Wang Qian: a single lady with stories to tell
This episode starts with a single lady in her thirties. She belongs to a rapidly-expanding population of unmarried people in the big cities in China like Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen.
"Hello, guys. My name is Wang Qian. I'm a Beijing local. I work as an insurance agent. I'm single and 37, still living with my parents. For some time, I felt like I was in a crisis at my age, but now I think it is fine, I'm OK. You can find many people in the same circumstances in Beijing."
Wang Qian, an insurance agent based in Beijing, takes an interview from China Plus. [Photo: China Plus]
Wang Qian joined the insurance industry in 2011, when her parents pushed her to find a partner and get married. The older couple eagerly did so because they couldn't bear to see their only daughter falling into the so-called category of "left-over" women. It's a derogatory term, referring to women who stay single in their late twenties and beyond.
"Before that I worked as an advertisement designer. My mother had been worried about me getting married. She introduced a man to me, hoping we could start a relationship. And I was in defiant mood, like why I had to accept this guy. My mum said because you didn't have many options around you. So I decided to meet more people. I wanted to change my life. So when I was 28, I shifted to an insurance company. My initial intention was simply to meet more people, to expand my circle of friends. At the beginning, I gave myself three months to try; I never expected I would stay in the company for eight years."
Wang Qian's family didn't believe she would succeed in this new field. In fact, they secretly thought she would give up pretty soon.
"My parents are both Beijing locals. All my family members here, including my aunts and uncles, and they seemed to support my decision. But in fact, they believed I would go back to the ads industry after a couple of days. My father once told me, 'You just need to land a job, working nine-to-five; if you could earn seven to eight thousand yuan a month, like I did as an ads designer, get married and start a family at an early age, that would be wonderful.'"
But Wang Qian has proved them wrong. She has survived, and more than that-- she has succeeded in a highly competitive industry. It took her just three years to get into The Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT), a prestigious annual event that gathers together the most successful life insurance agents from all over the world.
Wang Qian, an insurance agent based in Beijing, takes an interview from China Plus. [File photo provided to China Plus]
Wang Qian says the trip to attend the round table in Canada was her first visit to a foreign country. She recalls that before joining the insurance company, she rarely had the chance to visit other cities in China. She was born and raised in Beijing, and her furthest destinations were neighboring Tianjin and Hebei.
"That was the first (overseas) trip. At the time, I was worried about what to do if I got lost. I was worried because of the language barrier. I had a lot of worries and expectations as well. In fact, I did get lost there. One day I went to a supermarket alone. After I did some shopping, I had no idea when I was asked what hotel I was heading for. I was sweating because I don't speak English. Suddenly, I remembered that I'd taken a photo in front of my hotel the day before. I showed it to locals, and they escorted me back to my hotel. When I finished the 15-day trip and came back, I felt like I was a different person, I'd done something big on my own."
As well as her eye-opening opportunities, Wang Qian also gained confidence and valuable experience through her job. Although she's not a good English speaker, she met some foreigners, managed to sell insurance products to them, and even made friends with some of them.
"Less than six months after I joined the company, my boss told me that I could sell high-value health insurance, which are the favourite products of a lot of company executives and foreigners. I just didn't buy it, because I only speak Chinese, and I can't understand what foreigners talk about. It was too hard for me to learn English. So I didn't take it seriously."
As Wang Qian gradually became an experienced agent, she found that things were getting easier as existing clients began to introduce potential clients to her.
"When I'd acquired more knowledge about high-value health insurance plans, I saw some foreigners coming to me, who had been introduced by my friends. Thanks to translation apps, I could communicate with them. I also learned some professional vocabulary."
Like mother, like daughter. Wang Qian says her mum was a devoted person before she retired. When Wang Qian showed such strong interest in learning and succeeding in her career, her mother gave her support to her daughter.
"At the time I made a plan for my daily work- I needed to meet three potential clients a day to share my knowledge about insurance with them; some of them were my acquaintances, some were strangers. This was a must-do for my working day. One day, after I'd had a fight with my colleague, I was upset, and went home. My mum asked why I had come back so early, and I said I was unhappy and wanted to take a nap. She said nothing and let me go to bed. When it was three or four p.m., I answered I was fine when she asked me. Then she urged me to invite a friend for dinner since I still had time before it was time to sleep. Her point was that no matter what happens, you have to finish your job."
Wang Qian has also seen changes in her father's personality and attitude.
"My father is an introverted person who seldom speaks out in the public. Last year, he took me to the airport and met with my boss. They talked for about half an hour. And my boss said, your father is such a talkative person. I suddenly realized that by doing this job, I had changed my family. As well as financial rewards and a bigger circle of friends, this job made my parents feel secure about my future."
When she was 28, her parents began to feel anxious because their only daughter was still single. Yet now she's 37, the older couple are at ease with the fact that she is still single, because Wang Qian has shown the ability to make her own life better.
Wang Qian says one of her proudest moments is when she took her parents to the revolving restaurant at the top of Central Radio & TV Tower in downtown Beijing. In her mind, the dinner marked the end of a period of struggle in her family which had been caused by her mother's disease.
"Why did I recognize the value of insurance? It's because my family had a hard time when my mum suffered from illnesses. For about ten years, she would have to go to hospital for various treatments. I was really glad that she could stay with us... And that's why I recognize the value of insurance. It's also what inspired me to grow in this industry. It's why I'm always willing to share my stories, no matter how many people have refused me. It's why I could really understand my clients' concerns, since I've been through all the ups and downs."
Wang Qian, an insurance agent based in Beijing. [File photo provided to China Plus]
Traditionally, Chinese people have often turned a cold shoulder to insurance, as they believe it's ominous to talk about disease and death. But in the past eight years, Wang Qian has witnessed an obvious changing attitude in the country. Thanks to the popularity of social media platforms such as WeChat, many potential customers can easily find Wang Qian and ask for advice.
"Either in our industry or in the society as a whole, the biggest challenge is about trust. How can you convince people to get their families covered by your insurance plans? This is the biggest challenge we're faced with."
Never lie. Don't brag. Those are the tips Wang Qian shares with newcomers to the industry. She believes the key to being a successful insurance agent is more than sales skills.
"At the beginning, I had no idea where I could find clients. I tried to start with people I knew, but unexpectedly my first contract was signed by a stranger. It was accidental injury insurance, worth 508 yuan. I still remember it clearly now. I went hiking and met my first client. What he gave to me was far more than a contract-- the point is he trusted me. And I was overwhelmed. The fulfillment was larger than my initial plan of meeting more people when I joined the company."
Inspired by the trust of strangers, Wang Qian was determined to continue her career as an insurance agent, because she believed it would benefit not just her own family but many other families.