Kick The Tire, But Not The Salesman

TO SOME, THE TERM "USED-car salesman" means a slippery glad-hander who lies about his clunkers' defects. But used-auto folks themselves say honesty is vital to doing business. In a recent poll of salespeople, insurance agents put the highest premium on honesty, with used-car types next. Dead last: stockbrokers.

Why the differences? The level of personal contact may be a factor. John Pottridge, a vice-president of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents, says policies usually are sold by people active in the community who need to build trust with neighbors for future sales. And car dealerships like to bring back buyers for trade-ins.

But a lot of stockbrokers do their work phoning prospects they don't know, says ex-insurance salesman Robert Shook, who did the survey. Securities Industry Assn. spokesman James Spellman demurs, arguing that most brokers have longstanding ties with clients, too. He cites a Yankelovich Partners poll that finds just 3% of investors dissatisfied with their brokers.

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