7 Legendary Insurance Sales Agents And Their Stories Of Success

The life insurance industry is one of the toughest industries to work in. After all, you are selling an intangible product that neither provides immediate gratification nor lends itself to impulse buying.

The best insurance agents know that their work is not only about the policies they are trying to sell, it’s most of all about people and relationships.

Read on to learn more about how the focus on serving others and positive attitude helped the world’s top insurance sellers pave their way to success. 

NOTE: If you cannot find a reasonably-priced used copy of any of the books mentioned on Amazon, search MDRT’s website or check out BookFinder. Ebay is also a good option, too.

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Mehdi Fakharzadeh

“Success often requires the courage to ignore popular wisdom or what the crowd is saying.” – Mehdi Fakharzadeh

Mehdi Fakharzadeh (1922–2019) was among the world’s leading sales agents of financial products and services and one of the most successful insurance agents in history. 

Born in Iran, Mehdi moved to the U.S. in his twenties and earned his Master of Economics degree at BYU. With no previous sales experience and no knowledge about life insurance, he joined the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in 1955. Against all odds, he became the company’s top salesman of all time. 

A master judge of human nature and human relations, Fakharzadeh devised tools that enabled the creation of highly productive sales systems for different types of personalities. 

Award-Winning Agent

Throughout his 60-year career, Mehdi Fakharzadeh was awarded numerous prizes. In 2000, he received the Israel Siegel Award, the most prestigious recognition in New Jersey. He has earned the most MetLife honors for successful client development and successful client retention as well as MetLife Golden Laureate, the highest MetLife award. MetLife also created a Lifetime Achievement Award to recognize Fakharzadeh’s unique contributions to the company. 

Mehdi Fakharzadeh wrote two inspirational books about his life and sales methods: Nothing is Impossible (1978) and Everything is Possible (1998)

Peter Rosengard

“The all-time sales marketing genius in the past two hundred years is the man who thought of calling death insurance ‘life insurance’.” – Peter Rosengard

Peter Rosengard (b. 1946 in London) is widely recognized as one of the world’s most successful life insurance salesmen.  

Rosengard is the co-founder of the London Comedy Store and the educational charity SINCE 9/11. Although he never had any intention to become an insurance salesman, his first job happened to be selling life insurance for Abbey Life Assurance Company Ltd. in London. On his way home from the job interview at Abbey Life, he realized how good he was at sales—he managed to sell his first life policy to the cab driver. 

Guinness Book Of Record Holder

Rosengard is known for putting together what was for a long time the world’s largest life insurance policy, still recorded by Guinness Book of Records. He sold $100 million of key man insurance for David Geffen after MCA Universal’s acquisition of Geffen Records in 1990. 

Rosengard has always emphasized the value of a long-term relationship with his clients. He believes that a good salesman must think out of the box and ultimately convince his clients that their biggest asset is themselves. 

Rosengard published a bestselling book entitled Talking to Strangers: The Adventures of a Life Insurance Salesman in 2013. 

John Savage

“People don’t buy insurance, people buy people. In fact whatever you are selling, if they like you they will buy it even if they don’t need it.” – John Savage

John Savage (1931–1993) was a highly successful insurance sales agent who started off with less than ideal conditions for success in the field. 

It was 1957 when, together with his brother, Savage founded Savage & Associates in Northwest Ohio in a tiny office without a secretary. In less than 15 years, the agency grew to over $50 million in annual production. Today it counts among the 100 largest insurance and financial service agencies in the United States. Savage was also a popular speaker who inspired thousands with his captivating financial lessons. 

Service First

Savage’s approach to sales was first and foremost based on serving others. He always treated his clients and business associates like he would treat a good friend, only recommending products that he would himself buy in comparable circumstances. Savage believed that five aspects of a person’s life—parts of a “five-star circle”—are necessary for achieving a balance: family, business, spirituality, and psychological and physical well-being. 

His book Savage on Selling: Secrets from an Insurance Great, where he shares his sales philosophy, was published in 1994. His previous books include The Easy Sale (1973), It’s Getting Easier (1980), and High Touch Selling: How to Make a Great Life While Making a Great Living (1986).

Art Williams Jr.

“Remember, before you can be great, you’ve got to be good. Before you can be good, you’ve got to be bad. But before you can even be bad, you’ve got to try.” – Art Williams Jr.

Art Williams Jr. (b. 1942) is the founder of A. L. Williams & Associates, today known as Primerica Financial Services, the largest seller of life insurances in the United States.

Williams started his career as a football coach. But when his father suddenly died of a heart attack, leaving his family under-insured, Williams started his research on life insurance. That is how he discovered a type of insurance that was rarely sold—term life insurance. It was a cheaper and simpler alternative to the popular whole life insurances that doubled as savings plans. 

Buy Term And Invest The Difference

Williams soon became an advocate for term insurance and a full-time insurance agent. His work is based on a simple philosophy: “buy term and invest the difference.” Williams managed to convince many of his customers to switch from their conventional whole-life insurance to term policies. Today, his agents sell only term insurance—policies with a lower premium that provide nothing more than a death benefit.

Art Williams is the author of several best-selling books: The A. L. Williams Way (1984), a step-by-step guide to his “people management” philosophy that drove him to succeed in sales, Pushing Up People (1985), All You Can Do Is All You Can Do (1988), But All You Can Do Is Enough (1988), Coach, the A. L. Williams Story (2006), and Common Sense: A Simple Plan for Financial Independence (2013).

Frank Bettger

“When you show a man what he wants, he’ll move heaven and earth to get it.” – Frank Bettger

Franklin Lyle “Frank” Bettger (1888–1981) was one of the best-known life insurance salesmen in U.S. history.

After a brief baseball career under the name Frank Betcher, Bettger started selling life insurance for the Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance Company in Philadelphia. However, he was not immediately successful at selling, and after only a few months he considered quitting his job. However, remembering the advice his old baseball coach once gave him, he decided to try acting more enthusiastically in his insurance presentations. The technique worked and he was soon seeing an increase in sales. In addition, after reading The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, he realized that the Socratic method of asking questions that lead to self-discovery also works when it comes to selling life insurance policies.

Bettger believed that being enthusiastic, keeping records, and planning are the main prerequisites for success in sales. The seller first needs to find out what his clients want and then help them find the best way to get it.

Bettger is the author of two books: How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling (1952) where he applies the lessons he learned during his baseball career to selling and How I Multiplied My Income and Happiness in Selling (1961). 

W. Clement Stone

“Every great man, every successful man, no matter what the field of endeavor, has known the magic that lies in these words: every adversity has the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.” – W. Clement Stone

William Clement Stone (1902–2002) was a successful businessman, philanthropist, and self-help book author. 

Stone began selling newspapers on the street at the age of six to help support his family. Later on, he moved his sales to restaurants where he quickly won over both owners and customers with his persistence and charm. At the age of 19, Stone decided to join his mother in selling accident insurance. He averaged selling 48 policies per day. 

In 1919, Stone established the Combined Insurance Company of America with an initial investment of $100. A decade later, the company had over 1,000 agents selling insurance across the United States and eventually grew into a multi-million-dollar enterprise. At the peak of his career, Stone sold an average of 72 policies per day with a record sale of 122 policies in one day. 

Prospecting Strategy

Stone believed in using a cold canvass technique in office buildings, where he directly approached potential customers without any pre-arranged appointments. He also developed custom insurance policies that were easy to sell and renew. Stone’s lifelong philosophy “whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve” was based on the positive mental attitude philosophy. 

Much of what is known about Stone comes from his autobiography, The Success System That Never Fails (1962), where he offers advice on how to become successful and lead a productive life. In collaboration with Norma Lee Browning, he wrote The Other Side of the Mind (1964) as well as Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude with self-help author Napoleon Hill (1960).

Ben Feldman

Ben Feldman is a great example of a successful life insurance agent.
“Don’t sell life insurance. Sell what life insurance can do.” – Ben Feldman

Ben Feldman (1912–1993) perfected a series of techniques for selling life insurance that earned him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most outstanding salesman in history.

During his 50-year career, Feldman sold life insurance policies with a total value of $1.5 billion for New York Life Insurance Company. What is even more impressive is that most of his sales were in the small town of East Liverpool, Ohio. Feldman held the world record for the most products sold by value by a salesman in a career, in a year ($100 million) and in a single day ($20 million).

Sales Strategy

Feldman believed that his vocation as an insurance agent was not only profitable but also virtuous and that life insurance salesmen needed to act both as educators and missionaries. He was adamant about studying every aspect of life insurance including selling methods, persuasion skills, financial planning, and marketing. In addition, he made a point of educating himself on a variety of other subjects that would make him more knowledgeable and more prepared for serving his clients.

Ben Feldman was known for his capacity to tailor a life insurance plan for each client. The inspirational “power phrases” as well as his “disturbing questions” he devised became industry standards. Feldman’s positive approach to a buyer’s interest and needs rather than just selling policies is the groundwork for the practices that are used by insurance agents today. 

The Feldman Method

Feldman wrote several books: Creative Selling for the 1990s (1987), Creative Selling: The World’s Greatest Life Insurance Salesman Answers Your Questions (1987), and The Feldman Method (1976) where he shares details on his hard work, preparation, and positive attitude as the cornerstones of his success.

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