November 11, 1922

By Gregory Clark, November 11, 1922.

There are, it is rumored, 5,081 life insurance agents in Toronto.

The 81 don’t know about me.

The other 5,000 have me in their pocket diaries as a promising prospect.

They come in to see me at the office, at home, in church, on the street car, at the club, on the street, in twos, fives, and tens. When there is a measles epidemic, or an outbreak of the Spanish flu in Honolulu, they pursue me in scores and hundreds.

For it seems I am of the blond, impressionable type, fearful of calamity, frightened of death, a family man – having all the qualities, in short, of the ideal insurance prospect.

There has been a great change in the insurance business in the last few years. It is a science now. There are magazines devoted to the science. You can read how to tell a prospect at a glance. How to read character in relation to selling. Whether to use the “scare-him-to-death” method, or the “appeal-to-his-widow” method, or just the plain hard-headed “investment” method.

You see, insurance hasn’t escaped the “science” bug that has got into the business world the last dozen years. There are no more insurance agents now. They are insurance salesmen, or life underwriters. Selling insurance is no longer merely a matter of a fellow with nothing else to do bothering the life out of all his relations and friends until they buy some protection.

Life Insurance is a SERVICE.

“I’ll be the best friend you ever had, if you take that policy.” says the modern insurance salesman, with the air of a grave but kindly tipster. “You’ll thank me all your life. I don’t want you to take out the policy. It’s nothing to me. But it is my duty to show you the value of insurance.”

Word must have leaked out that I was married, had a child, was buying a new house, and was going deer hunting.

In addition to that, I was classified at a glance as blond, impressionable, soft-hearted, soft-beaded, and immensely wealthy, because I wear spats to keep my feet warm.

Anyway, seventy-eleven life underwriters got on to my trail.

“I can’t take out any insurance,” I said with assurance, “because that baby of mine has set me back about five hundred dollars.”

“Aren’t you going to provide for that baby, in case anything happens to you?” retorted the underwriters, in gloomy voices.

“All the money I can scrape together is going into a new house,” I said, desperately.

“You should protect the mortgage with a life policy,” countered the salesmen, with hard glances. “If anything should happen to you, where would your wife live? Eh?”

“Happen! Happen! What’s going to happen to me?” I asked, with my healthiest expression.

“Ah, Bill,” said the one life underwriter, turning to his assistant, “remember that poor fellow we tried to sell that policy for $20,000 to? The one that died from the pip two days after?”

And then the senior drew a blue book out of his pocket and said:

“Are you aware of the number of hunters who are killed annually?”

What is the use of struggling against such science as that?

With my sidekick, Griffin, they use another method, the business man’s method. They never try any sentimental stuff on him. They can tell by the color of his hair and the shape of his nose that he would simply tell them to go to blazes and provide for their own wives. So they put it up to him as an investment. They assume he is saving so much per annum – quoting a figure five times as great as he is really saving. Then they show him how much better an investment insurance would be on the same terms.

One way or the other, it is a SERVICE.

Every insurance man to-day thinks his predecessors must have been terrible types. For if you talk to one of them long enough, ho Is sure to branch off from that SERVICE line to tell you of the high grade of men who are now going into insurance as a profession or calling.

And they are having a hard time with a public that still thinks insurance agents a nuisance They can’t seem to set it across on the public that SERVICE is the whole philosophy of the insurance man, and that the way to receive him is to welcome him with open arms and an open check book.

If they keep at it long enough, and keep stressing the fact that superior men are going into the game out of pure love of mankind, and if they to their shoes shined, finally the public will get over the old obsession that insurance men are trying to sell them a set of the works of Sir Walter Scott, complete in thirty volumes.

The last time we poked a little fun at the insurance boys, the entire underwriters’ origination of the world rose up in arms and protested against The Star Weekly, seventeen insurance publications, weekly and monthly, replied with what to the baseless slanders, and the number of salesmen calling on me increased from 2,700 to 5,000 – an increase of nearly 100 per cent.

Lightning never strikes in the same place twice.