Life insurance, the demise of the life insurance industry and the death throws of the door to door salesmen that ensured we were all insured.

Twenty years ago, life insurance companies were numbered in their hundreds and provided employment opportunities to hundreds of thousands of life insurance salesmen on an employed or self-employed basis. The knock on the door, just as you were sitting down to your evening meal was often a salesman selling pensions and life assurance and the unexpected telephone call during East Enders was frequently a cold call from an insurance company.

At one point, life assurance sales people were so thick on the ground bizarre events could take place. I cut my teeth selling life insurance and was out one cold night knocking on doors and whilst talking to a prospect was interrupted by him having to take a telephone call. The telephone was situated by his front door in the hall and he listened intently for about a minute and then handed the phone to me saying "it's for you?" Bemused, because there was no way anyone could possibly know where I was, I took the phone only to discover that it was a colleague back at my office cold calling the same area by telephone.

On another occasion whilst in the office Mike, my partner was scouring the local paper for potential clients to call when he spotted an advert for an escort agency. Always up for a laugh he suggested we order a girl for the branch manager. So I picked up the phone and using the branch managers name called them asking for a girl to come to the office later that evening. About an hour later one of the new salesmen came into the sales office and looked around with a quizzical look on his face before coming over to sit with Mike and myself.

"You'll never guess what just happened to me." He said. "I have just been on my first appointment with a friend who runs an escort agency and Graham Sandhurst phoned up and ordered a girl." The odds on that happening were not that long because there were so many of us.


On another occasion, I was knocking on doors during Wimbledon Week and got invited in by a very nice young lady to watch the Connors McEnroe final. We were getting on famously and I was sitting there; lunch on my lap and can of lager in hand when there was a knock on the door. She got up to see who was interrupting our viewing pleasure and I heard another colleague going through his sales pitch. Realising he was from the same company she called into the lounge "Darling, it's someone selling life insurance!" "Tell him to sod off!" I called back.

There was a moments silence then a voice said. "Hang on a minute, I recognise that voice and he popped his head round the door. He got lunch and drinks too and the young lady in question remained a client for many years.

Selling life insurance was a tough business in which very few survived. In fact I saw it destroy many people who were enticed in with the promise of high income potential. I for one can say they were some of the happiest days of my life. Sure it was tough, but I was young and carefree and the grounding it gave me set me up for the rest of my life. I can honestly say that I miss those days in many ways.

Lifelong friendships were forged and I remain in close contact with many of my brothers in arms more than a decade later despite the fact that the life insurance industry has all but been destroyed.

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