I graduated from college in the spring of 1988. I had a BA in Management and a half credit shy of having a double major by adding Psychology. I only took those classes because they were interesting and they helped me to understand people when dealing with them in business. Adding Psych to my resume might land me some therapy jobs, but then I would have to go for even more school and I just don’t like listening to other people’s problems that much. So I stuck with Business.
Graduation is here, and I don’t have a job! Maybe about 60% of my classmates had some sort of job or offer by the time the actual graduation date arrived and I had two offers, one that would have required me to move to Pennsylvania, that’s it. I turned that down, partly because I didn’t think it paid enough for me to be able to afford to live out there and partly because I still had a serious girlfriend here. So not wanting to be jobless I took the second offer which was selling life insurance. How hard could it be? Everybody needed life insurance! Oh boy!
So here I am, this fresh-faced young punk taking Insurance Producer classes. I got paid for taking the classes, but not very much. It covered my car payment and that was about it. Good thing I was still living at home! So a few weeks later I take the test and pass it with one of the top score. Big things are awaiting me in the insurance field! Or at least that’s what my employers told me.
The next two weeks consisted of me shadowing a current sales rep. I was getting paid (more, but not much) to follow him around and learn. We would have lunch and I would hear all the stories about how great this job is! Stay here seven years and every time a policy renews, even if you had zero to do with the renewal, I would get a cut! Life time revenue! And with the tax laws at the time I could write off just about any meal as long as I talked about business a bit. I was encouraged, though not directly, to even take receipts that Ididn’t pay for and add them to my pile. I would be rich!
So the day comes when I get to do this more or less on my own. They have 3 of us and the one trainer drive down to southern Illinois around the Edwardsville area. We get down there on a Tuesday and have to get a hotel room as we are to be there for the rest of the week. What they had in store for us was a way to get our feet wet, so to speak. We were to visit current customers who were going to be up for renewal in the next 2 months and get them to renew. The theory was that since they were already customers they would be more receptive to us and we would get generally a more positive experience out of it. The hope was that we would get some trouble free renewals and a little commission. Which would be awesome since I was going broke.
So Wednesday morning comes and after a pep talk at breakfast, we each go out to visit our assigned renewals. I look at a map to figure out my route (remember this was 1988, no gps or mapquest) and off I go. My first stop was at the home of an older lady who according to the renewal card was in her 70’s. I pull into the driveway and walk to the door full of confidence that I would be able to communicate with her effectively and leave with a renewal in hand. I step up onto the porch and the front door was open with a screen door closed. I knock and a moment later see an elderly lady come walking to the door with a cane. She gets to the door and says “Can I help you? ” I tell her my name and where I am from and that I am here to talk about renewing her life insurance policy. It is company policy to send a person to renew the policy after the first period to be able to answer any questions or concerns they may have before renewing. She listens to me say all that squints her eyes like she is a little mad and then says “Where you from again?” So I repeat my spiel and as I finish I can see what appears to be rage filling her face. My perception was correct and she slams open the screen door, almost knocking me off the porch. She starts to move forward, raising her cane, screaming “get the hell off my porch NOW!!!” I stumble off the porch, my mouth hanging open as I really can’t believe this is happening. Then she starts to come down the stairs, still waving her cane at me screaming “Go on, git outta here!”. WTF!?!
So I get into my car before this crazy old lady can beat me with her cane. Or my shiny new car that I currently can’t pay for. I exit quickly and perhaps a few blocks down I see a park. I pull over and get out to go sit on a bench under a tree. And I just sat there, paralyzed with fear and dread. I am a 21 year old newby, about 4 hours from home who just got cursed at and chased by an old lady with a cane. I don’t know what the company had done to her to elicit such a reaction and to be honest, I didn’t want to know. I just sat there, all day. I probably stayed there until about 7 that night before I could get the inner strength to go back to the hotel. I went to the hotel bar and bought several beers with the last of my money trying to digest that.
The next morning I quit, checked out and went back home. I decided that sales isn’t for me. I have been told that I am good at it. If you come into my store looking for something, I can help you find it and get you a solution. But if it involves me going into your place of business I just clam up, start getting all hot inside and forget whatever I was going to say. Thanks, old lady, for giving me a trauma that just keeps on giving.