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Practical Application of Psychological

Principles to tne Processes of

Selling Life Insurance


Associate Manager of the Home Office Agency


FORM 890







The Psychology of a


If, in the following pages, I diverge from
the beaten track, it shall be with as much
care to keep on practical ground as the
traveler exercises to maintain his bearings
when he strikes into a by-way. You may
safely accompany me with the assurance
that we shall never lose sight of our main
object, that of increasing our efficiency in
selling Life Insurance.

Salesmanship is the most important func-
tion in business. Every man in active life has
something to sell, goods, services, knowl-
edge and the rest. Among all the commod-
ities and utilities offered for sale none is
of such universal need nor of such wide
beneficence as Life Insurance.

The Life Insurance salesman should be
the most efficient of all. But he is not.
We have been content to adopt the more
or less crude methods of our predecessors.
We have imagined that their practices could
not be improved upon, whereas, we might
learn valuable lessons from the street corner
fakir and itinerant peddler.

T'-he bli^in^ss -qf personal salesmanship
is passing through" an acute stage of evolu-
tion. The public and the employer corpor-
ations are demanding efficiency. Life
insurance fieldmen must conform to this
movement, or drop back to the tail of the

There is a right and a wrong way of doing
everything, and the right way is usually
the easier. The requirement of today is
for scientific methods. This involves the
pains of qualification upon the part of the
salesman, but it entails more than commen-
surate advantages to him.

In the effort to find the best way, new
means have been resorted to, with the con-
sequence that the latter-day education in
efficiency carries the student into unaccus-
tomed fields. The scientific application of
psychology to salesmanship is a case in
point. This departure, far as it is from
the former methods, has been sufficiently
tested to prove its soundness and practic-
ability. Indeed, the innovation, though
essential, consists of no more than the intel-
ligent application of principles which have
always been used by salesmen in a hap-
hazard and unscientific manner.

The design of this little book is to expose
the principles of psychology in their rela-
tion to the sale of a life insurance policy
and to indicate their utility as a means of
increasing the general efficiency of the
salesman. I have exercised the utmost care
to keep within practical lines. If at any

point the advice given is not apparently
sound to you, believe me that its value has
been thoroughly proven and that a faithful
trial of it will repay you.

The educational effect of this manual will
be inadequate unless it induces the reader to
make a deeper study of the subject. The
treatment has been suggestive, rather than
exhaustive or precise. You will find in the
following papers statements and hints which
it is hoped will act as sign-posts to guide
you into paths of investigation and prac-
tice. I have taken it for granted that you
are possessed of brains, and have done little
more than to furnish you food for reflection.

F. L.

Los Angeles, May 1, 1914.



These excursions below the superficial
aspect of our work will be entirely free from
abstract philosophy and speculative theo-
ries. We shall not roam into the field of
far-reaching fancy but 'keep rigidly to the
paths of practical, common-sense fact.

Salesmanship is essentially a psychological
process. This is peculiarly true of life in-
surance salesmanship. The thing we offer
is intangible and imperceptible. Our task
is very different from that of selling an
automobile or a cash register. We can not
enlist the aid of material senses but must
depend entirely upon sentiment and imag-

The salesman may not realize it, but he
is using psychological principles at every
step of his canvass. They are the outcome
of his experience and intuition. In all prob-
ability he has no definite conception of them
and consequently does not utilize them to
the best advantage.

You will find the most ignorant farmer
practicing certain methods which experi-
ence has taught him to be effective. He is
unconsciously employing the principles of
scientific agriculture. If he understood
those principles he would apply them more

efficiently and with far better results. So
with us. A knowledge of the psychology of
salesmanship will enable us to turn to bet-
ter account the factors which we are already
engaging in our business.

The process of making a sale is almost
entirely a mental one. The result is depen-
dent upon the mental attitude and expres-
sion of the seller and the mental attitude
and impression of the buyer. It is the out-?
come of the contact of two minds.

Now, if I want to sell something to Mr.
Bogue, I adopt certain mental tactics regu-
lated by my knowledge of his condition,
character, temperament and traits. I know
Mr. Bogue and I ought to be able to can-
vass him in the most effective manner.

But what about a stranger? I will endea-
vor by learning what I can regarding him
to secure in some degree a similar advan-
tage, but I must rely in the main on gen-
eral principles of psychology. Allowing
for idiosyncrasies, every mind is controlled
to a great extent by predilections and influ-
ences that are impersonal and common to
civilized mankind. The action of our minds
is much more automatic than we realize, and
is largely prompted by physical conditions,
instincts and habits that are quite indepen-
dent of reasoning or moral motives.

We play upon these mental tendencies of
others in our work. What we need is a
clearer knowledge of them and a more
deliberate application of the knowledge.

"But," you say, "there is nothing new
about this. It is merely human nature."

Just so. Psychology is the inner science
of human nature. Don't associate it with
metaphysics, psychism, or anything else
that is mysterious. Psychology is as prac-
tical as physiology or anatomy. You are in
the habit of judging a man's physique from
superficial observation of the body. Why
not form a similar habit of gauging minds
by a study of mental manifestations? The
latter practice will be of infinitely greater
profit to you. It will enable you to make
the most of your resources, to avoid mis-
takes, to take the most direct route to your
object. It will make you a better salesman
and greatly increase the returns from your

Now, what am I doing at this moment?
I want to interest you in the study of psy-
chology. I might have expatiated on its
advantages in mental training and develop-
ment. I might have dwelt upon its special
value to the lawyer or physician. I might
have advanced a score of reasons for my
advice that you should direct your attention
to psychology, with the result of stimulating
some of you by one, other/s by another
of my reasons. As a matter of fact I have
confined myself to one motive the love of
gain, which is universal and which I could
confidently expect to appeal to you all.
There you have a practical illustration of
a psychological principle, or, in other words,
a common sense action based on a knowl-
edge of human nature.

As I have said, from the moment a sales-
man enters the presence of a prospective pur-

chaser until he leaves him, mental processes
are influencing the negotiation. A knowl-
edge of the psychology of salesmanship will
facilitate the creation of a good First Im-
pression, of Interest in the Proposition, De-
sire for the Thing offered and Resolve to
Purchase it.


We have said that a sale is a psycholog-
ical process. The underlying operation con-
sists of a contact of two minds, a mingling
of their interests and a meeting of their
motives. You approach your prospect and
bring his mind into touch with yours on
the subject of life insurance. Now your
task is to produce a mixing of his thoughts
with yours not a mere compound, as the
chemists would say in the case of oil and
water but a true blend as with water and
wine. Finally, you must focus his thought,
crystallized into Desire and Resolve, upon
the act of purchase.

A simple metaphor will make this idea
clearer. The phases of a sale may be lik-
ened to two streams coming together from
different directions, commingling at the con-
fluence, flowing on through one bed, and
ultimately emptying into a lake.

The most constant and pervasive influ-
ences in our daily life are what psycholo-
gists call dispositions and associated ideas.
They color our emotions, affect our senti-
ments, modify our actions and permeate
our thoughts. Only an absolutely new ex-
perience or sensation, if such a thing were
possible to an adult, could be free from the


effect of an acquired disposition and, even
so, might be influenced by an inherited one.

Every experience must create a more or
less strong disposition toward or against
its repetition. When you first brought your
hand into contact with fire, you burnt it.
At the same time you acquired a disposi-
tion to avoid contact with fire and ever
since, fire has been associated in your mind
with danger and pain.

Both these processes are sometimes quite
complex and subtle. While there are varia-
tions and marked exceptions, the vast
majority of dispositions and associated
ideas are universal. For practical purposes
these are the only kind that we can take into
account, though, of course, we would not
neglect to take advantage of the knowledge
of an idiosyncrasy in dealing with an indi-

Before I begin to speak to the agents at
our Monday morning meetings, why do
they assume an attitude of receptive atten-
tion? Because they have had the experi-
ence of being interested on past occasions.
But there is no process of reasoning in-
volved in the matter. At previous times
we have assembled at 8:45 and enjoyed
interesting discussions. Again we come
together. The hands of the clock point to
8 :45. I step to my place. The physical con-
ditions are repeated and involuntarily the
associated idea of interest springs out of a

A yellow rag hanging from a window pro-
duces a disagreeable effect upon you. Why?


Because it is associated with yellow fever,
quarantine, bile and other objectionable
matters. The yellow cloth may arouse the
sensation without a definite impression of
any of these things being created.

The association of ideas may be entirely
independent of deliberate reasoning or voli-
tional thought. Bear that in mind. If you
would test this, clap your hands behind the
back of a three-months old baby. It will
smile instantly and display evidence of
pleasurable anticipation. Why? Because
in its experience persons who clap their
hands make funny faces at it and talk to it
in goo-goo language.

Now try your experiment on a different
subject. Clap your hands suddenly in the
street car and watch the pained expression
come into the face of the sleepy little cash
girl. In her case the associated idea con-
jured up by the sound is an unpleasant one.

In the association of ideas you have the
key to successful salesmanship. You will
find suggestion more effective than direct

I want to impress upon you the fact that
whether you will or not, predisposition and
the association of ideas must be constantly
operating in your canvass of a life insurance
policy. If you take no account of them,
they will be working against you, as often
as in your favor. You must play upon this
force, control it, direct it so that it shall
serve your purpose. Regard for the effects
of associated ideas will regulate your actions
and your speech, and that to the extent


of what you may consider insignificant
trifles. It will influence your presentation
of a proposition, your arguments and your
statements. The practice of regarding the
association of ideas will necessarily create
the habit of keeping on the prospect's side
of the fence throughout the course of a
canvass. It will confirm you in the chess
player's strategy of prefacing every move
by an inspection of its effect upon the op-
ponent's position and a calculation of his
logical counteraction.

Otherwise inconsequential actions may,
through the association of ideas, work
serious injury to you in your business.
We shall consider this subject in its
direct bearing on the various phases of a
sale. At the present time we must be con-
tent with a few illustrations of the general
application of this principle.

The principle under consideration is con-
stantly violated or ignored in our speech.
We commonly excite an adverse train of
thought by speaking of "lapse'' when we
might resort to a favorable suggestion by
referring to the same condition as "selling
the policy to the company." If instead of
talking of "paying premiums," we should
use the term "making deposits" we would
arouse the associated idea of saving. In
scores of other instances we either use
words disadvantageously or neglect to em-
ploy those which would serve our object.
I recommend, as a thoroughly practical
measure, that you make from Roget's The-
saurus, or some other dictionary of syno-


nyms and antonyms, collections of words
expressing the ideas that enter prominently
into our work, protection, profit, thrift, se-
curity, and so forth, as well as their con-
traries. Learn to incorporate one set in
your canvasses and to avoid the use of the

Now let us see how the principle of asso-
ciatd ideas may influence your presentation
of a policy and your arguments in favor
of it.

You are canvassing a school tacher and
offer the Monthly Income Endowment,
dwelling on the certainty of periodical
checks. Your proposition immediately cre-
ates the pleasant suggestion of the contin-
uance of his salary. And don't overlook the
fact that your prospect will imagine that
he originated the idea and as a consequence
it will be much more effective than if you
had presented it. You are in the strategic
situation of the chess-player who prompts
his adversary to make the very move he
most desires that he should.

Or, in the case of the business man, the
mere mention of the word "collateral" will
give birth to comfortable thought of easy
loans and a reserve resource in time of
necessity. You will not need to do more
than introduce the expression briefly. Let
the everlasting action of the association of
ideas do the rest.

Don't treat your prospect as a mental
incompetent. Don't try to do his thinking
for him. Suggest and let him do the rest.
The trouble with most of us is that, like


the parrot which came to an untimely end,
we "talk a damn sight too much." The
masterful salesman induces the purchaser to
sell himself. The most eloquent passages
in his canvass are the pauses of silence.

Let me repeat, in the universal mental
tendency which we term the association of
ideas you have a tremendous force at your
command. You may play upon it as on the
keys of a piano, producing discord or har-
mony, harshness or melody. Play upon it
you must, consciously or unconsciously, one
way or the other. If you can not avoid its
effect upon your effort it would seem to be
the part of wisdom to turn that effect to
your advantage.



Let us have a clear understanding of the
task before us. We have to bring our
prospect's mind into touch with our own,
the point of contact being the subject of
Life Insurance. Next we have to induce
him to mingle his thoughts with ours, so
as to create a common Interest and in this
condition to carry him along with us to-
ward our objective. Finally, we have to
transform his Interest into Desire and the
Resolve to purchase.

A sale then is a process of mental evolu-
tion. It has three manifest stages : the Ap-
proach; the Canvass; the Close. The last is
a climax of the foregoing. The final result is
the effect of efficiency all along the line.

It is important to observe these distinct
phases of the sale, and to confine your effort
during each to the appropriate purpose. In
the Approach your object is to secure a
hearing for your proposition. Concentrate on
that object. Having accomplished it, devote
your entire faculties to the creation of De-
sire. Restrict yourself to that object.

You can make no greater mistake than
to introduce the tactics of one stage into the
conduct of another. You will confuse your
prospect and dissipate your strength by in-


troducing your Canvass at the Approach or
attempting to Close before you have created
a favorable condition in your prospect's
mind. By doing so you place yourself in the
position of the impetuous chess player who
follows his opening gambit with a premature
attempt at mate. The adversary has an easy
defense and a pronounced advantage in the

Now, with a well-defined view of our ob-
ject and the manner in which we intend to
pursue it, let us proceed to a consideration
of the psychology of the Approach. The
prime necessity at this stage is to arouse in
your prospect's mind a feeling of receptive-
ness. And the chief factor in success is a
proper mental Attitude on your own part.

What is a proper Attitude in the Ap-
proach? In the main, it is the Attitude which
you should maintain throughout your work-
ing day. Its principal elements are Courage,
Confidence, Self-respect, Poise, Clarity of
Thought and Determination. These are to
a great extent inter-dependent and their
presence almost insures the co-relative qual-
ities of Geniality, Courtesy and Tact.

I have said that the proper Attitude in
the Approach is one which you should main-
tain constantly. The right time to assume
it is the moment you hit the floor in the
morning. Square your shoulders, draw a
few long breaths. Throw up your head with
a "Well, Old World, I'm going to take an-
other fall out of you today" feeling. Pre-
serve your equanimity on the street car


the most difficult thing 1 could ask you to do.
Enter the office with a cheery greeting. Go
out to your first prospect with your mind
well balanced, your faculties on edge and
your feelings in tune with your work.

Let your mental Attitude manifest itself
in your bearing and address. Look the part
you wish to act. Take advantage of the
law of reciprocal action and reaction between
mind and body. It is one of the greatest
agencies at your command and one of the
most easy to put into operation. You can-
not look jolly without feeling cheerful. You
cannot feel depressed without looking glum.
Try a simple experiment in this direction.
Stand with your mind as nearly blank as
possible. Turn your eyes upward. Within
sixty seconds you find your thoughts ele-
vated. Now look upon the ground. Almost
immediately you feel a tendency to reverie.
Now look sideways. Thoughts of distrust
and suspicion intrude upon the mind. In
these little tests you are employing the
smallest set of muscles in the body. You
may secure much more marked results by
the employment of the larger muscles in
more extended action.

Don't wait until you are confronted by
your task to get into the right Attitude.
You can't do it. The engineer doesn't defer
getting up steam until he is on the track. He
does that in the roundhouse, and when he is
coupled to his train he is ready to pull out
at full speed.


Now, a few brief remarks on the chief
elements of the proper Attitude.

Fear or timidity is the least excusable of
our failings. You are a business man meet-
ing another business man. In nine cases out
of every ten your calling is a far nobler one
than his. If you are doing your work hon-
estly you are at least his equal. If you are
doing it efficiently you are probably his su-
perior. To cap all, your errand is to do him
an inestimable service. Keep these facts
prominently before your mind's eye. Get the
right Attitude.

Timidity has a distinctly detrimental ef-
fect upon your work. It is instinctively as-
sociated in our minds with shame and weak-
ness. The man who approaches us with em-
barrassment makes a disagreeable impres-
sion upon us. Why? Because experience
has taught us that the man who addresses
us in a shrinking manner is going to borrow
money or say something which will be un-
pleasant to hear.

Before you have got so far as to state your
business, you have often created an adverse
impression by an air of hesitancy and apol-
ogy. If you are afflicted with this failing you
must overcome it.

Confidence is begotten of honest intention,
consciousness of ability and conviction of
the worth of the thing we have to sell. It is
a great force in the Approach. The confident
man is the personification of power. In-
stinctively we begin to let down the barriers
at his approach. It is as though a pigmy


should see a giant coming along with a large
placard upon his breast inscribed: "I am
going to do something." The little fellow
would say, "I don't know what it is, but I
have no doubt you will do it if you want to."

This is the chief asset of the Rufus P.
Wallingfords. It opens doors and emp-
ties purses for them. They take advantage
of the principle of associated ideas and the
fact that frank speech and an open manner
are naturally suggestive of honesty. If these
indications were tested by reason they would
not be accepted so readily. We know that a
hardened crook may have an eye as steady
as the pole star whilst a perfectly honest
man may have a shifty look.

Acquire Confidence by forming a solid
substructure of efficiency for it to rest upon.

Of Self-respect I need say little . It de-
pends upon inherent characteristics and ac-
quired qualities. You cannot play a manly
part without it. Foster it by every means
in your power. Cherish it s your most
valuable possession. Jealously guarcLagainst
the least impairment of it. Bear in mind that
this is entirely under your control. No one
but yourself can injure your Self-respect.
Another can arouse in you any emotion but
one. He can not make you feel mean. That
feeling must emanate from some fault of
your own.

Poise is one of the most impressive char-
acteristics. The man who laughs unre-
strainedly, talks excitedly or slops over
sentimentally exhibits weakness. On the


other hand, the man who seldom allows full
play to his emotions and feelings suggests
reserve force.

Keep yourself constantly in check. Only
in this way may you exert your mental fac-
ulties to the best advantage. When the hab-
itually poised man opens the sluice gates of
his soul on justifiable occasion the flood of
force is immeasurably greater than if he had
them half open all the time.

Clarity of Thought, which is, of course,
the mother of clarity of speech, is constantly
possible only to a well-poised mind. There
is no more effective agency at the command
of the salesman than the clear expression of
a well-defined thought. Its most essential
element is a thorough understanding of the
subject. I can make a statement pertaining
to life insurance more clearly than the great-
est orator or the brainiest man alive, if he
should be ignorant of the subject. And be-
cause my statement, though couched in
homely language, would penetrate your un-
derstanding farther than his, though con-
veyed with striking eloquence, I would con-
vince you before he would.

Spend no time in practicing rhetoric or
elocution. Learn to think logically and hon-
estly. Spare no pains in acquiring a thorough
comprehension of your subject. And you
may depend upon it that your presentation
will be clear and forceful. That is true elo-
quence, regardless of the verbiage.

Determination is the quality of being earn-
est and decided ; the resolve to accomplish
a purpose. If you approach a prospect with


an earnest Attitude and a decided resolve to
secure a hearing, believe me, you will suc-
ceed in almost every case.

Obstruction melts away before a Deter-
mined Attitude. A thing willed is a thing
more than half done.

Now let us take these qualities this
woof and weft and pass them through the
loom. What is the resultant fabric? Per-

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Online LibraryCharles Harcourt Ainslie Forbes-LindsayThe psychology of a sale; practical application of psychological principles to the processes of selling life insurance → online text (page 1 of 4)