The story of Ben Feldman, the greatest life insurance salesman of all time

For sales professionals, few names resonate with as much reverence as Ben Feldman. Widely regarded as the greatest salesman of all time, particularly in life insurance. Born in New York City to Russian Jewish immigrants, Ben was one of nine children. Early in his life, the family moved to Salineville, Ohio, where they opened a wholesale poultry business. This early exposure to business and sales set the foundation for Feldman's future career. Eventually, he settled in East Liverpool, Ohio, where he began his illustrious career in life insurance sales with New York Life in 1942.

Work Ethic & Process

Feldman was the definition of a self-starter. He was known for his unrelenting work ethic and setting “unattainable” sales targets for himself. He worked constantly, clocking in 12 hour days seven days a week. His process, which became known as the Feldman Method, was the subject of a 1969 book by Andrew H. Thomson. In what is today practiced by most salespeople, usually unknowingly, Feldman’s process focused on deep research of each of his customers. He would spend hours preparing for sales calls individualizing the approach and packages for each person he spoke to. 

One of Feldman's most famous quotes encapsulates his approach to selling life insurance: "I do not sell life insurance. I sell money. I sell dollars for pennies apiece. My dollars cost 3 cents per dollar per year." This perspective transformed the way he pitched life insurance, making it more tangible and understandable to potential clients. By framing insurance as a cost-effective way to secure future financial stability, Feldman made an intangible product both relatable and desirable.

Remarkable Achievements

By 1979, Feldman had sold more life insurance than anyone in history, a record that remained unchallenged during his lifetime. He achieved a total face value of $1.5 billion in life insurance policies sold, an extraordinary feat that underscored his dominance in the industry. Feldman set multiple records, including the highest value of products sold in a single day ($20 million) and in a single year ($100 million), earning him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most outstanding salesman in history. Nearly a third of his lifetime sales occurred after the age of 65. Near the end of his career, his annual commission exceeded $1 million. When asked what the largest policy he ever sold was, he would reply, “I haven’t sold it yet!”


Feldman’s legacy lives on today. New York Life honored him with the naming of the Ben Feldman Auditorium in their New York office. His life insurance company, The Feldman Agency, still exists today and is now run by his granddaughter, Wendy Feldman. Ben Feldman's legacy in the life insurance industry is a masterclass in sales excellence. His principles of deep preparation, simplification of complex concepts, unwavering confidence, innovative thinking, relationship building, and continuous learning offer timeless lessons for sales professionals. And if Feldman was still alive today, you can bet we’d be trying to land an interview!

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