Ever since I entered the insurance and financial services industry in 1982, I have been blessed to meet some great people who willingly shared their time, knowledge and friendship. These people have had a huge impact on my overall success in this business -- and in my life. I wouldn't be where I am today, 27 years later, if it weren't for the books I've read, the people I've met and the friendships that have developed.
In past articles, I've written about my first three mentors: Mike Wood, Phil Urbano and Ron Stabile, all of whom helped me to get off to a quick start with insurance sales. With their encouragement, training and true friendship, I learned how to really help the people I served. If it weren't for them, I would not have lasted two years in this business.
In the following years, I was fortunate to meet people like the late, great Ben Feldman, one of the most prolific life insurance salespeople in history. Feldman sold $1,800,000,000 of insurance policies for New York Life from 1942 to his death in 1993. He once held the world record for the most products sold (by value) by a salesman in a career, a year ($100,000,000), and in a single day ($20,000,000). Near the end of his career, his annual commission totals were over $1,000,000 per year. At the time, these sales totals were equaled only by the entire sales forces of other insurance companies, though now they have long since been surpassed. I have listened to every tape and read every book I could find by this extraordinary legend of the insurance industry. His simplicity and straightforward approach to helping people recognize and establish their financial priorities is a valuable lesson to all. I recommend that everyone read "The Feldman Method," a book about his prospecting methods, presentations, his working habits, etc. It offers a step-by-step action plan that he used to raise himself from a $10 a week producer to more than one million dollars annually.
While I never had the opportunity to personally meet the late Benjamin "Woody" Woodson, for more than 50 years he wrote "The Back Page" for Life Association News, a popular series of essays on life and life insurance that earned the respect and recognition of agents industry-wide. I read his essays every month until he retired. If you want to truly understand the incredible value of cash value life insurance, then you must read his book, "The Best of Woody." I would also read "Money for Life" by Jeffery Reeves.
One of people who had the greatest impact on my life and my career throughout the years was my dear friend, the late Charlie "Tremendous" Jones. Jones entered the insurance business at age 22, with MONY. At age 23, he was awarded his agency's Most Valuable Associate Award. Ten years later, he received his company's highest management award for recruiting, manpower and development, and business management. In 1965, he founded Life Management Services to share his experience through seminars and consulting services. Thousands of audiences around the world have experienced non-stop laughter as Mr. "T" shared his ideas about life's most challenging situations in business and at home. Millions have enjoyed his speeches, "The Price of Leadership," and "Where Does Leadership Begin?" He is the author and editor of nine books, including "Life is Tremendous," with more than 2,000,000 copies in print in 12 languages. This is a book that is a must read for everybody. I mean "everybody" in the literal sense. We all need to have our minds focused upon positive thoughts that clarify our place in life as far as how we connect with others. This book is worth reading once a year to remind each of us that life is a pleasure, not just a pain. We need to have our minds focused on the larger truths rather than the smaller pains if we hope to excel at the things that will help our lives going well.
During the past 25 years, I've had the privilege of listening to, meeting with and getting to know Mehdi Fakharzadeh, one of the very few true legends in our industry. His personal story, combined with his dedication and contributions to this industry, have been an inspiration for generations of agents, advisors and planners. In an industry that is in desperate need of real heroes, Mehdi stands out far above all others for his superior sales achievements. Mehdi has spoken in over 40 countries and presently makes over 50 platform presentations to financial groups each year. He is the author of, "Nothing Is Impossible and Everything Is Possible."
Over the years, I've been fortune enough to be introduced to the works and/or have personally met many of our industry's greatest leaders. Each of the following outstanding leaders has greatly influenced my career and life:
Jack Kinder, Jr., Gary Kinder -- Both of the Kinder brothers had highly successful sales careers as agents, managers and home office executives, and were qualifying members of the MDRT. They created Kinder Brother's International, one of the foremost training organizations for agencies, internationally. If you are an agency builder, FMO or IMO, then you need their expertise.
- O. Alfred Granum, CLU -- An outstanding salesperson and manager, Granum is most famous for his one-card system and philosophy of client building, which he has passed on to generations of insurance professionals.
- Thomas J. Wolff, CLU, ChFC -- He was a member of the Million Dollar Round Table for 50 years. Wolff created the "Capital and Financial Need Analysis," which revolutionized the way life insurance is sold all over the world.
- John Savage, CLU -- Renowned for the "Savage Selling System," Savage was a 30-year Qualifying and Life member of the MDRT.
- Sidney A. Friedman, CLU, MSFS, RHU, ChFC -- He was one of the insurance industry's top producing sales professionals. He served as President of the International Top of the Table, the Twenty-Five Million Dollar International Forum, and the Association of Advance Life Underwriting.
- Norman G. Levine -- He is the only individual to receive all four of the top accolades bestowed on anyone in the insurance profession: The MDRT "Top of the Table," for personal life insurance production; "Master Agency Award," for the management of his company; "The Managers Hall of Fame;" and the highest designation the life insurance industry bestows, "The John Newton Russell Memorial Award." The Million Dollar Round Table has invited Norman to speak more than 20 times. He has spoken for over 100 companies in 23 different countries.
- Loren Dunton -- In 1969, a man with a dream envisioned an organization of highly trained, skilled and dedicated professionals who would, "Help average people to learn how to spend, save, invest, insure and plan wisely for the future, to achieve financial independence." That man of vision was Loren Dunton. After many years of hard work and sacrifice, in 1982, Loren realized the first part of his dream, with the creation of the Certified Financial Planner designation, and a short time later, the International Association for Financial Planning (IAFP) was born.
I'll be forever grateful for the dedication, leadership and shared knowledge from each of these individuals. These are the people that have made this industry great.
However, I would be remiss if I didn't take the time to mention someone who has never sold insurance or offered any financial services. And, yet he has contributed greatly to the growth and recognition of this great insurance and financial services industry. He is why many of the above people are considered industry legends today. He is the one responsible for getting their accomplishments and special message out to all of us.
This unsung hero of our industry is Forrest Wallace Cato. As a media consultant and image branding specialist to the financial services industry, Wally played a major role in establishing the financial planning profession with Loren Dunton and later the creation of the International Association of Registered Financial Consultants. He has ghostwritten books for many of the above legends that have made the top 10 bestseller list. Wally is the reason we have gotten to know these industry legends and can study how they accomplished their incredible sales records.
If you want to be all you can be in this industry, I recommend you read and listen to everything you can from these leaders and legends of our industry. And, if you want to become known as the financial expert in your community, attract people to you and make your career much easier and much more profitable, you need the help of an image branding specialist like Forrest Wallace Cato.
As Charlie "Tremendous" Jones always said, "You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read."
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