In the popular Netflix series, “House of Cards,” the main character of Frank Underwood is a U.S. Congressman from South Carolina willing do whatever is necessary — lie, steal, betray, destroy reputations, even murder — as he schemes his way to the pinnacle of power in Washington. In short, Underwood is a despicable character, likely a sociopath.

And viewers love him, cheering him along on his path to power. But why? Why do otherwise decent people find such an amoral and evil character so appealing? Let me suggest a reason.

Frank Underwood has a plan. He always has a plan. And people love someone with a plan, who works to control a situation in the service of a specific goal. When you have a plan, others find themselves hoping your plan works … even eager to help your plan to work.

Not only do people like to see a plan, they often find it easier at first to trust a plan than to trust a person. If you tell a prospect that you can achieve a certain result, the prospect may or may not believe you. But if you show the prospect your process (which is just a plan to achieve the result), the prospect is more willing to put his faith in your process or plan.

Do your prospects and clients perceive you to have a plan? Do you have a plan?

The best benefits firms and the top producers I know always work from a plan. They leave little or nothing to chance in their marketing and their selling. So what do these plans look like? Here are two ways that my agency clients and other leading benefit firms use plans for a competitive edge.

1) Meeting agenda

Many of my agency clients never meet with a prospect or client without first sending an agenda — a plan — for the meeting. This might seem like a small thing; it’s not. If you send the agenda, guess who’s in charge of the meeting? Correct.

When you send a meeting agenda, it speaks volumes about you. You are perceived as thoughtful, organized, professional and someone with a plan. Like sending a handwritten note after a meeting, sending an agenda prior to the meeting differentiates you from your competition in meaningful ways.

2) Proprietary process

Most benefit firms have a process of some sort they use when working with a client. This is the firm’s basic operational plan for identifying and solving client problems. But most never write it down and promote it as their proprietary process.

If you don’t have a written process that you show prospects and use with your clients, you should. Here are three actual processes from top benefits firms: 

Identify Risk --> Develop Strategy --> Implement Solutions --> Monitor Results

Prevent --> Mitigate --> Transfer --> Assume

Ask --> Listen --> Analyze --> Implement --> Repeat

Simple, you say? Obvious or self-evident? Yes, you’re right, but each is the process the firm actually uses. They may be simple but they demonstrate to prospects that you have a plan for working with them to discover their problems and solve them. Many firms showcase their proprietary process as a colorful graphic on their website.

Start leveraging plans with your prospects and clients and see how it sets you apart from — and above — your competition.  

Griswold is an agency growth consultant and author of DO or DIE: Reinventing Your Benefits Agency for Post-Reform Success. His Agency Growth Mastermind Network helps agency leaders reform-proof their firm. Reach him at (615) 656-5974,, or through

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