Having been in the life insurance business for some 15 years, I believe I have learned a little about prospecting. [...] However, there is one serious mistake I make, and I am sure that many other life underwriters do likewise.

Each week, I pick up from 12 to 20 new names and some information about each of them, and unless I have reason to believe that one or two of this list are particularly good prospects, the names go into a file and soon become dormant. In other words, I am just lazy and don’t seem to find enough time to call on all of these people. Immediately upon getting a name and brief information, I should send out a letter and, in the first paragraph, tell my lead the source from which I obtained his name. And I should have the copies of these letters placed in my come-up file for two or three weeks hence and should always follow through either on a telephone approach or a personal call.

The weakness of my careless follow-through was certainly brought home to me in a very forceful and almost disastrous way only a few months ago. On having lunch with a prospective client of mine and selling him my automatic programming idea, he became enthusiastic about it. I asked him, “You know many men who are going to buy a lot of life insurance during their business careers — young men like yourself who are doing things and going places. I’d like you to tell me about three of them.” Instead of being like pulling eye-teeth, he told me about three young men who had new jobs and had recently moved to our community and urged me to communicate with them and to use his name. On returning to the office, I said to myself as I tossed the names into the file, “I’ll get around to seeing these people one day soon.”

Over a month later, I was completing the trust agreements with the client, and, without my prompting him, he asked me if I had seen the three men, and I said that I hadn’t. He replied, “Boy, you had better see so-and-so because he has a new wife, has bought a new home and has a wonderful new job.”

Of course, on returning to the office, I called the prospect on the telephone and, with ease, made an early morning date. On seeing him, I got complete information about his situation and, three days later, sold him $120,000 of life insurance. Rather, I didn’t sell him — he was ready to buy. I believe I did sell him my service, however.

Whenever I think about this case, it frightens me, because if any other life insurance man had called on this prospect, he would have sold him life insurance immediately, instead of my having had the good fortune. So it seems to me that we should follow through immediately on all new prospective names we get.

Editor’s note: The preceding Million Dollar Sales Idea was originally published in the January 1947 issue of Life Insurance Selling.

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Creating the endless referral chain

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