I sold cancer when cancer wasn’t cool

My first column appeared here six months ago, so I think you know by now nothing is more important to me than seeing you succeed.

Because my entire career was with Aflac, I thought everyone appreciated the value of voluntary benefits as much as I do. Of course, until now, most people didn’t have to appreciate the value of voluntary benefits. They did their thing, we did ours.

Then the world changed. Bills were passed before they were read. Carriers started cutting commissions. And somewhere along the way, cancer insurance got cool.

The problem with voluntary, though, is it still has an image problem, and it’s costing you and your clients.

So it’s time to acknowledge that voluntary isn’t a “necessary evil.” It’s not simply a way to finance your electronic communications piece. And for crying out loud, if you begin selling voluntary, you won’t turn into Herb Tarlek (google him).

How do I know these things? I started my career with Aflac in 1989 (It was American Family Life back then) at age 20, while still in college. I graduated three years later with a speech communication degree and a dream of becoming the next Peter Jennings. Or Howard Cosell. Or Kathy Lee Gifford. I was a little unfocused.

But as I prepared to graduate, I paid my first claim.

We’ll call her “Betty.” I didn’t write her policies. She’d had them for many years. As I reviewed her family coverage, she said, “I don’t have a family. It’s just me. I used to cover my husband, but he died 6 years ago.” She had a supplemental life policy on him, so I figured she was due a couple thousand dollars. I probed further, based on the policies she had, and learned that yes, he had cancer, and yes, he had been in intensive care. Trifecta complete.

Back then, we hand-delivered our claim checks. If you want to see the difference you’ve made in someone’s life, hand them a $35,000 check. It’s as addictive as heroin, except that you can quit heroin.

Of course, to deliver more claims, you have to write more business.

But here’s the rub: You can’t sell cancer plans with a spreadsheet. In the voluntary market, you can’t simply take orders. You can’t ask, “You want some?” and expect that to do it. You have to actually sell the plans.

“Selling” today means teaching. And for us, it’s teaching based on needs assessment. The average individual knows how bad things would be if they had an accident or catastrophic health event. I promise, you don’t have to “sell” that person anything.

I believe succeeding in the service of others is the highest calling one can follow, and more than 20 years in this business has proven me right. But what happens if you don’t show up because of your own preconceptions?

See, those people we serve need us to show up. It isn’t about us. It’s about them. You may not be responsible for your clients, but you are most assuredly responsible to them.

So come sit with the cool kids. We’ve been saving a seat for you.

About the Author
Brian Hicks

Brian Hicks

Brian Hicks spent 20 years representing Aflac. Today, he is an author, speaker and personal development advocate. He can be reached at brian@brian-hicks.com.

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