Are You Capable of Being Audacious When You Need to Be?

Robert Terson

A top-tier sales professional has a touch of audacity in him when the situation calls for it. He isn’t going to sit on the sidelines and let fate determine the outcome when he knows it’s time to take some audacious action, when it’s time to confront the situation head on.

In How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling by the late Frank Bettger, published in 1947—my favorite sales book other than Selling Fearlessly, of course—Bettger tells a great story of how he audaciously took unprecedented action to make a sale. Bettger sold life insurance, but I have no doubt that you can, in some fashion, apply the story to your own business

Arriving at my prospect’s office, I was greeted by his secretary. She opened the president’s door and I heard her say, “Mr. Booth, there’s a Mr. Bettger from Philadelphia here to see you. He says he has an appointment with you for ten forty-five.”

Booth. Oh, yes. Send him in.

Me. Mr. Booth!

Booth. How do you do, Mr. Bettger. Have a seat. (Mr. Booth waited for me to talk, but I waited for him.) Mr. Bettger, I’m afraid you’re wasting your time.

Me. Why?

Booth (pointing to a stack of proposals and illustrations on desk). I’ve had plans submitted to me by all of the leading New York companies, three of which were presented by friends of mine—one of them a close personal friend; I play golf with him every Saturday and Sunday. He’s with the New York Life; that’s a pretty good company, isn’t it?

Me. None better in the world!

Booth. Well, Mr. Bettger, under the circumstances, if you still feel that you want to submit a proposition to me, you can make up figures for $250,000 of insurance on the ordinary life plan at my age, forty-six, and just mail it to me. I will put it with these other proposals and sometime during the next couple of weeks, I expect to reach a decision. If your plan is the cheapest and the best, you will get the business. But I think you are just wasting your time and my time.

Me. Mr. Booth, if you were my own brother, I would say to you what I’m going to say to you know.

Booth. What’s that?

Me. Knowing what I do about the insurance business, if you were my own brother, I would tell you to take all those proposals and immediately throw them into that waste paper basket.

Booth (obviously astonished). Why do you say that?

Me. Well, in the first place, properly to interpret those proposals would take an actuary. But even if you were able to select the lowest-cost proposition today, five years from now that very company could be among the highest-cost companies of this group. That is history. Frankly, those companies you have selected are the best in the world. You could take all those proposals, spread them over the top of your desk, close your eyes, and the one you happen to point at could just as likely be the lowest-cost company, as the one you would carefully choose after weeks of deliberation. Now, Mr. Booth, my job is to help you arrive at a final decision. In order to help you do this, I must ask you some questions. Is that all right?

Booth. Sure. Go right ahead.

Me. As I understand it, your company is to be extended a running line of credit of a quarter of a million dollars. Part of the deal is that your life is to be insured for $250,000, the policies to be assigned to your creditors. Is that right?

Booth. Yes. That is right.

Me. In other words, they have confidence in you, if you live, but in the event of your death, they don’t have the same confidence in your company. Isn’t that right, Mr. Booth?

Booth. Yes, I suppose that’s right.

Me. Then why isn’t it of paramount importance—in fact the only thing of importance—that you obtain this insurance immediately and transfer that risk to the insurance companies? Suppose you should wake up tonight, in the middle of the night, and it should suddenly occur to you that the fire insurance on your large plant up in Connecticut had expired yesterday. Why you probably wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep the rest of the night! And the first thing tomorrow morning you would have your broker on the phone telling him to protect you immediately, wouldn’t you?

Booth. Of course I would.

Me. Well, your creditors regard this insurance on your life with just the same importance that you regard the fire insurance on your plant. Isn’t it possible that if anything developed whereby you wouldn’t be able to obtain this insurance on your life, your creditors might reduce or even entirely refuse to grant you this loan?

Booth. Oh, I don’t know but I suppose that’s quite possible.

Me. And if you should find yourself unable to obtain this credit, wouldn’t it probably mean thousands and thousands of dollars to you?

Booth. What do you mean by that?

Me. I have an appointment for you this morning at eleven thirty with Dr. Carlyle, one of the leading medical examiners of New York City. His examination is recognized by practically all the life insurance companies. He is the only medical examiner I know whose single examination is good for $250,000 of insurance on one person’s life. He has electrocardiograph and fluoroscope machines and all the other equipment necessary for such an examination as you require in his office at 150 Broadway.

Booth. Can’t these other brokers do the same thing for me?

Me. Not this morning they can’t! Mr. Booth, recognizing the serious importance of having this examination made immediately, suppose you should telephone one of these brokers this afternoon and tell him to proceed at once. The first thing he would do would be to phone one of his friends, a regular examiner, and try to have him here in your office this afternoon to make the first examination. If the doctor’s papers were mailed out tonight, one of the medical directors for that particular company would sit at his desk at the head office tomorrow morning looking at you on paper. If he decided that you were a quarter-of-a-million-dollar risk, he would then authorize a second examination by another doctor who would have the necessary equipment. This all means further delay. Why should you take this risk for another week, even another day?

Booth. Oh, I think I’m going to live a while.

Me. Suppose you should wake up tomorrow morning with a sore throat and find yourself laid up for a week with the grippe? Then when you were well enough to have this difficult examination made the insurance company would say to you: “Now, Mr. Booth, we think you are going to be all right again, but there is some little condition which has developed as a result of your recent illness, and we must postpone action for three or four months until we find whether it is temporary or something permanent.” You would then have to tell your creditors that the final judgment was postponed. Isn’t it possible that they would postpone the extension of this loan to you? Isn’t that a possibility, Mr. Booth?

Booth. Yes, of course that’s a possibility.

Me (looking at my watch). Mr. Booth, it is now eleven ten. If we leave here immediately, we will be able to keep that appointment with Dr. Carlyle in his office at eleven thirty. You look as though you never felt better in your life. If you are as good on the inside as you look on the outside, you should be able to have this insurance in effect in forty-eight hours. You are feeling well this morning, aren’t you, Mr. Booth?

Booth. Yes, I’m feeling very well.

Me. Then why isn’t this examination the most important thing in the world for you to take care of right now?

Booth. Mr. Bettger, whom do you represent?

Me. I represent you!

Booth (bowing head in thought. Lights cigarette. After a few moments slowly rises from desk, looks into space, walks over to window, then to hatrack. Takes hat off rack and turns to me). Let’s go!

We rode down to the doctor’s office on the Sixth Avenue subway. After the examination was satisfactorily completed, Mr. Booth seemed suddenly to become my friend. He insisted on taking me to lunch with him. As we began eating, he looked at me and began to laugh. “By the way,” he asked, “what company do you represent?”


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