I know it’s an old saw, but I can’t think of insurance sales without thinking of Alec Baldwin’s immortal sales meeting scene from Glengarry, Glen Ross, which might just be one of the bleakest portrayals of a life in sales as ever hit the silver screen. I thought of this scene, perhaps a bit morbidly, right before a neighbor of mine and I took our sons around the neighborhood to sell tickets for their upcoming Cub Scout car wash. My son is a natural at this, and utterly fearless, so he just charges in and makes the most genuine, heartfelt pitch you ever saw. The fact that he looks great in a Scout uniform and is hitting a neighborhood of old-school Scouting enthusiasts helps to take the edge off. But still, as my son and his friend went door to door, my neighbor remarked to me how courageous she thought they were. Selling something cold? Something she could never do.
The brutality of Glengarry, Glen Ross and the innocent ethic of the Scouts are on the opposite ends of the sales spectrum, but they both underscore the same fundamental truth: whether you’re trying to meet a tyrannical quote or just drum up some cash for your next Pack camping trip, sales is a tough business.
So when I come across industry sales statistics, especially for things like individual life, I tend to brace for impact. Last year, LIMRA published what are now infamous figures on how individual life had hit its lowest levels since World War II, and anecdotally, I hear from our readers that life sales simply are not what they used to be. One look at industry data proves it, too. According to the Insurance Information Institute last year, total revenue for the life/health industry was between 50% and 60% annuities, around 30% life and around 20% health. And those numbers are continuing to skew toward annuities, especially as exchanges drive more health agents out of business.