It was never going to happen. It wasn’t going to work. Sal Spedale told himself and told others, there was no way he was going into sales.
Sal and his wife Marianne were slowly climbing out of the toughest period of their lives – a period of significant loss. “It was my life’s greatest challenge,” says Sal. “Overcoming the loss of a child and the loss of a job all in two weeks time. I got laid off from American Express in 1993, while my wife was six-months pregnant. We lost the baby two weeks later.”
What followed was a period of faith, prayer, belief, and grace. Sal’s brother-in-law worked as the national marketing director for an insurance company and told Sal he could sell. “He said you’ve got personality and charisma,” remembers Sal. “My career at the time was as an international accountant for American Express Banking Corporation. I told him he was out of his mind, ‘I’m not doing that, I’m not doing insurance sales,’ I said. Four or five months rolled by and I said I can’t find a job making six-figures, let me try this insurance gig.”
25 years later, in fact almost exactly 25 years to the day since he got his health-and-life license, (May 3rd, 1993), Sal is going strong. “It’s been 25 years I’ve been trying this thing,” laughs Sal.
Some years before he ever considered insurance, Sal was just a boy growing up in Brooklyn, New York. “I grew up in the streets of Brooklyn and I wouldn’t change my childhood for anything,” he says. “I went to Xaverian High School, an all-boys school, and the two most famous people to graduate from that school, (besides Sal :)) are Chris Mullen, Hall of Fame Basketball Player from the Golden State Warriors, and current coach of St. John’s University and Scott Baio, who eventually went on to become Chachi Arcola in Happy Days.”
Growing up in Brooklyn was definitely a happy time for Sal. “There were no video games, we had to go outside, you had to go out to go have fun,” he says, “stickball, slap ball, street ball…all the things you did as a kid, you did outside.”
So it’s no wonder that once he started his insurance sales career, he would eventually have no choice but to go outside.
“When I started in the biz, I hated it,” says Sal. “It was too damn hard. I had to make all these phone calls, long-distance phone calls since there were no cell phones and I lived in New York and the business was in New Jersey. I soon realized I wasn’t good on the phone, my New York accent was KILLING me. So I figured the best way to get customers was to drive over that bridge every day – from Staten Island into New Jersey – get out of my car and introduce myself to every business owner and see if I could help them.”
The product was affordable health coverage for the self-employed, so getting up-close and personal with the business owner was key. For Sal it worked because he worked, every single day. “I did it religiously for the first three years I was in the business. I was a walk-and-talk maniac,” says Sal. “I believe this and I say it to all my agents, the business is in the street.”
It wasn’t too long before Sal was promoted to a leadership position as a Division Manager with the company, (at the time called Cornerstone), but the position meant he needed to work in Pennsylvania. That opportunity required Sal to drive to Pennsylvania every week. “I made the commitment,” says Sal. “But what made it work, was my wife Marianne was 100% behind me.”
Sal met Marianne years before while he was crunching the numbers as an accountant for an outfit called, Cowen and Company. “I was the accountant, she was a stockbroker,” says Sal. “Every day I walked past her desk on the way to my office, it was love at first sight for me. I made sure I had to walk past her desk every day.”
So when the promotion to Pennsylvania became a reality, it was his devoted wife Marianne who stayed behind in New York with their 7-year-old daughter Marissa. “I stayed with my brother-in-law in Pennsylvania, living in his basement for three days out of every week,” says Sal. “We made it work.”
Two years later, during that same time of sacrifice and opportunity, the family grew by two. Marianne and Sal welcomed twin boys into the world, Michael, and Shawn. It wasn’t until 2000 the entire family picked up and moved to Pennsylvania.
Today Sal serves as a Division Sales Leader for USHEALTH Advisors, recruiting, teaching, training, and leading others to successful careers through the mission of HOPE, Helping Other People Everyday. “What gets me excited is to bring in someone new and get them through the milestones and be super successful,” says Sal. “I see all these young people coming on board, getting the concept and helping to grow the company to be bigger and better than ever. With Troy McQuagge, (CEO of USHEALTH), at the helm, we are already a great success. I know I’m on the back nine of my career here, doing it as long as I’ve been doing it, I want to leave the business a better place than I found it.”
Success also means giving back. Sal and his team focus on one charity every month for which to donate time or money. “We love doing this,” says Sal. “I have a rep bring a cause to the office, one we can focus on and help. Last month it was to feed the homeless, the month before it was St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, the month before it was the American Heart Association. We like to give back to the community, that’s important to us.”
What’s just as important to Sal is spending time with his wife and family. “My wife and I love to travel,” he says. “We travel all the time. One of our favorite trips ever was last year when we took our daughter, son-in-law and both our boys on a two-week European trip to Paris, London and Dublin. Probably the best trip I ever got to do with my entire family. I liked Dublin the best of the three cities because we got to visit a castle that was right near Old Dwyer Street. My mother was Irish, her maiden name was Dwyer, so we took a picture of that road. Plus, the people in Ireland were just super friendly. You felt like you were home even though you were 10-thousand miles away.”
With family being at the center of his life, Sal is thrilled his boys are coming on board into the insurance business as well. “One of my boys is already licensed and working with us at USHEALTH, the other wants to get licensed,” says Sal. “They see the opportunity to be super successful if you work hard. That’s a great legacy to see. I want to leave a legacy with the company that I was respected by my teammates. That’s the number one thing you want, the respect of your team. It’s important. The team responds when they know you’ve got their best interest at heart 100-percent of the time.”
But Sal also knows the struggle. And interestingly the struggle is music to his ears because it’s based in the foundation of his love for music. Sal and his wife love to go to concerts. “I’m more of a Top 40 fan, and I’m a big Pitbull Fan,” says Sal. He and Marianne have been on the Pitbull cruises and Sal says he has seen the rock star give motivational talks. “I would follow in his footsteps,” says Sal. “Pitbull gives back all the time and his purpose is to make the world a better place.”
Sal also says he has learned some great training tips from Pitbull, which Sal says he uses in his own recruiting pitch: “Pitbull says everyone in the world wants to be successful, but they look at words like I can’t, I won’t, it’s impossible…instead of words like I can, I will, I’m possible. Sal says Pitbull goes on to say, ‘you know what word is at the core of the word successful? It’s suck.’ Everyone wants to be successful, but they don’t want to do the things that suck to do it. But in this business, you’ve got to embrace the suck – get up early, go home late, do the walk-and-talks, do everything that’s difficult in this business. If you do the difficult things you can get past the word suck and then you’ve arrived at that other word, successful.”
So suck it up and be like Sal.