The right way to re-educate clients (and advisers)

Advisers have been educating and re-educating themselves for years.

There are advisers who have been learning self-insurance for a long time and putting in the hours learning, educating themselves, educating clients, testing, tweaking, knowing who is a good fit and who isn’t. They are confident in conversations with clients about the pros and cons and how to help them make a right-fit decision.

In the name of making a sale, they don’t go in yelling at clients about how they’re getting ripped off and making poor decisions. They don’t go in with silly analogies that come off as half-baked and leaving people questioning the sanity, or at least the blood pressure, of an overly zealous pitch.

In the early 2000s I worked with a really smart adviser and savvy salesperson who always put his clients’ interests first. I remember the day he came in after meeting with a client where they told him they were talking with a competitor about self-insurance. He decided in that meeting that he needed to understand it at an expert level because he knew it was going to become increasingly important, especially for the types of clients he worked with.

self-funded-employee-benefits-chart

He was a fierce learner and studied the ins and outs of the concepts, products, and providers. I learned it well enough to help him create materials and reports to demonstrate to prospects and clients what it meant to them. We started with the before-the-sale materials and conversations to educate the employers. And then we created ongoing reports to show how the program was working.

We pulled all the data together to create materials that would properly educate. That was critical. He wouldn’t have it any other way — employers needed to understand it if he was going to be able to sell it. If they didn’t fully understand, we would rework the visuals or the message to make it clear.

I listen to brokers who are just learning about self-insurance and are going out placing blame on the employers for being so stupid, and how can they possibly have wasted all this money all these years? Well, Mr. Broker, what have you been doing all these years pitching retail carrier plans and not bothering to educate yourself on these alternatives that have been available for so many years? You’ve been just as much a part of the problem.

I’m not blaming brokers in this complicated formula that has gotten us to our current state.

I’m saying to stop blaming the employers who have been following the advice they have received for decades from brokers, carriers, medical providers and the media. They’ve been doing what they’ve been told, unaware of alternatives.

Move instead to education

Now it’s time to educate the clients. Stop shoving it down their throat. Stop calling them stupid. Stop blaming them. That’s not education.

Education starts before your first conversation with them. It starts with your marketing: the content on your website, the blogs you write, the videos you create, the posts you make on social media.

Use those marketing vehicles to educate buyers and introduce new-to-them ideas. When you meet with them, be prepared to slowly introduce the concepts, be patient in answering questions, and expect that you’ll have to explain, re-explain, and probably explain again.

It takes months (18 is a number we often hear) of really studying to get comfortable enough to successfully walk clients through it. Despite how good your message and visuals may be, your clients are not going to learn in a 20-minute meeting what has taken you months, and the industry years, to learn and develop.

So go into employer conversations with the recognition that objections don’t necessarily mean that people disagree. Instead objections often mean that your listeners don’t yet understand. Take their objections as an opportunity to educate.

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