This is part four in a series explaining Why I Became an Insurance Agent and why I would encourage you to consider an insurance sales career.
Early in my insurance sales career, I heard a story that might be familiar to some more experienced agents – especially life insurance agents – but it’s certainly applicable to insurance agents of any level of their insurance career. The story, really a parable of sorts, changed my belief system in how I thought about insurance in general.
It caused a complete paradigm shift.
Up until this point, I, like most consumers, thought about insurance as a “necessary evil.”
I had never had an insurance claim, my parents or friends had never had a claim, so buying insurance was a lot like playing slot machines in Vegas – you put more and more money in, and you get a lot of bells and whistles, but nothing of real value ever came out (this was my mindset at 23 years old.)
I had lived in Connecticut; the “insurance capital of the world” and consequently knew several people in the insurance industry. They all seemed to live in beautiful houses and drive nice cars. Connecticut (at the time) had the highest income-per-capita of any state in the country. Additionally, Hartford, Connecticut, was one of the most beautiful and modern cities in the world and, from what I saw, had some of the most beautiful and modern buildings which had insurance company names plastered on them.
Insurance Sales Career
This was almost 40-years ago. Still, to this day, I distinctly remember two buildings. One was the only two-sided, high-rise building in the world (owned by an insurance company). The second was the longest office building in the world; it was said to be a mile long (also owned by an insurance company)! And there were scores of other impressive skyscrapers in this single city (owned by insurance companies!)
The connection between the insurance industry and a wealthy lifestyle didn’t escape me!
Now, in my mid-20s, I had a new, growing family. I had to pay for my own car and home insurance on an ever-tightening budget. I couldn’t help but connect the idea of never having an insurance claim with the thought of how financially well-to-do the insurance industry was. No wonder they had such beautiful buildings. No wonder their employees lived in beautiful houses and drove nice cars.
When you take in money all day and never pay any out, you get rich very, very quickly. Well, I discovered that my tainted view was soon to be tsunami-washed in a dose of reality.
My Insurance Sales Career Sparkled And Yours Can Too
But for now, back to the story that forever changed my perspective about an insurance sales career. Since hearing this parable, I’ve probably repeated it hundreds of times to prospects, clients, friends, and new agents. It means that much to me.
Here’s the story, aptly entitled, “The Parable of the Three Horsemen”
A long time ago, three horsemen were taking a long journey. The trip would take them through one of the hottest and desolate deserts in the world. They made ready for the trip and planned to leave the next evening. But why would they be traveling through the night? Simply because it was cooler at night, so the trip would be a little more tolerable.
That night the sky was moonless, only the stars and their intuition were their guides. Several hours into the trip, well after midnight, the tired travelers were dozing in and out of consciousness. The horses instinctively knew the general direction of their journey and plodded forward at a slow, methodical pace. The only sounds in the darkness were horse hoofs pushing through and swishing through the ocean of endless flowing sand.
Without warning, there was a voice, almost a whisper, barely discernible, almost imperceptible, especially by the three slumbering travelers. The voice came from above and softly said, “Stop and dismount your horses.” The men ignored it, thinking it was more of a dream than anything else. Again, a few minutes later and somewhat louder, the heavenly voice repeated the request, “Stop and dismount your horses.” This time the men heard it, acknowledged it to themselves but not to each other for fear of embarrassment or negative repercussion. It had awakened them, making them both startled and suspicious, but they continued on their way. Then, it happened a third time, but this time the voice was booming and impatient as it commanded, “Stop and dismount your horses!” Now, for fear of their lives, they immediately pulled on the reigns and got off the horses. Standing fearfully in the dark, barely able to see their hands in front of their faces and wondering what would happen next. The waited in complete silence to discover their fate.
Pay Attention to the Voices
After a moment, the voice from above spoke again, more gently, “Get down on your hands and knees and pick up all the pebbles you can find.” The men instinctively complied, fumbling clumsily in the sand, but after a short time, they grew tired of this seemingly pointless exercise. They stood up gingerly awaiting whatever would come next. Finally, the heavenly voice returned with some concluding instructions, “Alright, mount your horses, and at daybreak, you’ll be both happy and sad.”
Indeed, the three desert travelers resumed their journey. At sunrise, they compared notes about the strange experience of the previous night. Then they remembered the voice, and it’s final words, “…at daybreak, you’ll be both happy and sad.” Immediately and instinctively, they reached into their pockets to find not pebbles, but diamonds! Yes, gorgeous, gleaming, large, valuable diamonds! Of course, they were ecstatically happy that they had this newfound wealth of beautiful, impressive diamonds! And yet a moment later, they were surprisingly sad.
Happy and Sad
They were both happy and simultaneously sad. What in the world could they be sad about? They had just become three of the wealthiest men in the entire land! But amazingly, they were sad with the harsh realization that they could have had so much more! They had foolishly and thoughtlessly trod through a vast oasis of diamond fields. They could have satchels brimming with diamonds if they had only listened to and enthusiastically obeyed the wise heavenly voice.
But, because of the fear of the unknown, and relying on their own wisdom (or lack thereof) they were somewhat happy but mostly sad.
So, how does this parable apply to insurance? How did it change my whole perspective on an insurance sales career?
It changed because of this – insurance is a lot like the diamonds in this story. Diamonds don’t have much value if they’re just thought of as rocks – until their worth is ultimately realized they have as much value as dirt!
Similarly, even though someone with much more knowledge in financial matters and related life experience hints, then strongly suggests, and ultimately uses strong, determined language to convince you of the value of insurance, it’s mostly meaningless. Until the time comes when you actually need it, the light doesn’t illuminate much, and the wisdom of being continuously and properly protected makes little sense. Insurance may seem like worthless pebbles, of no real value, but when a loss occurs (for many, many people), “you’ll be both happy and sad.” Happy that you have some protection and, in far too many cases, sad that you didn’t have more!
My Insurance Sales Career Took Off
The reality of this materialized front and center early in my insurance career. I was a decent salesman. I sold more individual personal lines policies and life insurance policies than anyone in my small 30-person agency in the previous 25 years.
But it really wasn’t so much me, it was the circumstances that I fell into! The company had partnered with another financial institution, and we had access to nearly 1 million clients. We could use the parent company’s name and talk to any of the existing or new clients anytime we wanted. It was a no-brainer! And no one else in our agency was actively in a “sales mode” – they were all focused entirely on customer service – never even attempting to cross-sell our existing products!
Shazam!!! I saw an opportunity!
I was the youngest and least experienced agent in the agency (and probably the agent with the least smarts). But, I needed to find a way to make up for the lost two-thirds income from leaving the gas station manager position. I found out that the company would pay me a 10% override of all of the commission income I produced from new sales. To me, it was a gold mine (or even better, a diamond mine)!
I didn’t know much about what I was doing, but I was a sponge. I read insurance articles, every marketing piece, policy, and company produced client correspondence.
And because I could introduce myself as a representative of the parent company name, there was little resistance. I rarely received rejections when I called to ask for appointments to share new products offered by the company. I found that I could spend 75% of my work time out of the office. I felt real freedom to call the shots on where my career was going and how much income I could generate.
Insurance Sales Career Takes Off!
Corporately, I was turning heads and getting some significant admiration. Many in management were wondering what the other 29 agency employees were doing in their 40-hour week.
In my first year of production, I earned an additional 50% of my annual salary in commission. I added some value to the organization that gave me more confidence and supported my decision to choose an insurance sales career.
I became braver with my own management in presenting new products and marketing strategies. Within a few years, I brought on several new product offerings that were adding several hundred thousand dollars to the bottom line. I asked for and received a part-time administrative assistant.
My income, my commissions, and my annual bonuses continued to increase.
But it was still more of a game to me, working for my financial gain than really understanding the value of the products for my clients and their families.
Then it happened, the reality of the value of insurance hit me between the eyes.
Less than one year after writing life insurance policies where a couple had bought a policy on each other, the fiancé fell asleep while driving on a highway. She crossed through the median, and collided head-on with a full-size diesel tractor-trailer and died instantly. It was a tragedy, and I was asked to deliver the death benefit check to the grieving husband-to-be. For the first time, I felt the real value of a satchel of diamonds, and I realized my value as the intermediary of the transaction.
Another Tragedy Hits
Six months later, another client died. He was in incredible physical condition – a marathon runner, husband, father of three small children, well-loved and respected as the city’s symphony conductor. But, at age 38, he died of a massive heart attack while participating in a 10K race event. I went to the viewing, met with the widow, and gave her a blank envelope with a check inside.
She hugged me, and we cried together. She had more composure than I did when she told me that, “This check would make the difference so she could stay in their current home and be able to pay for their kids’ education.”
Again, I could feel the value of a satchel of diamonds realized by this widow, what it would mean to this hurting and lost family.
Again, I knew that I had been pivotal in making a life-changing occurrence for this woman and her children, and it made me love my insurance sales career.
I recommitted myself, wanting to duplicate and multiply my efforts to help as many people as possible by turning tragic events into something a little less painful.
I had changed. I saw my insurance sales career as a calling, not just a job, not just a paycheck!
I held a bag of diamonds in my hands that only a few weeks earlier, I had considered as common pebbles. Now I felt their immense weight and immeasurable value.
In the next blog post, I’ll share the account of a client’s $500,000 house that burned to the ground, and some insurance industry statistics about claims that will surprise you – they surprised me!
What we do as insurance salespeople is essential. It affects lives in meaningful ways. It can impact generations.
When you finally see how handing a client a satchel of diamonds can solve a world of problems, it’s no wonder why it’s natural to love your insurance sales career!
Stay tuned… for part five.
Want to be an insurance agent? Learn more about the opportunities and how you can grow a lucrative career starting today.