These are exciting times. That may sound strange coming from a benefit adviser, but they really are. The October EBA reiterated the fact that now we have an opportunity to outshine our competition. People sticking to the old ways are going to be gone, and there is a lot of opportunity for those of us who are adapting our business to the new challenges.
Adapt by education
The cover story about Terry Kingsbery Showing them the light by Brian Kalish showed one way to adapt - education. This article focused on financial planning, but you could translate the concept to health reform, legislation, pharmacy benefits, you name it. There is a particularly good line in the article - "educating clients simply builds a tighter bond with them." Think back to a time when you had a favorite teacher or mentor, someone who took the time to learn about you and to share their knowledge. Good memories, right? Think about what you can share with your clients, and guide them.
Help your clients
Prescription drug compliance is bigger than you might think. After reading the article It's time to improve, I thought back to meetings I've had with carriers and PBMs on this very topic. One carrier in my area actually tracks adherence and will send a letter to the treating physician if a patient does not fill their prescription. Good analysis tools can take carrier data and use them to dig into adherence issues, as well as find ways to address specialty medications. The article makes a good point that focusing on making sure people take their medication will increase drug claims, and this is where your consulting side comes in. Use your analysis tools to show cost projections of what could happen if the condition is left untreated. Help the CFO or HR executive see the alternatives - would they rather pay $100 a month for medicine to lower blood pressure or tens of thousands on ER visits, surgeries, and other related issues that arise when medication is not taken? Then install monitoring tools and employee communications. Ideas like this take you out of the old "sell a rate" world into the new world of a consultant.
I don't completely agree with the ideas mentioned in Mel Schlesinger's The Biggest Marketing Mistakes about not selling yourself or your agency. I agree that you should not start a conversation by talking about yourself and your agency. In fact, I had a recent meeting with a vendor who did just this - a full hour of my time listening to this guy's accomplishments in the past and absolutely zero about my issues. Time wasted. But if I'm going to work with someone, I need to know something about him. A lot of my competition is ex-group reps who may have only sold health, or disability, or life. How is that person going to give well-rounded advice? My prospects need to know I've got experience that is of use. They need to know something about me that makes me different. So, here is my two cents. Listen to the clients and keep the discussion focused on them. Take their issues and concerns, and with your answers add information about you and your agency. Sprinkle it into the conversation. That way you can tell your story while keeping the discussion focused on them.
Reach Bryant, founder of SB&K Benefits, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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