The Story of the Success of Four Girls Who Have Made Good in Insurance, and Found a Congenial Business in Trailing Difficult Prospects

DOROTHY G. BELL August 15 1923


The Story of the Success of Four Girls Who Have Made Good in Insurance, and Found a Congenial Business in Trailing Difficult Prospects

DOROTHY G. BELL August 15 1923



The Story of the Success of Four Girls Who Have Made Good in Insurance, and Found a Congenial Business in Trailing Difficult Prospects


FLORA STEWART is much like the bank in which she worked during the war—her judgment sound, her perception keen, her advice good. When she suddenly left a good position there and went into the insurance business, about which she knew nothing, everyone thought she had taken temporary leave of her senses. When she suggested to me one day that I would make a good insurance saleswoman I, too', began to fear for her mental equilibrium.

After a strenuous protest on my part

regarding my selling abilities, Miss Stewart, further to convince me, asked me to meet some of the girls who are doing things in insurance. I accepted her invitation and since meeting them I believe, just as Flora Stewart does, that any girl with intelligence, a love for work, a knowledge of business procedure, and enthusiasm, energy and interest, should be able to make good in the insurance field. I learned, too, that insurance as a field in Canada for women is in its early infancy and that as it grows it will be lined with golden opportunities for those who make the effort to seize them.

From one end of Canada to the other, “higher-ups” in the insurance business are expressing their faith in these women who are selling to-day.

These women, imbued with the pioneer spirit, all have stories to tell: stories of intense interest, fine courage, and grim determination: stories that should inspire other women to greater effort, regardless of what their business is.

To those who are ambitious to climb to the top of the business-world ladder, there are no more inspiring examples than the achievements of four Canadian girls who have made good in the insurance business. These are Miss Flora Stewart, Miss S. Caroline Ross, Miss Ethel T.

Pittillo, and Mrs. Evelyn Campbell. While the selling methods of these women are as different one from the other as though they were conducting contrasting businesses, yet they have all arrived at the ultimate end—success.

Says “Hunches” Help Her

MISS FLORA STEWART, perhaps one of the most successful saleswomen of the Dominion, attributes her success to “hunches.”

“Most of my sales are the results of intuition,” she declared. “I may have a list of prospects as long as my arm, but there is usually one name on it that stands out to me. I will feel, then, that I should visit that particular man or woman on that particular day. I believe that if I would stick more closely to my ‘hunches’ I would be more successful, for I have proved over and over again, the folly of disregarding a ‘hunch.’

“One day, a few months ago, the name of a young man who had recently been married seemed to rise from my list and invite a visit. I knew that I should lose no time in seeing him, but I had several other prospects who seemed to me at the time more important. In spite of the fact that this man’s name kept coming into my mind, together with the fact that I ought to have seen him, I doggedly kept on visiting some who apparently were more promising. A few days later when I called on my newly-married prospect, it was to find that he had taken out a large policy with another firm—the day after I had had my ‘hunch.’ Upon closer investigation I found that he had been unsolicited, so that there would have been no doubt about my writing him had I gone when the urge was on me.

“It was through a ‘hunch’ that I could sell, that I left a bank three years ago and entered the insurance field. My first manager asked me how I knew I could sell insurance. T don’t know how I know, but I know,’ I told him. He said that was the most necessary requirement. He took me on and my first sale was a ‘hunch.’ I had made up my mind that I would not begin by writing my friends, so I picked out a girl I did not know but who had been a teacher at Bishop Strachan’s School from which I had graduated. To the courtesy of that first client I feel that I owe a great deal of my success, such as it has been. I ‘sold’ her and before I left her, she had thanked me sincerely for calling and told me that I really had done her a great service.

“Because I felt most decidedly that she was doing me the service her remark impressed me and from that day I got the idea of service. Ever since my first and foremost idea in selling insurance has been just that—service to my clients. Perhaps that is why I prefer ‘selling’ small prospects. I would rather sell a first $5,000 policy, than I would sell an extra $10,000 policy to someone who already held a large one, because the $5,000 will be of more benefit to the poor man and his family than will the extra $10,000 to the wealthy man.

“Perhaps, too, it is the treatment I received from that first prospect that made me prefer to ‘sell’ women. I really can’t tell why I do. Perhaps it is just the sympathetic basis upon which we meet,

and the fact that I am just naturally more at home with them than I am with men. For a long time I could not be persuaded to try to sell men. My courage just failed me there. If it were not for the fact that a co-worker, who was leaving the firm, extracted a solemn promise from me that

I would concentrate my sales efforts more upon men than upon women in the future, probably I would still be keeping strictly to the latter. I find that the same amount of effort expended on a man will result in a

policy two or three times larger than that which the same amount of work would get from a woman.”

Miss Stewart does not admit the element of chance. She is unable to recall one instance of where it has helped her.

“I have had to work for every sale I ever made. I never leave anything to chance. I never even risk what is known to the insurance fraternity as a ‘cold canvass,’ which means to call on a man without knowing something about him. I have worked for all my clients: I feel that I have earned them: they are my friends. I am glad to say that I have never had a claim, and I hope that day is far distant.” Miss Stewart likes to sell her prospect upon the first visit, but declares that it is not always possible to do this. She has a great aversion to the “pest” st5rle of salesman, and declares that they enter into that class after the third visit.

“During my three years’ experience, I have been rudely dealt with only twice,” said Miss Stewart, “and both times it was because my prospects had been pestered.” Miss Stewart sets herself a quota of not less than $10,000 a month, and every month since she has entered the business she had made it, and is often well ahead of her quota. Her yearly average has always been between $150,000 and $200,000—an exceptionally high record even for a man, in Canada.

This energetic saleswoman has many qualities from a technical and professional point of view, but her chief asset is her smiling personality, which beams optimism from the time she enters a client’s office until she leaves it. He would just naturally think that it was the best thing to do to take insurance if she suggested it, because one immediately realizes that Miss Stewart, herself looks on the best side of things, and that she is getting the best out of life. Another secret of her success is that she is a good loser. Long trips with disappointment at the end of them, and long, often unprofitable hours never cause her to lose her smile. But, in spite of her “hunches,” in spite of her smile, her energy, enthusiasm, and optimism, the real secret of Miss Stewart’s success is hard work. She may be found working many evenings because she does not feel that she is entitled to use the working hours of a firm in which to interview an employee.

Miss Stewart is an advanced member of the Macauley Club, a club that members of the firms may join who have written $100,000 worth of insurance or more in a year. During her first year Miss Stewart was the only woman among 250 male members.

From Nursing to insurance

MISS S. CAROLINE ROSS wrote $100,000 worth of insurance in 1922, her first year in the businesss and became a member of her firm’s $100,000 Club. In addition to this remarkable accomplishment, she won a prize for the largest average premium. Miss Ross is a graduaté of an Ontario Hospital and had been engaged in active .nursing for several years.

“What made you leave the nursing profession for that of insurance?” she was asked. .

“I liked nursing, but after a while I just naturally began to wear out under the work of twenty-five hours a day and eight days a week.

“I wanted to make some money. I had no idea what I should do at the time I left the hospital, but it did not take me long to find my feet in insurance.”

“To what do you attribute your success?” I asked.

“To just one thing,” she replied with emphasis, “mental attitude. By that I do not mean a certain frame of mind into which I deliberately put myself for the express purpose of ‘selling’ a prospect, but rather living that mental attitude. To meet with success I find that my mind must keep me in an atmosphere of buoyancy and optimism all the time—not just when I am actually working. Then, there is the factor of determination. That counts for a great deal. Perhaps, I should not use the word determination. It is really a calmer thing than that. I simply decide to do things. But my decision to sell, for instance, does not mean that I rush out to meet a prospect with a set chin and clenched teeth, saying over and over, ‘I’m going to get you!’ ” and Miss Ross hitched up her sleeves doubled her strong, capable looking, well-cared for hands—a nurse’s hands—in mock vindictiveness. “That is not the idea at all. Rather, I decide that I shall call upon just as many people as possible all the time, and believe firmly that out of that number there will come enough good results. Those who know me, and work with me, claim that I ‘sell’ by this psychology, but I don’t. That is, I don’t apply it to my clients. But I do apply it to myself. I visualize everything and believe that everything will materialize just as I have visualized it. For instance, I

visualized my room before I got it. I knew just what I wanted—big windows, colors, fire-place, balcony. I visualized and

believed, and about a week ago I dropped into that very room, and now I am in the throes of moving. I believe in visualizing life and everything in it just that way.” “Does this mental attitude and visualization method ever require any recreation?” I prompted.

“Yes, indeed!” she exclaimed enthusiastically . “I am always popping into the movies when I have other things to do. I find that the great thing is never to become ‘fed up’, so when I begin to feel that way I simply drop things and play for a bit.” Miss Ross is a very intense person. She is an inspiration. When she-enters your office her enthusiasm and happy'outlook on life in general bucks you up and makes you ashamed of any little pessimisms that may have been floating about in the back of your head. One of her theories is that what is in the back of your head counts more than that which is in the front of it. Unlike many intense and energetic people, she does not take her vim and “pep” and enthusiasm away with her. She leaves it with you, in the form of something interesting to think about, and perhaps in the memory of a genuine smile and a heartiness that seems to have passed into you, and been clinched by the firm, hard grip of her hand.

Then she launched back into business again. “One of the biggest moments of my life—perhaps I should say thrilling moments— was one morning, shortly after I began to sell. I came to the office to find a letter on my desk, asking me to go to the office of the writer and discuss with him the question of taking out a $20,000 policy. Can you imagine my feelings when I tell you that I could not read that man’s signature? I had no idea who he was, or where to find him. I took the note to the manager. ‘Read it, please read it, and tell me who it is.’ I almost

begged of him. He studied it, twisted it, turned it upside down but he could not decipher it. Then—‘It is evident by his signature,’ he said, ‘that he is a very big man!’ Then his eye caught something at the very top of the tom off page. ' It was the bottom half of some word. He studied the slip again carefully and finally looked up to ask me if ‘Canada Life Building’ would mean anything to me. Mean anything! It meant a $20,000 policy, because with the mention of that building it. suddenly dawned upon me who this man was. He was indeed a big man and I wrote a big policy.”

And there have been other trying moments in Miss Ross’s selling life. One of them was when she found that after having spent a great deal of time, energy and work upon a prospect, and had, at last, persuaded him to take out a $10,000 policy, she found that he had a bad heart and could not be passed by the doctor. “He was very indignant, and, to say the least, I was disappointed,” she said. “But I did not give it up. I kept right on working and before very long we had improved that heart so that it passed the test.”

Miss Ross is as undeniably good for the heart as she is for the spirits.

In spite of Miss Ross’s exceptional success, in spite of the money she is making, and the enjoyment she is getting out of selling life insurance, she declares that it is to her only a profession within a profession, and that it is quite possible that she may give it up, in order to devote her life and her energy to the study and teaching of psychology. She has entered into this field of study as enthusiastically as she has entered into the insurance game, and during her spare time now is making public speeches and helping with

Miss Ethel T. Pittillo, recently elected president -of the Toronto Business and Professional Women’s Club, is another who is holding her own in the insurance game in one of the big Eastern cities. She refuses to attribute her success to anything else than the business itself. “It is so

big, so necessary and so vital hat one just can’t help but sell it upon every opportunity,” she declared.

The first thing that enters your mind when you meet Miss Pittillo, is her utter trustworthiness. You know, instinctively, from the first moment of acquaintance, that you would be glad to trust her with your last dollar if occasion arose, and that characteristic is undoubtedly her strongest point in selling. She believes thoroughly in what she is telling you, and she believes it because she has studied it and proved it, and before she has been talking long in her quiet, convincing manner, you begin to believe it’s truth. Miss Pittillo’s efforts seem to be to convince, never to insist. She surprises many of her feminine clients by agreeing with them heartily, when they tell her that it would be difficult for them to save enough money to buy insurance.

“That is my trouble,” she declared. “I am much too sympathetic. I understand, so well, how hard it is for a girl to save. I can see why they want to spend their, little bit on clothes, a good time, and other enjoyment of life.” But perhaps it is not as much a trouble as it is an asset— an asset that many others would give much to possess, because it wins friends for her wherever she goes. She sympathizes with these girls, makes them thoroughly familiar with the benefits of her proposition, plants the suggestion that a few cents a week might be managed, and then leaves them to work it out for themselves. “I find that most of them come to me to buy when they are ready,” she declared.

Miss Pittillo has been in the game for only three years. She was doing temporary stenographic work'in an insurance company when tha. insurance business was thrust upon her. The man who was in charge of the automobile department left suddenly one day without any warning.

It was not easy to find another man to take his place, and Miss Pittillo carried on his work in addition to her own. She did so well with it, that the manager asked her if she would stay on. Miss Pittillo had agreed to take a position as a social hostess on a lake steamer and told the manager that she would not be able to accept his offer! Three times they offered her the position for the simple reason that they were unable - to find anyone who could do the work as well. When they finally asked her to name her own price, she received a release from her other contract and became permanent manager of the automobile insurance department. She made a success of the department, but the strain was too much for her, and in a year her health went so completely to pieces that she was bidden by her doctor to give up the work, Then it was that the suggestion was made to her to go on the “outside.” She had never given this end of the business a thought, but it seemed to her, at this stage of the game, about the most practical thing she could do. She went on the “outside” and is now making a success of it with one of the biggest companies on the continent. She declares, though, that it was a very long time before she was able to sell, and that her main difficulty was in getting the confidence in herself.

Kipling says that “If you can see the things you’ve given your life to broken, and stoop and build ’em up with worn out tools—you’ll be a man.” Mrs. Evelyn Campbell did more than that, for, after seeing the things she had given her life to broken, before stooping to build ’em up, she set to work, first of all, to construct her tools. Through force of circumstances, she found herself one day faced with the problem of earning a living for herself and her three children. She had absolutely no business training, and had never done anything to earn her own living before. Mrs. Campbell’s story is onè of indomitable pluck in battling with conditions that would have overpowered and crushed many other less courageous women under similar circumstances, and one that calls for great admiration. Her quiet courage, but her intensely unyielding faith, that all would come right, has carried her through, and now, once again, though quite late in life, she has taken up her business - career where it was broken off some years ago through illness and suffering.

“I had to earn my own living," she said, “and I chose the insurance business because I knew as little about that as I did of any other business! The first thing the manager did was to give me a list of nurses to ‘sell.’ For two solid months I trailed those nurses, day and night, but not one sale did I make. I used to get up each morning as discouraged and tired as when I went to bed, but one morning I woke up to my own folly. It suddenly came to me, as I was dressing, that I was a fool following a phantom trail. I came to the conclusion that no one else could direct me in this executive work. It was something at which I must use my own initiative. I threw awray the manager’s list and started out on my own. My very first prospect—a woman in a business of her own—I ‘sold!’ From then on I continued to sell; but it was hard work because in addition to selling insurance I had to cook, wash, iron, scrub and mend for my three kiddies, and keep my house going too. No one will ever know quite what I went through in those days. I have trudged home many nights after a discouraging day, with the tears rolling down my face—home to more work and more trouble. But I believed, I prayed, I worked, and consequently I have won through, but not before I broke down

under the strain. Then for two years I was ill, andJthen there was the expense of hospitals and doctors, to add to my troubles. Then my daughter was ill, and for another two years I was unable to do much work, but now all my children are well and earning.” „

Mrs. Campbell is back again at her desk, and has great hopes of picking up her business career where she left it four years ago. The first encouraging bit of business she did after her return, was to receive a policy from a man whom she had called upon more than four years ago. He had been besieged by other _ salesmen during her absence from business, but he refused to buy from any of them. “I knew you would be around for that policy one of these days,” he said, "so I waited.”

Mrs. Campbell is a firm believer in metaphysics. "Nothing ever happens,”

~ she insisted. . “There is no element of chance in this work, or any other. There is always the Guiding Hand, directing everything. I will give you one instance of this. One morning, just as I was getting up, I received a mental message to go to the home of a certain man, who was a railroad engineer. I had talked with this man once before, and he had seemed interested in my proposition, but was not ready to take out a policy. I knew that I might call at his house twenty times and not find him in, but the message was so direct, so impelling, that I immediately dressed, and took a street ear to his house. He was there, waiting for me, and he put on his hat and coat and came with me to the office where I wrote him up for à substantial amount.”

Mrs. Campbell’s manager says of her, “She has the insurance idea better than anyone else on the staff. She talks insurance all the time to everyone, she ‘sells’ her dressmaker, her coal-man; she sells to friends and strangers, and to high and low alike.”

“The selling insurance business is an entirely new field for women,” said the head of one of Canada’s largest insurance firms. "But it is one that offers them great possibilities and a future. Canadian girls are just beginning to realize their opportunities in the line. Those who

have taken advantage of them, however— not more than fifty in the whole of Canada 1 should say—are making good. New and all as they are to the game, their records are equal to those of most of the men.”