Ben Feldman was born in New York City in 1912 as one of nine children of immigrant parents. He spent most of his life in Ohio, and his career was launched in East Liverpool, a small town of less than 15,000 people. Ben was short, stocky and spoke with a lisp. He began his sales career selling chicken and eggs for $10 a week. Later, when he tried to enter the insurance field, he failed the aptitude test.
What would later prove typical Feldman fashion, Ben bypassed the test, instead selling his qualities to the insurance company. After spending some time with Equitable Life Insurance Company, Ben joined New York Life and opened an office in East Liverpool. In 1946, he met his personal goal of entering the Million Dollar Round Table.
It only took him four years.
The $1 million mark was only the beginning. In 1955, Ben sold $10 million in coverage. Eventually, he began selling $1 million a month and then $1 million a week! In 1971, he wrote contracts for over $65 million and in 1983 he enlisted his sons – Marvin and Richard – to help him sell $148 million in insurance. It is estimated that during his 50-year career, he sold over $1.8 billion. One-third of this amount was sold after the age of 65, and all of it was done in a small office in East Liverpool, Ohio.
Here are a few tips gathered from Ben’s most famous quotes.
1. Develop a Positive Mental Attitude.
“Attitude is your first and most important factor!”
Ben contributed his energy and innovation to a positive mental attitude. He argued that a positive mental attitude is instrumental in determining a person’s earnings. He saw both attitude and earnings as decisions that were made. “If you decide you are going to lead and feel wonderful, strong and excited – then you have the power to move mountains!” Ben wrote.
2. Make the cold calls.
“Fundamentals are right down to earth. And one fundamental is: You have to make calls. Nothing happens until you make a call. It’s that fundamental!”
Ben knew that sitting around waiting for warm calls and hot leads was not the way to reach his goal, so he began mastering the art of cold-calling. He made 30 to 40 cold calls every single week. But Ben never went on a truly cold call. He would study each business he visited ahead of time to learn about the leadership, its product and its volume. Ben preferred face-to-face interaction, but he knew that he would need to win the confidence of the receptionists before he could land an interview; and interviews, according to Ben, were the heart of a sale.
Ben’s attitude in regard to cold-calling is perhaps the best example of his overall energy and positive attitude. He understood that a business owner probably wouldn’t want to see him the first time, and he accepted the rejection gracefully. “That isn’t so bad,” explained Ben. “Why? Because I’m coming back, and when I come back I’m no longer a stranger! I’ve been here before!”
Ben understood that the only cold-call is the first call. When a boss consistently rejected an interview with Ben, the salesman would make an ally out of the receptionist, and sometimes the trust bred of that friendship would grant him a meeting.
3. Be a problem solver.
“You’ll have the same problems when I walk out, as you had when I walked in… unless you let me take your problems with me.”
According to Ben, making sales is all about presenting a solution. Generally, it has to be a simple solution that seems custom-made to fit an individual’s needs. The real work of a salesman is to make the financial product fit the real-life problem of the customer. Ben often said, “The key to a sale is an interview, and the key to an interview is a disturbing question.”Â
Ben knew that a disturbing question was sometimes needed to jolt people out of their daily routine. Disturbing questions made people sit up and take notice of the problem that Ben could solve with his life insurance policy.
4. Work hard, even after hours.
“Doing something costs something. Doing nothing costs something. And, quite often, doing nothing costs a lot more!”Â
Ben was a huge proponent of doing something. He had the type of energy that ran through his veins 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. He never shut off, because he was passionate about selling. Even businesses without a sales team can admire Ben’s model for studying. Each day after work, he studied for two hours, reading and taking notes. His wife said it was his way of winding down and relaxing.
Today, work-life balance is especially important to professionals, but “extra work” can be anything that inspires innovation or builds knowledge and skills. And on a day-to-day basis, one or two extra cold calls probably won’t tip the scale in your home life; but that little bit of extra work can make the difference in the workplace.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- What is your earning potential?
- How many cold calls are you making each week?
- What problem is your company solving?
- What “˜disturbing’ question do you pose to customers who don’t even know they face a problem?
- What do you do that puts you ahead of the competition?
About the Author
Tracy Myers is a former real estate agent and current contributor to the blog at homeinsurance.org, where she keeps readers up-to-date with home security, insurance and DIY tips. Tracy loves hearing from her readers and welcomes your comments below!