The World’s Worst Salesman — Part 2 | #MyFridayStory №281

Frans Nel
4 min readMar 9, 2023
Zukiman Mohamad| Pexels

I’m not the world’s worst salesman.

Still, if my life depended on it — and it has been — I’d go hungry. I’ve been around and worked with successful sales folks since high school — over 4 decades ago. (Added for context).

Salespeople that had, “the gift of the gab,” sure, but were also supremely talented at convincing people to adopt a new idea or concept. These “flyboys and flygirls” are a rare breed. The fighter pilots aboard an aircraft carrier are a handful of heroines and heroes among the other 6000 sailors keeping the ship afloat.

Selling anything — whether it’s ideas, concepts, gadgets, or Frito’s — should only be for good reasons. Peddling drugs, dodging the taxman, being corrupt, and any other harmful form of “sales”, causes immediate disqualification and expulsion from the “sales club”.

Selling life insurance is often seen as the stereotypical salesperson trying every dirty trick in the book to sell the poor unsuspecting client yet another dodgy insurance policy. There is no denying that the past track record of a handful of unsavoury sales folks has tainted the industry. But the lived experience of a professional life insurance salesperson is one of dogged discipline. Sticking at it through the tough parts. To pitch up each day, ready to hear another, “no.” They can maintain a positive attitude regardless of external challenges. These lurk at every corner in creating a career selling life insurance.

Of all the thousands of life insurance salespeople I’ve met, only a handful have created a successful career. It’s a long-term, sustained effort to create wealth. I grasped the theory part of my life insurance training, the practical side I had to feign. I fumbled through well enough to be one of the 4 or 5 of us that made it out of 30 students that started three weeks prior. One of them created a long-term successful sales career.

I recall his answer when I asked him why he had bought a brand-new luxury car. Stressful when starting a commission-only career — and with clawbacks. He said: The repayment is equal to the commission from one R100 monthly policy. He never doubted for a second he’d make that payment. He made every payment thereafter as grew his practice into a sustainable juggernaut.

As God loves to do, 15 years later, I get approached by a good friend and former colleague from my life insurance days. He needs help in the sales of software he had developed for banks and insurance companies. The company grew through large contracts with major insurers and banks in South Africa. Later, he and his family relocated to Australia to tackle the international market. An office in South-East Asia soon followed. He rounded up his wife and kids and headed for paradise, as the international side of the business boomed.

Meanwhile, the South African operation was in danger of closing. They had one major bank on a retainer with signs of uneasiness. Distances are far and expensive from Malaysia. Most of our meetings and interactions were via Zoom. My task was to stabilise the ship and find a few new clients. It seemed more than achievable. A year later, we agreed to accept that even one was a challenge.

He continues to amaze me with his talent for selling complex solutions.

Today, I head up a small team of professional sales folk. The side of sales I should be. This is what I’m made for. The love for marketing only came later, but leadership and training, that’s my food. It’s also why I’m the happiest I’ve been for some time in my career. (Context counts)

My team of sales folks approach each day with eagerness, and in anticipation of closing another deal. They delight in delivering great service and providing a superior product. They are warriors that will take it on the chin from a client, even when we haven’t messed up. Each of them is helping build an organisation they can be proud to represent. While we strive at being a brand that delivers on its promise, it’s their superior sales skills that bring them the big buck and keeps us “sailors” — or “the overheads” — all employed!

To all the sales folks out there, thank you, we love you! 💖

Have an awesome weekend and please be generous! 😄

As always, thanks for reading 🙏

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