Knights (Photo: Andre J. Spidjass/TS) (Image: Thinkstock)

We all have an inner hero.

The dictionary defines “hero” as “a person of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his or her brave deeds and noble qualities.

Heroes come in many forms in life, ranging from one’s family and friends to athletes to movie stars.

(Related: Leadership Is Not a Birthright… and It Shows)

The reality hit me I was not one.

The Visit

On the map I used Crossville, Tennessee, was about two hours away from Knoxville and the time difference was 1 hour from Knoxville.

The lead I received was for a life conversion on a male turning 55.

After calling and scheduling an appointment I drove the two hours and found both the husband and wife at home, thankfully.

Sometimes these calls end up being a “one legger,” one spouse shows up and not the other spouse.

They welcomed me into their single-level farm home. As we settled at the kitchen table, they shared how their parents had been farmers, they had been together since high school and they had two kids in high school now who would be attending college in a couple of years.

This was 2001, the economy had just taken a hit and they were concerned about the near future.

We reviewed their current options, discussed what they saw as their future and we completed an in-depth estate analysis on my laptop.

I printed this off with my mini-portable printer (about six pages) so they could make notes as we talked.

It was clear estate taxes were a potential concern for them, they owned about half of their farm free and clear while another 100 acres had a second on it from an equipment expansion they did a few years earlier, their home had a mortgage and while they had started a small college fund a couple of years earlier for their kids they pulled back contributions because of the economy.

We broke the numbers down, looked at a $1 million second to die whole life policy with a term rider so either one of them would have the funds to keep the farm running, keep the kids in college and ensure the farm remained in the family.

After completing the application, they wanted me to discuss the plans with their attorney and CPA first.

Despite my suggestion that they start the process to get the physical done while we had these talks, to protect their insurability; they didn’t want to go that way at the time.

We agreed to set up the meeting in about a month and I would come back with a printout illustration for everyone.

Two weeks later I called to set up the appointment without success.

Another two weeks I again contacted them, the wife agreed to a range of dates but wanted to confirm with her attorney.

We agreed I would check back at the end of the week.

When I checked back the husband told me things had been crazy, they had some personal things going on and their CPA wanted to get some numbers together for them first, so let’s look at the following month.

The following month I left two voice messages, no reply.

After three more attempts at contacting them I became resigned that I was getting stalled and moved on to other prospects.

Four Months Later

I had them on my back burner because it felt like they had lost interest in meeting with me, I had replaced my urgency to meet with them by other, more “active” prospects.

About four months down the road, as I was reviewing past leads and illustrations as part of my activity planning, I came across their paperwork again.

It was a Sunday night, when I usually planned my week that I reluctantly called.

The husband answered, I greeted him, acknowledged that they had been tied up during our last call and suggested we meet again to update the plan and bring their attorney and CPA into the conversation.

Tony took a breath, which gave me pause, and told me things had changed.

I immediately thought I was going to hear they bought from someone else.

Another case where I had educated the prospect just enough to buy from my competitor; it had happened to me a few times before.

I felt I brought a higher level of professionalism to the prospect; did a more thorough job than “just another agent” hawking a product and they buy from someone else.

What is the matter with people; didn’t they realize how great I was?

Tony said the reason they didn’t call be back after I left those voice messages is because his wife had started having headaches, fatigue, nausea and double vision.

Her balance became affected and they began a tour of different doctors and test to find out what the problem was.

About a month prior to our current conversation his wife was diagnosed with glioblastoma.

I had never heard of this before, after some quick research I learned it is a grade 4 type of cancer.

Only 25% of patients survive more than one year while only 5% of patients survive more than five years.

He apologized for not calling me back and said they didn’t see getting together right then as something they were up to doing.

I shared my deep sorrow for his family, that they would be in my prayers and when he was ready to let me know.

Fear of Pushing

As I hung up the phone, I sat there numb, shocked and as the meaning of what I had just heard sunk in, shame started to overcome me.

I had made the lack of contact from them about me; I actually blamed them for not calling me back.

I assumed the worse about them while the truth is, I was afraid.

The day I was at their house, the day I could have made a difference, the day I could have motivated them to take steps that would have protected their family, to ensure their kids would go to college, that the farm would be paid off, and that his wife could avoid the emotional burden of worrying about these very issues during this personal, tragic time in her life, I caved.

I was afraid of losing something I didn’t have, so I didn’t push.

I was afraid to take control and get the lawyers phone number and contact him myself, I was afraid of what he might think of me, that I might not come across as knowledgeable, professional or someone he would respect.

I was afraid to take control and get the CPA’s number and contact him myself. I was afraid of what he might think of me, that I might be viewed as not smart or educated about numbers, tax law or I don’t know what.

I clearly was concerned I might not be viewed as professional or someone he would respect.

That sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach was the realization I wasn’t a sales professional.

I was a common salesman, hocking a product and looking for the low hanging fruit that required little risk, thought, action or talent on my part.

That day, that night, that moment I committed to never let this happen again, from that day forward if a prospects situation exposed them to a risk and I had a solution that they told me they believed would work for them I would conduct myself as a professional, just like my doctor does, just like my lawyer does, in fact just like my car mechanic does.

I was never going to be on a call again where a prospect could tell me something like this because I didn’t follow up!

That’s not being a professional, that’s not being a leader, that’s not how you are a hero to anyone, not to your family, your clients and not to yourself.

Never again…that’s the commitment I made and the commitment I have kept since then.

Here’s what I learned to turn things around…for me.

Thinking Like a Hero

  1. Let go of your ego. A real hero knows that their actions might go unnoticed, and that’s okay….
  2. Initiate the change you want to see. A true hero isn’t all talk….
  3. Put others before yourself. Think about other people needs before considering your own. …
  4. Be ready to act when others are passive.

The truth is that each one of us can become a hero to someone.

— Read Retirement Planning Made Simpleon ThinkAdvisor.


Lloyd Lofton (Photo: Lofton)

Lloyd Lofton started with John Hancock in 1977. He is the author of “The Sidewalk Executive” and “Leads to Results,” the founder of Power Behind the Sales, and managing partner of 7 Figure Sales Tools, a sales and leadership coaching and training company.