Making sales appointments, selling life insurance and pensions, handling rejection and character building or destructive activities.

I never went on an appointment where the client didn't know I was coming to discuss and had every intention of selling them a life insurance policy if the need was there. Maurice considered he had an appointment if the potential client had a teapot. I preferred to knock on doors and work off recommendations, Maurice liked the telephone and never got recommendations. However, there were many different approaches to making appointments in order to sell life insurance utilised by numerous characters in our office.

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Peter Midgley was an ex-engineer in his fifties; well educated, well spoken and had come from old money. Polite and softly spoken, he viewed Mike and my office antics and pranks with disdain; was a member of his local church, local conservative club whose political leanings were slightly right of Adolph Hitler. He targeted successful business people where he felt most comfortable.

He would appear in the office two or three times a month to process his large sales and make a few calls to set up his next line of appointments and always used the same script; never waivering or differing it in any way. Mike developed a clever script that mimicked Peter extremely well and was holding court by entertaining a few of us with his rendition of the Midgley sales approach when Peter came in.

"Hello, my name is Peter Midgley, like you I am a professional. I came into the insurance industry some years ago when the family engineering business didn't go as well as I had hoped. Since that time I have specialised in helping businesses like yourselves make use of the tax advantages and reliefs that are currently available to limited companies. I am 58 years of age, live in Storrington, am an active member of my church and the local conservative club."

This was pretty close to what Peter said every time but instead of then asking for the appointment, Mike had embellished his script somewhat.

"I despise the working classes, believe all football hooligans should be flogged, homosexuals should be hung, anyone voting Labour deported and the unemployed castrated to stop them breeding. I also believe that Hitler got it right and we should encourage him to come out of hiding but no more mister nice guy this time. Now when can I come and see you Vicar?"

Mike, using a phone as his prop and with his back to the door was unaware that his audience had slowly melted away. He looked up, having finished his rendition to see Midgley standing over him and looking with contempt over his horn rimmed spectacles.

"If you had any intelligence at all, you would know that Hitler is dead." He said and sat down at his desk. "I heard he was running the underwriting department." Said Mike who was never lost for words.


Most of the branch of sixty or so sales people were great guys who enjoyed a good laugh whilst a few were humourless miserable bastards. Everyone and anyone including and especially the managers bore the brunt of practical jokes and verbal taunts; though nothing particularly spiteful. One moment someone would be taking the piss out of you and the next they would be advising you how to close a sale.

Mike and I took particular pride in the suits we bought and were walking past Burton's (somewhere we would never dream of shopping) when we spied some horrible suits in the window. We passed some mutual comments about being dead and unseen in such a suit and walked onto the office for an impending sales meeting.

It was lunch time and Chris Sprock was the only salesman in the office and was dressed casually. "Not coming to the sales meeting?" asked Mike. "What sales meeting? I just popped in to process this case." Said Chris.

Dress code and attendance at monthly sales meetings were strictly adhered to and Mike and I had an uncanny way of being able to develop a practical joke without prior planning and on the hoof.

"There's a sales meeting at 2.30 and the MD is coming." Said Mike and I added. "You are going to be in deep shit if you turn up like that."

Chris lived some way away and with the best will in the world would never get home and changed and back again in time. The look of panic on his face was a picture but he knew better than to trust us. So he walked over to the notice board where it confirmed that there was indeed a sales meeting that day.

"They've got some nice new suits in Burton's" said Mike. "Cheap too; only thirty quid." I chipped in. "See you at the meeting." And we walked out.

An hour later, Chris walked into the sales meeting in a new pale blue, heavy wool Burton's suit. "New suit?" I asked loud enough for several sales men to turn round and admire Chris's new apparel. "Like it?" he asked, smiling and turning on his heel. "No - did your Mum knit it?" At which point his face dropped because he knew he had been caught.

It turned out to be a worse buy than we had imagined because the first time he got caught in the rain it lost all shape and shrunk so that the trousers looked like they had had an argument with his ankles.

Sales meetings were put on for the benefit of the sales managers who never provided anything useful to us sales people. The idea was to award the top sales people; (I think Mike and I won salesman of the month once) and try and motivate the also rans into further effort.

They normally dissolved into disorganised chaos with Mike and I usually responsible for disrupting the whole proceedings despite numerous warnings both prior, during and after the meeting. Years later, salesmen who hardly ever exchanged words with us remarked that they only attended the sales meetings because of Mike and myself because it was such great entertainment.

The managers just laid themselves wide open to ridicule at every turn. Sales meetings always started with mentions of absentees and as explained, salesman were recruited from all walks of life including the entertainment industry who were resting between gigs. Our manager was taking one particular sales meeting. "Absentees today, Maurice Prince has been delayed on an appointment, Chris Sprock can't attend because his suit shrunk, Richard Collingwood is away performing in Pantomime.."

"On no he isn't" piped up Mike. "Oh yes he is!" shouted the rest of the audience and the meeting went down hill from there.

Laughter got most of us through the tough times, we laughed in the office, we laughed at and with each other, at sales meetings and on sales appointments.

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