4 Lessons From Ben Feldman To Increase Your Sales
Kenneth J. Smith
August 2017

“Only a fool learns from his own experience. The wise man learns from the experiences of others.” —Ben Feldman

Back in the early 1980’s, I had the opportunity to know Jack Wardlaw. Jack was consistently the top agent with Philadelphia Life and author of several books on selling.

Jack said something that resonated with me. In all his years in sales, he concluded that basic sales principles remain the same from the time Grant Taggart (who sold riding horseback to appointments in the early 20th century) until long after Ben Feldman sells his last.

Wardlaw believed if you had sales principles (and product knowledge), you could sell life insurance in any time era. I agree!

I have been fortunate to know many great sales people. There are three characteristics they have in common:

  1. They learned sales from great salespeople. Through books, audio and mentoring, they learned from the best and did what the best did.
  2. They take responsibility for themselves. They understand that if they are to be successful, they are responsible for their development. If they succeed or fail, it’s on them.
  3. They understand sales principles. Sales principles are like laws of nature. A principle works 100 percent of the time. The law of gravity states that if you drop an object from the roof of a building, it will always drop to the ground. The same is true with sales principles. Sales principles work.

Ben Feldman was the greatest life insurance salesperson ever. Here are four principles from Feldman that will help you increase your sales.

Principle #1: Stop Selling Insurance
That’s right, I said stop selling insurance. Start selling what insurance does.

What does it do? It solves problems. For example, no one wants to buy disability insurance. However, they want to be able to buy groceries and pay their bills if they are sick or hurt and can’t work. That’s a problem. Disability insurance happens to be the way we solve that problem.

The analogy I like to use is that last year 10 million ¼ inch drill bits were sold. How many of those people wanted to buy a drill bit? The answer is none. They had a problem. They needed a ¼ inch hole. The only way to solve the problem was to buy a ¼ inch drill bit. 

The same is true with insurance. No one wants to buy insurance but they want to solve a problem. The problem could be accumulating cash for retirement, providing an income they can’t outlive, paying final expenses, helping the family stay in their home in event of death, etc.

It’s time to stop puking product. Your prospect does not care about all the product details. Your prospect cares about you solving his or her problem.

Remember Feldman’s words—Don’t sell life insurance, sell what life insurance can do.

Principle #2: Simplify Your Presentation
Feldman believed sales concepts needed to be simple. When something is simple, it’s easier to sell. He kept it simple so both he and his prospect understood.

He said, “life insurance isn’t simple. I can’t understand it unless I make it simple. I figure if I can understand it then the prospect can understand it. I get this idea and I take it apart.” A 30-second statement could take him as much as 6 hours to prepare.

Feldman was famous for his packages. His packages were bundles of whole life designed to solve a specific problem. For example, he had an education plan. Do you want your son or daughter to go to college? Would you rather pay over 18 years or pay in four years?

I was talking with his son Marvin while writing my book. He told me that when he was in high school his father would test the packages on him and his brother. Feldman believed if a high school student understood the concept then a business owner should understand. 

Ask yourself, would a high school student understand your presentation?

I have had great success working with agents implementing a simple fact finder. It is a series of simple questions and only takes a few minutes to complete. The prospect sees the problem and is offered three solutions: Permanent, term and combination of permanent and term. It is simple and pinpoints the problem. Agents using it have increased sales significantly.

Principle #3: Cash Value Life Insurance
I remember hearing Feldman discuss how he handled the objection, buy term and invest the difference. His response was: The problem is permanent.

My observation is that almost no one ever saves the difference. All you have to do is look at savings rates in the U.S. and realize very few people actually save anything. Even though no one talks about it, cash value life insurance is one of the best ways to save.

Feldman believed that saving money required a system. Unless a person built systems into a savings plan, there won’t be any savings. 

Stats show that people save money for a little while. The average length of saving is about three years. Then the average person takes it out, spends it, and it’s gone.

The average person starts over, and the same thing happens again. All too often the person is 60 or 65 and has no money.

It isn’t because the person didn’t make any money. It’s because the person didn’t save systematically. 

The premium statement or EFT from the insurance company creates the system. The person sends a few hundred dollars a month and soon he or she has accumulated some money. Few people know the cash value of their life insurance. You can point out—cash value life insurance helps accumulate cash.

With cash value life insurance, you are helping people help themselves.

Principle #4: Making Calls
There are lots of people in home offices who would like to eliminate agents and deal directly with the consumer. However, there is only a small segment of consumers who will take the initiative to purchase life insurance.

Check the LIMRA stats. There are a large number of people who acknowledge they are underinsured. They realize they have a problem but don’t do anything about it. They will not do anything without you calling. 

Feldman believed the key to making sales is simple—just make calls. Nothing happens until you make a call. 

Listening to the audio of Feldman at the 1981 MDRT Conference helped me to look at making calls with a new perspective.

He helped me understand the importance of momentum in sales.

He used an example. It’s Monday, you make some calls and nothing happens. The same thing happens on Tuesday. You keep making the calls and by the end of the week you have a sale.

You keep doing the same thing the second and third weeks. You keep at it in spite of the “No’s.” 

You are building momentum. Keep making the calls and you will make the sales.

You can’t hear the “no’s” and start making excuses. Everything stops when you stop making calls. Make the calls and the sales will follow.

Feldman said, “Fundamentals are down to earth. And one fundamental is: You have to make a call. It’s that fundamental.”

Author's Bio
Kenneth J. Smith, CLU
CLU, has more than 35 years experience both in field and home office positions. Prior to starting Ken Smith Sales Training & Consulting, he was director of health product sales with Assurity Life for more than 12 years and was with Mutual of Omaha for more than 10 years as first vice president of critical illness and disability income. He was one of the organizers and president of the Critical Illness Working Group, and he is currently past president of the National Association for Critical Illness Insurance. Smith is considered by many in the life insurance business to be one of the leading experts on critical illness sales in the United States. He is also a member of the International DI Society and Nebraska Association of Health Underwriters. Smith has written numerous articles for insurance industry trade publications, and he has conducted many presentations and training sessions on sales techniques, critical illness, and disability income to a variety of audiences. His usual audience is made up primarily of producers and financial advisors. Smith also produces and posts regular producer-oriented videos that include sales ideas and sales concepts. These blogs are popular among many producers and marketers in the insurance business and were highlighted recently at the LIMRA Marketing Conference. Smith may be contacted via telephone at: 402-261-2059. Email: ken@kensmithsales.com.















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