Patrick Bet-David expects to have about 500,000 insurance agents in 10 years.
Is that ambition or just simply hubris? You might think it was just boasting from a 39-year-old upstart until you hear his recruiting and training process.
He is building his business at an exponential rate by converting mere mortals, who know little about insurance, into super sellers — and recruiters.
You can see the difference in his methods by looking at his Dallas office. Beyond the reception area, playroom for clients’ children and meeting rooms, you’ll step into a warehouse-sized area containing the usual cluster of cubicles. But then there’s the game area next to the gym and the full-sized classroom on the second-floor balcony — all within the same huge room.
Within that room is a bustling, diverse, young hive that any marketing organization or brokerage would die for. In the corner is a glass-walled room that serves as Bet-David’s office and video studio.
And this is just the home office. Across the country are more than 5,000 agents not only selling but also relentlessly recruiting, ensuring exponential growth.
In the first part of this interview, which ran in InsuranceNewsNet’s May edition, Bet-David described his exceedingly modest background and the drive that propelled his mission to become a force within the life insurance industry. In this segment, Bet-David tells InsuranceNewsNet Publisher Paul Feldman how he engages his recruits in meaningful dialogue and exposes them to life-changing training.
FELDMAN: You have a different way of recruiting. What is your system and how did you develop it?
BET-DAVID: The developmental process is three, six, 12 months or more. A fast-starter could take three months to train; somebody who is regular could take six to 12 months; and you may even have some agents who take two to three years. And 80 percent probably fall under the category of 12 months to 36 months.
When I started, I had a couple of guys who would go write business and then quit after they got their first chargeback. Then I realized what qualities to look for when recruiting, and I put a system together.
At first, you have to hold their hand, walk them through each step, give them proper direction and make sure you’re as hands-on as possible. I saw that a lot of my competitors didn’t want to do that because they didn’t have tolerance with people and they expected everybody to get it as they got it.
So my edge became “I’m going to be a little bit more patient, a little bit more tolerant on their learning curve while still working with them.” Eventually you find a handful of people who fully buy into it. Then it becomes so easy to develop the next layer because you already have a set of people who are also helping you develop the next layer of agents.
But the initial transition is very frustrating.
FELDMAN: How do you overcome the fact that this is mostly a commission-driven business and they’re not going to earn an income for three months, six months, 12 months?
BET-DAVID: This is one of the reasons why I don’t believe in the full-time model.
When Morgan Stanley Dean Witter recruits people, they have a minimum of $10 million. If you don’t do $10 million under management in year one, you go under probation. That number has increased at this point, by the way. The $10 million was back in 2001. I’m assuming today it’s probably $15-$20 million.
Goldman Sachs and some of these other guys are at $30, $40, $50 million in year one. So you’re automatically setting people up for failure. They always say 98 percent of brokers who pass their Series 7 will not stay in the industry. They’re right. That number’s pretty accurate.
FELDMAN: How is your model different?
BET-DAVID: When you sell based on having to make money to pay the bills, you start looking at customers with a dollar sign.
There’s a moment when salespeople realize that the customer is going to say yes. Then they do the math: “$250 a month at 12 months— that’s about $3,000 and I’m making 50 percent. That $1,500 is going to make my $320 payment on my Ford Focus and pay my $170 on my phone bill that I’ve been late on for the last two months.”
The client doesn’t know that’s happening. But the salesperson has gone into that state where they start selling based on panic mode. They’re not selling based on what’s best for the client’s family.
But if I can get somebody to sell part-time while they keep their full-time gig, they’re not in a desperate mode to sell. They’re not going to pressure somebody to buy a policy that’s going to charge back. I learned early on that a chargeback would take away the motivation from a new agent. Taking them part-time allowed me to retain more people. Maybe they made $800 in their first month. It’s cool, but it wouldn’t replace their $4,000 income. The next month, they might make $1,200. Next month, $2,200. Then it’s $6,000. “Oh my gosh, I just made $6,000. I’ve never made this kind of money in a month before.”
Well, let’s do a minimum of $4,000 for three months in earnings and then let’s go full-time.
FELDMAN: You typically look for someone who is not in the business. What qualities are you looking for?
BET-DAVID: The age I look for is 25 to 40. I like somebody who is competitive, I like somebody who’s played sports. I like somebody who has a supportive spouse.
Somebody who has a point to prove, like, “My father always saw my older brother and just never really saw me as somebody that could do it,” or “When we got a divorce it was pretty ugly, and I just feel like he didn’t believe and I want to prove to myself that I can stand up on my own two feet.”
And then I look for a certain level of coachability and willingness to want to learn.
FELDMAN: Why do you choose to bring in what you call “greenies” as your business model rather than somebody who has some insurance experience?
BET-DAVID: I don’t mind bringing in people who have some insurance experience, but I’ll give you the point on why I like greenies.
If I bring in somebody who says, “Well, the last company was giving me 85 percent. If you give me 90, I’ll come over there,” that conversation is over with. I don’t even entertain it. I just wish them all the best.
I don’t negotiate. I say, “Here’s our system and our work. And we offer you something that none of the other guys will offer you. And with your 85 percent contract that you had at the last job how much money did you make?”
“I made $72,000.”
“Yeah, so listen, we have people with a 75 percent contract who are making a million a year income and you’re bragging about a contract that you want? No, it’s the system that you want from us. I wish you all the best.”
I like greenies because they don’t have all these prior misconceptions or three different places they worked and this person said this and that person said this and this person said this and that person said this.
So I would much rather bring in greenies because I can direct them with the culture that we have and that gets them to move at the speed that we’re growing versus having any hiccups. So I’m a fan of speed and efficiency. With greenies, we tend to work a lot faster than with people who are not greenies.
FELDMAN: What is your pitch to get someone into the business?
BET-DAVID: Step No. 1 is I have to get to know the person. Say I talk to somebody and find out they have worked in an accounting firm for six years and they like the stability. But they don’t like waiting another 14 years to be making $120,000. They don’t like not having the vacation their spouse wants. And they don’t like not being able to send their kids to the school they would like.
I would say, “So, it sounds like you’re a stand-up guy. You’re a husband who wants to do well for his wife. You have two kids. You want to be a good father. You’re a good employee at your company. It sounds like you’re doing a lot of good things in your life but the question becomes, are you OK continuously living the way you’re living without any of these things that are important to you becoming a reality?”
“I am not.”
“So it’s fair to say that you’d keep your options open.”
FELDMAN: What’s the next step?
BET-DAVID: I tell my story on how I went from my background to getting involved with the industry. Then I sell the industry.
I’ll talk about different generations. According to Boston College, a minimum of $41 trillion of wealth is going to be transferred between now and 2052 — and a maximum of $136 trillion.
So I talk about the baby boomers, the digital generation, the millennial generation. And how millennials are now bigger than the baby boomers — 80 million — and these are people that are getting ready to make some of the most important decisions of their lives. They’re going to get married, start careers, have kids, buy their first house. And every one of these major decisions requires them to talk about their finances. That’s where we come in.
Then I talk about the movement of entrepreneurship. How people are starting to realize the American dream is about free enterprise and your having to make it for yourself. The No. 1 benefit that this country offers is the freedom to build your own business and build it as big as you want, and I think a lot of people in America don’t take advantage of that benefit.
Even if you do something on a part-time basis, you should start a business for yourself because that’s the biggest benefit this country offers that many countries out there do not offer.
People don’t trust banks like they used to. People don’t trust a lot of the stock market because they don’t want another 2008 to happen, where 38 percent of the market drops. They don’t trust real estate because of what happened when that industry all of a sudden collapsed and so many people lost their homes.
So I chose insurance because when was the last time you heard of a life insurance company going out of business?
If you go to any major city and see the tallest skyscrapers in every city, when you look at the logo all the way at the top of the skyscraper, you’ll typically find a life insurance company because they are stable.
Historically, many governments have gone to life insurance companies to bail them out because insurance companies have money. And, by the way, AIG went away from their philosophy, and they invested in some mortgage-backed securities and that got them in trouble because they decided to go into that business. Their life insurance business stayed stable; it was the other side of their business that took a hit.
Then it comes to PHP, People Helping People — age, culture, vision, speed, community, fun, travel, technology, value obtainment, social media and equity that we offer. We’ve got two more years of giving away equity. We’ve already done five years. We want to give seven years of equity. We’re doing one more percent of the company this year. We’ll do another percent of equity next year as well.
Then I tell them the way that we’re different than everybody else, the way that we put our events together, the way we have fun together, and then I go into selling my vision and what I foresee taking place with PHP.
I foresee the life insurance industry going to a million licensed agents by 2029, and we want to recruit half a million licensed agents by 2029. I know it sounds insane, and you’re probably listening to me right now saying, “This guy’s out of his mind.”
But we started off with 66 agents. We have 5,400 agents and with the access to social media, why shouldn’t somebody be able to get that number of licensed agents? I mean we’re talking 0.1 percent, 0.15 percent of the population — that’s really not a big number to hit.
FELDMAN: After you get them on board, how do you make somebody be successful? How do you help them be successful?
BET-DAVID: Step No.1 is, I’ve got to meet their spouse. And I know that’s not traditional in this industry.
When I started, I kept recruiting people, recruiting people, recruiting people and then two months later they’d quit. They would call me and say the following: “You know what? My wife is just not happy about me doing this.” And I thought, you know what? I am so sick and tired of hearing that.
So I made the rule to meet with the spouse within 24 to 48 hours.
FELDMAN: Harvey Mackay said the same thing when I interviewed him. What is that process like for you?
BET-DAVID: I’m a massive believer. I moved our company from California to Dallas. There was only one employee who didn’t move to Texas from California. It’s because she was eight months pregnant and her husband had a ridiculous job and was making six figures. She was a case manager making $35,000 a year. So I said, “I totally understand.” Everybody else moved here because of their spouses. I had a very good relationship with the spouses.
After I meet with the spouse, I say: “Mary, I really enjoyed spending time with your husband. Obviously, he loves you and he said a lot of good things about you. He’s really doing this business truly for you because he said that you always wanted to go to Italy, and you haven’t had the chance and that really bothers him. And he feels like right now the job he has at the accounting firm is not going to put him in a position to take you to Italy any time soon, and he wants to deliver it for you.
“You know, it’s pretty impressive to be married to a husband who loves you as much as he does.”
“Oh my gosh, did you really say that, Babe?”
“Oh wow, thanks, Babe. Well, OK.”
Boom! It’s done from there. I talk to them about the other things they want to do and how this will make them possible.
And then I say, “I would like to invite you to the office yourself so you can see the operation, see where your husband is going to be. You’re going to see who he’ll be working with, and you can feel a little bit more comfortable with the people who are working with us.”
So while we’re there, they’re buying a policy because I have the husband and wife together. I’m doing a needs analysis on them. I’ll get the questions. We’ll fill out the paperwork.
Then the following day he’s doing three appointments in the field, sitting with his parents, his best friends and their wives, his brother, his sister. He’s got to do 10 of those until we take him in the field. We start making phone calls and booking those appointments and getting him licensed. The goal is to get a check in his hands within the first 40 days.
And if I get a check in his hands within the first 40 days, the rest is pretty easy.
FELDMAN: How do you train?
BET-DAVID: We do a classroom training, which will be Tuesday nights from 7 to 10, and then on Saturday mornings from 10 to noon, and then the rest of the time is on-the-job training.
They’re shadowing me on an appointment — at the kitchen table. The real bread and butter is the more kitchen table presentations you see with me, the better you’re going to do.
We’re constantly in the field training new people. That’s our big game plan. The more I do that, the more I can duplicate somebody, because you’re seeing in real life what objections are going to come up.
Then when we get in the car, they say, “You know, she asked you about that 403(b). What’s that? I’ve heard of a 401(k) but what’s a 403(b)?”
“A 403(b) is kind of like a 401(k) but for a nonprofit employee.”
And “Hey, Bobby, did you notice when they said this? And then you know why I said that?”
“No, I was wondering.”
I’ll explain it and then we’ll role-play over and over. As we’re driving in the car at 6 or 7 at night, we have a 20-minute break. We’ll go to Starbucks, have coffee or dinner and we’re getting to know each other. There’s a relationship being built as well while we’re running appointments.
FELDMAN: A lot of your training depends on role-play. Why is that?
BET-DAVID: A lot of other training is lip service. You get up and you tell people what to do. No one remembers anything and they leave. I like role-play. Our best offices are the ones that focus on role-play.
We’ll do case studies. For example, let’s say one office has 50 agents in training. We’ll take the top 10 senior people in that office and put them in different groups. Then we give them a handout with five scenarios such as “Here’s a 29-year-old male, single, no kids, who works at such-and-such place, makes $80,000. Here’s his current financial situation. What would you recommend?” Then I tell them to role-play together. Do a case study and come back and you have to present to us what you would recommend. Then we talk about it.
FELDMAN: That combination of shadowing, field training and role-playing sounds pretty effective.
BET-DAVID: But the challenge with all of it is to be the person who is willing to be shadowed, because everything I am telling you may sound easy but it’s a lot of work.
You’re dealing with people’s insecurities. You’re dealing with people’s fears. You’re dealing with people who don’t believe they’re worth making six figures. You’re dealing with people that maybe never had any experience with work ethic. You’re dealing with spouses who want their husbands home at 5:30 because they think they’re off with another girl. There is just a bunch of things you’re dealing with.
The reason why very few people are willing to do this is because it takes work, patience, tolerance and believing.
Most people eventually hit a wall and they go home and have this conversation. “You know what, Babe? I am so tired of these people. How many times do I need to tell them that,” dot, dot, dot, dot, dot, “I’m burned out baby. I don’t know if …”
And the wife is going to say, “I’m so sorry, Babe. Maybe you should go to that old job. You didn’t seem so stressed out, Baby.”
“I think I’m going to do that, Baby.”
And boom! And what they don’t realize is they were about to have a breaking point. They were about to go into a whole new era of their business because they were going to have a surge of a couple people rising up and actually delivering. But when you hit that wall, it really messes with your head. I’ve seen so many people have zero faith in what’s around the corner, and they drop the ball.
FELDMAN: So many people in life quit right on the precipice of success.
BET-DAVID: All the time. The breaking point comes from making good habits. If you have bad habits, it’s not going to help you no matter where you go.
When I hear somebody tell me they’ve had 20 different jobs, in the back of my mind I’d say, “This is going to be the 21st job because you’re about to go to your 22nd.” Because if you just continue to quit and leave, that’s a habit you’re developing.
Eventually you just have to stick it out and go through the annoying, difficult challenges. And very few people are willing to do that.