Daryl Perry wants to move away from the image of insurance as “something sold by an older white man who is sitting in the office with a briefcase and who is grumpy.”
“I see Hispanic women, Black women, white women, Black men — all different kinds of people in this business. Insurance is a means to an end. But the way you get it to people doesn’t have to be boring.”
Perry is president of the Way of Life Group LLC in Marietta, Ga., and he has specialized in employee benefits for about a decade. He has devoted his career to taking things that are uncomfortable to talk about — insurance and employee benefits — and making them approachable and less threatening.
“Back when I was cold-calling and trying to build my business, I asked myself, ‘How do I make this more fun?’ Insurance isn’t a fun thing, but how do I make the environment fun? So I smile when I talk about it because I know it’s not a fun topic. Nobody likes to talk about mortality or talk about getting sick. It’s a difficult conversation. But if you can show someone ‘I’m just here to make sure you’ll be OK,’ you can show the consumer you care and you can make the environment fun.”
Perry is easily recognizable as “the bow tie guy.” He owns about 50 neckties that he fashions into the bow ties that have become his trademark. The bow ties helped him back when he was starting his career and needed something to stand out from the crowd.
“When I first started out in this business and I was doing a lot of cold-calling, I would arrange to meet with prospects in a coffee shop or at their business or something. And they would ask me, ‘How will I know who you are?’ And I would answer, ‘I’ll be the guy with the bow tie.’ And that stuck. My business partner started referring to me as ‘the bow tie guy.’”
Perry performs rap videos on LinkedIn, where he calls himself The Notorious BTG — for “bow tie guy.”
“My personal branding of the bow tie was my choice, but the naming was all just from prospecting and people hearing about me,” he said.
For the past three years, Perry has been the host of a series of YouTube videos titled “Business with Benefits,” in which he showcases entrepreneurs he knows as well as discusses ways business owners and consumers can protect their income. It’s another way for him to inject some fun into the benefits discussion and open doors to possible business.
Perry grew up in a military family. He was born in Germany and speaks fluent Spanish. After obtaining a degree in mathematics and accounting, he worked in retail in Las Vegas before deciding to move to Georgia in search of a more family-friendly environment for his wife and children. He turned to a job-search website to find a new career and ended up at Aflac.
“I didn’t know what Aflac was, but I thought this job is something entrepreneurial, I can do it until I get a ‘real’ job,” he said. “I was Aflac’s top account opener in the state of Georgia during my first year in the business, and then I was No. 2 in the entire company in 2014. Ten years later, I’m still an independent associate representing Aflac and I’m happy with what I’m doing.”
In his practice, Perry works with several carriers in addition to Aflac.
“My clients kept asking me about other coverage in addition to what Aflac offers,” he said. “Clients were asking about dental, health insurance, group life. Because I’m independent, I can work with anyone. So, I found other carriers that made sense for my business and my clients, and now I’m able to offer more to my clients.”
Serving small-town America
Perry’s practice focuses on serving what he calls “small-town America.”
“We serve about 250 different clients, helping them put together benefits packages that make sense for their business,” he said. “Some of them are businesses you’ve heard of, like AutoZone or Red Lobster. Some of them are mom-and-pop shops you’ve never heard of. But I always work with the mindset of making benefits customizable for my clients. I try to find benefits that fit their budget.”
Although Aflac is still a big part of Perry’s business, he also works with dental plans and some different professional employer organizations that work with smaller groups. “I do a lot of minimum essential coverage plans for businesses whose owners can’t afford to offer health insurance but don’t want to pay the penalty under the Affordable Care Act,” he said. “We also do a lot of life insurance — indexed universal life, guaranteed universal life, final expense — different things to help people at various stages of their lives.”
Dental and vision benefits have been among the most popular benefits Perry’s clients want. But he has seen a shift toward life insurance since the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It seems like COVID-19 has made people think more about ‘What if I pass away? Who will take care of my family?’”
The pandemic also has made Perry’s clients more curious about mental health benefits.
“Mental health wasn’t even a thought 10 years ago in the insurance space,” he said. “But over the past two or three years, I have had a lot more people asking ‘What about therapy?’ ‘What about mental health?’ So that’s definitely a big trend, people wanting more coverage for that.”
Young adults also are showing more interest in buying life insurance since the pandemic, he added. “I think COVID-19 showed them that when bad stuff happened to their mom and dad, they weren’t prepared. So now they want to know how they can prepare themselves.”
Spears and nets
Perry’s prospecting has come a long way from the days when he cold-called and told potential clients to look for the guy wearing the bow tie. Today, he uses a prospecting system he calls “spears and nets.”
The “spears” are direct contacts with prospects.
“The spears are an analogy I use for teaching people how to prospect, so spears means something with direct, instant feedback. It could be a phone call, it could be walking in the door. Think of it like fishing. If I go fishing with a spear, I know right away that I either catch a fish or I don’t catch a fish. It’s instant. It takes a few seconds. I can control that. That’s why I like that the spears are in control.”
The “nets” are akin to fishing nets, he said. They are more of a backup support for direct sales efforts.
“They’re your email marketing and social media and networking. Those are the things that you don’t get the fruit from right away; you just leave them out there, and sometimes you pull them up again. For example, if go to a networking group, you might meet someone there but never hear from them for three months. Then all of a sudden, they contact you and say they need something. Something triggered them to come to you and say they need to take action.”
Perry also has a strong LinkedIn presence. He began posting content weekly in 2015. He also conducts regular LinkedIn Live sessions and meetup sessions on LinkedIn. His aim is to provide information while appearing approachable.
“I don’t want to chase business; I want business to find me,” he said.
In addition to his signature bow ties and his heavy online presence, Perry tagged his business with the slogan “Have a Plan, Not a Plea.”
“That slogan came from the saying ‘It is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it,’” he said. “I think that saying is true when it comes to buying insurance. If you don’t have it, and you need it then you’re begging, you’re kind of saying, ‘Please help me.’ So I thought my goal is to help, you not have to beg. I want you to avoid having to ask for help because you have a plan.”