This is a story about one of my early ventures in the world of commerce. I got a great reputation but never took advantage of it.
I had come back from a year in Israel ready to go to graduate school at U.C. Berkeley in economics in 1960. My plan was to focus on Wesley Mitchell’s ideas of business cycles. I arrived at Berkeley before the summer so I could take a two part course in statistics. I was married and needed to work.
I thought selling life insurance might be a good job for me. I believed I could do it while in grad school.
I got a few weeks training from the Indiana life insurance (American United) firm in Oakland that took me on. My solicitation was based on sending out post cards to new parents based on birth records.
I got a few responses to my post cards and was able to practice sales techniques on all of them. One response was from a couple with both parents who were deaf. The baby wasn’t deaf and I was fascinated to see that when he cried (he was about 6 months old) he made no noise but he pounded his hands on the floor and puffed up his lungs vigorously.
I took the sale back to my manager who told me it might be difficult to get the home office to cover life insurance for a deaf couple. I was then, just who I am now, and told my manager not to worry, I would check with a lawyer to make sure the company couldn’t refuse to insure a deaf couple and certainly couldn’t charge a higher premium.
I also got a reputation in the insurance sales industry as the guy who could only sell policies to the ‘deaf, dumb and blind.’
The marketing lessons here are pretty obvious. It turned out that grad school was easy for me and I could easily have done sales, but the agency said "no" to a grad student being a part time salesman.