Host: Tim Martin
Episode 26: Success Doesn’t Leave Tracks – With Tim Martin
August 20, 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.
Yes, my name is Tim Martin, and you are listening to episode number 26 of Success is Voluntary. “Success leaves tracks.” Now I know this isn’t an original idea. I first heard Brian Tracy say that exact phrase in in 1999. You know what, I believed him then. Today, I’m pretty sure he was dead wrong. I’ll explain that in a moment.
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So what did I mean when I said Brian Tracy was dead wrong about success leaving tracks? I think that’s an understatement. I think success doesn’t leave tracks; I think success leaves a superhighway to follow. It’s really interesting to me. Over the last 17 years, as I’ve hired and trained agents in the voluntary benefits arena, I can’t tell you how many of them have decided to try and go their own way. I’m not sure exactly why this is. Perhaps, it’s because, when we recruit people into this business, one of the things we talk about is the independence, and then we’re kind of shocked when they want to be independent.
The reality is, for most people, especially people who have never been in sales, they really need that track to run in. They need that path, and sometimes they veer off of it before they even get started. The analogy I use may not make sense to you if you’re not from Arizona, but get out a map, and I think it will make a lot more sense.
If I had a new agent and they came to me and asked me, “How do we get to Flagstaff, Arizona from Phoenix, Arizona?” you know what I would tell them? I would tell them, “Come with me. Let’s jump in my car. I’ll drive. I’ll show you the way. I’ll take you there. How I’m going to go is I’m going to jump on the 101 over to the 17, and then I’m going to take the 17 to Flagstaff, and we’ll be there in about 2 hours.” All that should be good. Right?
Here’s where we run into problems. We run into problems when the new agent says to me, “Tim, you know what, I’ve heard that Sedona is beautiful, and isn’t there a way to get from Sedona to Flagstaff? Can’t we just go that way instead? I’d really like to go up through Oak Creek Canyon. I understand it’s just gorgeous this time of the year.”
Well, here’s my problem. I know 17 works, and quite frankly, I’m busy. I don’t have time to go explore alternative routes. I don’t have time to go get lost in Sedona, stop by a vortex, and do some chanting. I don’t have time for that. If you decide, as the new agent, to go that way, that’s fine. You’re independent. You can do whatever you want, but if you get lost, you can’t call me and ask me how to get back. “I don’t know. That’s not the way I go.”
I go the 101 to 17. We never drop below 70 miles an hour. Trust me. When I’m driving, we never drive below 70 miles an hour. We will be there in two, two and a half hours. Go through Oak Creek Canyon if you want, but if you don’t get the result you’re looking for, that’s not my fault. That’s not the system’s fault. That’s not your carrier’s fault. It’s not your trainer’s fault. That’s your fault.
Here’s the reality. If you look at anybody inside your organization who is on top, I mean the top of the top, absolute highest-performance person, here’s a secret that they may or may not want you to know: They started right where you are now. They had no clue what they were doing the day they started. Some of them were broke. Some of them had a little money. Some of them had some sales experience. Some of them didn’t, but the reality is they had no clue what they were doing in the voluntary benefits arena the day they started.
What they did is they went out and found the solutions, the systems that worked, and they made them a habit. I had a boss a long time ago who used to say that. He said, “We take the solutions and systems that are proven to work, and we make them a habit. Everything that they’ve done, you can do too.”
You know, a few months ago, I had a young man sit in my office, and he said, “Tim, I want what you have. I want this desk. This is where I want to be in a few years,” and I looked him dead in the eye, and I said, “Well, duh, of course you do. Who wouldn’t? I’m not saying that because I think I’m all that. I’m just saying I have a pretty good life. I’ve risen in my company. I’ve done a great job over the last 17 years of building my career. Who wouldn’t want that success? The question isn’t…Do you want what I have? The question is…Are you willing to do what I did to get there?”
Well, he kind of looked at me funny for a second. He said, “I don’t know. I have no idea what you had to do to get there.” I said, “Well, now we can talk because the moment you realize you don’t have all the answers is the moment you become coachable.” Let me repeat that. The moment you realize you don’t have all the answers is the moment you become coachable.
See, I don’t care if you have a degree in marketing from a prestigious business school. The reality is that your carrier has people who are a lot smarter than you are at marketing. If you think that you’re going to put out a letter or a flier or some kind of an ad that’s going to sell your product, you’re crazy. Don’t you think your carrier with millions of dollars to spend in marketing, if they could do that, they would have already figured that out?
Listen, the top people in this industry, they didn’t do it through a slick marketing piece. They didn’t do it by the biggest ad in the Yellow Pages. They didn’t do it by Google search. They didn’t do it by anything other than hard work. What they did is they looked for the superhighway, and they got on it. Now I’m telling you, there is an “Autobahn” to success if you’re willing to pay the toll to get on it because it’s not free. There is an absolute cost that must be paid to be on that “Autobahn.” It’s through hard work. It’s through dedication. It’s through learning. It’s through giving up your freedom for a little while.
I told another young man, one time, I said, “Listen, if you’ll come in and do exactly what I say for two months, 60 days, you can be successful.” He kind of bristled at it for a second. He said, “I want to be independent. I want to be in control of my own destiny.” I said, “Here’s what I’m asking you: If you will give up your freedom for 60 days, you’ll have your freedom for the rest of your life. If you’ll just buckle down for 60 days and go to work like I ask you to go work, I promise you, at the end of that 60 days, you’re going to have enough momentum, you will have built some habits that you can do what you want to do for the rest of your life.”
How many people don’t make it here? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that question from potential recruits over the last 16 years. You know what, sometimes it’s an honest question and asked with the purest intentions. Other times, I think they’re asking it because they’re very skeptical. These are the same people who read all the reviews about careers on the various websites, like Glassdoor.com and things like that. They not only read the reviews, but they believe them.
I’ve read some of the horrible stories on the way recruits were neglected, and I’m not naïve enough to believe that doesn’t ever happen. All I can speak to is my own personal experience. The leaders who have reported to me have never displayed that type of behavior. When people ask that question, they probably have a pretty good idea that the washout rate in all sales is fairly horrific. On a side note, that’s one of my main motivations for this site, my writing, and the podcast. I’m crazy enough to believe that I can help new agents hold on.
You know what? Perhaps these people who are asking that question are hoping that I’ll give them an excuse not to pursue a career that could literally change their lives. I mean if they don’t ever start, then they can’t fail, right? Wayne Gretzky famously said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Whatever their intentions are when they ask that question, it is a question that demands and, quite frankly, deserves to be answered.
Here’s my response every single time: “Listen, Miss Recruit/Mr. Recruit, we lose people in this business for the exact same reasons every organization does. Perhaps their spouse gets transferred across the country, or their mother is diagnosed with cancer, and they feel they need to take off work and take care of them, or they get a call from Sea World to work as a dolphin trainer.” Yes, this really happened to me. I can’t compete with Sea World and their lifelong dream of teaching Flipper to juggle beach balls.
Here is what I tell them every single time: “There are people who fail out of this career, but I can honestly say in the 17 years that I’ve been doing this, I have never seen anyone who was number one, coachable and trainable; number two, went to work every day; number three, completed their training; and number four, failed. Not one time. If they failed out, it always boiled down to one of those three things. They felt they were too smart to run the system we know is proven to work, so instead, they decided to reinvent the wheel.”
Early in my sales leadership career, I would sometimes hire very experienced salespeople who were making $150,000, $200,000, or more. Their attitude was always, “Just teach me your product and get the blankety-blank out my way. I’ll be your best salesperson inside of 90 days. What’s the record, Tim, because I’m going to shatter it?”
I would like to be able to tell you that those people made it. I would like to be able to give you their names, but I can’t. No, the reason I can’t give you their names isn’t HIPAA or privacy concerns. It’s simply because I don’t remember their names. They were gone so quickly once they realized their old ways weren’t going to work, or they thought, all of a sudden, since no one was looking over their shoulder, that they were in complete control of their own schedule, they would get away with working 15 hours a week. Their motto was, “I know I started late today, but I’ll make up for it by going home early.”
My friend, Joe Buzzello, says, “Most people come into this career for the time freedom. The reason most people leave this career is because of time freedom,” or perhaps, they were victims of early success. They didn’t complete their training. Maybe they opened a 45-life case their first couple of weeks, or their sister-in-law is the general manager there. They were able to parlay that into a couple of sweet referrals, you know, and now they’re too busy to come to that class they registered for when they first started.
Unfortunately, because they missed that class, they miss an idea that could have given them an additional $50,000 this year in commissions, but they were too busy going out to enroll 2 employees to make $1,000 in commissions. Perhaps that class might have given them exactly the idea they needed to help them stick and stay, but we’ll never know because they hit a snag. Their business slowed down, and their spouse told them they had to go get a “real” job.
Is it possible someone could do all three things above and still fail out of this business? I guess it’s possible but highly unlikely. If it was possible, I think I would have seen it at least once out of the 2,000-plus voluntary benefit salespeople I’ve hired and trained over the last 17 years. I conclude my talk with this new recruit by saying this:
“What I do know is this: Insurance industry statistics of retention of agents during their first 2 years is horrible, but of those who make it to 1 year, 80 percent eventually retire from the industry. In other words, it’s not for everyone, but for those who do what we ask, when we ask, as often as we ask, their chances for success are very, very good. We’re not asking you, your carrier, your trainer, your manager isn’t asking you to reinvent the wheel. What they are asking you to do is get on the superhighway and stay there.
It does no good to be two out of those three things. You can’t be coachable and trainable but not show up for your training. You have to do all three things. You can’t be coachable and trainable, show up for your training but not go to work every day. That’s doesn’t work either. You have to do all three things. If you don’t, you just waste everyone’s time, including yours. If you’re front and center at every training and you actually apply what you learned in the field, and you go out there every day, I like your chances.”
Here’s my challenge for you: This week, identify one of the top performers inside of your organization and take them to lunch. Ask them how they got to be so successful. I think the answer might be a little disappointing to you. Most top performers say something along the lines of this when asked that question: “Well, there is nothing really that special about me. I just went to work every day.” That’s what makes them special. They went to work every day.
I’m going to conclude with this: There are no shortcuts on the way to success. Now I know that sounds totally cliché, even to me, but it’s true. There is a superhighway, but there are no shortcuts.
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 so much for sticking around until the end of the podcast. I have a quick reminder for you. Every week I’m going to pick a sales team of the week and send them each a copy of my e-book Disturbing Questions: Making the Decision Maker Uncomfortable. To enter this contest, all you have to do is email me a picture of your sales team huddled around a computer showing the Success is Voluntary website. Please include a list of who is in the photo and their email addresses so I can send them each a link to the book. That’s it! Pretty simple, right?
Again, to enter, just send me a picture of your team with the Success is Voluntary website on the computer screen, a list of who is in the picture and their email addresses. You and your team might be the winners. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Hey, we’ll see you back here next week. Don’t forget, everything we do in this business is voluntary, including success.