The best adviser strategy: Ditch the broker label

NEW ORLEANS — The best way to land a new client might not be as a benefit broker. It might be as a benefits consultant instead.

That’s according to John Sbrocco, a former professional poker player and healthcare strategist, who is now a principal for his own benefit consultancy, Questige.

When approaching a new client, Sbrocco, who spoke recently at the Benefits Forum & Expo in New Orleans, does not sell himself as a traditional benefit broker but as a consultant who will work with the broker of record.

Once he is hired, Sbrocco examines how the broker works and finds further savings to add value to the client. “How hard is it to find $18,000 in healthcare savings?” he asked. This impresses the client and, instead of charging a standard broker fee, he bills on a special project basis.

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“If the group is large enough, they will pay more money. Put your money where their mouth is,” he said.

Sbrocco said he is not trying to disrupt the broker, but is instead offering expert advice. “It is an interesting role,” he said. “[Employers] call and they schedule to get on my calendar like an attorney.”

Benefit brokers looking to be a consultant must be perceived as industry experts, he explained. Sbrocco recalled a meeting early in his career with a CFO and not having answers to big picture healthcare questions. He vowed never to be in that position again.

He learned about the topic and wrote a book — “Breaking Through The Status Quo” — and shot a series of short web videos. Taking Warren Buffet’s advice that “if you’re not learning, you’re not earning,” Sbrocco claimed to invest $70,000 in learning about healthcare costs last year.

He sent copies of his book to the client along with links to testimonial videos to the CFO. It worked.

“Even the owner came into the meeting and said, ‘I saw that and that’s pretty good.’”

A broker must also create a brand and let it speak for them, Sbrocco advised.

“A lot of you are doing to great things, but nobody knows about it,” he said, adding that brokers and consultants should hire speaking coaches to help them tell their story in front of small and large crowds and in videos.

“I won almost every consulting win through a speaking event,” he said. “They don’t have to fire anyone and they know they need you now. They were hesitant and they now have it easy. It’s frictionless.”

In time, consultants can take the relationship to the next level. “Let them date you for a while before you ask to marry them. Let them see your value,” he said. “Once you they are paying you, they have to take your calls. They have money in the game so get in the door and call them a client.”

Email campaigns, video testimonials, client case studies and webinars also are key for ambitious brokers and consultants.

If you’re not doing video, you’re missing out, according to Sbrocco, who said after one webinar, he reached out to an audience member in California and thanked her for listening to his webinar. “Within five minutes, she was confessing her sins to me,” he said. He signed her up as a new consulting client to help guide her through the aspects of healthcare coverage she didn’t understand.

“I don’t say I am going to take over as broker of record, but that I am here to work on a consulting basis,” he said. Once a consultant can provide value, you have their attention, he said.

“They don't have to fire anyone,” he said. “You are giving them the opportunity to hire you.”

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