Unarmed but dangerous, leave your clothes in the car

Have you ever walked into an appointment naked? Would you be surprised if I told you I have? Be different, stand out, right?

A little history

In my world of commercial insurance, you (our agency) have to be appointed by the insurance company before you can represent them and sell their products. Whereas Lanier Upshaw, Inc represents most of the major players, there are one or two we don’t have access to. Which is par for the course, because if you represent a carrier they are going to want a certain amount of business and with so many mouths to feed you have to draw the line somewhere.

Because of this, you might do all the leg work and have the opportunity to work on a really great account only to find out they are already with the carrier you represent and their business is so specialized there is only one other viable market out there and guess what? You don’t represent them…….

Well, that sucks.

When I say viable, I mean not only do we have to be able to put all the proper coverages in place, it has to be somewhat affordable as well. I can find coverage for just about anything, but it might come with a scary price tag if I don’t have the right market for it.

What can be that specialized?

Actually, quite a few risks, but this one in particular builds launch towers at Cape Canaveral as one part of their scope of operations.

Two words that will send traditional underwriters running for the hills are NASA and nuclear. If your prospect does anything with either, then your market selection just became very, very narrow.

Why did you chase this account then?

One of my customers does some steel work for them so I could at least use their name to get me in the door. It was then I found out the extent of their operations and the very limited market availability.

But by then, we already had a couple of meetings and they had supplied quite a bit of information for me. And oh yeah, they are located an hour and a half away from my office.

And guess what? They had been with the market we don’t represent but recently switched to the one we did. Therefore, I did not have a single viable option for them in terms of comparison.

It would have been very easy to call them and say “sorry for wasting your time, but we don’t have anything.”

Business owners hate that. The whole insurance process is already distasteful and the fact they let you in the door they are expecting you to come up with something.

What did you do?

I left my clothes in the car. I had absolutely nothing to offer other than myself so they might as well see my fat white ass in all its glory, huh? It sure is cold in here…

Actually, I knew they had a long term relationship with their broker and it would be tough to break this relationship but I essentially had nothing to lose. I made the appointment and went over with nothing a proposal that was a duplicate of what they already had with the company we represent and advised them if they want to do business with me, they would have to fire their guy and give me the keys to the car before I walk out the door.

Pretty bold, huh?

Well, it didn’t go down exactly like that, but pretty close. They were somewhat shocked when they opened the proposal and it had no pricing, and then I commenced to tell them my plan. We had some good give and take and some good questions were asked and it turned out to be a very informative meeting.

Sounds like a waste of time, what did you learn?

First of all, my ploy did not work; they had no reason to fire their guy and me coming in bare did not help, regardless of what I had to say.

But here is what I did learn:

  • Respect people’s time; if nothing else, by me showing up it showed I did appreciate the opportunity regardless of the results.
  • It left the door open for future opportunities and insurance is fickle enough it can create opportunities just because
  • Don’t be afraid to make the ask. This time it was no, but I made them tell me to my face.
  • E-mails and texts make it too easy at times; don’t be afraid to get that face to face meeting regardless of how uncomfortable it might be. It’s usually never as bad as you think it’s going to be…unless it’s your dentist…
  • Don’t be afraid to keep swinging; you will never get a hit if you don’t at least get up to bat.
  • Finally, don’t be afraid to ask “if you were in my shoes, what would you do?” You’d be surprised the dialogue you can get from this question.

Were you really naked?

Kind of as I did not have one thing to offer other than myself. But one thing I have been taught to do is when it looks like your sales call is going absolutely nowhere and you have nothing to lose, just drop your drawers…kidding of course. What I enjoy is going into low risk practicing and I might ask the darnedest thing that has nothing to do with our meeting. This too will get some interesting dialogue; try it sometime, what do you have to lose at that point, right?

We’re going streaking; everyone is doing it…


28 thoughts on “Unarmed but dangerous, leave your clothes in the car

  1. These are my favorite posts of yours, Bill. Instructional and inspirational. Methinks you enjoy a challenge. Most people would have “phoned it in” and said they had nothing to offer. But you showed enough confidence in yourself that you believed Naked Bill was better than Phone It In Bill. I wouldn’t be surprised if someday you got a call from them. Even if you didn’t gain their business, you gained their respect.

    Thanks for the fascinating insight into both your business and your approach.

    • Business owners do not like it when you don’t know anything about their business and/or waste their time in the whole process and have nothing to show for it. On this one, I knew the market selection would be very narrow, unfortunately they had moved to my only viable option. Plan B would get them to assign the policy to me, but I would have really pulled a rabbit out of the hat on this one to make that happen.

      It was good practice and I’m glad they indulged me. Who knows, I could have shown up the day their agent told them a claim wasn’t covered and he wouldn’t return their phone calls; sometimes timing is everything, right?

      Thanks for dropping by; always a pleasure to see you Carolyn.

    • I was going to write a long gushy comment but Ms. Nicander Mohr nailed it. I completely agree that this is my favorite kind of post from your blog. You should be training young agentdudes. Oh yeah, you are… OK then, how about doing a radio show?

  2. I think it’s fun being told that there’s no chance. That makes me try even harder….with most things, not everything. Good for you! We always get SOMETHING out of trying. Right?

    • Yes we do get something out of trying; it’s too easy just to walk away….

      Even though I’ll have to lay low on this account until something changes, at least I can get the owner to answer his phone when I call. Getting in front of the decision maker is more than half the battle.

      Sometimes when it looks the bleakest and you know you have no chance at all, this is when you can drop way down and do some fun low risk practicing; make it a game.

    • No kidding, right? And of course, if you don’t at least try I can guarantee a zero result.

      It kept the door open for me when and if it makes sense later on to make it happen.

      Good to see you Betsy.

  3. I think respecting people’s time is a huge takeaway — especially when you are going in without something really tangible to give them. When you’re “naked” and just selling them on yourself and your company, you’ve got to make it about them as much as you can. Step one: rsepect their time.

    And yes, nothing replaces face-to-face. Nothing.

    PS. Can you get tickets to the International Space Station now? I hear it’s just lovely this time of year.

    • Yes, but don’t know if I can get you a return ticket……

      My biggest takeaway was the fact now they know me and I can get the decision maker on the phone, when and if the opportunity presents itself for a business opportunity down the road. Of course the second time, I will probably have to promise to actually bring a real proposal this time…:).

    • Old and bold……or something like that; one thing being in the business awhile will make you much more bolder and certainly give you walk-away power when need be.


  4. Now that’s how it’s done Bill and you being a veteran broker you have the guts to walk on in there in all your naked glory and ask for the business even though you knew they wouldn’t give it to you. But hey, I think they now see you in that light and possibly give you another chance down the road. That’s how you earn people’s respect.

    I bet you were cute too! 😉


    • Sometimes there is a fine line when you just pick up your stuff and leave, or wait it out so you can drop into low risk practicing just to see where it might lead you. I made a proposal last week to a customer who I don’t think will be a good fit for us and I’m not optimistic we will write it, but I wanted to get in to see if we could even move the needle on this guy. The only reason I am willing to work with them is they just hired an HR/Safety person who I’ve worked with in the past. However, she’s so knew I don’t think she’s in a position to influence the owner yet.

      Every one is different, that’s for sure.

  5. Bill, I love how far you will go to win an account… You’re my hero… YIKES 😮

    P.S. You could have at least wore the bear skin – although you never want them to see you sweat, hehe!

    I second Stan’s conclusion; “Your leadership and tact is bold, loud and clear, sir.”

    • Ok, I won’t shave my legs……..well, maybe if it’s big enough but I’ll have to consult with my conscience…….

      Sometimes we have missed out on deals because we were too conservative and not willing to bend the rules; however, at the end of the day I can still look at myself in the mirror and some of those customers came back to us. It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing.

      It’s always an adventure out there, that’s for sure.

  6. Hi Bill

    Maybe you had nothing to offer them as business insurance, but unless that is all you do, would there not also be an opportunity of personal insurance. Everyone needs car and home insurance. Being bold gives them an opportunity to see true character and if they are ever in the market for insurance they will remember you, if you don’t disappear out of their radar.

    Very good business ethic lesson.


    • I don’t do the personal insurance, but we do have a department which we call our private client group for higher end personal lines and yes, it’s always good to walk out with something. The other question to ask would be ‘if you were in my shoes, what would you do’ and that usually brings something out too.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  7. So much in business is based upon relationships and you took steps to start building one. I think it was a good move and with a bit of luck one that will make you richer than Barkley. Ok, maybe not but the good news is you can still golf better than he can.

    • Chuck and I are probably neck and neck on the course; I think I have hit the wall….:). But I still enjoy playing…….

      Yes, the relationships are hard enough to build, especially on a peer to peer basis so you should take advantage when you can. Also, on these deals we need to go toe to toe w/ the business owner, especially as an advisor.

      Hope your new gig is going well.

  8. You’re talking insurance now? Kidding. It takes some stones to go in cold but like you said, you went in and now they know you, sort of. At least they know your face.

    How would you handle this situation?
    You know about a project and you know who the guy is responsible for it but you haven’t met. He knows about your firm but he hasn’t worked with you. The project has been bid to 4 other firms. Whattya think?

    • Get in front of him, but go in asking questions about him, their firm, anything but wanting to be one of many in the ‘bid’ process.

      Make it something they would not expect; don’t look like everybody else. Ask him how he came up with the four and why does he think each one was worthy and does he really consider them interchangeable? Find out their reasoning for this type of process and has it worked for them in the past? Find out why they aren’t comfortable keeping it to just two. Find out if he is just using one against the other and then decide if it’s worth your time and effort.

      I just wrote an account today the old fashioned way; I ‘quoted’ it. Sometimes you have to just get up to bat to show them what you got. But when you get that audience, don’t be afraid to be different or walk away if need be.

      Each scenario/opportunity is different.

  9. I love that you were so bold Bill. I think I would have just made the call.

    That’s the way in though, show your face and let them know who you are.

    It doesn’t work on every occasion but I’m sure your charisma and experience gives you a head start at least.

    • Plus, it gets me close enough I can put the Kung Fu grip on them if need be…:).

      I certainly don’t want to shut any doors, so sometimes you do have to kiss a lot of frogs. I look at it all as a learning experience.

      Good to see you Timbo, hope all is well and you have a great weekend.

  10. I read this and I try to understand it to find any lesson in it. And finally I find deep insight from this article. I am sorry for taking time to understand it. But I really like it at least I study the language how to express something is very unique. Thank you for sharing this. This is great.

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