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Peaks and valleys.

"What is the best or worst conversation you've ever had with a client? What did you learn from that meeting?"


The worst conversation I ever had was with an 8,000 life prospect. I was so excited to have the opportunity to meet with them. I did a ton of homework and walked in with an entire binder of ideas and strategies. After some pleasantries and a brief intro, the person said (and I directly quote...I'll never forget it), "Wouldn't it be cheaper to let them die?"

I was aghast! As a nurse (and a human being) I couldn't believe my ears. I asked for clarification, quickly determined that this guy was (at least mostly) serious, and ended the meeting without even cracking the binder. I explained that while that may be true, I didn't think we were a good fit. Deb Ault, Ault International Medical Management


The worst conversation I've ever had with a client was during a renewal for one of my oldest friends and mentors. I'd built a big beautiful assessment of the entire market of plan options and told his company's story in the context of North Texas. There was a complete disconnect and he actually thought I didn't prepare anything for him. One of my most treasured friends was miffed, and that hurt on a level that required some self-assessment. I had an "aha" moment that if one of my smartest and dearest friends was indignant, there was a true problem with the delivery of the information. I learned a huge lesson in personalized storytelling and leading with the client first and the solutions in market context second. Bret Brummitt, managing partner, A.G. Insurance Agencies


The worst conversation I ever had wasn't with a client, but a prospect. I was referred to them through another client. This prospect had approximately 100 employees, was fully insured and was paying over $1M per year for just medical insurance.

I worked my tail off getting a proposal together for them in less than two weeks. My proposal saved them $279,000 in the first year, and estimated savings over five years was over $1.2M. Their response to me was, "Well, we've already budgeted for a 10 percent increase this year, and this sounds like a lot of change. Thanks for your time." I was floored. Josh Butler, Butler Benefits & Consulting


Our best conversation with a client was actually our worst conversation with the same client.

They informed us after an RFP process that although our responses and detailed explanations were thorough and creative, they decided to consolidate all of their insurance lines with their medical consultant. They called to inform us of this decision, which was a tell-tale sign that they respected us and believed in our story. Typically, this bad news is delivered by an email, so the phone call confirmed to us that we made an impact. Two years later, this potential client is our client and they are a reference for our company. Joseph Alfonsi, partner, TriBen Insurance Solutions


I went out on a sales call with a producer. She was on the hunt and eager to land as much business as possible, no matter what. I was relatively junior in my career and my role in the meeting was to sit, listen, nod in agreement and make the prospective client comfortable.

As the meeting progressed, I started to become increasingly uncomfortable as promises were made regarding what "I" could do and how the transition would be "seamless." I sat there, letting this slow-moving train wreck happen.

The end result: the client engaged, and it was a huge mess. We couldn't do everything we promised, nor was it seamless. When the now-client called us in for a meeting to discuss the dumpster fire, the producer didn't show up. While the client was incredibly angry I earned her respect, was 100 percent honest, and set us on a correct course--something I should have done from the beginning.

Beth Robertson, AVP, NFP


How about a little best and worst all at once?

Delivering to a client that their renewal offer was 170 percent, due to a singular episode of care during the prior year. We delved into medical underwriting and canvassed the market for firm rates.

The results were a negative renewal because we ended up moving to a new stoploss market, administrator and network scheme. Stellar results following an initially difficult conversation.

Niko Caparisos, principal, Prosperity Benefits


The best conversation was not about the words that were exchanged. It was when I dropped by to see a client and she immediately hugged my neck and thanked me that we had taken such great care of them through cancer and disability the previous year. Susan Weed, sales manager, American Fidelity


Worst conversation: I was meeting with a mid-sized and fast growing technology company. They had a very young and healthy demographic, had a national footprint and were fully insured. We were speaking with the CFO about the value of alternate funding and the cash flow advantages it provides to fast growing firms. When we got to the end of the conversation, he agreed that a variable cost model could be much better than paying a fixed premium and would likely save them money in the magnitude of high six figures. However, he then stated, "We are VC backed and have to hit our next revenue bogey to get to our B round of funding at preferred terms. I don't care about expenses, only top line revenue growth."

That was flooring from a CFO. Now I always ask fast-growing firms if they are organic, PE or VC backed for capital. If it is VC, I move on.

Josh Jeffries, Arkin Youngentob Associates


Early on in my career, I finished a very successful large group enrollment. Just after completion, the owner's personal assistant called to let me know the owner needed to see me immediately. Talk about a bad feeling!

The first thing the owner asked is if I knew why he needed us to meet. I did not. He said he was wondering why I hadn't scheduled a time to meet with him. With no logical answer, I just told him that I assumed since he was the owner of such a large and well-established company, that he didn't need, nor would he have any interest in, any of the programs I was offering.

I'll never forget the owner's response: He told me he and his wife had spent the last 18 years building their business and that if something catastrophic were to happen to him or someone in his immediate family, he wanted to be sure they were properly covered.

From that point forward, not only have I enrolled every owner, but I make it a point to have the owner of the company become the very first employee I sit down with. This not only ensures they're not missed, but it allows the opportunity to have them truly become an advocate for what's being offered. Eric Silverman, principal and owner, Silverman Benefits Group


A few years ago, I received a call from a longstanding client of about 500 employees telling me that she was about to email me a BOR appointing another broker. Her hands were tied as the VC group that purchased them earlier in the year was forcing the issue. This was not the call I ever wanted to get, but I was not surprised by it and told her so. I also told her to call me if she didn't like what she was seeing from her new broker.

About a month later, I received another call from the group asking for my help. They had just finished a renewal meeting with their new consultant and it didn't go anything like they expected. We now had the opportunity to get back to work on their behalf and we earned the business back. In the end, we only lost the client for a month.

I learned several things from this experience: The importance of a great relationship amd open, honest and constant communication and planning. Perhaps most importantly: Don't take business personally and don't burn a bridge. Nat Garfield, VP, Novem Group
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Title Annotation:ACTION REACTION
Publication:Benefits PRO
Date:Apr 1, 2018
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