Our consulting client Brian Tolbert’s e-mail read, “Nelson, we got an AOR letter on a 25-person physician practice in Atlanta yesterday afternoon at the end of our first visit.” Tolbert, of Bernard Health in Nashville, credited the one-meeting close to a perfect example of what we call “little hinges that swing big doors.”

In our work with benefit agency owners to reinvent and grow their firms, we look for these “little hinges.” These are the small or even incremental changes that have a disproportionate positive impact on your business. Here are two little hinges.

Nelson Griswold

Control the sale
In Tolbert’s case, the “little hinge” was a written meeting agenda.

A written agenda is such a simple thing but its importance is critical. With just five basic discussion items on the Bernard Health agenda, Tolbert noted that, “the agenda doesn't have to have that much substance to it(!).”

Also see: "Why technology is the next line of coverage for brokers to sell."

Equally effective with both telephone and face-to-face meetings, the best practice is to send your agenda to the prospect or client (hereafter, just “prospect” since your clients are your best prospects) a day or two ahead of your meeting.

The first time you send an agenda to your prospect, explain in the e-mail that the agenda is to ensure a productive meeting and good use of everyone’s time. Also tell your prospect simply to add any missing topic to the agenda for discussion during the meeting.

Don’t underestimate an agenda’s power. Some of its power is simply in your using it. Sending an agenda tells your prospect that you think ahead, you’re organized, and you have a plan. An old proverb states, “Either you have a plan, or you become part of somebody else’s plan.” The agenda is your plan for the meeting.

Most important, however, your agenda lets you control the meeting by controlling what is discussed. Control the meeting and you begin to control the sale.

Physician selling
I’ve written previously about this next “little hinge” but it bears repeating often.

While an agenda helps you control the sales process, eventually, you must present your solution to the prospect’s problem or pain point. Too many benefit advisers and producers make the fatal mistake of asking the prospect’s permission to implement their recommended solution. (Perfect example: “What about offering some voluntary benefits?” The nearly universal answer: “No.”)

Imagine during an office visit your doctor saying, “I’m concerned about your high cholesterol count. What about going on a statin medication? Would that be OK?” Said by no doctor ever.

Doctors don’t ask your permission or opinion; they prescribe a solution or course of treatment based on their diagnosis of your problem, then explain the reasons behind their prescription. And you almost always defer to the doctor. Why? Who knows more about medicine and your health…you or the doctor?

And who knows more about medical insurance, plan design and benefits -- the prospect or you? So stop asking the prospect’s permission. Think and act like a physician: Diagnose the problem, prescribe the necessary solution or treatment, and explain the reasons.

“Based on what we’ve discussed, I recommend we raise the deductible to $5,000, put in a $5,000 Medical Gap plan, and provide Critical Illness and Accident plans to offset the employees’ increased financial exposure. Is that fair?” Don’t ask, prescribe.

A written agenda. Thinking and acting like a doctor. Two little hinges that will swing big doors in your practice.

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