By Jack BoBo

Some years ago, a friend of the family, a Chinese lady, decided to re-enter the work force. It had been many years since she had worked outside the home, but now that all her children were grown, she felt the urge to be out among people and to supplement the family income. However, she approached the project with some trepidation, for she had little education and no marketable skills. She decided to apply for a sales job at one of the largest local department stores, for having been a longtime customer, she had some grasp of what was required.

Her children counseled her to state on the application that she had both experience and a college degree. They reasoned there was little possibility she would be hired without either, and there was even less likelihood her past in China would ever be investigated.

She ignored this advice, and instead, made an open declaration regarding her lack of formal education and experience when she applied for the job. The personnel director, sensing that he was dealing with an honest and hard working person with no pretense, hired her on the spot. She worked for the store for more than three decades and, even when she was in her 70s, continued to be among their leading salespersons. When asked by her children why she did not follow their advice and tell a little white lie regarding her background, she replied simply, “Why should I pretend to be someone I’m not and have them expect something from me that I can’t produce? As it is, I am a pleasant surprise, for I am smarter than they thought I would be.”

What a wise lady she was. She instinctively understood how important it is for a person’s life and work to be congruent and not mislead people into anticipating great expectations that cannot be met. Each time a life underwriter, by whatever title is used, calls on a new prospect, it is in reality a job application. You are asking to be put to work in behalf of the prospect. That then raises the question of what position you are applying for, and what are your qualifications. Is your educational training and experience adequate to meet the expectations of the job being sought?

I always have been troubled by those who, after three weeks in the business, already are holding themselves out as one of a number of sophisticated specialists, thereby raising great expectations that are not likely to be realized.

In building an insurance or financial services practice and fending off those who would replace your business, customer satisfaction or loyalty is your most important stock in trade. Such loyalty most often occurs when customer expectations are matched by services delivered. If one promises the moon, but delivers nothing but smoke, it is only a matter of time before you are no longer welcome.

But expectations that are appropriately met also can bring great rewards. Therefore, the real challenge is to qualify oneself to be able to measure up to the promises or images being portrayed. In this connection, the insurance business is indeed fortunate, for the tools of the trade are available to all. But are they being utilized by all? One of my concerns today is that they are not.

Courses offered by the American College provide entry-level educational opportunities as well as training in advanced planning concepts through its LUTC program. Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) and Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) programs equip a person to meet the highest standards required to meet the needs of our customers. I believe it is incumbent upon management, both in the field and the home office, that every representative be encouraged aggressively to avail themselves of these offerings. To do otherwise is a long-term strategy for failure.

In September, we will again be promoting Life Insurance Awareness Month. The idea behind this program is to spread awareness among the public of the importance to them of the products we sell and the services we render. As we do this, it is important to bear in mind that we will also be building an expectation among the public that we dare not betray.

About 15 years ago, my wife and I were touring a small Chinese village with a group of other insurance people. Our guide pointed out that the villagers we were seeing had no concept of who we were or where we came from. They only knew about life in their own village. And yet, he went on to point out, they were very happy and content. Our own observations of the laughter and demeanor of the people seemed to confirm this. The reasons for this, the guide said, was that these people had very low expectations from life and those expectations were being met. Hence, they were satisfied.

By contrast, during LIAM we will be lifting up high expectations that we, and our business, can deliver. We owe the public, at the very least, people trained to meet those expectations.

Each time a life underwriter, by whatever title is used, calls on a new prospect, it is in reality a job application. You are asking to be put to work in behalf of the prospect. That then raises the question of what position you are applying for, and what are your qualifications.”