No, employers don’t always want your advice

This may feel like a platitude, but it’s a critical component of selling complex advice-based services. We hear firsthand stories of benefits advisers promoting new health insurance programs that can save thousands of dollars, and yet the prospects say, “No thank you.”

“Why?” is always the question that follows. Advisers discuss it, baffled by the poor decision-making and the ignorance of employers.

And I’m sure there is some serious fear-factor, poor decision-making happening on the part of the employers. It’s understandable. Big changes aren’t easy, even if it may be the right decision.

But there is always some deeper motivation in those situations, and it’s the adviser’s job to suss that out. Yet sales people admit way too often they will jump on the first idea they hear, create a diagnosis, and offer up a prescription before even leaving the office.

Think for a minute about sitting down with a new employer group. You learn a few facts about their current plan design, and your mind starts racing ahead with ideas about what they need to change. You kick into overdrive and start talking about all the changes you can bring to them. You’re throwing out numbers that quite likely are unbelievable to the uneducated ear. You sense their hesitation, so you start talking faster — and maybe louder — to get them to understand.

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Somewhere in all your talking and hand-waving, you pique their interest enough that they agree to let you bring back some information to review. Who doesn’t want to know what that kind of savings could look like? Doesn’t hurt to look, right?

So you go back and do a ton of work gathering quotes from various vendors, and the savings are mind-blowing! You’re so excited — how could they possibly say no to this?

And then they do. And you are incredulous.

You take the story to discussion groups and social media, bashing the employer for their stupid and reckless decision-making.

But why did they say no? Consider:

· Did you take the time to talk to them about their business goals?
· Did you learn the personal motivations of the business owner and leadership team?
· Did you learn what each of their concerns are?
· Did you facilitate an open discussion for the decision-making group about the ideas you’re presenting? And give them proper time to learn about and thoroughly understand your motivations behind the recommendations?
· Did they have confidence that you know their business and their goals well enough to make the recommendations?
· Did you allow the process proper time for all of these new ideas to sit and simmer appropriately with them? To allow them time to find their own questions and develop confidence in you and your proposed recommendations?

Or did you get excited and present them with ideas from a rather ignorant place, thinking they would say yes simply because of the cost savings?

It’s very hard to take significant advice from anyone who has not taken the time to get to know you and has not allowed you the opportunity to get to know them. If your advice-giving motivations are not openly felt by the advisee, your advice may be perceived as suspect.

Who knows? You could be selling snake oil. You could be trying to get an extra bonus payment. You could be trying to reach a sales quota. You could be doing a friend a favor and helping get their new business off the ground.

Or you could be genuinely interested in helping them find a solution that is in their best financial interest.

But until you allow proper time and circumstances for your role to develop from that of a salesperson pitching products to that of an adviser working in their best interests, you’re going to struggle getting people to take new, potentially radical recommendations from you. Regardless of how much money you may be able to save them.

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