Lawyers, it seems, have always been the butt of jokes: some funny, some cruel. They have also been referred to in unflattering terms such as ‘shyster’ and ‘ambulance chaser.’ I don’t know where this practice began; perhaps with Shakespeare when, in his play Henry VI, he penned his famous quote, “the first thing we do is kill all the lawyers.”
The foregoing describes, in a pejorative way, the view of many people of lawyers as a class. And yet, some of our most honored and distinguished persons, when considered individually, are lawyers. In speaking of their personal lawyer people are likely to say something like, “My lawyer is different-really great.” I have my own bias regarding the hordes of personal injury and product liability lawyers who are abusing our tort system and burdening our healthcare system with enormous costs. But again, my personal lawyer is great, and I admire him and his ability enormously.
I mention this because I believe there is a parallel in other professions, and in particular, those who sell life insurance. Like the lawyer, the life insurance agent has been the subject of many bad jokes. The old bromide–”There is no one with endurance like the man who sells insurance”–has been around a long time and was not meant to be complimentary. And yet, when you think about it, despite the intent, it really is a compliment. There have been countless thousands of families that owe their financial survival to the persistence of some agent who would not take no for an answer.
Many writers today refer to the fact that the preferred nomenclature for insurance salespeople is now “advisor” because of the poor image of the agent. I believe that surveys that support this concept overlook one important fact. Again, like lawyers, as a class, agents may be looked upon unfavorably–but policyholders view their own personal agent in a very different light.
In my former business I was a specialty salesman working with automotive, farm, and industrial jobbers. I helped them make sales of my products and to make money. Nothing endears one to a businessman like helping him improve his bottom line. Many of these former customers became my policyholders and clients when I made the transition to life insurance. To my surprise, my relationship with these people became more prestigious and important to them as their life insurance agent than as a profit center. I became more acquainted with their personal lives and their plans for the future than ever before and I was proud to be their agent.