I grew up believing there are some careers you simply do not set foot into, if not for anything, then for not looking like an ass in front of your customers; real estate, car sales, large electronics store sales and insurance. The common trait between all these? They’re careers in sales, they’re driven on commission, and they hardsell like a baseball bat shoved up your you-know-where.
Subsequently I’ve gotten more mature in my beliefs and how they apply in the real world, and even met some salespeople in these industries that actually seemed honest. But there remains a sliver of doubt that has constantly kept me away from the salesman profession in general most of my life.
My sister has a friend in insurance whom I spoke to last year after my wife and I were in the midst of introducing number three into our world of two. For the first time in my life, I thought I found a insurance salesperson I could honestly call “honest”. He pulled no punches, seemed straightforward enough with what he was selling, and spoke genuinely and sincerely for his customers’ well-being. My sisters already have him as their regular guy, and quite a number of times they tossed me the idea of getting me an insurance policy via him. So we spoke, but for a small glitch in what was supposed to be a cut-and-dry life policy sale (higher premiums due to my health score), I had to turn down his efforts.
Since Xander came out though, he’s been keeping in touch, more so in the past few days, to the point where I am making a conscious effort not to turn him down in a rude fashion. At the turn of the year, after seeing things turning for the worse, what with the credit crisis in America affecting the whole world and a projected shrinking economy (-8%?!) in Singapore, I can understand how hard it’s going to be for someone in his profession. But hard-sell tactics are the precise reason why I didn’t become a salesman in the first place, and hard-sell tactics are the reason why I keep a mental blacklist of all the places to avoid when shopping for anything.
I was text-messaged 4 times over the last 3 days by said insurance guy to discuss a hospitalization plan for my son, which would involve no hard cash whatsoever, just an annual deduction of a small amount from my CPF account. If not for the fact that last year my wife had visited the hospital twice (once for a surgery and once for the birth of our son), coupled with how badly my own finances were stacking up against me, I would have met up. But money is tight for everyone everywhere, and even if it was something I didn’t have to buy with dispensable cash, I’m still being very conscious of what I sign up for.
I will admit that insurance is an important thing, but when you force the issue of selling some to me, I’m not inclined to entertain any of your schtick, nice guy or not. Especially when I’ve kindly given subtle enough hints, like “now’s not a good time” or “better if we talk when times get better”, take it that now’s not a good time and that it would be better if we talk when times get better.
I would like to say I know what these commissioned-based salespeople are going through; I’m working every day and making every dollar count to manage my own little credit crisis. But honestly, I opted out of the life of a commissioned-based salary because when times are hard, it really shows in your bank account when your daily work shows directly in your paycheck, and no matter how glib you are, no matter how solid your sales pitch is, some days people just don’t want to buy anything. Commissioned-based industries really do reflect the old adage (albeit through a different context), “When times are good, everybody’s a friend, but when times are bad…”. The big difference between applying that adage in an occupation and applying it in social context is that socially, there is still room for acts of kindness, but in a ceteris paribus environment such as your job, the only thing that matters is dollars and sense.
It’s going to be a hard year, my policy-toting friend. Wishing you good luck, is, unfortunately, all I can afford.