As some of you know, I currently work (and have done for the past 10 years) in the financial services industry which continue to be a high pressure sales industry. It is also an industry that carries the potential of rather large bonus incentives, at least for people at a certain level or in certain sectors. I am not part of that world! While I do have the opportunity to earn bonus (well, I would if I sold more!!) this has never been a motivating factor for me.
My first job in this industry was for an insurance company with the job title of “Financial Advisor” which, at that time, created the “suit wearing ego fuelled” J I am happy to have left behind. I was young and naive but still wear a suit to work!
Everything was focused around money and how to sell as much as humanly possible using pretty much every trick in the book. I remember the very first training course I went on (brainwashing might be a better way of describing it).
There were about 20 of us in a conference room in a hotel on the south coast of England (all expenses paid of course!). The first course (one of three) lasted a week and it was designed as an induction into the industry as all of us came from various different backgrounds.
The theme of the first week was how to sell life insurance and to learn the various sales techniques (scare tactics really) to enable us to be successful in this field. (My definition of success is a lot different I might add!).
As an introduction we were presented with a video called “The Widow’s Story” which is well known to pretty much anyone who has worked in this industry. I won’t bore you with a full synopsis of it, but basically it is a video from the late 70’s or early 80’s depicting the financial ruin of a family following the death of the husband and father of the family. This kind of situation is not unrealistic in itself, quite the contrary, but the way it was presented left a very bad taste in my mouth because it was used, not as a way of helping people avoid this kind of scenario, but to increase sales and personal financial gain.
We were then taught how to “disturb” and paint mental pictures of doom and gloom. I did very well in the training scenario and the trainers had high hopes for me but as I was let loose on the public I didn’t do quite as well as they had anticipated.
At that time the sales incentive for top performers were usually an all expenses trip abroad, often to some fancy location. I suspect, that to many, this would be a great incentive to do better, but for me it had the opposite effect (it still does although the all expenses trips have long gone due to the current financial climate). The prospect of spending a number of days with a bunch of strangers was enough incentive for me to ensure I didn’t do that well from a sales point of view.
I did learn a lot of sales techniques and, as much as I hate to admit to it, tried most of them but not with much success. There always seemed to be some strange internal battle going on. As if what I was doing went against some core value.
I do firmly believe in the importance of having at least some insurance in place but this does not justify forcing insurance upon people for the sake of satisfying a sales target or for the sake of earning bonus.
I still talk about this with every client I am sat in front of but it’s from an angle of showing them how it works, what the cost is and then let them make their own informed choice. I know I am never going to be a top sales person, nor do I have any desire to become one. My reward is when a client comes back to me and tell me that I have made a difference to their lives.
That is what makes me go to bed with a smile on my face.