Collaborative movement strengthens advising
“If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far travel as a team.”
These wise words were spoken by sales coach Rick Barrera at a recent meeting run by business management consulting organization Vistage. It was a really good reminder to a group of alpha personalities that there is value in letting others help you along the way.
When I first started my sales career, I was definitely someone who thought I had it all figured out. I thought that my method of working was the best way; the only way I could ensure that things were done the right way was to do them myself. This may sound familiar to the grand majority of salespeople. We are doers.
This past year in particular has proved me wrong.
I’ve found myself bouncing ideas off of other consultants, payroll vendors, technology CEOs and insurance professionals. At times, I’ve fought this new inclination to ask for help because I’m stubborn. But, it’s fantastic! I’ve really become great friends with individuals who want me to succeed despite the fact that we are seemingly competitors. They’ve shared a lot of invaluable knowledge with me, such as which tech vendors they like to partner with, who are the best TPAs to use for different scenarios, and what are the best conferences to attend. They have told me how they are being compensated, given me their NDAs and pushed me to be a better consultant.
Through this practice, I’ve been much more successful than I have in years past.
There is a movement of change afoot in the benefits space. An abundance mentality. Advisers are getting sick and tired of hearing that there is nothing their clients can do to proactively control their benefits spend. So, like-minded individuals are all banding together to create a force to be reckoned with. They find joy out of helping competitors get a win for their clients. This group has a lot of chiefs and very few indians. However, this group likes to problem solve and they don’t care if they aren’t the ones profiting directly from the outcome.
I’m going to continue to use my network to help me. I do not have all the answers, but I’m resourceful enough to find others who do. I plan on going far. I know that I will need help along the way, and I am grateful to know there are plenty of individuals in this profession I can call on.
By Rick Ramos
With more than 32 years of experience as an employee benefit specialist, Suzy K. Johnson understands benefits better than most. She is president and owner of Employee Benefit Advisors of the Carolinas. I had a chance to speak with Suzy and ask her about her thoughts on the industry and where we are headed.
Rick Ramos: Suzy, you’ve qualified for the NAHU Soaring Eagle agency recognition award each year since its inception in 2010. What’s changed most in the benefits space in the last seven years?
Suzy K. Johnson: The better questions is, “What hasn’t changed?” We used to primarily do small groups under 100 employees and now we only prospect groups with more than 50 employees. Our average new case used to be 35 lives and now we average around 115 employee lives.
We used to educate about how small groups under 50 employees were rated based on their risk factor, but now it is only ACA community rates or level-funding with underwriting questions for groups of 25 or more in North Carolina.
In 2008, we received a lucrative percentage of commissions along with handsome volume overrides from carriers. This meant we had an automatic increase in annual revenue, even if our new production wasn’t what we targeted. Now we are paid a per employee per month (PEPM) fee for group health of all sizes. Now when employers lay off workers, our revenue decreases. As a result, we must continuously sell new consulting work to grow revenue and the company.