“There are worse things than death – have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman?” ~ Woody Allen
After moving to a new neighborhood and joining the local fitness center, I one day discovered the man on the next treadmill was a neighbor. The conversation got around to what I do, and I explained that I help Baby Boomers with retirement risk management, including long-term care, Medicare and income annuities. His response was, “There are a couple of other guys in the neighborhood pushing insurance too.”
I was immediately reminded of my early days in the business over 30 years ago, and thought, “not much has changed”. When I joined the life insurance business in 1985, I was told, “people don’t buy life insurance, it has to be sold.” I had the pressure of a sales quota and was trained to sell policies, not to help people. What I learned, I learned from training programs run by the management at my company. And that was heavily skewed toward selling my company’s products, not becoming more knowledgeable about ways to better serve my clients. I will never forget an early conversation with my manager, who said “at our company, we strive to maintain the illusion of objectivity”. Given the nature of the career agency system, is it any wonder how the word “pushy” became descriptive of insurance salespeople.
Over the years, I have encountered people who were as overt as the fellow in the fitness center, those who made crass remarks, or some who simply inferred disdain for insurance salespeople. I have heard my share of “burn victim” stories, too. To my dismay, I still spend a portion of my time apologizing for the transgressions of those who came before me. Admittedly, I am still faced with the stigma of having to “sell” policies and rely on commissions to make a living.
Many people who want to fulfill an insurance need are still sold. Over the years, though, I learned it was possible for people to buy insurance, and not be sold. It’s even possible for them to buy it on their terms, and now I help people do so.
When I started W.R. Borton & Associates in 2011, I founded my firm on the principle of serving my clients as an educator and consultant. Without allegiance to any one company, I set out to help people navigate the realm of possibilities to find what best suits their circumstances.
I believe responsible people, who recognize a need, deserve objective advice as to what company, what policy, how much and what premium structure are most appropriate for them. They deserve to have the benefit of someone with years of industry experience and advanced professional designations. They deserve creativity, instead of “cookie cutter” solutions that pay the highest commission.
My new acquaintance on the next treadmill may never understand that I do not push anything. He may be surprised to know people seek me out for the extent of my knowledge, consultative nature and attention to detail. What I enjoy at this stage of my career is the relief from pressure to sell, and the satisfaction of knowing I have pulled from my extensive experience in service to each client. While I can’t change the tide of the industry as a whole, I know I can elevate trust so that none of my clients will ever regret their decision to buy – not be pushed or sold – insurance they understand and have chosen.