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Attitude Is Everything

It may not be what you say, but how you say it.

By Penny Righthand, CLU, ChFC

Okay, I admit it. I get a bit of an attitude when people call into my office and ask if I can get them cheap term insurance. I want to explain to them that all term insurance policies are not created equal, and to some degree, you get what you pay for. And I want to know if the one they’re looking at online has waiver-of-premium and whether the company’s rating is on the radar screen. And I can feel my annoyance barometer going up when they challenge me about how I only want to sell them permanent insurance so I can make a big commission.

Because even though what I’m saying may be correct, attitude is everything. And it can be costly.

I want them to know that the cheaper the term, the greater the likelihood that the term insurance (and maybe the life insurance company they are buying from…Slippery Rock Life…) won’t be around to pay their survivors anything when they die.

But they don’t care about the death benefit. They only care about the premium. They’d rather pay a little for nothing than pay more for something. I try to keep my attitude out of my conversation because I know the more I can listen to what they think they want, the more likely I am to be able to sell them what they really need.

I also know I frequently fail. My attitude sometimes has a mind of its own. Thank goodness I don’t get those calls too often! Because even though what I’m saying may be correct, attitude is everything. And it can be costly. I got a lesson in attitudes from a sales person just the other day.

I called Pacific Bell because I needed an additional phone line in my condo. One of their reps answered.

“Pacific Bell,” she crooned sweetly. “How can we provide you with excellent service today?”

Immediately I felt my guard go up, ever so slightly. I felt I needed to respond. Like I was being challenged somehow, and slightly skeptical that they could, in fact, provide me with excellent service. It was such an arrogant thing to say.

“Well, I don’t exactly know,” I said cautiously. “I’ll tell you what I am trying to accomplish and then you can tell me how you can provide me with excellent service today.”

As soon as I said that, I knew I shouldn’t have. After all, it was just her script. Still, it pushed my buttons. Now I had pushed hers. I should have gotten off the phone right then.

I am one consumer who is confused about my telecommunications needs. Frankly, I liked being able to call the phone company and hearing them tell me “You can do that!” or even “You can’t do that!”

I used to have one telephone. That was my telecommunication system. Now I have a home phone, a cell phone, an office phone, a computer line, a Palm Pilot and probably something else I’ve forgotten. And each one requires all kinds of decisions on my part.

So anyway, this unfortunate soul on the other end of my line had to deal with me, and today I wanted an additional phone line.

“Are you going to use it for a computer?” she wanted to know. “If you are, then you should get DSL. It’s only $40 a month and will be much faster.”

As far as I was concerned, she hadn’t done enough fact finding to make a recommendation. “But I don’t want DSL,” I countered. “I just want a phone line that is already in my condo made live. Can you do that?”

“I can order a new number for you if that’s what you want,” she said, obviously disappointed, “but it won’t be till next Thursday. That will cost $32. And I can’t guarantee the line will work.”

“You mean you can’t turn on a number till next week, and then it might not work? I don’t understand!” I whined. “Why is this request so difficult?”

I was completely frustrated. “Is there another phone company that can do this for me?” I asked, not really directing my query at her.

“I don’t know. You’ll have to look it up in the Yellow Pages under telecommunications.” And she hung up on me. Not that I blame her! But so much for how she could offer me excellent service!

A few minutes later, after I reclaimed my cool, I redialed the same phone company. Don’t ask me why. I didn’t want to look it up in the Yellow Pages and have to make a decision about which company to call. And besides, I have “redial” on my phone.

This time someone else answered the phone. “Pacific Bell,” she said, matter-of-factly, “how can I help you?” That didn’t push my buttons. I told her what I wanted. She told me she could have it turned on today. And did it matter what the phone number was? she wanted to know. It didn’t.

I told her about my previous conversation with another representative and how frustrating it had been. She apologized for my unpleasant experience. “But,” she added, “DSL is really a terrific addition. It might be worth trying with your computer.”

So I did. And she was right! But so was the first young woman I had talked to. Attitude really is everything.

Penny Righthand, CLU, ChFC, represents New York Life in the San Francisco Bay area. She is a 12-year qualifier of the Million Dollar Round Table. Her address is 70 Washington St., Suite 200, Oakland, CA 94607. She can be reached by email at


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