My introduction to the concept of life insurance came years ago before the Internet made it much easier to educate yourself on all of the intricacies and issues of selecting and buying insurance. As a new father, I read an article in one of the magazines about the importance of life insurance. Coming from a blue collar family, I had never really been exposed to this as a basic financial planning requirement.
At any rate, the article motivated me to check out the issue and I started in the yellow pages. For the youngsters, those are big, cumbersome books printed on yellow paper with all the phone numbers listed. Today I guess strong men still tear them in half, but back then they were an important resource. My search produced several companies I had heard of and I called three of them to get in touch with an agent.
Over the next few months I became somewhat knowledgeable on the ins and outs of life insurance. I learned about term and whole life, cash value, and even a then-new affordable option called universal life. Money, of course, was pretty tight at that time but the wife and I figured out an amount we could afford monthly and started the process of choosing a policy.
I was pretty new to sales myself, but one of the agents filled the bill of the classic professional insurance salesman. I still smile thinking about him. He had a pitch that was as polished as a classic automobile’s paint job. He was confident without being arrogant and it was quite evident he expected to sell us as large a policy as we could afford.
In the end, it came down to him with a whole life policy and another agent that offered both term and universal life insurance options. The older pro simply dismissed both as unworthy options for a young family. Cash value was his theme and he wanted us to buy a policy that would help pay for the new baby’s education when the time came. (Of course, back the, an education at a good college was an unbelievably huge financial burden of around $5,000 for all four years. When the time came, I think we spent that amount just on four years of pizza).
Since that time, I have learned about residual incentives and all the other insights to insurance sales. Back then, however, it was a struggle to dismiss the fatherly insistence of the Pro over the clear advantages presented by the younger agent. Finally, however, we settled on the more flexable universal policy. Well, when I called our whole life guy to let him know, he absolutely insisted on a meeting before he accepted my no.
It was impossible to not grant a final sit down so he came over and we spent an hour or so reviewing all the facts and information again. When he finally accepted that I wasn’t going to be swayed, he sighed in a very sad manner, pulled out a sheet of paper and slid it to me across the table. When I asked what it was, he explained that he almost never lost a sale but when anyone failed to follow his advice, he asked them to sign this letter. It allowed him, he said, to come back to any new widows and explain he had done his best to make sure they were provided for, but the fault was with me, not him.
To this day, when I encounter or think of a truly persistent salesman, I remember our insurance pro and smile.