When did you stop being good?

What in the hell happened to you, didn’t you used to be somebody? 

But I thought I still was…

Signing your first big contract

Now I can put it on cruise control.

When you see athletes at the top of their game finally break through and sign the mega-deal only to have their performance dip afterwards, do you think it’s because they lost their edge?

Is a contract based on past performance more of a disincentive, or a justified reward for your previous results?

Is that how we should reward our leaders in business, for what they did or what they potentially are going to do? Potential…ha, now that’s a loaded word, right?

What is the right call? If it’s performance based only, what if you have a bad year, bad two years?

What I see in my industry

Yep, still insurance sales; two things I know all too well, me and/or my J O B…:).

Run for the hills if you must.

I have been doing this insurance gig for 30+ years. For the most part, nothing was given to me nor did I inherit anything so my survivability was solely based on somehow figuring this whole thing out. That is not to say I did not have mentors and/or help along the way, but at the end of the day I still had to make it happen.

Ooohhhh, aren’t you special….

My greatness is only surpassed by my humbleness.

In the beginning

I had the education (Risk Management/Insurance degree) and a fantastic mentor who helped create some opportunities for me.

And I was young, eager and hungry.

Over time and because insurance and the renewals that go along with it are sustainable income, I was able to build a book of business. Meaning, if I didn’t stink it up too bad some were actually going to hang around for several years and I would get paid every year they remained with me.

Also along the way, I was motivated enough to continue my education. I have several initials behind my name but the one I am most proud of is the CPCU (Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter) designation which is a masters level course that at the time was 10 parts and I did it all self-study.

And I never stopped learning; so my accumulated knowledge is still very relevant in today’s insurance environment so that should be worth something, right?

And then I cracked the code

When I first started out I was paid a minimal salary that was just enough to allow me so survive, but also keep me hungry. I knew the real money was after you validated and were paid directly on what you killed sold and brought in the door.

If I recall, I think it took me 3 years to validate and I haven’t looked back since.

Oh, there have been challenges as some years will be better than others and for some unknown reason people would fire me (even to this day) or sell out or just go out of business.

The nerve…who keeps moving my cheese?

So what’s the problem?

Over time it’s easy to get complacent and lose some of your focus; at some point you just want to build a fence around what you have and rise above the scrappers.

But as soon as you do that you start going backwards.

You can’t fire me, I am a CPCU…

Oh yes they can, and they will; especially if your price is too high.

What I am trying to say from the knowledge side I am as good as I ever was, if not better because now I have years upon years of accumulated wisdom; book smarts and street smarts. Some lessons learned were harder than others, but learn I did.

However, since I get paid on commission only and theoretically was able to sign my big deal, other than losing an account here or there and not having enough in your pipeline to replace it; how deep do you do you have to keep digging to stay sharp all the time?

Is this only applicable to a sales industry or is it prevalent across the board?

Why isn’t my phone ringing?

Energy and enthusiasm wins out

Maybe; is that why you see big corporations terminate highly paid upper management with all that accumulated wisdom and hire younger (and healthier) and cheaper replacements?

It was inevitable social commerce would grow with the way the social platforms were evolving, but how many of our compatriots have given this a try because they were forced to be an entrepreneur before they were ready?

The million dollar question is then, if energy and enthusiasm win out, how do you keep that light burning brightly so you remain the rainmaker you are capable of, always bringing above average value to the job; day in and day out regardless of the challenges you have to face?

If it was too easy I suppose everybody would be trying to do it, huh? At times, it seems like everybody is though.

What is your secret sauce?

If you are not independently wealthy and you kind of have to work because others are dependent on you; how do you keep it not only fun and interesting, but do it day after day, rain or shine?

I never stopped being good, but do you have to take the blue pill or the red pill to keep your game on so people remember your name?

Sounds a lot like the hamster wheel, huh?

No selling please, I’m just looking

Dorman office - Ryan

I’m just looking thank you, I don’t need want your help.

People like to buy, but they don’t want to be sold to.

Except for insurance and then they just want to run….away….fast….

Whoa, that could be bad news for me because that is how I put food on my table…

Bummer.

I would rather just buy it online

Yeah, at least online I can put the brakes on in case somebody tries to sell me something extra.

I get it, I am an insurance consumer too and sometimes it’s tough writing that check for a promise to pay for a future event that might or might not occur. However, I have been in this gig long enough where I see people trying to get by on the cheap or because of incomplete information, and when it’s needed they were highly disappointed in the outcome and of course blamed the insurance company and/or the agent.

But I am a gambler risk taker, nothing bad is going to happen to me; stuff like this happens only to other people.

Guess what; this is what the other guy is saying about you.

The government will take care of me then

There ain’t no free lunch and there is also something to be said for social responsibility as well. Unfortunately, too many people already have their hand out because insurance wasn’t in their budget.

It’s not perfect, and sometimes it is expensive, but it sure is nice when someone shows up with a check because you took the time to provide the appropriate information to ensure the proper amount of coverage was available; no more, no less.

I’m here to provide you with money when you need it most.

Stop it; insurance still sucks

If you put lipstick on a pig….

I am not trying to glamorize it, but if you are going to buy it (and yes, most of you will) then you might as well do it right; get what you think you are getting and make sure the expectations are established up front to minimize any chance of disappointment if and when the time comes you will need to use it.

My arena is the business world so there is less resistance here because most consider it the cost of doing business; still, most don’t relish stroking that check every month, or every year.

Well then, what good are you

Plenty good; if you want to treat us like a vendor and think the whole lot of us are interchangeable regardless of years of service or credentials or capabilities, then have at it but we probably won’t be doing business together.

I’m only interested in making your business more profitable and driving dollars to the bottom line, not having you pay the insurance company too much. We do this by helping you be as safe as possible, assist you in having sound hiring and training practices, and guiding you efficiently through the claims process if and when that calamity occurs; we make sure the risk management program you have is the program you need, not some off the shelf product that might or might not be a good fit.

My main objective is to make the business owner look good; the best of the best. This allows him/her to attract the best talent and always have a competitive advantage over the owner who thinks shopping each and every year serves them best and never takes into account the soft costs and dollars they are losing out the back door.

Why doesn’t everybody do this?

Beats the heck out of me; I guess that’s why one size doesn’t fit all and it behooves us to only work with customers who are savvy enough to understand this and walk away from those we won’t be able to help anyway.

As an industry, we have trained business owners to think shopping their insurance serves them best which ultimately turns us into only a vendor. But if your employee turnover is 2 1/2 times your competitor because your wages and training suck and you have to build at least 5 more widgets just to break even every time you have to replace an employee; if you don’t see that as a true cost then maybe you just need to keep shopping your insurance anyway.

Seriously, did you just do a whole post on insurance? 

Apparently so, huh?

Our biggest challenge is getting in front of enough people to tell our story and be able to show them why we are different. If we can get that first meeting, we establish quickly if it’s going to be a good fit or not. Sometimes however, if you are patient you can convert the shoppers and eventually turn the renewal into a continuation process and greatly reduce the stress, time and money surrounding just this event alone.

The second biggest challenge is getting the business owner to fire who they currently have so we can come in and work for them. Business owners have egos and most can talk a good game, but when it comes time to pick up the phone and tell somebody you have been working with a long time you have decided to go in a different direction; that can be a tough call to make.

Yep, there are a lot of us insurance guys and gals out there and some think this is an easy business because of all the fun that goes along with being in sales; it is what it is, probably no harder or no easier than most businesses, it just happened to be a good fit for me.

I will close by saying there is good and bad in any industry and like to think we are the good guys at Lanier Upshaw, Inc. We are not perfect and as shocking as this might sound, I too have taken that phone call where my services were no longer needed. But we are always trying to get better and we always want to do what’s best for our customer, not our pocket book; because when we do this, everything else will take care of itself.

So when can I see you; next Tuesday at 10:00 am or Thursday at 3:00 pm, I won’t waste your time…:)?

 

 

4 ways mountain biking mimics your day job

Take one guess what my newest hobby is; and it’s not bowling?

I have been interested in mountain biking for quite sometime. Even though Florida has no mountains they do have some interesting terrain where phosphate mining occurred at one time. However, it wasn’t until a friend loaned me his old trail bike after he purchased a new one that got me hooked.

And yes, you can roll out there with an off the shelf bike from Walmart for about $300 but I will attest, having the proper equipment makes a big difference. Therefore, it took a lot of research until I found the right deal and the right bike for me, but very happy with my new rig.

Yes, I have already crashed and burned once causing a broken hand but that was on the loaner; the silver lining, it also gave me plenty of down-time to properly search for the right bike however.

And that leads me to the topic of this post; how many times have you crashed and burned in your business life, what did you learn from it, and did the experience help you grow?

You have to walk before you roll

Trees, roots, rocks, sand, mud, hills, turns and sometimes critters are all objects you will encounter on the trail. Some of it is pretty benign and some of it is oh crap

How often in life, particularly in business do you have to deal with real obstacles and how do you handle them?

Since I have taken a hard fall once I am still somewhat cautious, especially on new, unfamiliar terrain; but at some point you just have to throw caution to the wind and let ‘er rip. That is where practice and training comes in because it will give you the confidence to take on more technical trails along the way.

How many of you practice for your job? Professional athletes train and practice all the time, they don’t just show up and play. How about you, are you really practicing and growing, or are you just showing up to play?

If someone is paying you to play (even if it’s yourself), don’t you think you should do all you can to be the best player on the team?

But it’s just a job…

4 lessons from trail riding you can use in business as well 

1. Confidence – the more I ride the more confidant I become. Each time pushing myself a little bit more, I find that confidence breeds confidence. The training and practice makes me better each and every time.

2. Perseverance – Yes, there are times I fall down, bang a tree, slip a chain; but each and every time I get back up and keep moving forward. If I decided to quit because of one setback what kind of message am I sending to myself? How many times are you willing to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep on going?

3. Growing – It gets me out of my comfort zone; when you crest a hill and see the path go straight down with roots and rocks along the way, it’s your moment of truth because once you commit to it that back brake becomes virtually useless. Yes, it takes my breath away at times but it is a good kind of scary. Sometimes you need that good kind of scary, a feeling of accomplishment when you step out of your comfort zone, to grow and succeed in your business life. At times, it feels like you are jumping off a cliff as you try to build your wings on the way down.

4. Handling adversity – you fall down and break your hand, skin a knee, break a pedal, snap a chain, run out of water, get eaten by a gator, get stung by a bee; and a good chance most of those will happen at one time or another, just hopefully not on the same day. Your attitude and how you handle adversity in dealing with these minor situations could go a long way for preparing you when similar calamities occur in your daily life. Tough lessons at times, but hopefully a learning lesson if nothing else.

We’re talking about a bicycle here, right?

Yep, just a bike; probably your primary source of transportation at one time in your life. As I told my wife (while I was trying to convince her it made sense for a 70 yr-old guy to invest in a new trail bike at that age) I could have picked a much worse hobby like dirt bike racing or professional hot dog eating or something like that; at least it is mostly healthy and gets me outdoors.

There are many activities where parallel life lessons can be learned and I chose this topic as my case study because I did crash and burn and it would have been very easy to take up couch potatoing at that point. But as Andy Dufresne so eloquently said in Shawshank Redemption, Get busy living, or get busy dying; I think I’ll choose living, especially if it involves fun too.

What do you think; what activities outside of work are you involved in that parallels every day living you can draw lessons from?

Until next time…

You can’t listen yourself out of a deal

Who likes to talk?

I do and when I get on a subject I am passionate about I get animated too. I’m in sales, insurance sales to be exact so you might think this would be a good trait to have. Not so much so…

It’s annoying when it is obvious someone is not listening and I know I am that guy at times; just ask my wife. So make it stop….

However, if you ask the right questions and take the time to listen, really listen you will be surprised how much you can learn about someone or what makes them tick. It makes the person you are talking to feel like what they have to say is important. Sometimes paying attention to the little things first have the biggest impact on a potential relationship.

Personally, it’s not always easy for me to laser focus in on a conversation and what makes it even worse, I try to be Mr Funny guy so my mind is always ready to pounce on the opportunity to take something serious and funny it up. Ask my wife how funny she thinks I am, “not very” would probably be her reply and I can’t seem to help myself; fortunately I don’t verbalize every funny thing I am thinking.

In other words, I am letting myself be distracted when I should be listening.

The annoying non-listener, don’t be one of these

There are always distractions to contend with, but these types take non-listening to a higher level:

1. The daydreamer – they pay very little attention to the conversation, usually drifting in and out and obviously distracted.

2. The aggressive – they wait (sometimes) for you to take a breath and then jump in with whatever they want to say. If you ask them a question, you will get an answer but it might not be the answer to your question.

3. The lack of eye contact – especially in a room full of people; their eyes are everywhere  but on you and they are constantly acknowledging others as they pass by.

4. The impatient – continually interrupts to ask a question, express an opinion, or interject something witty (hey, don’t look at me).

But you really aren’t that interesting

Yeah, and you aren’t that clever either…

First of all I will confess I am an ok listener at best; kind of like school, just an ok student. But that’s not to say we all can’t improve, right?

Just as there are classes for speaking, I do believe there are resources to make us better listeners as well. My north of the border friend Ralph Dopping referenced it in one of his posts and maybe now I will get the book. I tried to recall which post it was before I had to search for it, but I must not have been listening real well when he tried to tell me the first time.

The count of two…

Most salespeople get uncomfortable with dead air; going as far to ask the question but when the response isn’t immediately forthcoming, blabbering some more.

One of the methods I try to employ in these situations is to take two slow deep breaths, but you can basically use anything to squelch the urge to jump in before it’s time. It’s amazing what you can find out if keep your yap shut and give the other person the opportunity to talk.

But you still have to ask for the order

Somebody once shadowed me at a networking event. We probably met 7-10 new people while we were there. As we mingled throughout the room, we introduced ourselves and made light conversation. At the end of the evening, they remarked to me they thought I asked really good questions.

I had not really thought about it, because I don’t think I intentionally set out to do that, but to me that was one of the highest compliments someone could pay me.

If you are asking the right questions and truly listening to the answers, more times than not the deal will close itself. The only ask you have to make is for the opportunity to meet with them.

But you still aren’t that smart

But I am well read and that opens the door for me to ask those really good questions. You can certainly make yourself smarter just by hanging around the right people and asking those questions.

So, if you can connect the really good questions with superior listening skills you will be rich beyond your wildest dreams; or not, but it will give you a better opportunity because I truly believe you can’t listen yourself out of a deal.

Can you hear me now?

 

Spin Sucks – the book; fighting the good fight

It’s not often you will see me use this platform to promote and/or review a book. After all, I am still a pretty big deal around here and my time is valuable so I just can’t share the spotlight with anybody and everybody, right?

What? Whadda mean this is the first time anybody asked me to share anything…

Well I never…

Will the real Spin Sucks please stand up?

For anybody who has met me through my social platform probably knows two things about me at this point; 1) Most of the time I am not to be taken too seriously, and 2) Gini Dietrich from Arment Dietrich gave me the key that opened up the door to this world for me.

Yes, she will have to bear that burden for the rest of her life.

All kidding aside, I do want to be serious about the Spin Sucks book review and as much as she (and others) have tried to coach my online social efforts, up to this point I’m lagging behind more out of laziness than anything else. At three years in you would think I should have a well-tuned machine by now, but oh no, it’s still the 1970 AMC Hornet model I came in with…yes, I actually drove that rig…

But that hasn’t stopped me from being observant and hanging around the fringes and sometimes it might appear I don’t know much, but I do know some things and one thing I do know, Gini knows this social game as well as anybody.

What does that have to do with Spin Sucks

The book, my review; reading it changed my life. Ok, that might be a bit of a stretch, but it did reinforce to me the right way social can be used to build your brand and make it work to your advantage.

We all know people who jumped in and thought this would be easy or by gaming the system would make them a guru and rich, but one thing stressed throughout the book is to treat this process like a marathon with proper training instead of approaching it like a sprint.

Yes, everything is fast-paced and ever-changing in the world of online social but if you took the time to do it the right way, the better chance you have of not only surviving, but succeeding as well. Spin Sucks the book provides the framework to do just that.

Clear and concise it explains how to take advantage of the opportunity to build trust through communications and using the technology currently available to deliver it; and we all know how much the digitable web has changed the way we communicate.

This is just one small actionable item however as it also addresses how to humanize and effectively tell your story and what it takes to put you in the right mindset to think like a writer, which makes the story telling much more effective. Another key point is the convergence of all media, what you own and don’t own and how that can impact your efforts and how you need to protect what you own and can control.

I was impressed enough with the book that I’m using it as my personal call to action and will be buying several copies to share as gifts with a few entrepreneurs and business owners I know. Spin Sucks and it’s message would fit very well with any current business plan today.

I am at the age where a lot of my peer group doesn’t want to embrace online social, but unless you are ready to retire tomorrow, it is never too late to be a learner.

Times aren’t changing, they have changed my friend and Spin Sucks can provide the framework of staying relevant in today’s environment and having your competition wondering what your secret sauce is.

But who are you to pontificate on this subject?

Just a mosquito on an elephant’s butt; not big enough to make too much noise, but persistent enough to be noticed…

Actually, I think Gini allowed me to be part of this process because she knows how much of a whiner I am if I don’t get to play. Plus, she probably thought my obscure little blog that doesn’t register on anybody’s radar can’t do her much harm, right?

So for what it is worth, if you think this online social thing is here to stay and you need help seeing how it can benefit you, I highly recommend you purchase this book; today. If you don’t find at least 2-3 actionable items that will help your social efforts I will personally give you your money back.

And that’s a guarantee.

Pull the trigger; buy (not steal) Spin Sucks the book now

Here’s the link; hit me with your best shot: http://ow.ly/uZVvP

The 30-day naked classroom challenge

Made you look, didn’t I? Sorry, no nekkidity here today.

However, everybody has had the dream where you show up for class without any clothes on, right? Don’t be joshing me; I know you all have.

Don’t worry, you are saved, I certainly won’t be taking off my clothes here; but, if you feel like your life has become too predictable (I have) then I want to challenge you to get out of your personal space and comfort zone. 30-days in the title sounded better than 9 months but what I propose is finding at least one thing a month to do for 6-months or so that totally takes you out of your comfort zone.

Just one a month.

Suggested suggestions:

  1. Introduce yourself to 3 new people at a networking event
  2. Perform some type of public speaking/singing
  3. ASK somebody to do business with you…for pay
  4. Go to a restaurant you have never been to and order something unique off the menu
  5. Spend time around people more successful than you
  6. Say ‘yes’ to every single opportunity for a month, big or small
  7. Try a new hobby
  8. Pick a book totally outside your area of interest, and read it
  9. For a day, make eye contact and smile at everyone you see
  10. Visit a total stranger at a nursing home and take the time to learn their story

As you can see, there are a myriad of things you can do that make you feel just a little uncomfortable and can probably come up with plenty on your own.

Other than making me uncomfortable, what will this get me?

A new car? Not likely but it could if that is what is holding you back in sales and you might be surprised how it can subtly change your life and pull it out of those deep ruts. It’s bound to help you grow and by opening your mind it will expand your horizons.

If you feel like you are too predictable and stuck on square one this will provide just enough creative juices to give you the confidence to be bolder in everything you do.

Vanilla is a killah…

Confidence attracts.

But I won’t shave my legs

Why not? If it will take you out of the zone and get you out of a rut, run with it.

It sounds too silly to really work

Try it; if it doesn’t work and you haven’t changed a habit or two or phobia by the end of the year, I will guarantee your money back.

But I am afraid

Of course you are, but the only thing  we have to fear is fear itself, right? The real question is, what do you have to lose? Personally, I think the reward far exceeds the risks and it might be something you will continue each month thereafter.

The more you expand your horizons, the more interesting you become, the more interesting you become the more others like to be around you, the more others like to be around you the more you get invited for drinks and food; so how can this not be a win-win, huh?

And the results are:

If you are already doing this I would like to hear about it; whether you feel it makes your life more interesting. If not, are you willing to at least give it a try?

Here’s to full frontal nudity in a classroom of your peers; do I feel a draft in here?

Throw this dog a bone…

Bow wow yippie yo yippie yay…

Dude, you already walk around with your hand out every where you go; what do you want now?

Show me some twitter love

I have never actively tried to grow my twitter base. My efforts have been very passive indeed and pretty much only pulling the trigger after somebody shows up and then decide from there. Essentially, if you look human, have a reasonable amount of tweets I’ll probably let you in the house.

As a result of those efforts, after hanging around this joint for approximately 3-years I only have 2,990 followers. However, that is only 10 from 3,000. Therefore, I’m giving out a $100 billy dollar each to my next 9 followers and will send 5 $100 billy dollars and a DM for a great business opportunity for number 3,000.

How can you resist?

The reality is…

Unless someone is hanging on my every word in twitterville it doesn’t really matter. I still don’t do a good job of following streams, so even as twitter has become more mainstream I still mainly just broadcast blogs of others on my tweets.

The other thing about those 2,990 followers, I only really know about 150 of them. So I suppose it could be 3,000 or 300,000 for the way I use it. Somebody might look at that and think at 3,000 you are not much of an influencer so I don’t get the free stuff like some others, but even at 300,000 or 3,000,000 if nobody is really looking at your stuff, does it really matter?

However, my tweets are certainly worthy because I am sharing the works of some really talented people and if you were to take the time to see what is linked to my tweets, it might give you a ‘wow’ moment or two.

Twitter’s days are numbered

Mark my words; after twitter and other platforms (FB) become too mainstream and manipulative something new, shiny and different will come along and everybody will jump the ship.

And that begs the question, how much stock do you put into building a network on a particular platform knowing you don’t own it and it’s not going to be permanent? I guess that means if you want people to find you, you better have your own house in order with a welcome mat out front, and just rent your ride to get there, right? It doesn’t really matter how they get there, as long as they show up.

That’s what I’m going to do

For what it’s worth, if someone were to tell me they were thinking of getting in sales, I would recommend they look into insurance as a career. At least in my world it’s not a one and done, but building relationships and a book of business that pays you year after year. This might not sound too glamorous, but I can assure you the pay’s not bad and EVERYONE will buy insurance.

The downside of this model is after a while you get tired of scrumming and just want to hold onto and protect what you have. However, you do have competition, relationships change, businesses are sold and as soon as you put it in neutral you will be going backwards; you lose an account here, lose one there and then it’s hard to get the machine all cranked up again with an overflowing pipeline.

But what if your customers are your best advocates?

If I had to do it over again

I would have been more niche focused, picked a specialty type of coverage or a specific industry class and rode that horse until it had no life left whatsoever in them. It’s not a bad thing to be known as the expert in an industry.

Putting all your eggs in one basket can be dangerous, but can also be very lucrative; you just have to maintain flexibility and know when to fold them if necessary.

With a niche I think it’s much easier to communicate a social branding message in the world we live in today, and if you become known as the guy it sure makes it easier to open those doors; and standing out certainly helps.

Look at me, look at me; it’s not bragging if it’s true, right?

What do you think?

Are you better served trying to be all things for everybody, or just identifying your ideal customer/prospect and being the best you can be in that arena? I think we know the answer and if you become the best, then your customers will sell for you. How cool is that?

It might require you to get out of your comfort zone and actually have to walk away from opportunities, but at the end of the day you will be much better off.

That’s my story for now; until next time…