Way too many industry “thought leaders” promote myopic solutions to the ever-increasing challenge of growing a business. In many ways, their “easy button” ideas are the equivalent of snake oil.

  • Sell more voluntary! No sh#%! If I sell more of ANYTHING I’ll make more money.

  • Offer this one cost saving idea! Maybe the prospect will forget about all their other problems.

  • Focus on the C-suite! To hell with the rest of the influencers and decision makers.

  • Eat pizza and drink beer on your way to a ripped physique! Eat pizza and drink beer on your way to a ripped physique! If I say it enough, won’t it be true?

You describe yourself as a trusted advisor; if you really believe it, you already know these answers are Band-Aids, at best.

On Being a Consultant/Advisor

If you want to earn trust, every recommendation you make has to be with clients’ best interests in mind. Voluntary benefits are an important part of the advice you give, but make sure it satisfies the client’s benefit strategy and not simply your revenue goal.

Innovative cost-saving ideas are critical. But if you think that your one idea, special program, or bully-tactic is enough, then you are not advising to the complete needs of your client.

On Being A Relationship Builder

Charging past the receptionist and the HR manager on the way to the office of the CxO because you know they’ll be blinded by your brilliant idea will backfire more often than it works. The challenges associated with a successful HR/benefit program rarely fall within the scope of responsibility of one person.

There may be one person who’s critical at the moment, but do you really think they will ignore the rest of their team’s legitimate concerns/interests on your behalf? Even if they do, you ignored the rest of the team and you’re starting on toxic terms.

More likely, not addressing the collective concerns and challenges of the entire team will get you kicked out of the contest.

Confidence is very different from coming in with swaggering arrogance. To assume the CxO will make his/her decisions in a vacuum, and to think the rest of the team is just an obstacle to be gotten around, is to establish the relationship on top of a sinkhole.

The decisions you ask clients to make are complex and impact multiple areas of the company. According to CEB, there are 5.4 influencers in any significant decision. Ignore any one of them at your own peril.

Snake Oil, Now Only $99.99!

I know it’s tempting to buy snake oil advice, but don’t. Recognize that for every example of how the oil “cured the incurable,” there are nine casualties hidden behind the circus tent.

The challenges your clients face are complex and difficult, which means preparing yourself to earn their trust and offer the right advice is even “complexer” and “difficulter.” No, it’s not easy, but commit to doing the hard work while your competition stands around rubbing the snake oil wherever it is you’re supposed to apply snake oil.

Game on!