Anyone worth his or her salt in this industry knows well
the sacrifice, dedication and hard work required to be successful.
Michael McIntyre has been through it all and has
come out on top in a real rags-to-riches story. His book,
The Authentic Salesman, is a true testament to his perseverance
that details some of the best sales techniques he
taught during his 27 years in the insurance industry.
Michael McIntyre is a self-made man. Starting with humble
beginnings in Flint, Mich., everything he's accomplished
in life has been through hard work. He used his
time in the Air Force to obtain a college education. After
his honorable discharge he came to Dallas, where fate led
him into the insurance industry. It was Michael's innate
entrepreneurial drive that led him to start his first agency,
which rapidly became the No.1 health insurance agency
in the entire country.
In 1992, he branched out to start a new annuity-selling
agency that produced more than $3 billion in premium.
Then, in 2005, Michael founded Benefits America where
he serves as the president and CEO. Over his career, he has
recruited and trained more than 20,000 sales agents and
opened offices in more than 40 states.
Michael broke down his winning ways into a system, that's
so good, that it can get a newbie up and running or even
propel an old pro to the next level. He spelled it out in his
book, The Authentic Salesman, which probably should be
on every producer's bookshelf.
In this interview with InsuranceNewsNet Publisher Paul
Feldman, Michael conveys his genuine love of selling and
explains how anybody can look (and sound) like a pro with
just a little bit of practice.
FELDMAN: Early in your insurance career,
you realized that you could be more successful
with people selling for you. What
are some strategies you use to bring new
people into the business and to keep them
McINTYRE: We have a nice system where
an average agent could be successful. The
stars loved it because we set them up like
rock stars. I'd tell them I will treat them
like a rock star; we will have the stage
set, the venue packed and everything
handled. But once you get on that stage,
you've got to perform and bring the house
down. All you have to do is sell; I'll take
care of everything else.
We also really like to get the spouses
involved. My spouse has always been
involved in my 27 years in this business.
I think it's really important to
have your family behind you because
the insurance business can be a very
lucrative business, but it can be a very
lonely business, especially if you're a
100 percent straight commission
FELDMAN: Training is probably the
most critical thing to getting salespeople
to the next level. What are
some components that you use for
McINTYRE: Training is extremely
expensive if you do it, but it's catastrophic
if you don't. We have people
go through a training course to
get indoctrinated in the company-
kind of ‘onboarding' them to our system,
our call center, and have the insurance
carriers come in and teach them the
products in a fast-paced, two-and-a-halfday
Then we have an experienced agent
mentor them through the first two weeks.
We call it "triage" because salespeople are
so confident and sometimes when they
go out there and get their nose bloodied
in their first two or three days, they
lose their confidence and we have to send
them over to triage.
Triage is real simple. We talk to them
daily. We want to make sure that they're
running all their appointments. We want
to make sure that if they had any problems,
we can fix them. If they bring in
some bad habits they haven't quite shaken
yet, we want to help them get rid of them.
The system has proved to be pretty
good. We went through some people.
Some just couldn't do it or didn't want to
do it-I think more people didn't want
to do it.
People always ask, "How are these guys
so successful?" I say, "Well, they don't
want to do the same things you don't
want to do, except they do them."
After you have your salespeople going
for a while, about 90 to 120 days, you
need to have what we call "resort training."
This is expensive but it really solidifies
your salespeople and the ROI is tremendous.
It's about an eight-to-one ROI.
It has to be at a resort. It doesn't have
to be a five-star hotel. It can be just a nice
Hyatt or whatnot. If you can't afford it,
then you don't do resort training. Also, a
lot of insurance companies will help out
You pick up all the expenses for an indepth,
three-day training with a celebration
at the end; it's really a great event.
It's expensive and time-consuming, but
it cements your sales team-especially
FELDMAN: In your book, you refer to
"experiential training". Can you tell us
more about that and how it ties into
McINTYRE: Experiential training is the
same thing you did when you learned
how to ride a bike or drive a car. You
experience it at the same time. So, you
know, once you learn how to ride a bike,
you always know how to ride a bike.
At the resort training, you get into
experiential training where we set up
scenarios as if you were in a house making
a presentation to Mr. and Mrs. Jones;
here's the set-up and here's the scenario.
Everybody has a script and then we
have dyads-a dyad is when people sit
across from each other and we have one
person talk about one thing and the
other person talk about other things.
People get remarkable breakthroughs
because, sometimes, they just don't
think about how things look through
their prospects' eyes.
We have one part of the training
with people who are selling to
seniors-which I know a lot of your
readers do. Most have no idea about
the vision impairments and/or the
hearing impairments that clients and
prospects have. So we try to replicate
a scenario where the audience can
experience what their clients might
experience. It sheds a whole new light
on it and allows our reps to look at
things through their clients' eyes.
FELDMAN: That's probably one of the
easiest things to forget, what your
presentation looks like to a buyer.
McINTYRE: Yeah, it is, because we all have
our own mind's eye of ourselves and until
we listen to ourselves on a recording or
we look at ourselves on a videotape then
it's, "Egad, that's me?" Yes, it's you. We let
them turn the mirror around a little bit so
they can see themselves, and the results
are really remarkable.
FELDMAN: Let's drill down into some
sales tactics that you train. One of the
really good takeaways that I got from your
book was your five-point close. Would
you explain how that works?
McINTYRE: When I first got into the
insurance business, I was so excited and
enthusiastic; sales came really easy for
But then there was a time when my
sales were down and I was really kind of
depressed for a while. So, I had a top-producer
friend of mine ride along with me
to see what was going on.
I gave a beautiful presentation, very
eloquent with all the bells and whistles
and great things about the product and
what it did do and what it didn't do. At
the end, the people said, "Well, I'll think
about." I said, "OK, great," and I packed
up my briefcase and walked outside.
When we got in the car, my friend
looked over at me and says, "What the
heck was that?" (He didn't actually
use that word.) "How did you overcome
all these objections and make
all those sales in the early days?" And
I explained to him that people never
said "I'll think about"-they just
bought. He said, "Well, you need to
come up with a system, because you
have a great presentation but you
have to expect to get an objection."
So, over the years I came up with
a system that works really well for
me, and I found out that it was easily
transferable for everybody else, too.
First of all, if you have an objection,
you have a sale. But you just need to
Point No.1-agree with their
objection. You don't want to create
an enemy and you're not there to
prove how smart or eloquent you are,
how great your company is or how
wonderful a salesperson you are. You're
there to help these people by communicating
effectively so they can take advantage
of your product and help them better
their lives. So, whatever their objection is,
agree with it and let them be right. People
love to be right.
The second thing you have to do is
overcome that objection. If you have any
salt to you at all, as a salesperson, it should
be easy. Especially if you've been married
for any length time-you've overcome
The third thing is you need to give
a strong selling point. This is very
important to your client, because you give
your client or prospect another reason to
buy. People truly want to buy, but they
need validation for their decision.
The fourth thing you need to do is create
a sense of urgency. A sense of urgency
is really simple and a lot of people try to
make up all these fantastic ways of getting
people to make decisions. But there's
a powerful three-letter word that you see
everywhere in marketing; and that threeletter
word is now, N-O-W. Use that a
lot-it creates a sense of urgency.
The fifth point is the hardest for most
salespeople and that is to ask for the order.
If you've been in sales for any longer than
90 days, you've learned many, many different
closes. But this is truly the hardest
one for most salespeople to get and this is
where the rubber meets the road. This is
where you separate the people who make
a deep six-figure income and those who
just get by.
The beauty of this system is if you get
to the fifth point and you're closing but
you get another objection, you can go
right back to No.1. This way, you're never
making them mad, you're always letting
them be right and you're introducing new
information to give them time to make a
So, when I train salespeople and insurance
agents, I've said, "If you use this
close five times, there's no way you will
not make a sale except for two reasons:
There's no need or no money." And that's
FELDMAN: What are some ways of preparing
for a client appointment?
McINTYRE: If you're going to a residence
or business, make sure you have a clean
automobile-washed and vacuumed.
I've been embarrassed by this one time
and that was it. I had to take a client to
the bank, and she wanted me to drive,
which I was glad to do. And I forgot that
I had been on the road and I had probably
three days-worth of empty McDonald's
and Burger King trash bags all over my
car and it was just embarrassing. So,
I learned that lesson. Now I always
have my car washed, vacuumed and
If you smoke, quit. I'm a reformed
smoker, so I understand it's hard. But
there's nothing more disgusting than
smelling smoke, especially walking
that into a nonsmoker's home.
Also, make sure you're well
groomed and appropriately dressed.
I know that sounds kind of basic 101,
but some of us forget because we get
so wrapped up into our business. I
used to always wear a coat and tie. I
was selling annuities and life insurance
and collecting hundreds of
thousands of dollars worth of checks.
I just felt I needed to be professional
and look professional.
Getting ready for the appointment,
you've got to make sure that all of
your sales presentation material is ready.
If you have a PowerPoint, make sure your
computer is charged and also make sure
your cell phone has access to important
I also like to bring a little something
to the client's house or their business. It
doesn't have to be anything fancy; it can
be a USA Today, a Wall Street Journal.
Generally, they don't receive those things.
When I was selling out in the country,
I used to stop at the farmers' markets and
load up on vegetables and fruit to give.
Sometimes people would think that was
corny-at least most of my salespeople did. But when they saw the results, they
started doing it, too.
Having your mind right is important. If
you just missed a sale at the last call, get
over it-whatever you've got to do. Listen
to music. Listen to the latest sales tape.
Pray about it. Just get over it and leave it
behind so when you walk into that client's
presence, your head's straight.
Make sure you have all your documents
ready. It doesn't look good if
you have to fumble and scour through
things and everything's disorganized.
It makes you flustered and it makes the
FELDMAN: Presenting is obviously a
skill that everyone in sales should master.
What are keys to a great presentation?
McINTYRE: Practice, practice, practice. I
practiced in front of the mirror for two
or three days before my first sales deal.
And I tape-recorded my voice, which was
painfully awful to listen to. I practiced
until I knew it like I knew my name, my
home address and my Social Security
If you know your presentation and your
product thoroughly, it won't appear to be
canned and you can be authentic.
It's also important in your presentation
to gather information and listen. Most
agents, myself included, like to talk. So it's
a real discipline and really is a good thing
to practice your listening skills. I think a
great presentation is about listening.
FELDMAN: What are some good rules of
thumb for after the presentation?
McINTYRE: In the book, I talk about the
cool-down period. Your prospect, nowclient,
will kind of tell you how much
cool-down time they need.
I've had some of my agents walk in a
house, give a great presentation and sell
a $50,000 annuity or a $100,000 annuity
and say, "Look, I'm late. I got to go. Thank
you," and run out. About 10 minutes
later, the client is calling the home office
and saying, "Hey, who was that masked
stranger that came to my house?" because
they start getting buyer's remorse, and
The agent might have been truly late,
but I always tell my agents the old saying,
"Bird in the hand is worth two in the
bush." So, if you make a sale, stay there
and visit with them. You've made a new
friend. They will tell you when you're
done. They'll look at their watch and say,
"Well, Mike, it's been really nice visiting
with you. We've got to go and we've got a
church social to go to," or what have you,
and then you excuse yourself.
As soon as you leave the house or the
business, have a postcard in the mail to
them. It should be a handwritten note,
the old fashioned way, saying, "Hey, I
really enjoyed visiting with you and Betty
Sue yesterday. Thank you so much for
entrusting me in helping you with your
estate planning," or your life insurance or
annuities or whatever the situation might
be. "Again, you have my cell phone. Call
any time. And I hope things work out
for your granddaughter's application at
Princeton," or whatever.
Make mental notes while you're visiting
to personalize the note. It truly goes
a long way. But that's really important
and it's the human touch. In this age
of e-mails and Facebooks and Twitters,
it's always nice to go back to the oldschool,
handwritten note. Have that in
before the mail runs the next day and
it'll show up within 24-48 hours, which
FELDMAN: Can you tell us some of the
"Magic Buying Signals" that you've
McINTYRE: First, sitting and positioning
are extremely important; so you can see
both of your clients, especially if it's a husband
and a wife, or whatever the situation
is. It's good to watch them and be intuitive
The wife might say to the husband,
"Well, what do you think?"-that's a
magic buying signal. Or they might say,
"You know, that sounds really good.
I'm just not sure if I'm ready yet." What
they're saying is, "I like what you're saying,
but just give me some more information
to make my decision a valid one, so I
don't make a mistake."
Another one is when your prospect
says, "I don't know, my wife wanted me
to buy a $500,000 policy, but I think
that's too much," and stops. They're giving
you a direct signal to help them make
Most people don't want to make their
decisions. They want you to make the
decision for them, especially when it
comes to insurance, whether its life insurance,
Medicare supplements or annuities.
That's because they have a lot of things
going on in their life and this is not their
area of expertise. So, they really want to
trust you and have the decision made for
them so they don't have to worry about
the issue anymore.
The magic buying signals are there.
You just have to watch for them and
be attuned to them. As soon as you get
those, don't pounce on them but slowly go
through those and just do whatever they
need to have done and make the decision
for them. And if you do, your sales will
FELDMAN: You also write about the
importance of controlling one's emotion
in a sales situation. What are some strategies
that you could use to keep your emotions
in check and not lose your patience
with prospective clients?
McINTYRE: You need to realize why
you're there. It's not about you. So many
salespeople think it's all about them, their
mortgage or car payment or child support
or divorce attorney's payment or Ferrari
payment or their sales contest to Hawaii
But it's not. Once you focus on your
clients' needs and not your own petty
needs-yes, I said petty, I know, because
I've had them-then it shifts everything.
Once they can do that, even if a client
calls them every name in the book,
the salesperson knows it's not about
that. They quickly realize that the client
is either afraid, agitated or hasn't had a
good experience in a similar situation. So
you just have to drill down a little bit, and
do the old Columbo, to figure it out.