The business I got into 22 years ago is not the same business I work in today. It costs more today than it has in the past to market yourself, you’ve got to make sure you don’t run out of money.
Greg Spreng is a long-time life insurance and annuity producer with more than 22 years of experience in the industry. Spreng regularly appears on the AM 1420 “The Answer” radio talk show in Cleveland, and devises his own successful seminars twice every month. We spoke with Spreng to see what advice his lengthy experience has provided him for other agents, from setbacks to changes in the marketplace.
Q: What first got you into the insurance industry?
A: Well for me it was when I was younger and I would listen to my parents talk about insurance. There was so much misinformation that I never really felt like they had a good enough grasp of the products and never got as far as they could have if they had the rest of the story. So I figured out very quickly that I could differentiate myself in this industry among the vast majority of insurance agents who are so focused on selling you a product. That’s why people hate insurance salesmen. For me, I always felt that if I educated a consumer, they could make an informed and intelligent decision on their own. They could then sell themselves. A lot of referrals can come out of this method, because it becomes a pleasant experience for everyone involved.
Q: Is there anything you would’ve done differently, knowing what you do now?
A: I would’ve focused more on referrals. The expense to acquire a client is quite high today. I would have wanted to focus more on customer appreciation-type events with my existing clients, because those are inexpensive to do and you’re helping out your client base by giving them a nice event where they can bring people to come meet you and learn about what you do. I spent a lot of money in the past trying to acquire clients, and I needed to worker smarter not harder. You have to grow within your existing client base in order to grow out.
Q: Was there a tipping point from a time of struggle in your career toward success?
A: Well pretty soon my own voice of reason came in. I needed more appointments, and the only way I was going to get more appointments was if I started marketing. That’s when I started doing seminars. I was also working out of my house at that time, which is fine since it’s very cost-effective, but over the last two or three years a lot of newsprint has been talking about sales people shying away from the home operation and saying they should now have offices. So I now have an office that I rent, in a very nice building. I’m not there all of the time, but if my clients want to meet me in an office, I have an office to make them feel more comfortable. This definitely helps for your higher-end clients that expect a bit more than a guy who works out of his house all day.
Q: How has your business evolved with the changing marketplace?
A: First thing would be transparency. There are so many issues now with the Senior Market, and there are a lot of lawsuits going on with larger companies. Compliance has gotten much tougher; the 1035 exchange system has basically shut down because the interest rates for the new products are so much lower than the old products. So actually one of the seminars I do is “what you need to know about your existing annuity and life insurance policy before you switch.” Especially since sometimes you think you’re going to a better product but, and this is a phrase I like to use, sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.
Q: What single piece of advice would you offer a new or struggling agent in your line of business?
A: Forget about being just being a good salesperson, you have to be a good marketing person too. The business I got into 22 years ago is not the same business I work in today. It costs more today than it has in the past to market yourself, you’ve got to make sure you don’t run out of money. You’ve got to set a plan as to how you want to attack whatever market you’re in and you have to work on that plan every day.