My Moment of Clarity: From Voluntary Carrier Rep to Enhanced Benefits Strategist

In Enhanced Benefits by Eric Silverman

There is such a thing as overselling and employees being over-insured.

As a voluntary benefits carrier rep – I prefer the term “enhanced benefits strategist” – I lived the sweet life for more than a decade. Year after year, I slayed the sales contests. Lavish all-expense-paid trips? I took them. Quarterly and annual bonus checks so large they looked like a typo? I cashed them.

Then, one afternoon I saw the light in the form of a colleague carrier rep manager who raced into my office, high on the adrenaline rush from the huge commissions he’d just brought in, bragging about how he’d been able to dump excessive product into a new case — with no strategy.

I realized he was addicted to obnoxious commissions and the accoutrement that come with living the carrier rep lifestyle. He was me.

In that moment, seeing myself and my own actions reflected in another, I knew I could no longer operate in the voluntary benefits status-quo. I was really no different than a pharmaceutical sales rep wining and dining doctors to push their name-brand prescription drugs. It sickened me.

I get it; us 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. Heck, 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.

What I came to realize most is, the inherent problem isn’t so much in the bottom-line boosting sales contests themselves, but in the fact that there is very little concern about the irreparable damage this “always-be-selling” methodology is causing the employee policyholders.

Employees are very often meeting commission-driven carrier 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.

But then the contest qualification period ends, and no one ever wants to talk about the policyholder dissatisfaction and buyer’s remorse that often occurs. 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 group benefits broker spent countless hours designing.

I simply realized there is a more strategic approach that can and should be applied to this process. It begins with designing a bespoke enhanced benefits solution that is set up to match and mirror the health insurance strategy that brokers and their employer clients spend countless weeks putting together. Furthermore, the implementation of said strategy requires discipline and restraint on the part of the benefits counselor. The great news is these incredible 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 national practice. I’ve proven that it can be done; you can provide quality products, services, and solutions that are backed by strategy and customized to meet employees’ actual needs.

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 always 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.

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. To be clear, I don’t see myself as better than anyone reading this. I didn’t give back any prizes or checks. I made wonderful memories with my family and friends on all of those “free” trips, and I don’t regret a minute. I worked hard and earned every one of those luxuries. I’m incredibly proud of my past and make no apologies.

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.

You may be saying to yourself, “Ok, he makes a fair point. But seriously. Why is he renaming voluntary benefits?” Great question! Next month, I’ll dive into why I stopped using terms like “voluntary,” “ancillary,” “worksite” and “supplemental,” and now exclusively refer to our misnamed industry as “enhanced.” Here’s a hint: Word choice is mission critical when you’ve got one shot to explain to employers and their employees the value of the products and services you’re presenting to them.