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Adapting to an ever-changing marketplace is critical to remaining relevant and profitable. A group of elite advisers is helping industry practitioners achieve this mission across three critical areas.

The NextGen Benefits Mastermind Partnership, co-founded by EBA columnist Nelson Griswold and Scott Cantrell, a partner for Bottom Line Solutions, includes creation of the first healthcare value chain management certification program and speakers academy. Another initiative includes a white-label marketing and promotion program to raise the profile of those who can use a hand growing their practice. Each area intends to elevate an adviser’s visibility, credibility and authority in the marketplace.

Expanding the breadth of industry certifications can have a tangible impact. “We tell our clients that the shortest distance between a prospect and client is education,” Cantrell says.

The inaugural certification training for the Certified Healthcare Value Chain Manager designation was held at the 4th annual Ascend NextGen Benefits Growth & Leadership Summit in January, which Griswold and Cantrell host. While there may be future live trainings, all of the content modules are being developed into an online training and certification course by a team of learning professionals. CE credit approval is currently being sought.

Healthcare supply chain management represents “a new discipline that brokers must move into if they want to be competitive going forward,” according to Griswold, who’s also the author of several books and president of Bottom Line Solutions.

By carefully managing the medical supply chain, he says the aim is for advisers to provide more value to employer customers and the employee populations they serve. The strategy is designed to control and lower the cost of care, whether it’s for a doctor's visit, diagnostic test, surgery or hospitalization. Other key objectives include improving health outcomes and the quality of benefits being offered.

“It has to happen within a self-insured environment because a fully-insured plan doesn't allow for these sorts of cost-containment interventions,” Griswold adds.

His larger point is that helping broker transactions between employers and health insurance companies no longer delivers value to most employers in the face of year-over-year rate increases at renewal time. By moving to a self-funded environment and helping manage that supply chain as part of a more consultative approach, he says employers will have greater control over their costs and a chance to create value.

Power of public speaking

As part of the Underground Adviser Masterclass series of training seminars, which includes a C-Suite selling workshop, Griswold and Cantrell also created a Speakers Academy. A two-day session is limited to no more than 24 advisers working with professional speakers.

With surveys showing that some people fear public speaking even more than death, overcoming stage fright is a common concern. Indeed, at last year’s inaugural Speakers Academy Griswold recalls a number of attendees who were absolutely terrified, but “they all walked out with a fairly polished presentation that they had given a couple of times in front of these peers without anything detrimental happening.” Just ask benefits adviser Caitlin Hodge, who overcame years of severe anxiety and depression to take the stage and become successful producer with HJ Spier, which reported 60% organic growth last year.

The secret to a successful presentation is to start with a compelling individual opening about overcoming a personal challenge, Griswold notes. Anecdotes serve as a powerful way to engage an audience. Andy Neary, a healthcare strategist with the Olson Group, has mastered this art. He playfully references his time as a baseball pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers with self-deprecating remarks and teachable moments when speaking at industry events.

At the recent Ascend conference, he said public speaking is an adviser’s No. 1 prospecting tool. But it requires a heartfelt commitment to the merit of one’s content, he noted, as well as the need for speakers to check their ego at the door, strive for connection over perfection and realize that the audience is there to cheer them on, not witness failure.

“Public speaking, like any worthwhile skill, requires preparation and practice,” Cantrell explains. “If you do that enough, you're going to get better at it.”

Proven promotion techniques

Another important strategy involves implementing proven marketing techniques. The Mastermind Partnership offers several marketing programs to help advisers generate warm leads from ideal prospects for producers to meet with and convert into clients. In addition, they have access to one-on-one consulting with new director of marketing, Megan Chiarello. The objective is to deliver better benefits for employees with year-over-year reductions in an employer client’s healthcare spend.

The NextGen Benefits Toolbox is a comprehensive online training program whose modules cover culture, portfolio, marketing, consultative selling and management. Additionally, there are three levels of engagement that help advisers expedite the transformation of their agencies. They include group coaching called Achievers Circle, one-on-one coaching called Peak Performers and an executive-level peer-exchange network known as the NextGen Benefits Mastermind Partnership.

“Marketing is nothing more than telling your prospects about the solutions you can bring to their problems,” Griswold observes. “The beauty is that instead of a cold call or email to someone at a marketing event, these are warm leads with prospects who have read what you do and with whom you can have meaningful conversations.”

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