Optimism Abounds

When you turn to page 7, you’ll see an article by Warren Hersch that reports on a LIMRA International survey about how remarkably optimistic life insurance agents are feeling about their business for 2005.

This optimism in itself is not surprising. What is a bit surprising is the extraordinary degree of it.

As LIMRA International’s President and CEO Robert Kerzner says, “Salespeople are optimistic by nature but this group seems to be very pumped up.”

Even among or, I should say, especially among those who said they had a “disappointing” year in 2004, the expectation of 60% is that 2005 would be “much better,” while 32% said it would be “somewhat better.”

The optimism holds true all across the country but is particularly strong in the South, where economic growth has been strong of late.

A salesperson who cannot see a better future for him or herself is really one with no place to go. Judging from the salespeople I’ve known, it’s generally a combination of hunger for the next sale and hope that that next sale will be a great one that drives salespeople and keeps them plunging back into what are often the cold waters of disappointment.

In a sense, salespeople not only have to manufacture but continually recharge by themselves the equivalent of motivational batteries. And let’s face it, nothing so recharges a waning internal battery as producing a winner in the form of a terrific sale.

If this is true of people who sell tangible things such as cars and electronics, how much more true is it of life insurance agents who have to convince people to part with their money for what many of these prospects see as an intangible product? And one they don’t want to think about and indeed hope never to have to use.

Most of the successful life insurance agents I’ve met seem to have an inexhaustible well of confidence and pride in what they sell. This usually comes from years of experience with seeing how vital the product has proved to the quality of life of the insured’s spouse, children or other beneficiaries.

In other words, these successful salespeople really believe in the product and what it does. Without this belief in the product–either from the get-go of a career or developing over time–it hardly seems like it would be worth all the effort to push life insurance when there are a lot of things that are easier to sell.

This is no doubt why so many older, successful agents and every single Million Dollar Round Table member are true believers. Their passion is the key ingredient for making sale after sale after sale. And passion communicates.

I hope that the gusher of optimism that LIMRA found is in good part based on a deepening of passion among the agents still in the business today and not simply on the somewhat better economic situation in the country.

The passion to do good and the passion to bring the benefits of life insurance to as many people as possible will prove to be much more abiding motivators than merely harvesting a rich crop in what seems like a particularly sunny season.

I hope that the optimistic expectations of agents are fulfilled in the coming year and then some. And for those who feel like 2005 is going to be a reprise of 2004 or worse, I suggest asking themselves how much they really believe in what they’re selling. If the answer is “not much,” then they should be able to see how that’s reflected in what they expect to achieve.

Steve Piontek

Editor-in-Chief

I hope that the gusher of optimism that LIMRA found is in good part based on a deepening of passion among the agents still in the business today and not simply on the somewhat better economic situation in the country.”