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What Does It Mean When One Hand Washes the Other?

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After a long day of working with a St. Louis firm, a number of advisors who I’ve gotten to know take me to a sports bar for burgers and beer. Burgers, beer, friends, baseball on television – not the worst way in the world to end the day.

One of the advisors at the table, Teddy, seems to know everyone in the joint. He waves and says “hello” to various people at the bar as we grab a high-top table. One of the guys at the bar comes over to us, and Teddy introduces him as Steve. He seems like a good guy as he makes the rounds, shakes hands, and returns to the bar. For the remainder of the evening, we eat, drink, laugh, and barely talk about anything business-related.

Eventually, Teddy needs to leave, but he offers to reconnect me with Steve because he works for a big firm and it might be a good networking connection. Cool! Teddy takes my business card and brings it to Steve. He returns with Steve’s card and says that Steve will return to learn more about my work and how I help reps network and grow their business. Teddy leaves and gets kudos for a job well done.

Steve returns to our high-top and asks what I do. I turn it to one of the advisors at the table to see if he can speak on my behalf as a third-party endorsement (kind of a recap of a seminar I delivered earlier). Steve’s reaction is indifferent as he turns to me and asks if I have a mortgage, and if so, what’s my rate? I ask why he wants to know, and he says that he can get me a low rate if I re-finance my house with him right then and there.

Now we all laugh because we think that Ted put Steve up to this since I often tell a very similar story about a mortgage broker trying to shake me down for business. The funniest thing, though, is that Steve isn’t kidding. No joke. No put on. He persists as he talks about conversion rates and 2-to-1 ratios. He even implies that he could connect me with his firm if I do business with him.

I tell Steve that I’m not the least bit open to having this discussion with him. He leaves me my business card while taking his back. Of course, he leaves in a huff. We’re still not sure if it was a put on or not, but we finally decided that it wasn’t. No one could do such a great job trying to look so stupid.

Later, one of the advisors calls Ted to tell him what happened. Ted calls Steve. Steve mentions that I don’t know how to do business, nor do I understand the concept of “one hand washes the other.” Really, Steve?

So what did Steve accomplish?

Convinced me that his firm really does need me

If his firm (a big company, by the way) allows, encourages, and even trains their reps (even the ones with a VP title) to peddle mortgages at the local sports bar or wherever, it’s losing sales, retention, and repute. Luckily, we don’t see this sort of thing in the insurance industry.

Taught a group of advisors how to not do business, not make friends, and not get referrals

Naturally, there are plenty of advisors and agents who subscribe to Steve’s philosophy of hitting people over the head with scheduled appointments, fact finders, applications, and sales pitches. Bottom line – it doesn’t work in the long run, you look bad, you play right into negative stereotypes, you come across as self-centered, it isn’t nice, and you lose business – lots of it.

Lost a referral source (and possibly a friend)

I don’t see Teddy referring any more business to Steve (if he ever has) anytime soon or introducing him at his next dinner party. I’m sure Teddy was more than a little embarrassed to learn that an outside consultant who teaches advisors to network and build relationships was basically assaulted by his “former” friend.

Made it to the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT)

Steve became the opening to my presentation the next morning for NAIFA’s Taste of MDRT Conference. I got to tell a first-time story and help over 250 advisors learn what not to say and what not to do, and hammer home the fact that relationships come before sales.

Hey, it might even be a nice idea for a blog.

Michael Goldberg is a speaker, author, consultant and the founder of Building Blocks Consulting.For more information or to subscribe to Michael’s free online newsletter and blog The Building Blocks to Success please visit or


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