When Ben Feldman commenced his business career in the sleepy little town of Salineville, Ohio, selling chickens and eggs for $5.00 a week, he was anything but the stereotype of the slick, fast talking insurance salesman. He was, in fact, a shy, backward individual who no one could have predicted would one day become the world’s preeminent life insurance salesmen with commissions in the range of two million dollars per year.
And what is more amazing is that the majority of his policy holders came from within a 50-mile radius of East Liverpool, the town where he began his astounding career in 1942 with New York Life as a young agent who was so introverted that he hid behind a screen when speaking to large audiences.
By 1946, he became a member of the Million Dollar Round Table, the life insurance industry’s most prestigious body, in which he held continuous membership until he died on November 7, 1993.
Ben had a sense of mission about his work. He recognized the vital role that life insurance can play in providing financial security to families and businesses. His gift lay in his ability to help others understand that value as well. This talent, coupled with immense self-discipline and persistence, enabled Ben in 1955 to achieve his first self-imposed goal by writing $10 million in coverage. He then cranked out one million a month, then one million a week in sales and in 1971, he wrote $65 million in coverage.
He then gunned for $10 million a month … no problem; and in 1983, with the help of his two sons, Richard and Marvin, he wrote $148 million in coverage.
He sold more in a year than most agents wrote in a lifetime. In fact, at the height of his career, he actually out sold the entire sales force of some 500 life insurance companies. For a stretch of 22 years, he was the top sales agent in New York Life.
What was his secret? If you have ever read one of his four books or the countless articles he wrote, you already know the answer, PREPARATION.
In those early years, he would show up after dark at the local radio station to practice his well-known sayings on reel-to-reel recording devices with the help of the all-night disc jockey.
He carried Dun & Bradstreet directories for client referrals like a preacher carries a Bible.
He had very few hobbies, and even once when deep-sea fishing, while everyone was enjoying themselves, he was memorizing every line of the New York Life rate book.
He developed pithy little sayings to counter every response:
To the client who said, “I can’t afford the premium!” Ben would say, “You are already broke, and don’t know it!”
To “I have sufficient insurance! “Fine, what you have done is bailed out your creditors, but locked in your family.”
To the statement, “I prefer stocks to life insurance,” Ben would respond, “Sure, life insurance doesn’t offer a spectacular return on your money, but it does guarantee the return of your money!”
Finally to “I believe in term insurance!” “Term insurance is temporary, but the problem is permanent!”
Ben was known for displaying a check made payable to the New York Life Insurance Company for a modest amount and one made out to the New York Life insurance Company for a mega amount, to which he would state, “I will sign the big one, if you will sign the small one.”
Ben had a telephone in his car with a connecting tower behind his striking office complex on the outskirts of East Liverpool, long before anyone had heard of cell phones. With this communications system in place, he could call his staff to arrange paperwork, physical examinations and payment arrangements prior to his return, usually at the end of a 12-hour day.
Despite the fact he dropped out of school at the age of 16, he was a life-long learner, completing courses at Youngstown State University on his way to becoming known for not only his complete mastery of his chosen profession and pride in New York Life, but also for the contributions he made to the insurance industry and for the betterment of the greater Tri-State Area.