An Exclusive Insurance Pro Shop® Insight Article©
Wally Cato’s Famous Interview with the Great Insurance Sales Legend Ben Feldman…
Forrest Wallace Cato
This was one of Wally Cato’s most requested articles on how to successfully sell life insurance like Ben Feldman! It appeared in over twenty magazines and six newsletters, during past years. This piece is loaded with wisdom for selling life insurance. This piece was also given out by the MDRT for eleven years during their insurance agent training conventions. After reading this in the Pacific-Rim magazine, Inspirator International, insurance agent Marvin “Pug” Martin, wrote and said he wanted to be buried with this article in his pocket.
BEN FELDMAN: “COLD CALL, SEE THE PEOPLE, ANSWER THEIR OBJECTIONS, AND GET YOUR PROSPECTS TO THINK ABOUT YOUR PROPOSAL, THEN DON’T GIVE UP.”
Fred R. Kissling, Publisher of Probe newsletter, reports, “We continue to receive reprint requests for this article twenty-two years after we first published it.”
The only sales agent in history to rise from agent to Chairman of the Board of an insurance company, LaNell Switzer, proclaimed, “This is the best article ever written on how to successfully sell life insurance.”
The entire interview first appeared in the book Ben Feldman’s Methods. I do not doubt that if Ben Feldman were alive today, then he would be very active in the award-winning Insurance Pro Shop®! Because he loved to help others in his profession.
His close friend, today’s MDRT sales champion, Mehdi Fakharzadeh said, “Ben Feldman was often described as looking ‘rather unimpressive, like one of the three stooges.’ He was short in stature and he had a speech problem – he stuttered. Ben was in the arms of Norm Levine when he died of a heart attack. Ben just collapsed, and within a few minutes he was gone from us, and we lost a national treasure. We still value his words and carefully study his message. Ben was born in New York City in 1912. Ben passed away on November the seventh, 1993, leaving a legacy as one of the most prolific life insurance salespeople in world history.”
“Working with IPS, there is no reason on earth why you can not become a sales super-star who ranks equally among MDRT all-time sales leaders like Ben Feldman, Norman G. Levine, Tom Wolff, John Savage, Guy Baker, Walton Rogers, and other top producers.” Mehdi Fakharzadeh – “Life and Qualify Member MDRT” World’s most successful living and active insurance sales agent according to the MDRT.
Another insurance sales mogul, Edwin P. Morrow, told this writer: “Ben was a poor boy and as an insurance agent he began with almost no money and no sales training. He had very little formal education. So, most of his sales knowledge came from on-the-job experience. He often admitted, ‘Each of my few friends assumed I would fail.’ He was bashful and slow to speak up when with his peers or at a table discussion. Yet this ‘short’ man became a giant.”
“Lew Nason, RFC, LUTCF, is a highly respected, proven and admired practice building coach. He has been particularly effective in guiding financial services advisors to increased effectiveness and higher sales.” Edward P. Morrow, CLU, ChFC, RFC, CEP… Former CEO of the International Association of Registered Financial Consultants
Ben Feldman Interview… On How To Successfully Sell Life Insurance!
Cato: You went from a ten-dollar-a-week butter-and-egg salesman to one of the world’s greatest, wealthiest, and most successful life insurance salesmen. For fifty-two years you sold insurance for New York Life, from 1941 until 1993. Your lifetime sales volume exceeded $1.5 billion, with one-third of your sales coming after you reached the retirement age of 65. I would like to learn about your practical experiences that made this incredible achievement possible.
Ben Feldman: I never thought I could accomplish all that. I always tried to use it every day, and every hour, wisely. I just kept trying. The time you spend wisely usually finds its way into your earnings. I figured out what was the most effective way to spend my time. I always tried to improve my ability to overcome objections. So, I would pick myself back up time and time again and then start over. If you think you don’t know what to do next, then just keep on thinking. Organized thought is more powerful than anything else.
I tried to never really give up on any prospect regardless of how many times they rejected me. I found that persistence pays. If you keep up your good work then, at some point sooner or later, your good work will keep you up. Increased sales, plus increased speed, and improved skills, all come from the repetition of effective sales habits. Your success in selling life insurance results from proper practice.
Cato: You were based in East Liverpool, Ohio, a sleepy river town of 13,000 folks on the banks of the Ohio River. Your town had been steadily losing population for many years. You sold during those ‘hard times.’ That is to say, you sold when people did not have much money. Because times were rough and it was difficult for most folks to find work.
East Liverpool’s second claim to fame, is that this town was the birthplace of the football coach, Lou Holtz! Lou Holtz became the most-winning football coach in college sports history. I interviewed him several times. Lou was exceptionally high-class for a football coach. He did not yell, curse, threaten, throw things, and strut. He was not a loud-mouth slob. I admired him more than any other football coach I ever interviewed. Lots of people in your market area recognize Lou Holtz. Does the average person in East Liverpool recognize you when you walk down the street?
Ben Feldman: Some folks recognize me. I am not totally unknown. I have always sought recognition in my sales territory. So I need publicity in the territory where I want to sell. I need this publicity to help me sell. But, advertising cost too much. So I have to get the right kind of free publicity.
Cato: Do people who pass you on the sidewalk know that you are nationally famous as ‘the man who has great sales power?’
Ben Feldman: There is an image I try to foster. But, that’s not it. I try to be known as the guy who can help folks with their money concerns and problems. I push that rather than claiming that I have great sales power.
“With Lew and Jeremy Nason’s exclusive Found Money Management™ system you can achieve more than you ever imagined possible!” Brian Tracy, Renowned Speaker, Sales Trainer and Author. Tracy began his career in the financial services industry where he built a very large sales organization. He is one of America’s “most booked” speakers & sales trainers.
ACCOMPLISHING THE IMPOSSIBLE! So You Successfully Selling Life Insurance!
Cato: How did you manage to sell, year after year, more life insurance by yourself than one thousand life insurance companies in America sold? When each of them had a sales force of many people? How did you accomplish such an incredible feat? This is almost impossible!
Ben Feldman: Because I did not waste even one hour, staying productive all of the time, hard work every day, trying different things, always seeking and welcoming new and different ideas, repeating my winning habits, getting publicity for myself, and learning from the success of other great sales achievers like my dear friends Mehdi Fakharzadeh and Norman G. Levine. I never gave up after a rejection. I always kept trying. And I worked seven days a week, and these were twelve-hour days. At the end of the day, I would go home and work on developing my responses to objections, I gave presentations to my mirror. I would always read and study for another two-or-three hours. That was my main form of relaxation. My wife, Fritzie, helped make sure that I had quiet time to do all this. I loved what I was doing. I loved helping people.
“Your value depends on what you make of yourself. So, make the most of yourself for that is all there is of you.” Ben Feldman
Cato: Can you be specific about your winning ‘hard work’ habits?”
Ben Feldman: I can give you two words. Preparation always helped me. I read and studied the industry publications, plus related books. Because they never stop coming. I re-read and remembered what I learned. You should think about what you study and then how that applies to your situation.
Chutzpah was part of it for me. Every week I made thirty to forty, face-to-face cold calls to offices or homes. There were no warm-up encounters or introductions beforehand. There were no pre-approach letters. I had no advance referral calls. I simply walk right up and ask to see the prospect. This was my no-apologies approach. Knowing that I really wanted to help them contributed to my confidence.
THE NOW-FAMOUS FELDMAN METHODS… To Successfully Sell Life Insurance
Cato: Please tell me about your sales methods.
Ben Feldman: Well Wally, I rarely use the telephone because it is so easy to get rejected over the phone. The prospect may not want to see me. I have a better chance of seeing the prospect I wanted to see and talking with that prospect if I go where the prospect is. I see the people. Besides, phone answering ladies and secretaries have become very good and screening people and blocking people. They think they are protecting their boss. Or possibly they are following the boss’s orders to see that they are not disturbed too much. They’ve learned to take you apart. They ask, Who, Why, What for? What company? So you don’t always get past them. I seldom call on the phone. I simply go visit.
Cato: Would you tell us more about your visits with prospects – these are essentially your cold calls? You claim that every encounter is basically a cold call.
Ben Feldman: On calls, I just walk right in if I can, and my first barrier is usually the secretary or the receptionist. On the phone, they can stop me dead. But face-to-face, the odds are that I will get in. It is more difficult to reject anyone eye-to-eye. And when I go I often have something to leave with her. Even when or if I am rejected.
I Attract Attention to Myself… To Successfully Sell Life Insurance
Cato: What do you leave with her?
Ben Feldman: It’s a pair of little golden slippers. She doesn’t know what they are until I’m gone. Then she opens a little box. My card is also in the little box. Then I often get a thank you note. People don’t usually give her anything. She remembers me and from then on I usually get in. I attract attention to myself in almost any positive way I can. Remember what Napoleon Hill said. He said, “Honest men invite publicity.”
Cato: It has often been reported that you are very direct.
Ben Feldman: I am. I’m very frank. Very open! But above all, I try to make things very clear and simple. I try to get to my point as quickly as I can. I do this from the beginning. And I just say I want to meet so-and-so, whatever his name is. And, of course, I always know his correct name. The receptionist ordinarily announces me, but it is a cold call, and the odds are the prospect doesn’t want to see me. I often get rejected at this point. The prospect may not want to see me, but to me, he is still my prospect. I still want to help him be protected or to be better protected.
Is Rejection The End For You?
Cato: If you get rejected, is the end of your trying to make that life insurance sale?
Ben Feldman: No! Not necessarily. I do not believe that a rejection means it is going to be impossible to close a sale. The first rejection may be the beginning of a successful relationship. There are many ways of saying ‘no’ and some ways mean ‘maybe.’ Many good folks won’t see me the first time. That isn’t so bad. Rejection is not always final or absolute. I never give up on a prospect after a few mere rejections from that prospect. Even strong rejections are not final if you can get your prospect to reconsider. You have to be careful and sensitive in how you follow up after an initial rejection. But above all, please know that rejection is no reason to quit. As long as you have hope, then you have a chance.
Cato: Why isn’t it a waste of time to try again once you have been rejected?
Ben Feldman: Again I quote Napoleon Hill. He said, “Most failures could have been converted into success if someone had held on another minute or made one more effort.”
And when I go back I’m not a stranger. I’ve been there before. If I go back I may have a forty percent chance, or even less. But that is still something I can work with. If my prospect has a brain then I have a shot at getting him to re-think or re-consider. Most of my sales are made on the second or third call!
“You miss every sale that you do not try for.” Ben Feldman
Cato: I’ve read that you consider any type of visit or encounter to be the same as a cold call. How do you prepare for any type of visit… or a cold call?
Ben Feldman: I consider everything to be a cold call. They are the same. And neither is very difficult. The dynamics are identical. I used Dun & Bradstreet to learn who the owner was and who the key personnel was and to get other information about the company to talk about the company. I also tried to learn the age of the owner in advance and anything else that might be related. So I am always conversational and informed.
Cato: How many times would you go back if you were rejected?
Ben Feldman: I guess you could say I was relentless. There was no certain number. The numbers varied. I’m sure there were some cases where I only went back three or four times. I’m not saying I never ceased. But I am saying rejection is not the end and you should go back as long as there is some chance you can make the sale. Most often it is just your gut feeling on this.
Over time the receptionist would become my ally. I generally went back again and again. If I call twice or more and keep getting rejected, then she would probably start to feel sorry for me. Now she’s rooting for me. Then she would often do her best to get the door open for me. Especially if she feels I would be helping her boss. You’ve got to have disturbing things to say to the receptionist that will make her boss want to see you, just as you have the same disturbing things to later say to the owner. Eye-opening things that will make your prospect think. If your prospect thinks, then he will consider it. So you must make your prospect think.
“The key to a sale in an interview, and the key to an interview is a disturbing question.” Ben Feldman
Lew Nason’s Cold Calling Alternative
Lew Nason, head of the famous Insurance Pro Shop® insists, “I recommend the effective use of referred leads, educational workshops, and joint ventures over straight cold calls. It is not natural for agents or advisors, to call on strangers and ask them to buy something. People selling anything resent having to do this. Phoning unknown folks is also very frustrating.”
Nason continued, “Of course, there have been lots of changes since Feldman’s day, but many truths and sales techniques remain timeless. Sales calls remain necessary, but they are not a necessary evil. I enjoy helping people and making a difference in people’s lives, so I always enjoyed cold calling. And that played a part in enabling me to close nine-out-of-ten sales and make a ‘name’ for myself.”
Ben Feldman originated many now-famous quotes about successfully selling life insurance. Those were detailed in other IPS newsletters. Possibly his best-known phrase was the simple line: “See the people.” He also insisted, “Making lots-and-lots of money is hard work until you learn what to do that works best for you, and then keep doing that correctly.”
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