Host: Tim Martin
Episode 12: Insurance IS Sexy – Please Pass This On To Recent College Graduates
May 3, 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 you are listening to episode number 12 of Success is Voluntary. This podcast was spurred by a Facebook message I received earlier this week from a recent college graduate. I’m sure you are aware that it is graduation season around the United States, and if you’re like me, you can’t go to the mailbox without finding a graduation announcement from one of your relatives or your friend’s kids or your kid’s friends.
In the past week, I have congratulated and sent checks to two freshly minted college graduates. Do you know what? It got me thinking about their future. As college graduates, their life should be better. Right? Well, perhaps long-term their future is better.
According to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, workers with bachelor’s degrees can expect to earn 84 percent more than their counterparts without degrees over their lifetime. Unfortunately, the job prospects for these graduates right now aren’t extremely strong. A U.S. News & World Report earlier this year stated the following:
“The number of college graduates working minimum wage jobs is nearly 71 percent higher than it was a decade ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest figures. As of 2012, 284,000 college graduates were working at or below the minimum wage, up from 167,000 in 2002 and more than two times the pre-recession low of 127,000 in 2006. The cohort includes an estimated 30,000 people with masters’ degrees, a figure that is more than twice as high as it was in 2002 and three times as high as in 2006.
That spells trouble for college graduates with low wages, especially when student debt is climbing. The Institute for College Access and Success reported Wednesday that the average class of 2012 graduate left college with $29,400 in debt, a figure that has climbed an average of 6 percent year over year for the past four years.”
Of course there are certain professions that boast very high starting wages for new college graduates. The median annual salary for a graduate with a petroleum engineering degree is $120,000. Unfortunately, graduates in counseling psychology, who are at the bottom of the spectrum, earn $29,000 according to Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce.
As I said earlier, this podcast was spurred by a Facebook message I received this week. Courtney, the daughter of one of my friends, who is also a recent college graduate, wrote to me the following message: “Hi, Mr. Martin! Hope you and your family are doing well. I’m in the process of job searching as life and marriage will be moving me to the Chicago area soon. After posting my resume online, I’ve had quite a few responses in the area of insurance sales.
Today a recruiter from Aflac contacted me, and prior to that, I have had Farmers and a few small names. I was curious as to your thoughts on the companies and what kinds of advice you could give me since you’ve been successful in the industry. Any direction would be much appreciated. Thanks!”
Do you know what? I’m thrilled for this young lady. Courtney is starting her life with her soon-to-be husband and also beginning her career. She is a wonderful young woman who I’ve watched grow up and has amazing talent. The reality is that regardless of what she attempts in life, she is going to be successful. I’m proud that she is considering a career in insurance. It gives me great hope for the future of this industry.
We need more sharp, young, talented men and women to breathe life into our profession. It’s a shame that most people coming out of college don’t even explore a career in insurance. Over the years, I have been involved in dozens and dozens of college career fairs, and it amazes me the number of young men and women who stand in line to talk to the pharmaceutical companies but won’t give the insurance booths the time of day.
My theory is that they don’t see the insurance industry as sexy. When they think of the insurance industry, well, they think of people like me: middle age white guys who wear loud sports jackets and sit around in boring meetings. Well, my sports jackets might not be that loud, and some of my meetings are pretty exciting, but that’s what they think of.
I would contend that a career in insurance is sexy. Over the next few minutes, I am going to give you seven reasons that I am convinced that you need to pass on this podcast to anyone you are sending a graduation card to. Without further ado, here we go.
- There are many career paths available. Regardless of where you start in the insurance industry, there are so many different routes you could take. Most companies have at least the 12 following departments: There is a training department. There is a training curriculum development department. There is accounting, marketing, underwriting, product development, claims, broker development, the sales department, public relations, legal, actuarial, and the list goes on and on.
In fact, a lot of companies have a professional development program for their young, new talent, where newly minted college graduates are transferred from department to department in a very organized fashion where they get a chance to find out what is going on in each one of those departments and where they might best fit in.
For the right candidate, this is an unbelievable experience, where they get to work with diverse groups, diverse talent, and really get a chance to grow as a professional. Like I said, there are many career paths available. From this point forward, I’m going to talk about a career in insurance sales because that’s what I know, and that’s what I know best. Here we go. The second reason…
- The ability to essentially start your own business. You know, entrepreneurship programs are just blowing up in colleges all over the United States. You know, business degrees are awesome and colleges have more business majors than ever before, but a lot of these business colleges now have entrepreneurship programs.
Well, let me ask you this: Where else can you go start a business for less than $500 and some sweat equity? When I bought my Domino’s Pizzas (by the way, this was well over 20 years ago), I paid almost $400,000 for the two stores. Do you know what? I never made as much money as I’ve made in the insurance industry, so for $500, that’s a pretty low entry. There is no product to purchase and carry. There are no warehousing costs. There are no product development worries, and you have very little variable costs.
If you’ve been in college recently and you’ve taken business and finance classes, accounting classes, you were taught the evils of variable costs versus the predictability of fixed costs. Well, in our industry, there are almost zero variable costs. My cell phone bill is still the same whether I sign up 1 client this month or 100 clients this month. It’s essentially the same. It doesn’t change. I just don’t know of any place better where you can go start your own business for so little money and some sweat equity.
- The achievement of status in your community. As an insurance professional, you are seen as a professional. You become a trusted advisor to your clients. You’re no longer a salesperson. You’re no longer somebody in an entry-level position. You are an advisor.
Also, because of the time freedom (and we’re going to get to that in a minute), you have an opportunity to contribute back to your community. You can work with civic organizations and charities. Not only can you do that, but it also helps your business at the same time. Whether it’s the Chamber of Commerce or a member on the board of the local cat shelter, it really doesn’t matter. You have an opportunity to really serve your community and build stature.
- You are in control of your own destiny. I mean, as much as you ever are. I don’t want to get on a religious rant here, and certainly, that’s not my intent, but I understand that my blessings don’t come from my hard work. John Maxwell says it this way: “Without God, I cannot, and without me, God will not.” We’ll get off the religious rant, but as much as you ever are, you are in charge of your own destiny in this industry. Your income is determined by your effort.
When I sit down with a new recruit and they start talking about income, my favorite response is this: “I have news for you. I can’t tell you if it’s good news or if it’s bad news. That’s up to you, but the news is you are paid exactly what you are worth. Not a penny more and not a penny less. It’s up to you to determine whether that’s good news or bad news.”
If that’s true, then I like my chances. If my income is based upon my efforts, I like my chances. A lot of college graduates are going to walk into jobs, and they’re going to outperform their peers. They’re going to outperform the people who have been there forever, and they’re going to get paid less. I’m not sure that’s a tenable situation in my opinion. Here, your income is determined by your effort.
Do you know what else is determined by your effort? Your promotion. I know there are some exceptions, and I understand that the good ol’ boys’ club runs everywhere, but for the most part, your promotion is based upon your merit. It’s not like you get a shining star on your contract when you start (some people do, and some people don’t) that’s going to determine whether or not you get to advance in the company. It’s based upon what you do.
If you’re a high producer, you can go anywhere. Most of the major carriers are licensed in all 50 states. I promise you, if you are a producer and you have a long-term track record of great production (heck, it doesn’t even have to be that long term) and you decide you want to move across the country to Kalamazoo, Michigan, all you have to do is pick up the phone, and somebody will want you. It might not be in your company even, but somebody will want you.
So far, just to recap, the first reason was there are many career paths available. The second reason I find this a very sexy industry is the ability to essentially start your own business. The third reason was achieving stature in your community. The fourth was you’re in control of your own destiny. The fifth one I’ve already talked a little bit, but let’s flesh it out.
- You’re in control of your own time. When I sit down with a new recruit and they’re just starting in this business, I tell them, “Listen. Do you know what the best part about this job is? You’re in complete control of your own calendar. Do you know what the worst part about this job is? Unfortunately, it’s the exact same thing. You’re in complete control of your own calendar.”
See, a lot of agents, especially new ones, really struggle with this “freedom god.” I call it the “freedom god” because we kind of, as insurance agents, tend to worship at its altar. We tell our manager, “Well, the reason I got into insurance is so I didn’t have to work that many hours.” Well, I’ll tell you what, being in control of your own time, to me, means I have the freedom to work 60 hours this week if I want, not I’m going to work 20 hours every week.
Yes, yes, yes, I understand work-life balance is important, and the lovely Dizzy D will tell you, from time to time, I struggle with it. In fact, I’ll let you in on a little secret here. It’s 5:40 on a Friday night when I’m recording this. I should be home with my family. Even though last week’s podcast was about time management, I somehow let the day get the best of me. I let my interruptions control my calendar instead of me controlling my calendar. Yes, we have to worry about work-life balance. I get that.
Let me tell you a little story. A few years ago, my dad was going to come up and visit me. I still lived in Washington State, and he called me. They were going to drive up. He and his new wife were going to drive up from Arizona to Washington State. He called me about a week before he was scheduled to leave, and he said, “Tim, I don’t think we’re coming.” I said, “Oh, dear, why is that?”
He goes, “Well, the transmission on my Blazer just went out.” I said, “Okay…” He said, “And it’s out of warranty.” I said, “Ooh, that’s not good.” He goes, “Yeah, they’re going to want about $600 just to fix that part,” and I swear my first reaction was, “Six hundred dollars? That’s just two cancer plans. You know? Couldn’t you just go find two cancer plans to sell?” That was my first reaction.
Now my dad was working for the City of Chandler. He wasn’t a salesperson, but that’s when I knew that I knew that I knew that having the ability to be in control of your own time and your own production and your own destiny were so important, which leads me to my next point. The sixth reason that this is a sexy industry is…
- Income potential. I’m convinced we undersell the opportunity. Oftentimes, when I talk to managers and I ask them, “When a candidate asks you what kind of income is reasonable to expect…,” I get all sorts of answers. Especially new managers are really hesitant (maybe they haven’t made a lot of money themselves) to talk about, really, the true income potential of this career. Maybe they only made $45,000 their first year so that’s what they think is possible.
I’m telling you, I know dozens of people in this industry who don’t just make 6 figures a year, but literally make a 7-figure income, make over $1 million a year in this industry. Now I’m not tell you it is get-rich-quick, or it’s easy. In fact, all of those people are really incredibly brilliant, incredibly hardworking, incredibly focused people.
If you’re a new college graduate and you’re going to go work for the state, what are your chances of making 6 figures a year in your career ever, let alone having the opportunity to literally make $1 million or more? Hey, I’m not tell you that that’s going to happen for you, but I am tell you it is possible for that to happen to you in this industry.
You show me another industry where that’s even close. Unless you can hit a curve ball or you can throw a baseball 95 miles an hour, or you hit 60 percent of your jump shots, you’re going to have trouble making that kind of money. In fact, did you know that less than 8 percent of Americans families earn at least $100,000 a year? Again, money isn’t everything. I get that. I really do, but it doesn’t hurt either.
The question I hate and a lot of people (especially if you’ve passed this podcast on to a newly minted college graduate), you may be asking this question. It’s a fair question, but it’s the question I hate the most, and that is…What does the average agent make their first year? Here’s why I hate that question: The biggest reason is I haven’t met the average agent. You show me the average agent, and I’ll finally be able to answer that question.
The reality is that there is no such thing as the average agent. Do you want to include the people who make $150,000 or $200,000 their first you? Is that fair to include them in that? I don’t think it is. Is it fair to include the people who made zero dollars because they quit before they got started? I don’t think that’s fair either.
Recently, I read something in the Arizona Republic that said just about 80 percent of college professors think they’re better-than-average college professors. I have a newsflash. Some of them are wrong. Right? In fact, it reminds of the Dire Straits lyric. I won’t sing it for you, but it says, “Two men say they’re Jesus. One of them must be wrong.” Somebody is wrong, so you show me the average agent, and then I can finally tell you what the average agent makes.
Here’s what I know (I tell new agents this all the time): “There is no way you can come back to me one year from now…I’ve been doing this for over 17 years now…look me in the eye and tell me you went to work every day, that you kept a positive attitude, and you failed. There’s just no way, if you’re coachable and trainable, that you went to work every day, kept a positive attitude, and failed.” In fact, I would tell you if you can honestly look me in the eye and say all those things, there’s no way you didn’t make at least $60,000. I have yet to see it.
Every year, we have agents break over $100,000 in their first year. We also have agents who go to work, and maybe they’re not so coachable and trainable, or maybe they didn’t work every day, but they survived that first year, and they struggled to get to $30,000 in that first year. I left my crystal ball at home, so I can’t guarantee your success, and I can’t tell you exactly where you’re going to come in, but I promise you if you’re coachable and trainable, you go to work every day, and keep a positive attitude, there’s no way you can fail in this industry.
One more time, let’s run through them. The first reason I think this is sexy is there are so many different career paths you can go on. The second reason is the ability to essentially start your own business at very little cost. The third reason, of course, is achieving status in your community. The fourth (and one of the ones I love the most) is you’re in control of your own destiny. Fifth, you’re in control of your own time. Obviously, income potential was sixth. The seventh reason and, in my opinion, the most important reason…
- We change people’s lives. Let me say that again. We change people’s lives in this industry. I could go on and on about all the different people that we’ve touched over the years in my business. The reality is, for a lot of them, the money we hand them at time of claim is significant. It makes a significant change in their life.
You know, oftentimes, we look at people who are significant in other people’s lives as people who almost have to take a vow of poverty. I mean, let’s face it. Priests or pastors, social workers, teachers, coaches, those kinds of people don’t tend to make a lot of money, do they? We think of people who make a lot of money as people kind of like a Donald Trump.
Now I admire a lot of things Donald Trump does, but the average American, I kind of think, thinks Donald Trump is somebody who steps on people or stabs them in the back to get where he got. I’m not positive that’s true, but that’s how we perceive people with a lot of money. Where else do you get an opportunity in life to do both?
Maybe we don’t make Donald Trump money or Bill Gates money, but we make a lot more money than most pastors. Very seldom do we get to make a significant difference in people’s lives and make money. In fact, that’s what I like about this industry the most. The more people we have a significant impact on, the more money we make. I can’t imagine something that is more fulfilling and sexier than that.
As a recent college graduate, here’s the bottom line (the same thing I would tell Courtney): this industry is sexy, and I still believe in it. A few years ago, I had the incredible responsibility and opportunity to interview the daughter of one of my friends.
Now when I’m interviewing somebody off of CareerBuilder or Monster, it’s easy to look them in the eye and tell them, “You know, if you go to work every day, keep a positive attitude, are coachable and trainable, you’ll be successful.” It’s not nearly so easy to say that to somebody you know and who you’re going to have to look at and see all the time.
My daughter and his daughter were close friends. She was spending nights at our house, and my daughter was over at their house all the time. We went to church together. If this didn’t work out, if somehow we were unable to deliver what I promised him, it was going to be very embarrassing and very painful. I had a gut check. I really sat down and thought about it, and I said, “Do you know what? I still believe in this industry. I still believe there is not a better opportunity on the planet than this industry.”
Hey, listen. There are some great insurance companies out there, and there are some poor insurance companies out there. Jump on things like GlassCeiling.com. There are all sorts of places where you can look them up. Do that with a grain of salt. Here’s why: What I found is that very satisfied, very excited people in their industry don’t tend to go on to review sites and leave positive reviews. Oftentimes, it’s the negative Nellies who go on and leaves those kind of reviews, isn’t it?
Well, read it with a grain of salt. Read what they’ve said, and look for common themes. Every carrier out there, good or bad, the reality is it boils down to your training. Avoid the bad companies, and there are several. I’m not going to name names. I’ve never worked for one. I’ll be honest. Both Aflac and Colonial Life, the two carriers I’ve worked for in my career, are phenomenal, but they’re only as good as the training you get.
If you’re considering a career in this industry, I have good news for you. If you’re not getting the training you need, the coaching, the mentoring, the help you need, that’s why I’m here. That’s the whole reason for this podcast. That’s the whole reason for this blog, to give you the tools, tips, and techniques to help you be successful.
Listen. I couldn’t be more excited for you if you’re considering a career in this industry. I couldn’t be more proud of you. I hope that you will take it seriously. I hope that you find the right company. I have a huge passion to see college graduates join us in this industry. In fact, I’m piloting the very first college internship program ever with my company for a field office.
Yes, we have some internships at our home office, but we’ve never had one out in the field office. This summer we’re going to bring on five interns. We already have four who have accepted. We’re going to bring on five interns this summer and show them the ropes. Do you know what? They may or may not like it, but isn’t that what a college internship is all about? My guess is that about four out of the five we hire for the internship program are going to end up in the industry.
I just wish more young men and women would take a hard look at this job and this industry. Like I said earlier, if you know of anyone getting ready to graduate from college and you think they could benefit from this article, I would be honored if you would pass it on to them. You can find the show notes and the link to the podcast at www.successisvoluntary.com/012/, as in episode 12. Thanks again for listening.
Remember everything is voluntary, including success. Take it in your hands now. Head over to www.successisvoluntary.com/iTunes/, and stay up to date with all the latest tips, news, and techniques in the world of selling voluntary benefits.
Hey, thanks for sticking around. If this was your first time listening to the podcast, I couldn’t be more honored and thrilled that you’re joining us here at Success is Voluntary. If you liked what you heard (even if you didn’t like what you heard), would you do me a favor? Could you go on to iTunes and rate the podcast? Give us your honest feedback. By doing that, you really help others discover the podcast who may not have discovered it in the past.
Also, I’m dead serious about this. Can you please pass this on to anybody you know who is graduating college right now, getting ready to graduate college, or has recently graduated (also, maybe your friends who are looking for another career)? Thanks a lot. I hope you have a great week. We’ll see you back here next week.