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John Hancock

Supplementing an accounting day job with something finance related leads in one obvious direction if the gig is selling something.  I had done ok selling a few brushes and spices, so I thought the skills would be similar.  As I would learn, they are not.

Selling a tangible product that someone is going to use everyday is easy to connect with the expected value.  Either the potential customer uses things like what you are selling, or they don't.  If they do, then if you believe in your product it's pretty easy to connect them with the value proposition.  Well made products simply sell themselves - well not quite.

Someone is sales is always selling themselves as much as the product.  But that's easy if you believe in whatever it is you have to offer.  It just starts by chatting up someone.  For someone who is naturally shy like me, this is real work, but it is something I had been working on since U.N. Club and Senior Speech in high school, and I knew that it was one of those skills that is really helpful to develop.  So really all it takes a little self-pep-talk, and its off to Carpe Diem.

Life insurance is something I believe in.  But, it's not for everyone.  A person's finances have to warrant it.  You need to have a risk exposure that will cause your family or your company big problems if you kick off early.  Or, maybe you want something simpler, like a small policy to cover funeral expenses.  Whatever, to believe in life insurance as a product, it is important to discover and connect it with a need.

The trick is to generate a lead.  Get someone to phone an 800 number or send in a post card that indicates that they are thinking about it.  I thought I could do this.  So I found a agency that was hiring, and signed on with them.  This was good, as it turned out to be a kind of finishing school I never had.  Sort of like a fraternity or a company that hires folks straight out of college and then tells them how to dress, or perhaps even sends them to their own tailors to be fitted out with the appropriate kit.  I got that kind of instruction from the John Hancock agency, and frankly I needed it.  All by itself, that would make this otherwise disastrous little adventure worthwhile.

The problem with the kinds of leads we were handed is that they were not very well qualified, and I did not have the skills required to do the boiler room approach, and sit down with something like a city directly and just call people and generate high quality leads out of thin air.  That said, the agency put us through the equivalent of acting classes to work on this.  We literally learned scripts.  The problem with the scripts though, was that they were all about answering objections and not about discovering someone's financial risk needs.  And, the agency really didn't give a rip whether or not the policies we sold survived through their first renewal.  It was great if that happened, but to get there we would have to hit on some sort of trust network and develop a specialty, such as the local surgeons or whatever.

Short of that, we were hucksters simply after that initial contract and premium check - nothing more.  There was one more aspect to the life insurance game that I found to be a big turn-off.  The product that the agency wanted us to push was deceptively packaged. 


They wanted us to focus on the their whole life package, with combined insurance with a savings account.  The so-called investment side of the account would eventually add up to enough, that the company could earn enough by reinvesting it, that they could fully absorb the insurance risk and forego any additional premiums from the insured  customer.  A policy could become fully paid-up.  That's fair enough, but they advertised their whole life policy as an 8% policy.  Of course, the impression that created, which was very much intended, was that the average yield of the investment portion of the premiums was 8%.  That seemed fair enough.

Over a long enough period of time, a properly balanced portfolio of stocks will yield about 11%, and it's easy for a brokerage house or the trust department of a bank to reassure their clients that they can reliably earn something around 7%, which is pretty much the standard representation such institutions make, if they are on the up and up.  But in truth, they can do that in a walk even they make a few mistakes along the way.  So promising 8% on the investment portion of a life insurance policy is quite reasonable.  That said, that is not what the John Hancock whole life policy we were selling was promising.  Rather, that 8% was the interest rate a customer would pay John Hancock if they chose to take out a loan against the cash value of their policy.  The actual internal rate of return on the policy compared to their term insurance products was much closer to 2% or less in some cases.  Of course, we were not taught to clarify this in our memorized scripts.

I think I stuck with it maybe six months, but it may have only been four.  This was not going to work for me.  I had started becoming active in the Seattle Mountaineers climbing club, and while my finances were still awful, I could scrape by without working a second job, so that was the end of multiple simultaneous jobs for me.  I would still put in long hours and weekends occasionally, but from then on it would be with my primary job alone.  That was a good decision.

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