PERSPECTIVES | IMPROVE SALES WITH EXPERT ANALYSIS

Industry icon Maurice L. Stewart reveals how he learned to lead clients to their best conclusions Improve Sales

Maurice L. Stewart is one of those quiet icons in insurance. He is happy to share the wisdom he’s gained from his six decades with Penn Mutual, many of them leading the company’s top agency. A few years ago, American College started an annual lecture series in Maury’s honor. It is just the latest of many accolades for success and teaching that Maury has received, such as his induction into the GAMA Hall of Fame. In this interview, Maury talks about what every insurance producer should know.

INN: Do you have a favorite insurance story?

STEWART: My first death claim was probably my most memorable. It was a small case. I started my business in Topeka, Kansas, and I sold to quite a few guys in a fraternity at the state teachers college. There was a young guy that they kept referring me to, and I could never reach him. He just worked and played ball all the time.

I caught him one time at about 4 p.m. coming off the baseball field, and he said, “Well, I know that you want to talk to me. The guys have told me you would run me down sooner or later.” He said he had to shower and go to work at the post office, and he wouldn’t be home until 11 p.m that I could talk to him then.

So, I met Rosie then—his last name was Rose, and Rosie was his nickname. We sat down and talked, and he said the only reason he would buy any life insurance would be because of his parents and his brother. And I said, “Well, tell me about it.” He said his mother was in a hospital, pretty ill. And in those days, we didn’t have hospitalization, etc. And being of rather modest means, they had built up quite a hospital bill. He said that when he started coaching and teaching, he would pay the bill. But his little brother Jimmy was going to attend the same college the next year, and Rosie didn’t want Jimmy to have to work as hard as he had. Rosie’s schedule was like that of a lot of people working their way through school. He would get up at 6 a.m. and work at a restaurant, then go to class, then practice (in the baseball season) from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., go to work at the post office until midnight, go home and study for two hours. Then he’d get three hours’ sleep and get up to start all over again.

He decided to buy $10,000 of term insurance that would convert to permanent insurance the next year when he was teaching, and the premium was $20.40 a quarter. But he only had $6 until payday. He roomed with a guy who was a client of mine and was a football player. And I said, “Let’s go wake Jerry up, and you can borrow the money from him.” “OK,” he said, “but have you ever tried to wake him up?”

Well, Jerry was about six foot six and weighed about 270 pounds. We turned the light on in the dorm room. I shook him. He woke up and looked at me and said. “What the (blank) are you doing here?” I said, “Would you lend Rosie $21?” He said, “What for?” And I said, “So he can buy some life insurance.”

Jerry looked at me with fire in his eyes, and he said, “Get my pants and get the (blank) money and get out of here.”

Monday at two in the morning, I got a call and I stumbled to the telephone. It was Jerry. And the first thing he said was, “Is Rosie’s life insurance in force?”

And I said, “Well, yes.” Because I could take it non-medically and take a deposit on it and bind it as long as he was healthy, and he certainly was healthy. And I said, “What are you talking about?”

He said, “Well, we had a fraternity picnic, and Rosie, even though he was a great athlete and swimmer, he drowned.” And he said they were still dragging the lake for his body.

I went down to the fraternity house, and Rosie’s father and his little brother, Jimmy, and his uncle were there. Five thousand dollars went to take care of the hospital bills; people, three will have an interest and you the other $5,000 went in a trust fund for Jimmy.

Later I moved to Minneapolis and took over an agency there. One day, several years later, my receptionist tells me “There is a Mr. Rose out here.” And I went out there, and there was Jimmy, who was the spitting image of his brother.  He said, “I’m going up north to a fishing camp to make some money, and my mom said if I didn’t stop and see you, she would kill me.”

And I said, well, if they didn’t, I would.  So he stayed over the weekend, and we just had a wonderful time. We took him down to the bus, and as he started to get on the bus, he turned to me and he said, You know, Mr. Stewart, I don’t think you have any idea what that $10,000 meant to mom and dad and to me.” He was rather shy, and he said, “You and I both know I will never be a salesman, but I will do something in the insurance industry to make up for it.”

He got his master’s and his doctorate in finance and economics and ended up teaching, and one of his main courses was life insurance. He retired several years ago. But he would have me out every couple of years to do seminars on the business, leadership and so on, and he would always tell that story.

INN: That’s a great story. When you are teaching, what do students want to know most about? Or what do you think they need to know most?

STEWART: When I am teaching people in our industry, the majority of those people already believe in doing good financial plans, serving their clients, and making sure they have disability and life insurance income, etc. The thing that is most important is for them to be better organized and to understand the activity level that they need to have in order to be able to build their busi-If the agent is not passionate about nesses. Al Granum, who had the one-card system and has been a what is in the best interest of the friend for 50 years, had the top client and the value of the life agency for Northwestern Mutual insurance, the client isn’t going to for about 20 years in Chicago.

Al’s figures show that there was a formula of 10, three and one, which means you call on 10 people, three will have interest and you will do plans for them and show them the options, and one will buy.  Many of the others will buy in the future, but for now it’s 10, three and one.

It was that way 50 years ago, and it’s that way today. If you try to call on 10 people and get five sales, you are making a mistake in most cases because you are pressuring some people to buy, and that doesn’t work. Those numbers are going to be about the same today as they were 50 years ago.

The second thing is for them to realize that in order to get clients to take action, they have to have the passion. It’s not just an intellectual exercise. Intellectually, we sit down with the client and find out what their needs are and their plans are, and show them the options. But this is an emotional purchase to a great deal. And if the agent is not passionate about what is in the best interest of the client and the value of the life insurance and the financial planning, the client isn’t going to get passionate about it. Being able to transfer that passion from the agent to the client is vitally important.

INN: How do you connect with a client’s passion?

STEWART: When I came into the business in December 1952, Maury Colson was one of the finest people I knew, and he was one of the most successful. He was in Wichita. And he taught me this. He would sit down with clients or prospects and ask them to share where they’ve been, where they are today, and where they want to be from a business and a family standpoint. He would also ask about any charity or any other areas that interested them. He would say he would give them 15 minutes and then he would shut up. And two hours later, he was still there and the client was going on and on and on.

INN: So they were telling you about their passion.

STEWART: Yes, they are telling you their life story. To advise people, it is so important to know where they have been, where they have come from, what they have been through, what they believe in and what they don’t believe in. How much they love their family. Do they really care about charity, and if they own a business, where do they want that business to go and how important are the employees?

I can’t advise people on what they should do until they repeat to themselves where they’ve been, where they are and where they are going. And in many cases, I have people stop and say, “What should I do about that? How do I plan for that?” We put together the plan so that it fits what they had indicated, and then we come back with the options. But the important thing is, they have to talk themselves into it if they’re going to do it and do it right and plan for a long-term future.

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