Anyone who thinks life insurance is a product best sold from behind a desk, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, has likely never met Keith Gleason.
The 40-year-old sales leader with Insphere Insurance Solutions Inc. has sold policies in so many different places and ways, he’s practically the Sam-I-Am of the insurance world.
Gleason, who lives in Camden, Maine, once sold a policy over the phone, while boarding a plane to a company retreat in Cabo. Another time, he sold two policies while in full hockey gear, in the lobby of an ice rink, right before his adult league hockey game. The rink manager had to run out and grab Gleason’s laptop from his car.
Recently, he sold a policy to his brother-in-law in the middle of the night, while on vacation at a lake house. And then there are the several sales he’s closed via Skype. These are the types of stories that make him a very popular speaker at company meetings for Dallas-based Insphere, a distribution company which has 2,600 agents nationwide.
It’s a strategy that’s clearly working for Gleason. In the last two years alone, he’s sold more than 200 life policies, and he’s only been in the business since 2006.
How does he generate so much activity? Gleason doesn’t rely on slick marketing techniques, expensive lead systems or long hours of cold calls. His secret is much simpler: he just asks clients if they need life insurance.
“It’s kind of like the Nike motto, ‘Just Do It.’ Just ask,” he says. “I don’t have any special skills. It’s just fundamental asking the question.”
Inadvertent insurance training
Asking questions, persistently, is a skill Gleason perfected in his previous career working for a bank. After graduating from Maine’s Colby College in 1994, he moved to Delaware to join a banking management development program and spent 12 years in the company’s collections department.
Eventually, the bank merged with a larger company, and Gleason, uninterested in working for a corporate giant, left. At the suggestion of a friend, he got into insurance — and was surprised to find it enjoyable.
“I fell in love with it,” he says. “I didn’t realize how much I’d like meeting with people and helping them.”
Another surprise: a lot of Gleason’s collections skills translated to insurance sales.
“In collections, essentially, I was selling the customer on paying their bill over the phone,” he said. “A lot of that prepared me for what I’m doing now — finding the need and the budget, overcoming the objections, getting through the screening secretaries.”
That prior experience, combined with support from carriers, Insphere and colleagues when he needed it, melded Gleason into an insurance sales natural, with little need for formal training. “I’ve always been an independent individual who can figure it out on my own,” he says. “I learn best just by doing, just getting out there and making sales.”
Building a business, for less
To find people he can sell to, Gleason favors methods that are low cost or, even better, free. “I don’t like to pay for advertising,” he says. “I think there are way too many avenues for free advertising.”
His favorite prospecting method is something he calls “leave a trail.” If Gleason goes on a sales call, whether it’s down the street or miles away, he makes a point of stopping at places along the way — coffee shops, local stores — and leaving a few compliance-approved flyers about his business.
“Every appointment I go on, whether it’s a sale or no sale, if I’m driving two hours to meet a client, I’m going to stop a few times and get my info out there,” he says.
Gleason relies a lot on referrals from existing clients, too, but he’s also unafraid of cold calling random numbers. “If I see a number on a truck, I call it,” he says.
His company, Insphere, provides a qualified Internet lead service that Gleason takes advantage of periodically, though it’s not his favorite way to generate business. Even if the leads just go to Insphere agents, he says, there’s still a chance that he’ll be competing with any number of colleagues for that customer’s business.
“I spend more time doing things organically,” he says. “I’m not competing with other agents for that lead.”
Gleason doesn’t target a particular market in his selling efforts, though he focuses mainly on individuals and small businesses. He also avoids making assumptions about prospective clients and their needs, he says, especially because, living in rural Maine, you never know who you’re dealing with.
“Where I live, it’s hard to tell who’s wealthy; we have flannel-backed millionaires,” he says. “I never make a premature judgment because you never know. I’ve sold long-term care when I went to help with a vision question. I’ve had neighbors show up, relatives show up, and you end up selling twice as much.”
The world is his office
Another thing Gleason avoids: requiring face-to-face selling. He prefers in-person meetings, but if a customer is ready to buy, over the phone, via Skype, whatever, then Gleason’s willing to sell — no matter where he might be or what he might be doing at the moment.
“It’s another lesson from working in collections,” he says. “When you finally get a hold of someone, when the customer calls, you’ve got to drop what you’re doing to make this happen. If they’re shopping and ready and willing to buy insurance, why not?”
Gleason will eventually schedule an in-person follow-up meeting, though, and finds a lot of value in the face-to-face method of selling over other avenues. “When you’re face to face, you can read body language, you can do a needs analysis. They’re going to give you more information if you’re face to face.”
And when Gleason’s talking to clients, whether over the phone or in their living rooms, he makes a point of bringing up life insurance.
“I always, always, always bring up life insurance,” he says. “In every single conversation, I’m bringing it up. ‘How much life insurance do you have? Is it term?’”
More importantly, he says, once he raises the subject, he doesn’t leave it alone. “I ask my agents if they’re talking about life insurance, and they say, ‘Well, I brought it up,’” he says. “I could pay my 8-year-old son to bring up life insurance. That’s the difference between a salesman and a presenter. The key is not only in the asking, but in overcoming the objections.” [See “Bringing it up — and then some” on page 21.]
Balancing life with life insurance
After the sale, Gleason makes sure he stays in touch with clients, e-mailing about three months after delivery to check in, ask about questions, say thanks and remind clients that he’s open to referrals. He also reaches out at clients’ policy anniversaries to do a review and talk about product updates that might be relevant.
It’s a lot of work, but Gleason finds his career actually leaves him more time to spend with his family, which also requires a lot of attention. Gleason and his wife, after all, have five children under the age of 11, including 4-year-old twins.
“At any point, wherever I am, I’m able to sell a policy,” he says. “And I don’t have to take time away from my family to do it.”
Filling the two roles — father and life insurance agent — makes him better at both, Gleason says, because he knows personally the value of the product he’s selling.
“In addition to selling life insurance, I’m living it,” he says. “The peace of mind knowing that my wife and kids wouldn’t have to worry about money if I died is worth every penny of premium.”
Corey Dahl is managing editor of Life Insurance Selling and life channel editor/social media editor for LifeHealthPro.com.