I recently had lunch with my pastor on the outdoor patio of my favorite local bar. With my wife’s work schedule at the hospital, I’ve been on dad duty when I’m not at work myself. That includes Sundays. Since I’ve been unable to attend church in-person, it was nice to catch up and have a burger with Pastor Brent and see how things were going at Colonial Presbyterian.
I talked about my transition from teaching and coaching to insurance. He made a point that stuck with me. The lunch with Pastor Brent shifted my thinking about what I do for a living.
Brent noted that I had a lot more common with him than I did with other sales professionals. He encouraged me to look at my work as a ministry instead of a sales job. In the toughest times in life, doctors are there. Pastors are there.
And now I’m there as well.
Pastor Brent is absolutely correct. My livelihood might be dependent on commissions from my sales. My sales figures are how I’m judged as a licensed and appointed insurance agent. My numbers will determine the size of my home and the schools I’ll be able to send my daughter to. My numbers will determine how far and how fast I advance up the corporate ladder. Numbers are important. I am a salesman.
However, there is an important point of difference between my sales job and 90% of other sales jobs. The sale is the beginning of my true work, not the end of it. Once my prospects become my clients, I become their 2nd or 3rd phone call during the darkest periods of their lives.
What does that mean for how I approach my work? It changes my philosophy entirely. I educate folks on the need for insurance policies. I help them design packages that fit their needs instead of what’s best for my personal sales targets. When I check in on them, I’m not trying to make more money; I’m seeing if there’s anything I can do for them.
That makes me much more like a pastor than a commission-based sales professional.
The twist is that taking an approach that puts the clients first instead of the numbers made me both a better salesman and a better man. I feel good about what I do and my numbers aren’t hurt by doing things the right way; they’re actually better. In insurance, trust is the most essential part of sales, because of the very things I mentioned in this short article.
I’m doing better than many of my colleagues. They’re looking at it the wrong way. They see it as a numbers game. They robo-call 85-100 folks a day, get 1-2 appointments, make sales, and then repeat the cycle the next day with follow-up calls and practiced sales scripts. When you look at folks as numbers instead of people, your own numbers will not be good, either.
At the same time, that doesn’t mean I’m warm and fuzzy. I am going to try to sell you insurance. I won’t tell you it’s ok that you chose not to buy insurance and make you feel good about not buying it. It means that if I’m trying to sell you insurance, then you need insurance. It also means I’ll only sell you what I think you need, because I’m looking at your needs instead of mine.
My clients can vouch for me. I do things most salesmen don’t do. If my products and policies aren’t the best fit for you, and a rival company is the better choice, I point you to the other company and give you detailed directions on where to find them. Sometimes I contact those rivals for you, and put them in touch with you. Try that at a car dealership. See how many Toyota salesmen will tell you to buy a Jeep after you test drive a Camry. See how many will email that neighboring Jeep dealership, tell them the situation, and help them make the sale, without a single dollar of commission for that work.
It doesn’t happen because my job is different. More importantly, my approach is different. If I’m selling you something, it means I truly believe that’s it’s the best fit for you.
There’s also an unspoken urgency in how I sell my products. I’ve already told you about the how. How I approach my job is important, but the why is just as important as the how. I’ve seen what happens when disaster strikes and folks don’t have the insurance that they need. There are few things that make me more morose than seeing that a friend has created a Go Fund Me page after a death, severe injury, or critical illness. I cringe when I see the amount raised, which seems like a big number, but in no way will approach the amount necessary to help that family avoid financial distress.
Then I think about what I could have potentially done to help them. I know that if they had the insurance that I sell, then that Go Fund Me wouldn’t have been necessary.
Life isn’t lived in the past tense subjunctive. You can’t go back and see what would have been different in an alternative universe-a universe in which the family bought a policy for $12.00/month three years ago, and had everything they needed to devote their focus on the recovery of their loved ones, instead of the devastation of their savings accounts.
It is my job to make the future better by focusing on what my clients can do right now in the present tense. You don’t get a do-over after the fact; life isn’t a video game with a reset button.
In conclusion, I am a salesman, an educator, and a pastor. The latter two are more important than the former, but I have to do all three simultaneously.
I’m thankful for the lunch I had with Pastor Brent and grateful to do the work I do in these uncertain times. I believe that I’m right where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to be doing.
If you’d like to chat about your own insurance needs, give me a call or text at 540-520-3069, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Rudolph Lurz has over a decade of experience as a teacher, football coach, and researcher. He holds a doctorate in Administration & Policy Studies from the University of Pittsburgh (Ed.D. 2017). He is also a published author (Realms of Glory, 2017). He sells supplemental health and life policies from AIG, AFLAC, Americo, Foresters, John Hancock, Mutual of Omaha and Prosperity Life. When he’s not assisting clients, he enjoys golf, travel, reading, and touring breweries. He lives in Roanoke, VA with his wife, daughter, and cat.