Obstacles One Faces When Selling Life Insurance

The obstacles that one faces when selling life insurance can be daunting and even a little frightening. “No one has endurance like the man who sells insurance.” That’s an old refrain. Life insurance agents used to memorize it; it was meant to keep them going, because everyone knew that those salesmen had to face rejection and animosity like few other professional people. Usually, they were always finding themselves on someone else’s territory–that is, at someone else’s kitchen table–and trying to sell them a product that, to the average person, might as well be the air that we breathe.The obstacles that one faces when selling life insurance mostly have to do with the prospect’s ignorance. Like economics itself, life insurance is a product that is simultaneously extremely important and among the most misunderstood, or just flat-out not thought about, subjects on the planet. It’s got everything to do with one’s money and yet those who we could say are really knowledgeable about the subject are few and far between.So you come up against your first obstacle as a life insurance salesman: the prospect’s ignorance. It could even be the ignorance of a client of your company who was not very well educated by the former agent from whom you inherited them. You enter their home expecting them to welcome whatever advice you tell them…but as soon as you ask them to give you a check for a new, better policy or to place money into an annuity for them things fall apart. People naturally resist ideas that they don’t understand–even when those ideas could help them do things a better way. As a life insurance agent, you are faced with the very daunting obstacle of usually needing educated your prospect or your book of business client about the nature of life insurance, financial planning, money management, and how your new proposal (which will cost them some of their hard-earned money) is going to help them.But this can lead to the second great obstacle that one faces when selling life insurance: the fact that the prospect or client has had experiences with not-so-great, or even incompetent or sinister, life insurance agents before. There is a ridiculously high turnover ratio in the life insurance business. It’s 98%! That means that for ever person who gets hired to sell life insurance by a company, 98% of them either quit or get fired within their first year of employment! This indicates that the vast majority of life insurance sales agents simply aren’t all that special, let alone competent to do their job. If you last in the life insurance business, you’ll soon find that time after time you come across prospects and even clients that you got through your book of business who relate to you just terrible experiences they’ve had with life insurance salesmen before. If you listen closely, you’ll find that the problem they had is usually not with the life insurance company itself, although that does happen. The problem nearly always lies with a sales agent.Life insurance sales is a high-pressure business. You sell or you fail. It’s produce or perish. You are not going to collect a good paycheck every week just because you made good efforts. In a certain sense, you are self-employed. Due to the high pressure, there are lots of agents who buckle under pressure and cut corners, even resorting to illegal practices in extreme cases, to get those commission checks flowing so they can feel like they’re taking care of their families. But this results in poisoning the minds of the already somewhat distrustful public against salesmen, and especially about life insurance salesmen who are offering them an intangible product that might not even benefit them at all–and not do anything until they are dead!And this brings us to yet another one of the great obstacles that one faces when selling life insurance. When you sell this highly important financial product, you are making people think about their own death. Now, most of your best prospects are going to be younger people–let’s say people 55 years old and under–but, the younger your prospect is, they less they think about their own death, and the less they desire to do so! On the other hand, your prospects who are older will be more open to considering insurance against their own deaths…and yet, their premiums will be significantly higher.And that leads us to the stone-solid obstacle of price. People in general really hate paying for insurance, because their thought is they hope they never have to use it in the first place; and the less practical that insurance seems to them, the less they wish to part with their money in order to finance it. Yet the life insurance agent is trained to “never leave money on the table”. This creates conflicts of interest and can lead to immense tensions that result in lost sales.The bottom line is that the life insurance salesman needs to know how to overcome objections, and always remember that as long as he’s being honest he is helping people and needs to overcome their resistance to being helped.

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Mother Osprey – Nursery Rhymes For Buoys and Gulls

As the title of this book implies, with ingenuity and an obvious love of the sea, Ms. Nolan took some wonderful old standard nursery rhymes and wove them into sea and coastline themed poems. Within these rhymes, Ms. Nolan introduces bits of nautical history and information. Instead of Jack and Jill, it’s Jack and June who go up a dune. Sing a Song of Sixpense includes a trawler crew, first mate, captain, and deckhand.Ms. Nolan takes these old standards and makes them her own. Some of the rhymes go over very well, such as Sleep Baby Sleep, and Buoys and Gulls; others may leave a young child a little puzzled, such as Tweedle-Dum & Tweedle-Dee, and Two Skippers from Texas.I love the concept of Mother Osprey, introducing sea lingo, history and information in a wonderfully illustrated rhyming book – much of it works. I do think that a couple of the rhymes include words and themes that are geared for an older reader. One rhyme in particular is One Flamingo. It is an amazingly intricate and informative rhyme, but verses such as: “First a goose, and then some geese-a gaggle in the lane. But if the geese are flying, the gaggle is a skein,” I believe would lose many young readers of 3-7. Another is The Witch of November, 1913 with verses such as: “The lakes heaved and tossed-so many lives lost. Howling wind, high seas and snow. More than two hundred souls filled those sorrowful rolls-the crewmen of long ago.” Again, this may be a wonderful piece, but not for the intended age group.With colorful and realistic illustrations, Mother Osprey is, overall, an entertaining, fun and educational book that celebrates the sea and coastline. Phrases and words such as okra pods, Puget Sound, shark, pirate, and shoal of bass will peak children’s interest. Although, I do feel the book would be better intended for ages seven through ten.Mother Osprey, published by Sylvan Dell Publishing, also includes a “For Creative Minds” section that sheds insight and gives information on each rhyme. Also included is a two-page map of the United States and its surrounding waters highlighting the geographical areas the rhymes reference, along with a “Map Activity Questions” section.About the author: Lucy Nolan is an award-winning author who spent many childhood days roaming two very special islands: Pawleys Island, SC, and Amelia Island, FL. Ms. Nolan is also the author of Down Girl and Sit chapter books. She lives in Columbia, SC with her daughter and two rambunctious dogs.About the illustrator: Connie McLennan has been a freelance artist for over 25 years, since attending Academy of Art College in San Francisco. In addition to illustrating Mother Osprey: Nursery Rhymes for Buoys and Gulls, she has also illustrated four other children’s books for Sylvan Dell Publishing. Ms. McLennan lives in northern California with her husband, teenage son, and a playful kitten.

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Four Steps to Accelerate International Business Growth

U.S. exports continue to grow, but many American companies lack the international business know-how to capitalize on this potential source of increased sales and profits. Proliferating trade agreements and a weakened U.S. dollar have resulted in one of the most favorable export markets in decades. Foreign importers of U.S. goods report an increasing demand for U.S. products–from popcorn to pet food. The U.S. has enjoyed 11 straight quarters of increasing exports–yet with 95 percent of the world’s population residing outside of U.S. borders and an increasingly promising international sales outlook, experts are questioning why only 5 percent of U.S. companies are currently exporting. But how do we initiate and sustain growth in unfamiliar markets?


Tapping into new markets provides the opportunity for increased revenue and profits. However, this initiative needs to be consistent with the company’s overall strategy. Inconsistent, sporadic, or unfocused deployment of resources directed toward international growth can result in an underperforming initiative that soaks up limited resources with little return. Barriers to entry (duties, regulatory, and trademark restrictions) need to be identified and addressed. A SWOT analysis detailing the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats will identify and help maximize the company’s strengths, minimize its weaknesses, and give focus to the international opportunity.

An international growth plan consistent with the corporate strategy will enhance the odds of success. Tactical aspects of international development such as sales, distribution, and marketing need to be addressed. International growth factors can be sufficiently different from the U.S. models that a lack of familiarity can dramatically reduce the chances of success. Above all, there must be clear direction, full management support, and dedicated resources.


Small or medium firms initiating or expanding into international business will find the U.S. Government’s Department of Commerce (DOC) an enthusiastic partner in helping American companies succeed globally. This organization coordinates resources from across 19 Federal agencies to help American businesses plan their international strategies in an increasingly globalized environment. In an unfamiliar foreign market with confusing regulations, uncertainty, and risk, the DOC can help U.S. businesses navigate the overseas sales process and avoid hazards such as payment defaults and misappropriation of trademark and intellectual property.
The DOC’s commercial service provides a surprisingly actionable array of quality services including in-country market research, trade events and missions, trade leads, and introductions to prospective business partners. The Export-Import Bank and the Small Business Administration unite to help in the financing of U.S. goods and services exports to the international market, enabling companies to turn international leads into solid sales.

Firms specializing in international business development can help jump-start foreign expansion. These firms are groups of highly skilled, experienced professionals offering practical, cost-effective assistance to companies committed to maximizing revenue and profit potential through accelerated international growth. The range of services offered varies by firm, but overall they help companies conceptualize, implement, and manage large or small international business development projects. These services can range from determining the overseas market potential for a product to managing a firm’s export sales to identifying and qualifying foreign strategic alliances.
A company wanting to penetrate the international market needs to assign a fully dedicated resource to this initiative. This individual should be the linchpin connecting the organization’s resources, know-how, and culture to the international initiative. As the business develops, additional resources should be assigned to maximize the opportunity. These should be considered investments rather than costs.


A firm’s appropriate market entry strategy will largely depend on its level of international development. For a company just commencing its international development, market penetration via in-country distributor sales may be the fastest and most cost-effective way to enter a foreign market. Selling through in-country distributors is relatively low-risk and will provide valuable learning opportunities. Once the target country or region has been identified, a process that will naturally derive from the SWOT analysis, the selection process can begin. Various U.S. government agencies and trade associations can provide a wealth of data to begin narrowing the selection.

Trade publications and events are also an excellent source. Factors to consider when selecting a market may include such criteria as regulatory environment, market size and potential, cost of entry, and competitive environment. To further narrow the possibilities, an in-country visit is required. Once there, the use of trade leads, competitive evaluations, local government assistance, and potential candidate interviews will provide additional information and insights. Major considerations in selecting a distributor are: willingness to assign a dedicated resource, market leadership or track record, marketing savvy, complementary and not competitive products or services, site inspection, and financial stability.

Penetrating a new international market is often perceived as an extension of the existing domestic business. Consequently, many American companies bypass standard business guidelines requiring rigorous market analysis. Only after performing thorough due diligence can one elaborate a service or product offering and accompanying marketing programs.

A company’s preferred mode of entry–in-country distribution, joint venture, merger, or acquisition–will depend on that firm’s primary objectives from opportunistic sales to positioning for long-term market-driven growth.

Economic globalization will increasingly lead to the creation of strategic alliances. U.S. firms must make sure that potential partners share short- and long-term objectives in order to reduce the divergence of ideas and efforts. Common values and shared business/ethical standards will enhance communications, transparency, and effectiveness. The partners should have complementary strengths and weaknesses to build a stronger and more effective alliance. Principles and processes for conflict resolution and the relationship must be drafted and agreed to by all parties concerned for the partnership to run smoothly.


All markets have commonalities. However, effective international marketing begins with the awareness that markets are also different in ways that are not immediately apparent. The key is understanding consumers and identifying their needs through culturally specific market research. Focus groups can be especially effective in identifying the international consumer’s wants and needs. The advertising agency used in developing the offering should be local or have local representation. Employees with a thorough knowledge of market characteristics and idiosyncrasies will be particularly effective in communicating the desired message and creating and enhancing the brand image. Language skills and an affinity for different cultures are critical assets when marketing internationally.

Flawless execution is key. As a firm executes the international strategy guided by a solid business plan, it is important to celebrate milestones and benchmark against industry leaders.

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