Boy am I stupid:’ Assumptions wreak havoc

In Careers & coaching, Sales by Eric Silverman

Before you blindly agree with the beginning of my headline, please allow me to defend myself.

Has anyone else ever rocked an enrollment — and I mean, really crushed it — only then to have the owner of the company call you unexpectedly when the enrollment is complete to tell you they need to meet with you immediately?

Let me tell you something: It’s probably one of the worst feelings in the world. Your stomach starts to turn, your head begins to pound, and all you can think is, “What have I done wrong?” It feels like you’re back in middle school, and you’ve been called into the principal’s office.

I had just finished the supplemental benefits enrollment for a local health club chain with hundreds of employees. To say the enrollment was a success would have been a huge understatement.  The support that I received from the executive management team was unlike anything I’d ever experienced at the time. They were truly onboard and allowed me full access to their entire population, which was, of course, the true catalyst that enabled the enrollment’s amazing success.

My phone rings and it’s the owner’s personal assistant calling to let me know that the owner needs to see me immediately. Naturally, I dropped everything, and raced over to meet with him. Still being so green in the benefits world, and quite frankly, sales in general, the first thing that went through my mind was negativity. All I kept thinking about was saving the account and how I couldn’t believe I messed up so badly. Keep in mind, I had not been told why the owner needed to meet so urgently and what, if anything, I did wrong.

The assumptions brought on by the inexperienced brain can wreak havoc on your day if you let them, and I most definitely let them get the best of me.

The first thing the owner asked me was if I knew why he needed us to meet. I, of course, had no idea, but proceeded to foolishly tell him that I assumed I had messed something up and was truly sorry for anything that I did wrong. Wow. Talk about a rookie mistake. And this was just one of many in my career. The owner proceeded to tell me that he heard the enrollment went great and he had gotten nothing but positive and enthusiastic feedback from all of his management staff. He even said that he was impressed that I took the time to sit down, one-on-one, and meet with all of his executive management team — all except for one — him! He said he was wondering why I hadn’t scheduled a time to meet with him to go over the available benefit options.

I, sadly, didn’t have a logical response to his question. All I could manage to spit out was 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 — another rookie mistake! You know the old saying, “Those who assume, make an ass out of you and me?” Well, that’s me, the rookie who made, yet another, stupid assumption.

Nearly missed opportunity

I’ll never forget what the owner said to me about his potential interest in the supplemental programs I was making available to his company. He told me that he and his wife had spent the last 18 years building their health club chain to be the recognizable and profitable brand that it had become. He continued with a personal story about what it’s like to have an immediate family member go through a catastrophic event and the emotional, physical and huge financial burden that comes with it. He said that he and his wife have worked way too long and hard to risk everything and not have comprehensive coverage in place and that the cost of adding my coverage wasn’t really his concern. What was his concern was that if something new were to happen to him or someone in his immediate family, he wanted to be sure they were properly covered.

He then explained to me something that I should have known already: The specific reason he chose to bring me in and had given me so much support throughout the enrollment. He made it very clear that he had tremendous belief in the programs I was offering, specifically based on his family member’s prior catastrophic experience and not having such products in place. He said that he asked his executive management team to help ensure all of his employees had proper education; even his many part-timers, as he wanted to give everyone the ability to obtain coverage.

It was at that moment when I realized that the owner was a huge advocate for supplemental benefits, since he understood how traditional health insurance just doesn’t provide comprehensive coverage to pay everyday bills the way most people think it does.

Not only did the owner and his wife enroll with me, but also to this very day, they still remain on the books, well over a decade later.

The owner and his wife made a very handsome living and weren’t worried about a small accident or a trip to the doctor because someone had the sniffles. They wanted to obtain the added coverage as more of what I call “lifestyle and asset” protection. Unlike a large number of employee clients who we enroll who can’t miss a day of work or go to the doctor, pay a copay, or fund a deductible without enormous stress, these owners were adding the coverage to ensure their livelihood as they knew it would, financially, always remain as close to what they’re used to as possible.

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 to enroll. This not only ensures they’re not missed, but also, more importantly, it allows the opportunity to gain their conviction further and have them truly become an advocate for what’s being offered. These owner advocates — in many cases — help champion the enrollment to extraordinary levels of success.

Are you dealing strictly with the HR team, or are you dealing directly with the owner? Do your owner clients have the conviction that my owner clients did? If you were to get even half the support I received with this account, how much greater would your enrollment turn out?

I am forever grateful for not only the business lessons learned in making my mistakes and stupid assumptions, but moreover, the life lessons I learned as well.

Be sure to find your owner advocate — happy hunting!

Anyone else ever had a ‘stupid’ moment when they were a rookie? I’d love to hear it. Please share your story with me so we can all learn from each other’s rookie mistakes.