I was selling everything from pound a week Endowment policies to pensions, mortgages, house insurance and car insurance. The technical training I received at the company was excellent, the sales training perhaps a little basic. The best piece of advice I ever received was from an agent who had been doing the job for nearly 40 years and his advice was simple, just be nice to people, and eventually they'll be nice to you.
My career as a salesman began at Britannic Assurance as an Industrial Branch representative, for those of you that remember the man from the Pru, I was the man from the Britannic collecting premiums on a weekly basis from hundreds of houses around council estates in Lincoln.
That piece of advice when I have managed to follow it has served me well for nearly 28 years in sales, including my time as a teacher where my sales skills were really put to the test. When I was first selling I was a nervous wreck, every time I went to appointment my stomach would knot up and I would feel physically sick. The only thing that drove me was an absolute fear of failure, within nine months I had grown my agency at a faster rate than any of my colleagues and was rewarded with a larger agency in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. My time working around the council estates was a great experience talking to and listening to the life stories and experiences of hundreds of different people from lone single parents to blue-collar workers, husbands, wives, elderly people, they all had a story to tell.
This was the late 80s, a time driven by financial aspiration and outright greed. I quickly became bored with the financial solutions that I was offering to people with limited means. I relocated to Cheltenham and began working for Black Horse Financial Services, part of the Lloyds bank group, I was the financial consultant for four bank branches on the Cotswolds. I had a flash new company car and the opportunity to sell a diverse range of financial services to a wealthier clientele. I worked hard and quickly excelled to be one of the top salespeople in the UK. What I enjoyed most was meeting and learning about an even wider range of people from millionaires to farmworkers, I found them all fascinating.
Having left the air force with little self-confidence, I now had reached a point of overconfidence and arrogance. I had a level of drive and ambition and material greed that looking back, I'm embarrassed by. I moved to my third and final company in financial services, Bristol and West Building Society and quickly rose to a senior sales management position by the age of 27.
My world came crashing down when as the property market collapsed, courtesy of Lawson's folly. I was made redundant, and after a few months of unemployment and reflection, I realised that now would be a good time to go back and complete my education