I often talk about how bringingin an outside, white-labeled enhanced/voluntary benefits team canhelp a small boutique firm appear larger and allow it to meet theneeds of a growing client base. But the same holds true for larger,more established benefits advisory firms as well.

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I met Jim Blachek, partner at The Benefits Group out of theScranton, Pennsylvania area, at the ASCEND conference in 2018. Yes,Scranton, PA, home of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, as made famousin NBC's hit show, The Office. Oh, and I'm well aware that "Jim"was one of the most popular characters on the show, as well.Anyway, "benefits Jim" and his partner, Jeff, have hundreds ofgroup clients, and many employees who help service and take care oftheir client base.

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Jim and I had a blunt conversation from the get-go and weimmediately hit it off. "How can you help our firm?" he asked. So,I started asking questions of my own. Turned out, he was prettymuch ignoring voluntary. He dabbled here and there, but wasn'tmaking much money with it and it wasn't a big deal, as he wasfocused with growing group benefits, the bread and butter of hisbusiness.

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Over the course of the next couple of months, we talked more andbuilt a great relationship.

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Related: Voluntary benefits: Control theconversation

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Enhanced/voluntary carriers will often train their reps to takea backdoor approach to help their broker partners gain anemployer's group health business, along with the enhanced sales.The carrier rep will routinely say to the business owner, "Hey, Iknow we're doing your voluntary. I want to introduce you to JoeSmith up the street who is a full-service health broker. He'sgreat, he's my partner and he could really give you some greatideas for health."

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Brokerages of all sizes that aren't locking that backdoor leavethemselves open to other health brokers getting access to theirclients by way of referral from the "voluntary guy." If you don'tcapture the entire book of business, then you leave yourselfvulnerable. It's important to do everything, not just onething.

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The engagementteam 

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Jim has become one of my most innovative broker partners;however, he doesn't sell our services as voluntary insurance. Hesells it as engagement, engagement, engagement. "I don't even tellthem it's to talk about enhanced benefits," Jim says. "Initially,I'm just selling them on the concept that I need them to meet withmy employee engagement team on a one-on-one basis, so theiremployees understand what we're doing. Because if the employeesdon't understand, comprehend and participate, then everything weput in place is for naught."

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In fact, Jim is so committed to this approach he's made it a defacto obligation for his clients. Most groups have no problem withgiving a benefits engagement team access to their employees. Theyunderstand the benefit of a dedicated team who are there to explainthe value of their employees' benefits while also offering someinnovative programs and services that complement what they'realready doing on health insurance.

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"I don't really give them a choice," Jim explains. "I don't meanthat in a negative way. They want to work with me, and they want meto be able to help reign in the costs of their healthcare andmanage it. I need to be able to communicate with the employees andI find that when they're in a one-on-one meeting, they're morereceptive to learning."

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Ultimately, what it boils down to is talking about howengagement and interaction with employees benefits them and theplan. Jim has walked away from cases where employers won't go withhis ideas because his focus on lowering health care costs iswrapped around engagement, usage and plan design. He is veryselective about the employer groups he works with; they have to buyinto what he's proposing hook, line and sinker. And he knowsworking with an enhanced benefits specialist who will help himestablish a comprehensive plan that works in concert with hisclients' group benefits is the way to do it.

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Final thought 

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As Jim's story shows, working with an outside enhanced benefitsspecialist can serve a variety of purposes for brokerages of anysize. You'll lock that backdoor access to your clients from carrierreps who want to introduce "their guy" to your customers. And, youcan seamlessly customize how the enhanced benefits team interactswith clients' employees, so that the experience compliments theirexisting group benefits structure.

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Give an independent carrier agnostic enhanced benefits firm atry. I guarantee you'll quickly have an answer to the question Jimasked when we first met: "How can you help our firm?"

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Until next time, don't just have a great day – make ita great day!

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Eric Silverman, founder and ownerof Voluntary Disruption, a division of Silverman BenefitsGroup (SBG), is an Amazon bestselling author featured in the newbook "Breaking Through The Status Quo."

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