How many times have you gone in to meet with a prospect or a client and you hear the following: “I really like all that you have said, but, another broker/consultant gives me free FSA, HRA, HSA, technology, booklets and printing …”

Free? Nothing is free. There is a cost or a loss to someone if we get something for “free.” I am a believer that you really do get what you pay for. Let me ask you, when was the last time you took a top prospect or a key client to the “free” all you can eat buffet? Here is a thought: Start working with the insurance company that has the free life and disability insurance. How about recommending that your client’s employees consider using the cardiologist that does free open-heart surgery. Or better yet, take your car to the free oil and lube the next time you need an oil change.

Why are we ashamed or afraid to tell our clients or prospects what our cost of doing business is? Why are we afraid to be transparent? The fact of the matter is, if we introduce our client to a ben admin firm or FSA administrator, why not tell them the net cost? Why not break it down for your prospect/client?

“Mrs. Prospect, the annual premium for your benefit program in 2014 will be $ABC, my fee is $X. In addition, you would like to roll out an FSA, this will cost $Y and the ben admin will be $Z. The total cost of Benefits in 2014 will be $ABC + $X + $Y + $Z.”

I’m not sure about you, but my clients don’t do free. They sell their widgets and gadgets; they make a profit on their tools, pools and stools. The manufactures, grocery stores, attorneys, accountants and even banks charge for product and service. Why are we not doing the same?

Time to look in the mirror and reflect a bit. I point the finger, the blame, on us. We (our industry) felt the need to start giving things away to write business and retain business.  Why? We are in the risk business. We help people and protect them when something really bad happens — death, disability, sickness, illness. We make a promise to take care of them or their families if there is a death, disability or the need to see a doctor or go to the hospital. None of this sounds free to me.

I am going to continue on the path of consulting and advising, I will continue to tell my prospects and clients I don’t have the free stuff. I am going to tell them that I will continue to have their best interest top-of-mind all the time, that I will give them 110%, that I will consult, advise and educate them and their employees. But none of this is free, and the partners that I work with, they are not free, either. Frankly, I don’t want to work with a client that expects free, just like I would never expect to get a new car for free.

The next time a client or prospect lets you know that another broker/consultant is doing/giving something for free, you have a choice: continue to commoditize our industry or be transparent. Personally, I am really enjoying my clients. They have placed a value on the expertise, the value and the partners that I bring to them. And as they will tell you: It’s not free.

Daboul is vice president national accounts at Employee Family Protection, Inc. Reach him at (800) 229-5129 or vad@efpnow.com.

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