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The "V" word.

As much as I respect the entirety of the nomination and election process in our great land, I have to admit the following: I am about ready to jump out of my skin.

Astute readers (and those with way too much memory for detail or time on their hands) may recall that I am a resident of the great state of South Carolina. You would also be correct in assuming that everyone who is published in this months' edition wrote their articles several weeks in advance of the magazine you are holding in your hands.

So, if you do the math, you will correctly deduce that this column is being written a week before the South Carolina Republican primary. The airwaves are thick with political ads. There's enough finger pointing and blame laying to circle the Earth several times.

If you don't live in an early primary state, be happy. This is getting downright ugly. Every one of the remaining five prospective nominees has his own particularly nasty thing to say about the other guy.

Yet, amid all of the posturing and pants-on-fire accusations, there is a small but persistent common thread. The candidates are united in a battle to capture the hearts and mind of those ubiquitous South Carolina creatures: the "values voters." The term is broadly defined as describing those who believe in limited government, reducing spending, championing "traditional" values and protecting America. Every story filed or broadcast by the newscasters, punditocracy and the blogosphere seems to make some reference to those "values voters."

Whether you agree with--or even like--the definition or the term, it does describe a group of our fellow Americans who know what they believe and are ready to stand up and vote those values--hence, the terminology. To the politicians, the values voters have ... well ... value. During one particularly mind-numbing block of political ads the other day, I started thinking about that word: value. If someone doesn't pay attention to you, it may be because they don't perceive you as having value.

Are you valued?

Economists define value as the power of a good or service to command other goods, services or money. According to businessdictionary.com, marketers (that's us, folks) define value as "the extent to which a good or service is perceived by its customer to meet his or her needs or wants, measured by the customer's willingness to pay for it. It commonly depends more on the customer's perception of the worth of the product than on its intrinsic value." Think about your practice and how the value you deliver meets either of those two standards.

The medical insurance segment of our community is beginning to feel like the whole world is a tuxedo and they are a pair of brown shoes. There has been a great deal of hand wringing and teeth gnashing over whether there will be a "place" in the system for them. They have been estranged by arbitrary and capricious medical loss ratios and fear they will be replaced by a website armed (albeit temporarily) with a strange legislative creature known as a "navigator."

Tempting as it might be to take comfort in the fact that you market products other than medical, the assault on other markets has already begun. An old Southern expression I've learned is that "a drowning man will grab a snake." The tax man is drowning, and snakes of the annuity, cash-value life insurance and other varieties are all being grabbed. If your value to your clients is bringing them products, you, too, will soon feel the hot breath of your rich uncle in Washington on your neck--and his hand in your pocket. Don't expect anyone to ride to your rescue, either. As George Bernard Shaw once noted, "The government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul."

I recently addressed a large group of brokers. Among the audience were a number of professionals I've known for quite some time, so I didn't call for anyone to raise their hand, lest they be embarrassed by my next instruction. I asked the group to make a mental list of their 10 largest clients and to think about whether they could leave our meeting and visit those clients to ask for a signature on a fee agreement. You could have heard a pin drop--and the room was carpeted!

In the past, you may have attempted to make the argument that delivering a product--or a spreadsheet full of products--was a value to the client. Referencing the definition we discussed earlier, the real value is more about the customer's perception of the worth of the product than the intrinsic value of the product. If you are delivering real value, you can command a real price for it. Value is the vaccine that inoculates you against fickle markets and opportunistic politicians. Value is the antidote for ideologues (of all varieties) and the riches they need to fuel their ideology.

Take a long, hard--and honest--look at your practice and ask yourself if you are delivering that which the client perceives as having value. If you can answer that in the affirmative, you could pass the test I asked my audience to consider. If you are having trouble envisioning a new practice model, you may want to read "Unique Process Advisors" by Dan Sullivan. The book examines how 10 financial advisors have used "value creation" to create what the author terms "client monopolies."

The politicians and their minions who have infested South Carolina (Florida ... you're next!) have sought out the values voters. If you create value for your clients, they will not only happily work with you and pay for the privilege, they will also seek you out. Regardless of what the Supreme Court decides on PPACA or whether the tax man cometh for the inside buildup, if you provide value, you will survive.

By David A. Saltzman, RHU, DIA

David A. Saltzman, RHU, DIA, is president at EmpowHR. The South Carolina resident is a past president of NAHU and has been a health, disability, life and employee benefits broker for more than 30 years. Readers may contact him at dsaltz@gmail.com.
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Title Annotation:TO YOUR GOOD HEALTH
Author:Saltzman, David A.
Publication:Life Insurance Selling
Geographic Code:1U5SC
Date:Feb 1, 2012
Words:1028
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