Host: Tim Martin
Guest: Laura Cox
Episode 5: Enrolling the Key to Success – Laura Cox Interview
March 15, 2014
Welcome to Success is Voluntary, a podcast devoted to helping you become the salesperson you were always meant to be, where it’s all about helping you learn the techniques and tools that will enable you to win in the increasingly competitive world of voluntary benefits. Welcome your host, a guy who has hired and trained over 2,000 voluntary benefit salespeople in his career, Tim Martin. Success is Voluntary, selling voluntary benefits.
Tim Martin: Yes, my name is Tim Martin, and I am so excited today on episode five of Success is Voluntary. In the studio today, I have Laura Cox, and I’ll let Laura introduce herself in greater detail here in a minute, but Laura is one of those people who I met just about a year ago and instantly just had an affinity for her. I think the world of her. I think you’re going to really enjoy her today, so without further ado, let’s welcome Laura Cox into the studio. Hello, Laura.
Laura Cox: Hi, Tim. Thanks so much for having me.
Tim: Boy, thank you for being here. I think this is going to be a lot of fun for our listeners. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun for me. That’s the main thing…as long as I’m having fun, right?
Laura: As long as the king is happy, the kingdom is fine.
Tim: That’s right. That’s right. All right. Well, Laura, I know a little bit about your background, but tell us a little bit about how you got started in voluntary benefits. We’ll get into your current role here in just a second, but tell us a little bit about how. I assume right out of high school (right?) you just started in insurance?
Laura: Oh, no. This was probably my third career move. I had been working for a 401(k) administration firm here in the valley. We did employee benefits at that time too, and I gravitated towards Section 125 and helping employees save money on their benefits through the workplace. Then I switched to an insurance company because I had a glass ceiling placed on my income, and I needed to break through.
It was probably the best thing in the world that ever happened to me, coming to an insurance company, to where we were taking care of employees in a way that I had never thought of before. Then, currently, I’m an instructor for Colonial Life, and I travel around.
I travel the entire country training the reps in the enrollment system and how to enroll people and how to talk to people about voluntary benefits and what’s in it for them and how it can really help save people’s lives, so I’m extremely happy to be in this field, and I can’t think of doing anything other than what we currently do.
Tim: Well, that’s great. That’s great. If you just listen to it, it sounds like there weren’t any bumps and bruises along the way, though. It sounds like you just went from success to success to success. Oftentimes, when we see somebody who is successful, that’s what we think. You and I have had a little conversation before we started here. That’s not true, is it?
Laura: It’s not. I think everyone has bumps. Some of them are deeper and higher than others. It has really been a very interesting road for me along the line. Learning about those bumps just makes you a better person. It makes you able to help others coming behind you to not have the same bumps, so to speak, or whatever.
The success that any of us realize in life has to do with a lot of people helping us get to where we currently are or going other directions or whatever. There are lots and lots of mistakes that I made down the road or in my career, and because I’ve had people helping me get to where I currently am, my success is all devoted to hard work but also people helping me.
Tim: That’s great. I love that expression of, “If you see a turtle on top of a fence pole, you know it didn’t get there by itself.”
Tim: That’s the way I feel, as well. There are a lot of people who have poured their lives into me and been gracious enough to take me by the hand and walk me through some things, give me a hug when I need one and a kick in the butt when I needed it, right?
Laura: Yeah, yeah, and it’s nice to know, to be able to look at yourself and say, “I am successful today. I’m really good at what I do, but it was because of hard work, commitment, and people helping me get to where I am today.” It’s one of the nicest feelings that you just wake up every morning knowing that, and you sing your song every day.
Tim: You sing your song. I like that. I really like that.
Tim: Sing your song every day. All right. Again, I’m not trying to make you sound like you were an idiot when you started because I don’t think you were.
Laura: Oh, I think probably was.
Tim: I know I was. I made a lot of silly mistakes early on in my career. What are maybe one or two stories where, if you knew then what you know now, what are a couple of things that might have come out differently for you early on?
Laura: Oh, gosh. I wish I had listened better in my earlier career with the insurance industry. I wish I had listened better and really taken the time to ask questions for people that would be meaningful for them, as well. Having the drive to certainly earn an income, that’s one thing, but I wish I had learned earlier that it doesn’t matter about the income.
It matters that you care about people, and when you do, the faster you learn that, when you care about people, things will come to you without any effort (it seems that way) only because you took the time to listen to people and care about them and not be so focused on the sale of the sale.
Tim: That’s great. In fact, isn’t it ironic that the more we worry about our income, the harder it is to get, and the minute we stop worrying about the income, it seems to flow.
Laura: Yeah, and that is something that probably comes to all of us if we really sat and took a good look…good, hard look…at what we just did for the last decade, if we had just been able to be smart enough to say, “I have to stop worrying about the money,” because the money really should just fall in line if you do the right things.
Tim: You bet. I can’t remember who said it, but they said, especially if we’re in sales, our income is directly proportionate to the service we give other people. The more we serve, the more income we’re going to get, and if you’re not in a position that that’s true, if you’re being capped by something, then you need to change because I really believe that we live in the greatest country in the world. There is no reason to allow other people to limit our success.
Laura: That’s true, and wasn’t it Zig Ziglar who said, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will define your altitude”?
Tim: I like that. I believe that was Zig. I’ve heard that. You bet.
Tim: All right, so when you first started, you started as an enroller, is that correct?
Tim: You were hired on to go out and sit in break rooms and listen to Mary talk about her trick knee. At first, this used to amaze me, the stories you hear. People overshare at enrollment sometimes
Tim: That’s what you did, right?
Tim: You came on, and you did a bunch of enrollment.
Laura: Yeah, I did. I just sat with a bunch of employees and talked to them every single day, and it just seemed like it was endless, four months of just endless talking to people all the time, but it was so wonderful because every single day I got better and better at listening. Then I got better at talking.
Tim: Oh, that’s a good point. Really, most salespeople, especially people outside of sales, think of salespeople as really good talkers, but I think what you just said is critical. We have to start as good listeners. Again, I read so much, and I pick up so much, I can’t remember where it all comes from sometimes. I don’t remember, but it might have been Stephen Covey who said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
Tim: Absolutely. All right, so you did that. How long were you an enroller? Before you went and took your current gig, how long were you in the field doing that?
Laura: I was in the field for almost seven years just doing fieldwork, talking to people, enrolling, coordinating, and opening groups, just living the life and getting well rounded in all aspects of our business. At almost the end of my seventh year, an opportunity came to me to be able to train agents.
I contemplated taking the job because I thought, “Well, gosh, in the last year, year and a half, I really have been spending a lot time training the agents who were in our unit, in our district,” and it seemed to be second nature to me, so I applied for the job of an instructor and got it. I’ve just absolutely loved it. I finally got to where some people get in their lives, where I could honestly say I have just the best in the world. I love what I’m doing, and I get paid for it.
Tim: That’s great. That’s great. A buddy of mine says, “I am the nice, chubby, round peg in the round hole.” He says the same thing, and he is a little chubby, so it cracks me up, but yeah, it’s great when you fit exactly what you’re doing. Getting off on a little bit of a tangent here, but I think that’s so hard for a lot of people to come to that point in their career or that point in their life, and boy, it’s awesome when it does happen.
I feel the same way. I love what I do, and I think this is a perfect fit for where I’m at in my career. I really believe, though, that you are exactly where you are in your career because you chose to be there. Now that may be hard for some of our listeners to hear. If they’re not making money and they’re struggling, and they’re dreading getting up in the morning and going to work, then they’re there because they chose to be. I’m not saying bad stuff doesn’t happen to people because it does.
Laura: You know, there is nothing wrong with that. With every single one of us, we have to realize that what is happening to us now, we have built everything to this point. A good friend of mine, years ago, and it was early on in my insurance career, told me the same thing. He said, “Laura, if you want more money, or if you want more responsibility, then damn it, just go and get it. Just tell people that’s what you want, and you’ll be surprised. It will just, all of a sudden, happen because you said you wanted it. You just needed to do more.”
When I finally figured that out, it was like a revelation of saying, “You know what, it’s not anybody else’s fault that I’m at this point. It’s my fault, and I’m responsible,” and so I went out and got it. I went out and did more, asked for more. I got it, and it’s been so much of a revelation to me that you can see that you are in charge of a lot of things in your life. Once you realize that, you start making things happen, and being in this position, I have never wavered from it. I mean 10 years being an instructor and I still say, today, I absolutely love what I do.
Tim: You bet. So you fly all over the country. There are only two of you in the whole company, right?
Laura: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Right.
Tim: You don’t necessarily have a geographical area. You guys just kind of split up the workload, is that correct?
Tim: You could literally be in Maine one day and Northern California two days later?
Laura: Yeah. Logistically, probably not, but yeah, every single week, we could be on the West Coast. We could be on the East Coast. We could be in North Dakota or down in southern Texas. It doesn’t really matter. We go to wherever we have areas that need the instruction done for the class and for the agents, and we try to make sure that we accommodate as many people as possible.
Tim: Any idea how many miles you flew last year?
Laura: Everyone keeps asking me that. “How many trips did you make?” I just look at them and think, “I have no idea because it scares me.”
Tim: You may not want to know.
Laura: Yeah, I really don’t. “How many weeks are you on the road, Laura?” It’s just like I don’t even think about it anymore. It’s just so second nature. It’s what I do, and if there is a calling, if there is a need, I’m on the plane, and I’m out.
Tim: Well, God bless you. I’m so thankful for people like you who are willing to do that and have the ability to go do that, as well.
Laura: Yeah. Thank you.
Tim: You bet. Okay. Let’s talk a little bit. The reason I had you on. Obviously, I really enjoy hearing your story, and how you got to where you’re at, but you are an expert. You have an incredible amount of expertise in this enrollment process, and the five sales that we talked about a few weeks ago, we’re going to keep referring to them pretty much on every podcast.
We have to set an appointment. We have to get the business owner to agree to move forward. We have to get access and control. Some people call it working conditions. I like to call it access and control. We have to sell the employee, and then we don’t have to get referrals, but it sure helps, right?
Tim: Those are the five sales we make over and over again. Not only were you a phenomenal enroller yourself, but you’ve been teaching people that for a long time and fly over all over the United States every week doing it. You know, a lot of people in this industry say, “The product sells itself.” I get why they say that because if it’s presented right, it’s a no-brainer, but that’s a big if it’s presented right, so a lot of it is in the presentation and then making sure that you are listening and matching what that customer needs to the programs and products you have.
Let’s talk a little bit about kind of your thought processes when you start with a new company. What is the first thing you look at? Before you go in there, what are some of the things you’re looking at?
Laura: We’re looking for the employees who just need to be educated about some of the things that they can do to protect themselves and their families from financial loss, but also being able to go through an illness (because it does happen to almost every single one of us) and not have to worry about, “How am I going to take enough time off to care for my spouse or my child?” or anything like that. “How am I going to be able to take care of life and make sure that we get through this process or whatever?”
The challenge is to find a company that has a need for protecting or helping the employees protect themselves. I can’t think of any company out there who doesn’t have a need to do that, so we’re looking for an ability to help anybody and everyone who possibly can gain from voluntary benefits.
It doesn’t really matter the company that you work for, but to understand that every single person really will need some kind of assistance some time, and when you’re providing voluntary benefits, you have to look at that and say, “I have something that I think everyone needs. You may not need it today, but one of these days, you will need it,” so we look for a lot of things, but really the need to help those employees take care of themselves and their families.
Tim: Sure. Where do you start on that? I mean, obviously, you’re working with the business owner or the HR person trying to design the right portfolio of programs, because I mean…I don’t know…what’s your thought about taking in 12 products?
Laura: I’m actually against the grain here. I actually love to be able to have as many cards in my hand as possible.
Tim: That’s great.
Laura: Because I could be talking to somebody who needs one or two things, and if I chose the other three or four things that they didn’t need, I wouldn’t be helping them, so I like to have cards in my hands. Then I like to be able to talk to that employee and say, “Now you pick one that’s most important to you,” because it’s not my call to say, “This, I think, is more important to you than anything.”
I like to be able to have that employee chose, so there’s a good thought of saying if you present too many products that the employee gets confused. I understand that completely, but I also say that you can be trained well enough to be able to say, “Hey, I can talk about all of these products, but I’m going to just do a very brief, high-level explanation, and you, the employee, you choose. You tell me what is most important, and we’ll go from there.”
Tim: That’s a great point. You started to scare me there a little bit when you said you wanted to have everything. You’re not saying you’re going to make a full presentation of all 12 products.
Laura: Not at all.
Tim: You’re going to ask them the best questions, find out what is most important to them, and then show them the products that fit their needs.
Laura: Right. Everyone needs to be taught about what these things are that we’re talking about in the sales process, but you don’t have to go into this in-depth conversation about every single product. You know, you could have 20 products that you could present to people, but my gosh, you don’t have enough time to talk about all of them.
What you do have to do is be able to talk to them briefly about the products, how they work, and then let that employee think about it and choose for themselves. A lot of times, it’s best if you can do that presentation in a group meeting situation, where there are a lot of the employees there, and they hear the same thing, and they have time that they can think about it and go home and talk to their family members about it so when they’re sitting with us one-on-one, we don’t have that presentation time that we have to do with them. We’ve already done that in a group setting.
There are multiple ways of handling this, and you just have to be asked the question of, “How would you handle this? How would you handle that?” and have that experience behind it to suggest to new agents in these classes, “Here’s how I might handle it.”
Tim: Great. That’s great. I have a friend in this industry, and he kind of does something I think is really cool. He does do group meetings if at all possible, but sometimes that’s not possible.
Tim: Sometimes we have to educate people one-on-one for the first time. New hires come to mind, especially. What he does is he kind of lays out the products that are available at that group, and sometimes all 12 products aren’t available for that group. Maybe it’s just five or six, which is still kind of overwhelming to a lot people, so he kind of lays out the brochures, and he gives just maybe a 15- or 20-second overview of each product. Then he asks them, he says, “Laura, of these five or six, which ones do you know for sure you’re not interest in?”
Laura: Right. Process of elimination.
Tim: Yeah, and they pull those brochures off the table, and all of a sudden, two really cool things happen. First of all, that employee, all of a sudden, feels like they’re not being sold. They’re not being pushed by extra things, as opposed to presenting one and saying, “Do you want it?” Then they go, “Yes,” and you sign up, and you go, “Here, I have another one. You want it?”
Tim: “You want it?”
Tim: “Do you want it? Do you want it?” They’re saying, “Which ones do you know you don’t want for sure?” Take those off the table, and then if you have one or two or maybe even three left, then we get into details on those and figure it out, and I think that’s a great technique.
Laura: I love that. That was how we were taught. My manager, who is still with our company and still going strong, she was just about one of the best trainers in the world, and she would say the same thing. We would briefly talk about the products, but we would also let that employee give us their decision about what was most important, or what they didn’t want or whatever, and we would just simply ask them a question. You know, once we were done with one product that they really wanted, we just sat back and said, “Is there anything else I can help you with?”
Tim: That’s great.
Laura: And put it right back into their court and sometimes they would want to learn about something else. Other times, they would just say, “No, I feel really good,” and the fact of the matter was that we were doing enough to help cover them but not make them feel pressured into anything that they didn’t want.
Tim: That is so important because even if it’s on a pre-tax basis, maybe they get “stuck with it” for this year, but it builds such bad karma in that group, a bad reputation for you, and they’re going to drop it anyway, eventually, the minute they can.
Tim: I tell people all the time, I say, “Laura, you’ve chosen three products here. I love the fact that you’re enthusiastic about all three of them, but I want to make sure, before we finish, that you’re comfortable with this amount coming out of your paycheck every paycheck because I don’t want to get three months down the road, and you can’t cancel until your open enrollment period, and you cuss my name every time you get your paycheck and you look in there.” I said, “I’d much rather you start smaller, and next year maybe we can add an additional product.”
Laura: Exactly, and when you give the power of the decision to that employee, they appreciate that. That’s when they know they’re not getting sold. You’re looking out for them, and there’s such power in that. It’s just amazing. You can look at it today as saying, “Well, I lost the sale there,” but that’s today.
The way that you sell it, the way that you handle that employee will dictate…Do they want to come back to you later? By all means, you want them to sit there and say, “I like the way that this person treated me. I’ll come back and buy again from you just because of that one reason, the way you treated me.”
Tim: Yeah. It’s been said people don’t remember what you say, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel.
Tim: You bet. Okay, one last thing on that, and we’ll kind of put a fine point on this little part of it. I think the biggest compliment you can get in this business is maybe you’ve done a group presentation, and now you’re sitting down one-on-one with somebody, and they say, “Laura, I really would love to get all four products you presented to yesterday,” but maybe I’m a single mom, and I’m living on a limited income. “If you were me, which programs would you get?” How does that make you feel? Because I know that’s happened to you.
Tim: If you do it right, you get that quite a bit.
Laura: You’re giving me goose bumps anyway just because I can automatically go back to being asked that question. You have to be able to understand that people need their income to continue on their lifestyle or the way that things are. You know what life insurance is all about.
Laura: That’s the end result, but in order to be able to continue to put food on the table, to pay those bills, disability insurance is just so important because it can cover a certain percentage of your income. While it’s not 100 percent, it is something, and that absolutely helps somebody take control of their lives who is going through some rough times and at least feel like they can control it because you helped them protect their income.
Tim: I agree. I wholeheartedly agree. In fact, that’s where I start, typically. Whenever I am enrolling somebody, that’s the very first thing I want to make sure that they protect, that disability, making sure that their income is coming in.
Back to my example, if the single mom makes $11 an hour as a teller at a bank, I say, “Well, obviously, you’re doing this yourself. Your income is critical to you. You have no backup. If you don’t do anything else today, let’s make sure that if something happens to you, you can keep food on the table, gas in the car, and keep a roof over your head.”
Laura: Exactly, and we have to make sure that we care about people and to help them get through whatever they would be going through. About the only way that I can really feel comfortable with that is knowing that I discussed what disability insurance is all about, what it can help pay for, and paint a picture of that bad scenario, so to speak, but also say that you have a safety net here because you have ensured that some of your income is still coming in.
You can take care of things because you can work with companies to say, “I’m trying to get back on my feet. I’ve been through an illness or whatever, and I can pay some of the bill.” They will work with you, and so knowing that you can explain it in such a way that paints a picture of you understanding what they’re going through or what their situation is, that makes all the difference in the world in our business.
Tim: It sure does. It sure does, and what you’re talking about requires connection. You have to be able to connect with people, so we’re going to get into some practice here in just a second. I mean all this has been theoretical to a point, but why is that connection so critical to people in the sale? I mean I think what we sell is completely different than most salespeople, so why is that connection so critical here?
Laura: The connection has to be there for that employee to feel like you are helping them rather than trying to get something out of them, and if I took a look at the process that I used, I break it down to this simple fact: I’m going to treat people exactly the way I expect to be treated. You don’t handle me. You make me feel comfortable, and there is that connection that I have with you.
If I don’t do that with people, if I don’t make that connection, all they’re going to see in me is insurance salesperson, and I can’t handle that. I want to be able to have them see me as somebody who is teaching them about the insurance product.
Tim: I like to say it this way: We don’t sell a tangible product. Right? If you’re selling cars, you can take them on a test drive.
Laura: You bet.
Tim: If you’re selling copiers, they can even do test drives on copiers.
Tim: Well, I had an old, old copier. It was chugging away, and I had a copier salesperson in my office. He convinced me to “try it out,” you know, for 30 days. I didn’t have to put a dollar down, anything, and if I liked it, we would work out the details. Well, I’ll tell you what. My assistant would’ve killed me if I had gone back to the old copier. I had to buy that (right?) because she had spent 30 days in heaven versus this old thing that was chugging along, right?
Tim: We don’t have that luxury, do we?
Tim: All we sell is a promise.
Laura: Right. We have an intangible. I can’t show you what the policy looks like. Besides that, it’s just a piece of paper. We have to understand that we have to engage the one thing that the employees can do. We can paint a picture for them to just close their eyes and imagine, and that’s what we need to always focus on. Paint the picture that fits that employee, that person, as a person.
Tim: Great. Great. In fact, we’re going to show you guys a couple of techniques of how to do that, how to paint that picture, in just a second, but before we do that, one last point. If we don’t believe the person making us the promise (and that’s all we sell, a promise), if we can’t believe the person, then how are we going to believe their promise? I think that is where that connection has to come in.
It’s amazing to me that, again, if we do that right, we hear people’s whole life stories. We’ve known them for 20 minutes, and we hear about their granddaughter who is on drugs. I mean, it’s just some very personal things that I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing with a stranger, but they don’t see us as a stranger at that point, right?
Laura: Right. Right. That’s an amazing thing. We can see that they’ve let us into their field of compassion, so to speak, and that they feel comfortable enough in sharing things. You know, think about it. People really, on the whole, they just want to talk. That’s all they want to do. They just want to talk.
Remember some periods of time in your own life that you were having such a hard time trying to deal with whatever, and the only thing that made you feel better was because somebody listened. You were able to talk to them, and it’s just an amazing thing that happens when people realize that we’re safe. It’s okay to talk, and maybe, just maybe, that person can help us.
Tim: That’s so good, Laura. All right. Let’s get into some practical tools that we can use.
Tim: Okay, so practical tools. What are some of the stories? You said to get them to close their eyes and imagine their life if they were going through something bad. That’s pretty generic. What are some of maybe the stories or techniques you’ve used to help people realize this? Because here is what I really believe (I really believe this): We don’t have to sell people on the need for our coverage. We just have to remind them they have a need.
Laura: Right. The biggest thing you can do is just ask them the question. I remember when I first started out in the insurance business, I was thrown (honestly thrown) a brochure on cancer insurance.
Laura: I started reading about what the brochure covered or the policy supposedly was going to cover, and I started remembering back with my father going through cancer treatment in the mid-70s. Today, we can ask the question, “Do you have somebody in your life who has gone through cancer treatment?” You don’t have to necessarily ask them, “Who in your family has had cancer?” That was what we used to ask years and years ago.
Today, it’s so prevalent that all you have to do is just ask this one question: “Do you have somebody in your life who has been affected by cancer treatment? It could be a neighbor, or it could be a family member, et cetera.” Because it’s so prevalent today, people can just close their eyes and imagine that person.
Laura: By asking just that one question, “Who can you bring up who has had to go through cancer treatment?” it’s very easy. All we’re doing is painting a picture. We’re helping them paint a picture in their own mind.
Tim: That’s very good. I have hundreds of stories.
Laura: I do too.
Tim: People will understand that. By the third or fourth episode, they will hear hundreds of stories, but I remember one time I was eating lunch with a young man who we were trying to recruit. He said, “Tim, do people really need this? Do they really see a need for it? Will they buy it?”
He was a young guy. He said, “I’m not sure that I would want to buy a cancer policy, or I would want to buy a heart attack policy.” I said, “Well, of course, you’re 22 years old.” Now, by the time I was 22, I was a one-year cancer survivor, so I mentioned that to him. I said, “You know, it doesn’t discriminate on age, but certainly, as people get older, they do have higher and higher risk.”
Again, we were eating lunch in this little café, and this waitress came up. She was refilling our drinks, and I said, “Can I ask you a question?” She said, “Yeah.” I said, “Have you ever known anybody who has gone through cancer?” I really struck a nerve with her because she had just lost her mom at about three months prior to this, and she mentioned that. Of course, I apologized for bringing up that sore subject, but she was fine.
I said, “Well, let me ask you this: Was she retired, or was she still working?” Because this was a fairly young waitress, and she said, “No, she was still working.” I said, “Was that a financial burden on your family?” She said, “Absolutely, it was,” and she proceeded to spend almost 10 minutes (she sat down at our table), and she told us the whole story.
I said, “If your mom had a program that would have paid her X number of dollars during that time…” I just had done the math really quickly. There was probably a lot of money I was missing, but I just did the math really quickly on what she told me her mom had gone through, “…do you think that would have helped her?” She said, “Oh, it would have been an amazing blessing.”
I said, “Well, I know you can’t ask her advice now, but if you were able to ask her advice about picking up a program that would have done that for yourself that would cost $20 a month, what do you think she would say to that?” She said, “Well, she would tell me to do it.” I said, “I know you’re busy, but I would love to talk to you about it.” She walked off then came back five minutes later and did not let me leave the restaurant without having signed up for a cancer program.
Laura: Right. It’s an amazing thing when you can paint that picture and put it into real terms of what that employee has gone through or encountered with any family member, any neighbor, anybody who they know who has been touched by that disease. When I looked at that brochure for the very first time, what, 17 years ago, I started calculating how much money this policy would have paid my mom, and at that time, it was in the mid-70s. I calculated that this policy would have paid her at least $75,000 in the mid-70s.
Tim: That’s crazy.
Laura: That question, “Do you think that would have helped her?” It would have helped in ways that I can’t even imagine. It didn’t happen because we didn’t have it back then, but when you really start putting it into the context of, “Oh, my gosh, you know, she wouldn’t have had to have gone back to work. She would have been able to pay things off. She would not have worried,” as I imagine she did, at the time of trying to go through this cancer treatment of her husband.
I mean, just think about it. I don’t ever want to have to go through that myself, and I’ve already one through it as a young child. It sold me. I mean, I was sold at the brochure. I truly was. It was just like, “Oh, my gosh, who wouldn’t need something like this?”
Tim: I couldn’t agree more, and the good news is that people are living longer.
Tim: Leukemia, especially for children, is no longer the death sentence that it was 25 years ago, but the downside of that is that the incidence of cancer is going up.
Tim: Congratulations. You know, I know, as a woman, you’re always looking for equality with men. The good news is you’re catching up in lung cancer. Women are catching up in lung cancer and heart disease and all these things because their lifestyles are mimicking men a lot more than they did 50 years ago. They’re working. They’re eating fast food on the run. They’re doing the same things that only men were doing 50 years ago, but you’re still behind. You still need to work on equality because only one in three women gets diagnosed with cancer.
Laura: And one in two men.
Tim: One in two men, yeah, so you have a ways to go, but you have to something to shoot for. Right?
Laura: Yeah. Well, we don’t want that equality. That’s for sure.
Tim: No. No.
Laura: Not there.
Tim: No, nobody wants that.
Laura: Talk to me about the other places. I’m ready to go.
Laura: Let’s go.
Tim: You’re good to go there. No, it is. One in three women and one in two men, in their lifetime, will get diagnosed with cancer, and that’s just one product that we’re talking about. I want to shift gears and talk a little bit about disability, and I think that will probably wrap us up for practical ways to sell insurance. What are some of the best techniques you use to get somebody interested and then converted into a sale when it comes to disability insurance?
Laura: It’s always neat to have stories given to you about what some employee at whatever group, years ago, encountered. When I need to paint that picture to an employee who has not incurred anything bad happening to them, that I need to teach them about what and why disability insurance is about and so good, those stories that the real people tell you really can hone in on somebody figuring out in their own mind just because I’ve been painting this picture.
I’ll never forget this one time I was at a car dealership, and one of the employees sat down, and I started in on talking about voluntary benefits. She said, “Oh, honey, I am here to sign up for disability insurance,” and I looked at her, and I would, “Well, I have to tell you about it, first.” She said, “No, you need to hear my story.”
She actually lost her home because of some illness that she and her husband had gone through. They couldn’t go to work. They couldn’t earn enough income, and they absolutely lost their house. This gal was literally living in her car.
Laura: Talk about a smack in the face for me. I thought, “Oh, my gosh,” and I listened to her. I listened, and I told myself, “I will always remember this,” and I can guarantee you, 17 years later, I still remember it. The stories that these employees can give you about things that they have gone through should be able to let you paint a picture in your own mind of saying, “How would I be affected if that was my life?” The best thing I have always taught our agents to do is say that to somebody: “How would you be affected if something like that happened to you?”
Tim: That’s a great point. One of things I use in my presentation is I do actually ask everybody to close their eyes, and I say, “Imagine for a second that you were in a serious car accident last night on your way home from work. The good news is you’re going to make it. You’re going to recover. The bad news is the doctor just left your bedside, and he said it could be six months, a year, maybe longer, before you can return back to work. Now open your eyes. How long is that going to be before that affects your family or yourself financially?”
Laura: The answer is immediately.
Tim: Yeah. Well, I go on.
Laura: You know? It’s like…
Tim: I joke about it. I say, “Well, for some of you, you have all that Enron stock you can liquidate and those kinds of things. You have a bunch of equity on your house in Phoenix, Arizona, you can borrow against.” No.
Some of our clients, they have. They have done a good job of saving, and they could go a little while. Others of you, when I asked that question, you looked at your watch, and it really doesn’t matter where you’re at. That’s one of the things I love about voluntary benefits versus a true group platform. In voluntary, it doesn’t matter where they’re at; we can design a program that fits their needs and their budget as opposed to a one-size-fits-all program.
Laura: Right. Right. Having something that fits each employee’s personal life, and what they’re going through, is the beauty of having voluntary products available to them. They have this choice, and they can start with one product. They can start with two or whatever. They can build on it over the years. They can adjust it back.
As long as they have somebody talking to them on a yearly basis asking that question, “What has changed in your life? What do we need to do to change your portfolio?” so to speak. I know that’s what I expect with my retirement guy (him asking me questions once a year), and we have to turn that into this insurance business, to say it is so important for us to come back and talk to these people and say, “Tell me what has changed between the last time I saw you and today. What can I help you with? What can we keep? What do we need to adjust, if anything? What’s going on with you?” That’s that personal touch that we have.
Tim: That is so good, Laura. I tell people all the time that this is not a hit-and-run business.
Laura: Mm-mmm. If it is to you, then you need to look someplace else because this requires compassion, understanding, and commitment to not only helping you and your family in the sales end of it but absolutely helping somebody on the personal end of it. That is all of the employees that are out there who need help and just need that personal touch that we can provide to them.
Tim: That’s great. That is so good. All right. I’m going to transition real quick here. We’re kind of running out of time, but I do want to go a couple of inspirational things.
Tim: I think the most inspirational part about this business is not what we could for somebody but what we have done for some people. Without making a HIPAA violation here, in 17 years, I’m sure you have seen multiple people really impacted by what you’ve done. Can you speak to one or two of those?
Laura: I can. Right off the bat, we had a fellow instructor, years ago. She was actually one of my mentors in being an instructor in this company. She had undergone a surgery for breast cancer, and this was a single mom with a couple of kids. At that point, she had, I think, a 14-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter. This is a single mom.
She’s still working as an instructor, traveling around, doing the best she could, and got cancer-free for a couple of years, and then, all of a sudden, it came back, and so she went through a lot of treatment on the second go-round of this. She just was smart enough, of course, early on in her career in being an agent that she bought a cancer plan.
Tim: Just a second. Time out. If you’re listening to this, you work for a carrier that offers voluntary benefits, and you don’t have those benefits, I question your sanity. I question why you are in this business. I’ve seen it.
Tim: I’ve seen agents of ours, who, they don’t have anything, and I think that’s just insane.
Laura: It really is. How can you speak with passion about a product when you don’t even have it yourself? You can’t possibly sing that song to anyone.
Tim: If you can, I don’t want you on my team.
Tim: Because that means you’re a psychopath. You’re a sociopath, right?
Laura: Sociopath, yeah.
Tim: A sociopath, not a psycho. Well, maybe. I don’t know. Maybe a psychopath and sociopath. At any rate, absolutely. I’m sorry… So she had been smart enough to pick up these programs when she was an agent.
Laura: Mm-hmm, and as an instructor, she was able to (I guess on the lucky end of it) utilize her policy. The second go-round was a lot worse than the first go-round, with all the treatments, and she was on some kind of a leave of absence but sitting at home. I remember getting a phone call from her, and she had told me about all of the recent treatments that she had, which were (I think) a month or two of no treatments, so she was really hopeful.
She said, “Laura, I just needed to call you and talk to somebody because I don’t know what to do. I just received a check from the insurance carrier, and I don’t know what to do with the check,” and I said, “Well…”
Tim: Take it to the bank.
Laura: “What’s wrong?” She said, “I don’t know. It can’t be this much,” and I said, “Well, how much was it?” She said, “It’s $270,000.”
Tim: Oh my gosh.
Laura: I just stopped, and I said, “You just go to the bank because you’ve put all your claims in,” and she said, “Yeah, but what I do with this money?” I said, “Pay off your house. Pay it off to where your kids can have someplace to live and not have to worry about it.” She said, “I’m just so stunned with this,” and I said, “You just have to believe that this was you with your tenacity, putting through your claims and how difficult it was, but also the end result here.”
Honestly, when I got off the phone with her, I thought to myself, “Whoa, how would I feel with that huge amount of a check?” You know, this was her planning for her future no matter what or her kids’ future.
Tim: That’s so good. That is so good. It’s an inspiring story.
Laura: I’ll never forget it.
Tim: Of course.
Laura: I’ll never forget her. She actually succumbed to it shortly thereafter. I mean, within about two months, she was gone.
Tim: Oh my gosh, but at least her family was set up for a financial future.
Laura: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
Tim: You bet. When we talk about life insurance, that’s one of the things that we ask. You know, “If something were to happen to you, how would your spouse or how would your kids continue to live?” People get that from a life insurance perspective, but they often don’t get it from a voluntary benefits perspective.
Laura: Yeah, you have to look at it as also not only protect yourself with life insurance but also living insurance, and that’s what voluntary insurance is all about.
Tim: It’s making sure that you can keep food on the table.
Laura: That’s right.
Tim: Gas in the car.
Tim: And keep that roof over your head, right?
Laura: That’s right.
Tim: Well, Laura, I think we’re going to have to call it a day, but I really appreciate you being on here. Before I let you go, though… I didn’t let you know this was coming.
Tim: Yeah. How do you want to be remembered? What do you want people to say at your funeral?
Laura: Gosh, I guess the best thing I could do for myself is to… I try to live my life this way, but I also try to invoke that thought into other people, so I would hope that they would remember me by saying, “She had compassion,” and really compassion is striving to be compassionate to the young, to the sick, and to the elderly because, at one point in your life, you will have been all of those
Tim: Not me. I’m not getting old. Sorry. I’m sorry. I brought comedy into a very serious subject.
Tim: I am so sorry. No. No, you’re right. You’re going to have done all three of those.
Laura: Yeah. I take a lot of things that I hear over the years as inspirational things for me. That was on a Successories poster that I saw very early on in my career at our district office. I’m trying to get my hands on it to this day.
It’s just a photo of a mother fox with a pup that was curled up on her lap, so to speak, and her tail was wrapped around it, and the mother was just ever-so vigilant, but she was compassionate to this young little fox. It was just the best saying in the world. I know one of these days I’ll get my hands back on it, but compassion, I hope that people would remember me that way, that I was compassionate with people.
Tim: I’m sure they will. I know they’ll also look back on you as somebody who helped them in their career. I think, for those of you who don’t know Laura (and I know there are a lot who don’t), Laura is one of the most respected and loved instructors and people I’ve met in a long time. Thank you, Laura, for being here.
Laura: Thanks, Tim. It was a pleasure.
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