After a full 87 years, this is the last stand-alone issue of Life Insurance Selling. Summit Professional Networks, publisher of Life Insurance Selling, has decided to merge the magazine with our sister publication, National Underwriter Life & Health, effective January 2014. (For more about the strategy behind this move, see my December column.
While many of the best elements of Life Insurance Selling and its life insurance producer-focused content will live on in the new National Underwriter Life & Health, we would be remiss not to remind readers about the long and distinguished history of this magazine.
Countless legends of the industry have graced these pages over the decades, sharing their insight with peers in a collective effort to help sell more life insurance to Americans who need it — the magazine’s editorial mission from the start.
The rich history of Life Insurance Selling
What Your Peers Are Reading
Living in Des Moines, Iowa, back in the early 1920s, Donald H. Clark dreamed of a different kind of insurance magazine for the rapidly growing insurance industry — a magazine that would consist only of ideas for selling life insurance. Clark, who in 1923 moved to St. Louis to manage Mid-Continent Banker for Clifford DePuy’s publishing company, wouldn’t give up on the idea. According to a story about the history of Life Insurance Selling in the magazine’s 25th-anniversary issue in January 1951, Clark’s conviction that there was a real opportunity and need for a specialized sales-idea magazine for the life insurance field continued to grow.
After James J. Wengert, another DePuy employee from Des Moines, joined Clark in St. Louis, the idea of the magazine started to come into focus. Clark and Wengert bought the rights to the idea, the name Life Insurance Selling (which had been decided back in Des Moines), and set up a new corporation, Life Insurance Publishing Company (soon changed to Commerce Publishing Company). In 1925, Clark became manager and majority stockholder, and Wengert was owner of most of the remaining shares.
The first pocket-sized issue of Life Insurance Selling was mailed to a carefully selected list of 3,000 agents — “better-class agents who would pay out money to get tested sales ideas.” Agents responded positively, forking over the $1 subscription price so they could carry each issue of Life Insurance Selling in their coat pockets “to read while you wait to see a prospect,” according to the magazine’s promotional literature.
By January 1936, LIS boasted a paid circulation of 11,500. To get through the Great Depression, the basic “tested sales ideas” editorial policy remained, but it was broadened from primarily quick sales tips to more comprehensive articles discussing sales philosophies as well as insight from nationally known life insurance salesmen.
Departments like “Million Dollar Sales Ideas” from MDRT members and “Points That Help You Sell” remained fixtures of the magazine for decades, as did annual coverage of events — NALU (now NAIFA) and MDRT conferences in particular — as well as product categories.
LIS was a creature of habit for much of its life, frequently devoting January covers to retirement plans, February to health insurance, March to annuities, April to disability insurance, May to universal life, June to payroll deduction, July to special risks, August to MDRT, September to financial planning, October to automation (and survivorship life), November to whole life and December to long-term care insurance.
Another constant was multiple articles in every issue from producers sharing the secrets to their success with their peers. They were often titled, “How I…” or “How to…” followed by exactly what that producer did particularly well: “How I operate my Birthday Club mailing system” (October 1964) for example. “My most unforgettable sale” was another recurring feature title that served to motivate and inspire producers.
While it would be difficult in this space to mention all of the important people and developments that molded Life Insurance Selling into such a valuable resource for generations of producers, what follows is a look at some of the notable milestones in the life of an 87-year-old brand.
Thanks for being with us for this great ride, and please stay with us as we transition into the next stage, as a big part of the new National Underwriter Life and Health come January 2014.
A clear direction from the start
The first issue of Life Insurance Selling premiered in January 1926. It was “published in the interests of life insurance — for the life insurance salesman,” by the Life Insurance Publishing Company in St. Louis. Donald. H. Clark was the editor and manager, and the magazine offered a two-year subscription for $1, or ten cents for a single copy. Here is how Clark introduced Life Insurance Selling to the world:
“Nothing great was ever accomplished without Inspiration and Enthusiasm,” says Emerson.
To these qualities, common to every successful insurance man, “Life Insurance Selling” is dedicated. In the promotion of such qualities in every life insurance agent who reads it, “Life Insurance Selling” pledges its support. “Life Insurance Selling” is not “just another magazine.” It does not aim merely to amuse you, to help you while away an idle hour. It has a definite and distinct purpose — it will try to increase your pep, inspire your insurance mind, and help you sell more insurance. The articles in “Life Insurance Selling” will be brief, and to the point. The entire editorial contents each month will be devoted to articles on life insurance — and how to sell it.
Clark went on to opine that while the average salary for a lawyer in 1925 was $4,169 and $3,907 for a physician, a Western life insurance company reported that the average income of its fifty leaders, a year ago, was $12,600. “In no other business does a man’s income depend so largely upon his own energy and his own hard work,” Clark wrote. “The insurance man himself determines the number of calls he will make a day, and the amount of study he will put in, to make himself a trained life insurance counselor. What is your quota for 1926?”
“The stock market crash booms insurance”
Excerpt of an article in the January 1930 issue by Arthur W. Watwood, branch manager for Business Men’s Assurance Company in Aberdeen, S.D.
“In the recent stock market crash, during the short period of six weeks […] stocks of our various American business concerns, listed on Wall Street markets, were depreciated over thirty-two billion dollars. […] Staggering and disastrous as this loss may seem, from a business standpoint, life insurance salesmen may point as never before to the real value and purpose of their great work. There are no fluctuations, inflations, or depreciations in the value of life insurance. Our values are guaranteed.”
“World’s largest producer tells you how to sell”
C.P. Rogge, of New York City, accepted a challenge to sell $15 million of insurance in 1929 — and ultimately sold more than $16 million. In his article, Rogge told of his epiphany “for selling life insurance in this modern day and age.” After an irritable prospect cut him short by saying, “You don’t have to sell me. I have a pair of eyes to judge for myself,” Rogge canned his rehearsed sales speech and started using “eye-appeal cards” featuring concise details from special policies. This technique made him the world’s top-selling life insurance agent at the time, and he was more than willing to share it with his peers via the pages of Life Insurance Selling. He concluded his article this way: “There’s no patent on my methods. Would you like to try them? They are yours. Hop to it. At the same time you might ask your wife whether she would like a Cadillac or a Rolls Royce — a mink or a sable coat. Because you’ll be able to pay for them shortly.”
Annual CLU issue debuts
As the Great Depression deepened in the mid-1930s, Life Insurance Selling realized that better-educated life underwriters were important to the industry and that the Chartered Life Underwriter movement was a step in the right direction. LIS inaugurated its CLU issue in 1935 and carried on that tradition every year until the CLU movement had reached such proportions that a CLU designation following an author’s name was no longer a novelty. Dr. Solomon Huebner, founder of The American College of Life Underwriters, wrote of the growth of the CLU movement and its place in underwriting in the March 1935 issue.
Life Insurance and World War II
In the midst of World War II in 1942, Life Insurance Selling devoted significant coverage to how the war effort was impacting the industry, and more importantly, how the industry was protecting the country. Billions of life insurance dollars were helping to finance the war effort, thousands of life underwriters were selling war bonds, and life insurance payments were taking the burden off the federal government. While we’re showing the patriotic July 1942 cover here, the following excerpt actually comes from the October 1942 “Life insurance and the war” issue of the magazine:
“The institution of life insurance is performing its fundamental role in the war economy. It becomes increasingly clear, day after day, that life insurance is playing a vital role in the war effort and will play a vital role in the post-war days to follow. Life insurance is one of the great stabilizing factors in our economy and as such it has today and will continue to have in the future an important position in the social-economic structure of America.” — Holgar J. Johnson, president, Institute of Life Insurance
Life Insurance Selling gets bigger
By 1945, Life Insurance Selling had outgrown its pocket size, so in 1946, it became a full-size magazine with an even broader editorial scope. Short little sales nuggets like the ever-popular “Points That Help You Sell” and MDRT-inspired “Million Dollar Sales Ideas” still had their place in the magazine, but career-oriented life underwriters by now had graduated from carrying the magazine in their coat pockets and preferred to include it with their well-organized sales portfolios.