Hi, my name is Eric, and I’m a recovering carrier rep

In Enhanced Benefits by Eric Silverman

“Hi, Eric!” said the group of attendees joining me at this week’s fictitious recovering carrier reps anonymous meeting.

Now, before you judge me for poking fun at very serious topics like gambling addiction, or those constantly seeking an adrenaline rush and the need for speed, continue reading and only then — if you believe it’s warranted – judge away.

I’ve lived the enhanced benefits carrier rep lifestyle and boy, was it sweet.

You name it, I “won” it. Year after year of sales contests, where I received the latest and greatest prizes that could ever come out of Silicon Valley.

Lavish all-expense paid trips of a lifetime that created memories I will forever cherish. Quarterly and annual bonus checks that were so obnoxious they made me blush.

There really was something magical about pulling the lever on those shiny slot-machines — those incredibly loud bells and bright gleaming lights that kept me so hooked on the “dream” I was sold and that I was charged with selling.

I’ll never forget the image of a colleague carrier rep manager who raced into my office and started bragging about the large commissions he just made from dumping excessive product into a new case with zero strategy whatsoever.

He was a huge racing fan, and I vividly remember him describing his adrenaline rush in a way that could only be compared to how a professional NASCAR driver must feel after winning the Daytona 500.

It was at that moment I realized he wasn’t only addicted to large commissions and going over the speed limit, but also the carrier rep lifestyle. And guess what? So was I.

I can assure you that I would still be a addict if it weren’t for the many highly respected mentors and advisers who were kind enough to hold an intervention that allowed me to see the light.

In fact, while initially beginning treatment and going to “recovery meetings,” I was courted by a number of very large carriers who threw everything you can imagine at me, from small sales quotas to maximize their bonus system, to very significant signing bonuses that truly did make me think twice before passing on them.

First prize, a Cadillac El Dorado. Second prize, a set of steak knives. Third prize, you’re fired.

Let’s be clear, I’m not “high and mighty,” and I am certainly no better than anyone reading this.

Oh, and by the way, no, I didn’t give back any of the prizes or large bonus checks I earned over my carrier rep years.

Nor, did I call Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones to ask if I could borrow the shiny memory eraser they used in their Men in Black movies to help me forget about the wonderful memories I have with my family and friends on all of those “free” trips I went on each year.

I worked very hard and earned those luxuries — everyone has a past and I’m incredibly proud of mine and make no apologies.

In fact, it’s these exact experiences that allowed me to learn how I no longer wanted to operate in the voluntary benefits status-quo — how I wanted to do the exact opposite of what I had been addicted to for so long.

Think about it in a different way. During the old days, I was really no different than a doctor who pushes their patients into the more profitable part of the health care system, which provides an opportunity for unnecessary prescriptions, diagnostic exams, and procedures to be recommended.

No different than a pharmaceutical sales rep wining and dining doctors to push their name-brand prescription drugs.

I was not only receiving the fancy gifts, lavish trips, and huge bonus checks based on my team’s sales performance, but I was also enabling the trend to continue, as I was personally incentivized to do so. I would design and implement my own sales contests to aid in the perpetual product dumping policy sales cycle to achieve all the glory and fame that came along with it.

I get it, we’re in sales and sales people are motivated by shiny objects and large bonus checks. I understand that many carriers are publicly traded companies that have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders to increase sales at all costs.

I realize that finishing each month, quarter and year stronger than the previous period is of the utmost importance.

Some carriers have a way of putting a fancy name on what any other sales industry simply calls a “quota.” The challenge lies within the “sell, sell, sell” mantra that runs rampant in sales offices across the country, where managers are pushing their sales reps by dangling large carrots in their path.

The inherent problem isn’t so much in the sales contests themselves, but in the fact that there is very little concern about the irreparable damage this “always be selling” (ABS) methodology is causing the soon to be enrolled employee policyholders, and even the sales reps who are selling.

These enrolled employees are very often meeting green and hungry commission-driven sales reps who don’t always have the employee’s best interest in mind when they’re being pushed to dump product after product so that their sales manager and the carrier they represent can achieve their numbers.

No one ever wants to talk about the policyholder dissatisfaction and buyer’s remorse that often occurs after a huge contest qualification period is over.

No one ever wants to talk about the ridiculous amount of wasteful employee overspend on products that have zero alignment to the health insurance strategy that their employer and adviser spent countless hours designing.

Nor does anyone want to be reminded about the sensational amount of commission charge backs that the sales reps are now responsible for repaying the carrier who advanced them.

Sadly, those advances often pile so high that reps can’t even afford to settle their carrier balance before ultimately failing out of the business and seeking a new career. Dare I say, “sell the dream” and “service the nightmare” later?

There is such a thing as reps overselling and employees being over-insured. And there is a better way — a more strategic approach that can and should occur. It entails strategy, discipline, and restraint on the part of the benefits counselor. The great news is, these good counselors do exist. The bad news is they’re often the exception and not the rule.

Here I am, many years later and many years wiser, having successfully transformed my business into an actual “independent” and carrier agnostic practice. I’ve proven that it can be done; you can break the addictive lifestyle.

Bottom line

I’m on a mission to disrupt the “voluntary” industry in the same way that multiple health insurance thought leaders across the country are breaking the health insurance status-quo that employers have been accustomed to for far too long.

Disruption doesn’t have to mean you have the latest and greatest technology, nor does it mean that you know everything or are the be-all and end-all to all things health insurance and benefits. I know what I know and I know what I don’t know.

I do, however, know enough to surround myself with national experts who are doing revolutionary things in their given industries, and I can only hope that some of the things I’m doing in the enhanced benefits space are worthy of others looking to me as an “expert,” in the same vein that I most certainly look up to them.

Final thought

I’m not telling you that you should be ashamed to go on a carrier paid trip, accept a gift, or collect a bonus check after having a rockstar sales period. After all, we’re still in sales.

I just know there are better, more transparent ways to get to the desired end results we all crave.

I’ve been achieving grand success for my broker partners and our mutual clients ever since changing to a completely transparent business model many years ago. And you can too!

Curious how? Please share this article on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, and don’t forget to leave your feedback and tag me.

As a thank you, I’m more than happy to share my practices with you on these topics, and many more. Happy hunting and, let the conversation begin!