I interviewed in the city where I live with the District Manager and Regional Manager at a Hotel. They told me that I would be selling their insurance policies to new and existing policy holders. They told me the income figures for agents at each level of the organization. They were fairly impressive. I specifically asked them how much travel was involved with the job and whether I could work mostly in and around the city where I lived. They said I would mostly be working in the city where I lived and that there wasn't much travel involved.
For my second interview I rode with the District Manager in a fairly rural area far from where I lived. He didn't sell anything, but mostly renewed existing policies, from which he received a 14% commission. He ended up making about $150 dollars that day, and I figured that was pretty good for an off day. I figured most days would be better than that.
I got the job and went to licensing and sales training the next week. It was 2 weeks of licensing training and one week of sales training. They put me and all the other trainees up at a pretty decent hotel in a large city which was the divisional headquarters. They paid for lodging and food, but I still had to pay for the gas to make the 6 hour roundtrip each week between the training and my home city. After the licensing training, which was pretty top notch (I aced the licensing test in like 15 minutes) the sales training began. They taught us the sales presentation, which we were just supposed to read and the close: "so...if you don't mind... I'd like to write it for you...too...may I do that for you? They even taught us what they called the McCabe nod (invented by a successful agent who would nod his head on the close-pretty creepy)
Then came the high pressure part which made me feel uncomfortable. They taught us that pretty much everyone says no after the close. They taught us to memorize ver batim the response for every reason they could possibly give for not wanting the policy. You're not supposed to take no for an answer. At least 3 responses should be given before giving up.
So after I passed the test I had a few days off before starting my first week in the field. To my shock I would be spending my first entire week in a medium small city 3 hours away from where I lived. I only found this out a day and a half before I was supposed to be down there. They put all the agents and managers up in a hotel where we would stay for the week. Every morning there was an hour of sales training for the agents and then out into the field to work in pairs agents with managers. I put in like 60 hours that first week and only made about $350 dollars. I had to split the income that my manager and me earned. Little did I know that that would be the most I would make in one single week my entire time at the company.
I was tired after my first week. Putting in 10-12 hour days and then having to sleep on a hotel bed in the same room with a guy that snores loud takes its toll on you. Some time towards the middle of that first week in the middle of nowhere (let's just say it was very mountainous and there was little to no economic activity except coal) my manager suggested that I should spend the next week on the road again in a similar setting.
First he suggested and then he basically told me I had to. This despite what he had told me in the first interview that I would mostly be working in and around my own city. For the short time I was with the company I split time between spending entire weeks working in remote rural areas far from my home and working out of my home city, but having to work in areas that were 1-4 hour round trips from my home city. This is what pissed me off the most about this company. They flat out lied to my face about a deal breaker issue: travel. Despite specifically asking about how much travel was expected I didn't find out until my second week in the field how much of the job was traveling and staying in sub-standard rural motels for a week at a time.
But by that point I had already put 3 weeks training in and quit my old job. Plus I didn't want to put on my resume that I quit this job without giving it a shot. That looks horrible on a resume. At the same time I never would have taken the job if I'd known about the travel. I found out about a month in that most of my training class mates had already quit. The few agents there were in my district quit by my third month in. They were smarter than me.
Gas was about 40% cheaper than it is now, but still gas expenses cut deeply into what little amount of money I was making selling and renewing. I can't imagine how new agents could possibly survive now that gas is pushing $4 a gallon. I wasn't very good at selling, so I guess my poor income was partially due to my lack of aptitude for selling, but then again my manager didn't train me very well. He spent all kinds of time recruiting new agents to replace the ones that quit.
My last week in the field I spent in a remote area that was a 6 hour (cost me about $50) round trip from where I live. I worked 60 hours that week and made an income of about $100. That was a net profit of $50 for 60 hours of work. One of the new agents, who was so new that she still had the bs cult like enthusiasm that they put into us in training school, told me that she actually lost money that week after gas expenses. She worked more hours than I did, but she was undeterred. She was gonna give it another try the next week for her little girl, who was probably at home wondering where her mommy had been all week.
I often wondered how anyone could make money at this job. I asked my manager about the income structure, but he was evasive as usual. He spoke little, and what I could get out of him was mostly lies and half truths. I asked some of the more forthcoming managers why I should keep working for the company if I wasn't making much money. When I phrased it like that they told me about the incentive system.
Once you sell enough policies and get your awards knocked out you become Sales Manager. SM's, on top of their commissions, get a percentage of the income of their district and what's called overrides. When a policy is sold a small chunk of the selling agent's commission is held back and put in an account. When policy holders cancel their policies money is withdrawn from the override account of the agent that sold the policy, and I guess that money goes to the company. When a policy stays on the books for a certain period of time the override that was put away for that policy gets withdrawn and becomes a part of the income of the District where it was sold no matter whether the agent who sold it still works there.
Considering the high rate of turnover at Combined, I would guess that a significant chunk of the income of any given District Manager, Sales Manager, or Regional Manager comes from overrides from policies sold by people that are no longer with the company.
Even an inept salesman's policy has as good a chance of staying on the books as one sold by a veteran because those premiums that don't come straight from the policy holders bank account are collected in person by agents. What if the policy holder doesn't want to renew when the agent comes to collect? They got renewal responses too. Most people don't want to stand there and argue with you. They just write the check.
The people who can sell and put up with the bs for the longest time do get well compensated. Regional Managers especially got the cush jobs. They don't even have to go out and sell, but they make 6 figures cause they've put in the work. Those people who are lied to and made to think that they can sell when they have no aptitude for it don't last, but it's no skin off the Company's back. Agents are paid no salary or compensation for gas. They are paid on commission only.
All the time you are doing the company's bidding renewing existing policies in person to make sure people don't cancel and selling the occasional policy. Even people who lack selling skill run into the occasional sale a*s backwards. The Company will hire anyone who can pass a background check and the licensing test, which they make you study like hell for to make sure you pass.
Like I said, the main reason I feel ripped off is that I was lied to about travel. I also wish I had been told about how few new agents actually have what it takes to get into management and make the real money. If you can sell a ketchup pop sickle to a woman in white gloves and don't mind lots of travel to remote areas, then you can make a lot of money at Combined. Most people just don't fit this description and thus shouldn't bother.
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