The system for selling life insurance seems kind of multi-level to me.

Around here there are a bunch of reps that sell Northwestern Mutual, which may be the highest rated life insurer. When you go the websites of those reps, what you see is not promotions of life insurance but rather promotions for starting a career in selling life insurance.

Scott Brooks writes: 

That's how many life insurance companies do their marketing. Prospecting by hiring..

Put out mass hiring notices, bring people in, hire the ones that can fog a mirror. Promise to reimburse them for licensing and promise training.

The first step of training…..take this memory jogger and make a list of 25 (50, 100…as many as you can get) people that you know. Now, we'll prioritize them by your relationship with them (i.e. who will take your call and meet with you if you request a meeting).

You manager will go with you to these meetings. You will watch him give the pitch (that is your training). If you're lucky, he will help you get some referrals.

But more than likely, they are going to churn and burn thru your warm market and then move on to the next guy.

anonymous writes:

When I was fresh out of college and trying to decide what to do with myself despite a science degree, I got wind of some company called Primerica offering interviews in the area. I decided to go in and find out more despite me being the farthest thing from a natural salesperson you can find. I am not extroverted, and don't enjoy the jibber jabber of the sales game. Nevertheless, I decided to keep my mind open and give it a shot. I figured the worst that would happen is that I would waste some of my time. Red flags were going off in my mind during the interview, as to Scott's point, I was not getting the feeling there was much screening going on, breathing was probably enough. Even at that age, I was used to tough interviews, and while I was proud of my academic background and credentials, I didn't get the feeling it mattered one bit. Instead of having the good sense to walk out right there and call it a day, I let him pitch me on how successful he and the organization were, and how I could be too! I had to put together a list of names of people who I might be able to get to attend a pitch meeting for term life combined with a family of mutual funds or some such (this was pre ETF days) self managed instead of the "whole life" thing. I was unwilling to provide a large list but I did start with a few. By the time I had gone to two of the people's homes with my "manager" and uncomfortably tried to pitch them life insurance, feeling bad about it the entire time, I had almost had enough. The topper was a regional sales meeting I went to that can only be described as a cult gathering. I said my goodbyes at that point and moved on to greener pastures. Ironically, when I went to pitch one of my family friends the life insurance, he only agreed to hear it out if I agreed to sit through some MLM nutritional scheme he was hawking (can't be 100% sure it was Herbalife as this was years ago, but I suspect it was). I get a laugh out of that thinking back.

I guess someone at the top continues to make money off these schemes, as I have been out of college quite a while now, and I still see Primerica, Herbalife, and other MLMs (for lack of the other word that is coming to mind) in existence.

Scott Brooks replies:

I actually got my start with Primerica (it was called "A. L. Williams" back in 1987 when I was introduced to it).

Anonymous is right, there is a bit of a cult following…..quite a bit depending on the organization you are in.

I have to admit that I got VERY LUCKY with my upline. He was a good man and a good salesmen. He took my 22 year old butt under his wing and taught me how to properly sell, properly close and how to get referrals.

So yes, I started out by making a list of people that I knew and taking my manager to see them, but it worked out well for me….but I was, by far, the exception to the rule.

I recall that my manager gave me a VHS tape and said that this was the presentation training. Take it home along with the presentation flip chart and learn it.

He did the same with what was called the "Bob Safford 3rd Party Referral Close" VHS.

I took them home and sat in my parents living room watching those VHS tapes over and over and over. I recall we had one of those VHS players that had a remote control with a cord attached to it.

So I'd hit play, rewind, play, rewind, play rewind…..over and over and over. I'd write down exactly what the presenter/narrator said and then I'd practice over and over again until I could say the presentation perfectly. I would then practice on not just saying the words, but working on my voice inflection and body language….which leads me to my next point.

My manager also gave me sales books to read (i.e. Tom Hopkins "How to Master the Art of Selling"). And I read them.

I guess what I'm getting at is that I was extremely coach-able. If my upline told me to do something, I did it on steroids.

Now, I don't want to make it sound like my manager just gave me stuff to read and watch. He actually trained me and worked with me and let me pick his brain. He was a good guy and I'm very grateful to him for all the help he gave me to get me started.

It only took a month or two and I was the top salesmen in the office. I quickly moved up the ranks of A.L. Williams eventually becoming one of the youngest Senior Vice Presidents in the history of the company at the age of 24.

Now, don't get too excited about the SVP thing. It was based solely on sales and recruiting. So it wasn't a real position, it was more of a title.

But I quickly peaked at ALW. At age 24 I was done. Why? I quickly discovered that I didn't like "recruiting" people….I wasn't into the whole MLM thing. But most importantly, I figured out very quickly that even though ALW had decent products that they offered, there was no way I could truly do the best job for my clients with a limited amount of products and services to offer. I did like the financial aspect of the business and the prospect offering my clients more and better solutions.

So I tendered my resignation during the summer of 1989 and went out on my own and opened my own financial planning and investment practice with an independent regional BD.

And that's when my real education started. The next two years were the real school of hard knocks for me. I didn't have any kind of a real pedigree or Ivy League education (heck, I went to Southeast Mo. State U. and my degrees were in biology, chemistry and psychology with minors in physics and math… business or finance or anything).

I had to figure out how to do it on my own. I had get out and hustle. I had find prospects and get referrals, mail out referral letters and get on the phone to call the people I mailed letters to 3 days later.

My goal was to get ~ 12-15 referral letters per client (I was really good at getting referrals). From those referral letters, my goal was to get 4-6 appointments and close 1 1/2 - 2 sales.

It was a rough life but it was profitable and I made a decent living. But after 5 or so years of doing that, I figured there had to be a better way….and that's when I started to plan for a transition from commissions to fees…..and process that took me several years to accomplish. But that's a whole different story….one I might write about someday if anyone is interested in hearing about it.

A commenter writes: 

I think it would be fascinating to hear the story in your last bullet. A key thing in business is finding mutual benefit in folks respective contact books. With the six degrees of separation being probably more like two or three in the specific 'sub sector' you're interested in, getting positive "referrals" is key. But, normally, there is a social limit on how much you can share back and forth. So 12-15 referrals is pretty amazing… what was your secret?


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