Lessons from a master moneymaker: small talk, big sales

By Sandy Schussel

Sandy Schussel, LLC


Mehdi Fakharzadeh is one of the most successful insurance sales agents in history. At the age of 92, he is still taking on and servicing clients. Mehdi achieved his success despite starting out with a severely limited grasp of the English language and American customs. Now, at the top of his industry, he is famous throughout the world — with followers in over 40 countries.

A Chinese admirer changed his own first name to Mehdi, and at least one other inspired insurance agent gave that name to his son.

At a seminar a few years ago, I had the honor of being asked to speak alongside Mehdi and the renowned publicist Wally Cato. Here are some of the lessons I learned that day:

1. Doing the right thing for your clients results in more business and referrals. Mehdi does not attribute his success to any skill of his own. He believes it is his karmic reward for giving what he can to everyone he comes into contact with. His belief in this regard, and how it humbles him, shines through him as he speaks.

2. Love what you do. Mehdi told his audience that selling insurance is his hobby. He is up at 4 a.m., eager to start his day, and doesn't stop until his wife calls him to tell him to come home for dinner.

3. Be prepared to give them what they ask for, but always show them what you believe they should have. Mehdi talked about how he increases the size of his sales, and helps clients at the same time, by presenting insurance policies at signing time for amounts greater than what he had previously discussed with them. "They always try to buy less than they should," he told his audience. "I present to them what they really should have, and often, they agree when they see it."

4. Make them clients first. "What do you do when a client doesn't want what you believe is right for him?" a workshop attendee asked. "I give him what he does want, of course," was Mehdi's reply. But he continued: "I wait two or three years [until we have a good relationship and my client trusts me], and then I show him a chart that has, on the left side, what he bought, and on the right side, what I believed was right for him. I ask him which plan looks better now, and he always points to the one on the right." None of this can happen, Mehdi told his audience, unless the person in question becomes a client first.

5. Never give up. A consistent theme in everything Mehdi spoke about was his persistence. "Whenever there is a problem," he told his audience, "I sit down and create a solution. There's always a solution."

6. Talk "nonsense." That's what Mehdi calls his delightful way of engaging people in conversation. "If I'm going up in an elevator and I push four, and the other man pushes eight, I say, 'You must be twice as good as me.' When he asks me why I say that, I tell him that eight is twice as good as four."

Mehdi reminded his audience that day that it makes people feel good when you’re having fun. As further proof that Mehdi walks his talk, he invited me to spend an afternoon with him at his office to pick his brain, and bought us lunch at his favorite Chinese restaurant — asking nothing in return.

Give first, talk small and think big. Love what you do and you'll do the right things.