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Winning new customers begins by answering, “What is Zurich?”

December 11, 2019

The challenge—and opportunity—at the World Business Forum NYC event was to educate and influence business leaders.

Influence was the name of the game at the recent World Business Forum in New York, where Zurich North America was a first-time sponsor of the event. Sponsorship of the two-day gathering of business leaders at Lincoln Center allowed Zurich to erect a booth and engage with forum attendees, many of whom were Zurich customers.

Still, there were several attendees who approached the Zurich booth and asked, “What is Zurich?” or “Is that a city in Germany?” Booth staffers had their work cut out for them, but the interactions illustrated the value of meeting face to face with customers, potential customers and others to explain “what is Zurich?”

In addition to distributing pocket-sized flashlights (very popular), touting the Zurich brand and correcting geographical misconceptions, Zurich employees also promoted a series of stories about Resilience Trailblazers – individuals who, in the face of natural catastrophes, are helping shift the mindset from recovery to resilience.

On the second day, Zurich hosted an invitation-only event with one of the forum speakers, Zoë Chance, a lecturer at Yale School of Management, where she focuses on research-based strategies for helping people lead richer, healthier and happier lives.

Brian Winters, Head of Sales & Distribution, U.S. Commercial Insurance, for Zurich North America, hosted the event for more than 30 forum attendees. He opened the discussion by describing Zurich’s efforts to help its customers prepare for hazards, avoid losses and build resilience to future events.

Zoë, also scheduled to present later that day, said: “I would love it if you remember this conversation when you hear me talking about the gut, intuitive, unconscious, immediate response when I talk about influence this afternoon, because that is the only system that’s driving our behavior when we’re in a disaster or an emergency situation. We can’t decide how we’re going to behave during an emergency; we can only prepare for it in advance.”

Here are some excerpts from their conversation:

Brian: What drives decision making?

Zoë: The biggest misconception that we have about decision making is that, for the most part, people are going to be deciding and behaving rationally. That’s how we experience ourselves, but it’s not accurate.

Brian: If I’m trying to influence someone and it doesn’t feel like the timing is right or it doesn’t feel like the messaging is right, how can I think on my feet?

Zoë: One of the best ways to know how to influence people is so simple. It’s just asking them how to influence them. The magic question is just, “What would it take for you to make this decision.” How would they like to be influenced? They will just tell you.


One attendee asked Zoë about the value of persistence versus making a personal connection in influencing others.

Zoë: For the average person, the number of times that we go back to someone after they’ve said, “No,” to us is zero. For the average salesperson, the number of times is three. And for the top salespeople, the average number of times is seven or eight. So, persistence really does pay off.

After the private event, Zoë spoke about how removing obstacles can be the greatest motivator. Watch the 30-second video below.


Brian later reflected on the event with Zoë and the opportunities to connect with customers at the World Business Forum. Watch the 60-second video below.