. “Double Your Fun,” proclaimed the flier, which was accompanied by a stick of Wrigley’s Doublemint chewing gum.
Of course, if you’re an insurance buyer — rather than an insurance agent — such sales incentives might seem a little alarming. “It’s a reflection of how competitive the business is,” says Gordon Bess, editor of Life Insurance Selling, a St. Louis trade publication that carries a raft of breathless advertisements directed at agents.
He notes that, among life-insurance companies and insurance-marketing outfits, the big battle isn’t to attract consumers. Rather, they are competing for the attention of a shrinking pool of insurance agents. “That’s why you see ads like that,” Mr. Bess says.
But what if you’re a consumer? What should you make of advertisements that tout commissions and promote the chance to win vacations? “It would remind me that I need to work with somebody who I can trust, and who will work in my best interest,” Mr. Bess says.
Ain’t that the truth.
WHAT THEY’RE SELLING
Three insurance products that carry high commissions:
Variable annuities allow investors to buy mutual funds inside a tax-deferred wrapper.
Equity-indexed annuities aim to capture much of the stock market’s gain, while providing downside protection.
Cash-value life insurance combines a death benefit with an investment account.
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