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Sometimes I find amazing things in the comment sections of this blog.  Today I found an outstanding, research-based analysis of the Primerica opportunity.  In fact, it’s so comprehensive and well written that I contacted the author in hopes that she’d let me turn it into a guest post.  She did.

By Jennifer Macourek

** Disclaimer** I don’t know much about Primerica. I sell mattresses and have no interest in offering financial services or working as a financial adviser. My knowledge of either of those fields is extremely limited. **

One of my guests came into my store this afternoon with business cards from Primerica. He is a grandfather who has worked in data analysis for a great portion of his life and has since been unable to find work in his respective field. He told me about a financial services opportunity he was embarking upon, and was trying to rally other people in a similar position (given the current climate of the job market here in Jacksonville, FL and elsewhere) to join him as independent contractors. He was basically asking me and another associate in the store whom he’d met to refer others to him.

It just so happens that my friend has been looking for work in Jacksonville and, needless to say, has been having a tough time finding it. For his sake, I was interested in the company and learning more about it. Heck, who knew? Perhaps I’d find a way to earn a little extra income as well…

So, as a graduate with a degree in journalism, I did what I do best. I researched. I’ve read the Primerica Web site and numerous blog posts and comments, both for and against its reputation, products, the way its representatives present their products and the representatives’ breadth of product knowledge.

Again, I know very little of the differences in financial products, but I suppose at some point soon (I’m 23 years old), I’ll have to get knowledgeable.  I am simply writing to share the trends in the information (some well-organized and thought-out, some not so much) I have read and absorbed thus far and to offer my opinions based on that information for those interested in becoming a customer or employee of Primerica.

On its Web site, Primerica does not refer to positions for representatives as jobs, or even careers, merely opportunities. In that way, the company is not misrepresenting itself. However, nowhere on the Web site is there an admission that the structure of the company in MLM (multi-level marketing) and understandably so, there are plenty of negative connotations of MLMs, for example its likeness to a pyramid scheme. Still, it would have been nice for my guest to clarify that once I had expressed interest.

I have noticed a trend in the defenses of many (not all) of the self-proclaimed Primerica representatives on the numerous blogs and open discussions I have read. When addressing a negative claim about Primerica, many times the representative will pose a question or ask for support, unrelated to the claim. For example, in the comment section of one of the posts on this very blog, Xprimerican claimed that Primerica does not guarantee their 25, 30, and 35-year term policies for more than 20 years and often fails to inform their customers of this fact. SD, a Primerica representative, in reply, asked him to,

“Please provide facts that Primerica has ever raised their rates after the guaranteed period. In fact I have been here long enough to see people renew their term policies at a much lower rate than the original guarantee.”

The claim that one does NOT guarantee a policy past a certain point is not the same as one raising rates beyond that point.

Is it the fault of the company that its employees cannot overcome objections in a way that is, well… logical? Yes, and no. A company cannot measure its employees aptitude for properly defending its services against criticism. However, it is in a good company’s best interest to disseminate information that will EFFECTIVELY combat (meaning, with proof or justification) negative claims, especially those that have arisen on numerous occasions. That’s just basic public relations.

Instead of addressing or refuting claims with facts, I have noticed that many Primerica representatives (not all, but a good portion of those who choose to defend the company for which they work online) either change the topic by introducing an unrelated subject, dance around the issue without addressing it head on, or instead attack the character and/or background of the person making the claim.

AGAIN, I do not know anything about financial services. I’m basing my observations on how Primerica represents itself to the public and how Primerica representatives address questions and eyebrow-raising claims.

Still, after reading what I have thus far, I’ve come to the conclusion that Primerica is not a bad company, as extremists on a few of the blogs I’ve read have claimed. It is a business, and is run as such, with profit in mind.

In my opinion: The fact that the company is an MLM structure, allows Primerica to seemingly lure its employee and customer-base because, generally, it is friends and family selling to and recruiting more friends and family. With the knowledge that one is purchasing from a friend, what need is there to search elsewhere (i.e. research and shop) for better prices on a product or service that hadn’t really been considered before? You trust your friends and family (unless you have a good reason not to), so the business model is excellent in that it perpetuates more and more clientele and employees without the skepticism or mind set of, “This isn’t the lowest price,” because of that aforementioned trust.

The biggest problem with that business model, is that it can prey on that trust, making the company’s core belief in “doing what’s right for the consumer 100% of the time” extremely difficult to achieve. Quite frankly, I think it is impossible. As a competitive company, how can you possibly do what’s right for the consumer 100% of the time, when you offer limited products and services at prices which are not guaranteed to be the lowest, and furthermore do not inform your customer that the products and services you are selling may not be the lowest-priced and most fitting of their needs. If that were the case, the company would too often lose chances at the untapped consumer (dissimilar to losing opportunities for competitive business i.e. changes from a pre-existing policy to a lower-priced option with Primerica) because you’d be compelled to let a consumer know if and when there are lesser-priced, better options available that will offer a solution to their problem, regardless of whether or not Primerica is the company which offers those options. And make no mistake, for people trying to climb their way out of debt or save money for their families, the lowest priced, best option is the “right” thing. In order to live up to its core beliefs (as found on the Primerica Web site), representatives of Primerica would have to be not only be honest, but forthcoming, keeping the consumer’s best interest (and not the bottom line of a nice commission check) in mind. That’s a tightrope that any moral salesperson walks, more especially, I would imagine, in an industry that is selling financial solutions. I certainly believe there a representatives within Primerica that adhere to such principles and genuinely seek to help others, doing so to the best of their abilities with the skills they’ve learned as salespeople and the certification they’ve received relevant to their industry.

That being said, the burden of GETTING the “right” thing completely lies with the consumer. What can one expect of a profit-minded business? When preparing to make a purchase or sign a contract that could potentially affect one’s life, it is the consumer’s duty to be informed, responsible and savvy. Thus  a consumer’s biggest mistake is made without those qualities; believing that someone who has pitched a product or service is an expert of their field instead of assuming he is merely well-versed on his product and the objections which his product most frequently faces.

But as I understand, those type of consumers, the informed kind, are generally not the bulk of Primerica’s clientele (as quoted from an articulate Primerica representative). So after purchasing Primerica’s products or services and becoming a believer (why, otherwise, would you have become Primerica customer/representative if you did not believe), a new customer/representative could understandably continue the cycle, unknowingly perpetuating information that has been regurgitated to him with possible omissions of the truth, and feel completely validated because he’s passed a test and thus delivers his presentation as fact. That’s doesn’t just happen in Primerica, it happens in most sales positions.

At the end of it all:  If you’re looking for a position where you can make money in SALES with hard work after some provided training and certification, then Primerica may well be a great option. Just don’t let the corporate climate affect your perception of what it really is: sales. If you’re hoping to be a savior for those having financial problems who are seeking counsel, while happening to make some money in the process, become a financial adviser.

As far as potential consumers are concerned, a good consumer is an informed consumer.

 

Jennifer Macourek is a  Florida native, born and raised in Miami, and currently living and working in Jacksonville.  She graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in journalism with a focus in book publishing and editing.  She hopes to use her writing skills to pursue a career in legal writing. For fun, She enjoys attempting to write poetry and short fiction, most usually of satiric nature.

Jennifer can be reached at: jennifer.macourek@gmail.com

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If you’re interested in learning more about Primerica, be sure to read the other posts and the outstanding comment threads on this blog (comment numbers are as of this posting).  Just type “Primerica” in the search bar above, or follow the links below:

 

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