Working at Coalition often brings together people from many different walks of life, but occasionally Coalition unites people who've walked the very same path — or in this case, a driveway. This is the story of a chance meeting between two Coalition salespeople, ironically years before they worked for Coalition. It's proof of the truly-helpful personalities that make our Business Development team so successful.
Whether you're an insurance broker, a business owner, or an IT administrator, everyone knows what it's like to struggle from time to time. It's what you learn during that struggle that matters most — such as how to improve your resilience to slumps or even cyber threats. For an example of how one such struggle turned into a tale of tenacity, Coalition's Inside Sales Leader Justin Slavens shares how he first met Alex Pazooki, Coalition’s Business Development US Western Zone Lead.
In 2017, Justin had just moved to Walnut Creek, California, from Utah with his new wife. They were both just 22 years old and expecting their first baby when Justin joined his cousin in selling home security systems door-to-door. Beyond sounding like a potentially lucrative gig that would help them save up before the baby's arrival, Justin saw selling security systems as something more meaningful. "The biggest thing for me was that I really wanted to do something that could help people have peace of mind," said Justin.
Unfortunately, convincing homeowners in one of the safest communities in California to invest in a security system turned out to be harder than he had imagined. "I remember one week I didn't have a single sale, working from 9:00 in the morning to 8:00 at night," recalled Justin. "And if you don't sell anything, you can work all those hours, and you don't even make a penny."
The once-promising prospects of phenomenal sales income fell flat, particularly on the day his wife called him with a simple request. "She was craving uncooked tortillas, the kind you can put on the stove and cook on both sides," he said. "She asked if she could go to the store and buy some — but I looked at the bank account, and we had negative 23 bucks."
Justin considered this the day he hit rock bottom. "I just remember sitting on a curb and thinking, 'This sucks. I'm sitting out here working my butt off, and my pregnant wife can't even get uncooked tortillas at the store for three dollars.'"
While their college student credit card helped her out that day, Justin knew what he needed was some inspiration to keep on selling. It was around this time that he tried selling to a stranger who not only shared a similar career but some words of encouragement — and years later, they would even share the same corporate HQ.
The day Justin knocked on Alex Pazooki’s door, Alex wasn't in the market for a home security system. However, being a 10-year veteran salesperson, Alex was in the mood to offer some great advice to a young salesman whose pitch was far from perfect.
"He didn't buy because I wasn't very good," Justin said. Instead, Alex came out and sat down with him on the bumper of Alex’s car in the driveway. "He sat and chatted with me for like an hour and said, 'Hey, sales is a good profession. I'm in sales, too,'" Justin recalled. "He was just really friendly and really nice. He chatted with me — like this total stranger — about our lives, about sales, and how it can be tough."
"I could tell he was in a tough spot, and I thought if I could talk with him and give him pointers, that it might make a difference for him," Alex said. He advised Justin to stick with it, saying, "It's going to be okay, and it's going to end up being a pretty good career."
Justin remembered that impromptu conversation as a big turning point that summer. He wound up spending a total of three summers as a door-to-door home security salesperson before becoming a high-producing salesperson for other companies. A few years later, Justin joined Coalition as senior manager of sales development. He never forgot about Alex Pazooki’s words of wisdom. "I’d been worried about things that don't matter, but what I really want is to have a good profession for my family," Justin reflected. "So I'm going to mix it up and make it work — and I will always remember this random Pazooki I met in the Bay Area."
Even though Justin never forgot Alex’s advice, he didn’t expect ever to see Alex again — especially considering that he was no longer living in California, where he had met Alex. But, to his surprise, he and Alex wound up on a Zoom call together. It turns out that Alex was one of Coalition’s Business Development leaders, and he was now one of Justin’s work colleagues.
"I always remembered his last name because it was the same as my wife’s favorite dessert at BJ’s restaurant," Justin said.
Initially, Justin thought Alex just happened to have the same last name as the homeowner who had inspired him on that fateful summer evening. "I was thinking maybe it was his brother or a distant cousin or somebody like that," he recalled.
However, once the two compared notes, it became glaringly obvious that Alex wasn’t just a random Pazooki. He was the Pazooki that helped Justin become a better salesperson.
"I told him I was the only Pazooki around here," said Alex.
“It was a weird, full circle moment," Justin added.
"What was different about Justin is that he asked a lot of questions," Alex said, adding that he could tell Justin was eager to learn and ready to push through challenges in order to succeed. He also noticed that Justin had an innate ability to listen to and connect with others, a trait that is immensely beneficial in sales.
Likewise, Justin also noticed similar traits in Alex. Rather than slamming the door in his face when he showed up on his front porch selling a product he didn’t need, Alex took the time to see beyond the pitch. He spent his personal time offering advice and coaching Justin without knowing whether he would ever do anything with it, and he never expected anything in return.
Incredibly, Justin took Alex’s advice to heart, and Alex ended up getting a few things out of that conversation, too. He gained a great story, a remarkable new colleague, and confirmation that taking time to invest in others is time well spent.
The underlying attitude that Justin and Alex showed five years ago and continue to show today shows two very important tenets we value at Coalition: a genuine desire to provide another person peace of mind and to help solve a problem — even if it’s “not our job.” We call this "sweeping the floors." We are never too big to do the small things that need to be done. We balance pride with humility: absolute pride in performance and total humility before the magnitude of the task.
Whether it’s Justin selling security systems to homeowners door-to-door, or Alex taking the time to give a struggling salesperson an inspiring discussion, the same character they possess applies to helping insurance brokers help solve cyber risk for business owners — supporting others by providing personal service with the end goal of improving security.
#OurCoalition values investing in our team members and helping them grow their individual skills. If you are interested in joining us on our journey to provide security for all, check out our open positions on our careers at Coalition page.