Something to consider as you plan for 2020

growth operations sales Nov 13, 2019

A perk of being a high school football team mom? I get to observe teen boys in their natural habitat (without being TOO embarrassing) while handing out Gatorade and cheeseburgers.

It's also a great way to get to know parents. Another team mom and I compare notes about selling professional services (she's in legal) while doing our team hospitality gig. Industries that sell expertise share a lot of the same challenges (and upside) if they can modernize.

At the banquet Friday night, she used a term I'd never heard when talking about her new team. She said they'd usually relied upon "anecdata" and were stressed as she pushed for detailed analytics.

Anec-what? Anecdata = Anecdote + Data

Am I the only one who hasn't been using this term? I love it. Apologies in advance to my clients who are going to hear this term a lot in upcoming strategy sessions.

It's defined as "information that is presented as if it is based on serious research, but is...

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3 Things I Noticed Watching A Team In A Slump

operations sales Nov 06, 2019

I went to the Warriors game Monday night and stayed out a bit too late. Oops.

The game got me thinking, though...

How do you show up when you (or your team) are in a slump?

I'd been warned that the highlight of the night was probably experiencing the new Chase Center and that the Warriors were going to lose (again) since they've been plagued by injuries.

But, the rookies didn't get the memo that they were underresourced and going to be outplayed. We were treated to a high energy experience and saw their first home win of the season. 

Do this career "thing" long enough and eventually, you'll have a losing season. It's hard to get your juju back and I was thinking about what behaviors I look for to have confidence that a team is taking steps to shift momentum. 

Recruiting & Coaching - We know it's critical to have a strong bench, yet few invest (money, time and energy) to develop a sustainable and measurable process to find and onboard talent....

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Take the "Feedback 5" Challenge

Warning. There's no turning back. Once this is on your radar, you'll be like two of my original foster puppies. You won't be able to look away.


 

5 words are routinely used to give feedback that are useless (at best) and destructive (at worst) without context and follow up. 

"They need to be more/less _______________."

More (or less) what? I'm glad you asked.

She needs to be more approachable, assertive, creative, collaborative, confident, engaged, independent, open-minded, present, sales-focused, strategic or technical. Or she needs to be less aggressive, conservative or negative. You get the point.

I don't know what someone really means when they say these things. And most of us are not great guessers.

Worse yet, the person on the receiving end of the "feedback 5" usually has zero idea what happened, how to fix it or when they'll have done "it" the right way, enough times, to change perception. 

The "Feedback 5" may be part of a...

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Pay attention for the mic drop moment. 🎤💥

firm operations growth Oct 15, 2019

I'm an optimistic skeptic. Or a practical visionary. Or a grounded dreamer. Does that make sense? The blessing (and burden) of being in the 30-year club is that I know some "things" and there's a risk that experience is an obstacle instead of simply informative as I work with teams to modernize how they work.

I'm constantly balancing the healthy tension that exists when you've been at this for a while. Can you relate?

As a part of the onboarding process for the Account Executive Academy we just launched, I've done 1:1 interviews with 20 Benefits Account Executives over the past 10 days. We'll be working (and learning) together over the next 6 months. The headline?

Your key talent is ready. They want more and have ideas about what you might do more of (and less of) to continue doing great work.  They're up for a challenge and eager to connect with industry peers. I can't wait to see what breakthroughs occur with these key stakeholders...

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Clients hire you (and fire you) because they want to be led.

Are you too slammed to consider new solutions because it's 4th quarter in the benefits business? Are you deferring new ideas until Q1?

Do your clients know? Would your prospects care? Don't forget that clients hire you (and fire you) because they want to be led. 

If you're a benefits solution, raise your hand if you've been pushed off to the mystical time known as "after-the-busy-season." Makes you wish for a lunch & learn, right?

I see a pattern at firms at all levels (sales, service, platform resources, and leadership) of completely putting off investing time to think, learn and plan because it's "the busy season."

I understand the demands of competing priorities and am concerned about what those delays will cost you. If you don't revisit an idea until Q1, it's unlikely you'll execute and capitalize on it until mid-2020. That may not be quick enough in a dynamic market.

I've been thinking about this quote from Jason Fried, the CEO of...

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Sure, you're ethical. But do you tell the truth? 🙄

sales Sep 17, 2019
 

Most employee benefits professionals are ethical. [Dramatic pause] But, they don't always tell the truth.

Getting the right employee benefits solutions to the right customers (at the right time) isn't easy. It's further complicated by the fact that many brokers don't tell the truth to sales reps who've pitched solutions for their clients.

I'm not talking about dropping waivers off a census or forgetting to disclose large claims. Those are rare, sleazy moves that should be dealt with swiftly and surgically.

I'm concerned about the hundreds of times a day companies believe they've received feedback on a proposal when it may not even have been evaluated by the broker, let alone their customer. Sometimes there's no feedback at all.

I recently met with a national sales team to discuss how to get actionable feedback about their position from a broker. 

Their minds were blown at my suggestion that sometimes a broker's polite way of breaking...

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Wake up! Speak French! Originally published in Leaders Edge Magazine

firm operations growth Jun 01, 2019

My parents, sisters and I were on a month-long trip through Europe in 1987 in a bright orange Volkswagen van that Dad still claims he didn’t choose. It was a mechanism for international embarrassment—European Vacation, Teen Daughter edition.

We’d arrived at a toll booth and didn’t have correct change. The “middle sister” was proficient in rudimentary French, but she was asleep. Desperate times. We were blocking traffic, so we screamed at her to “wake up and speak French.” Dazed and confused, she conversed with the toll taker; it’s unclear whether it was her translation skills or his sympathy (or irritation) that allowed us free passage.

This family classic comes to mind as I contemplate the employee benefits industry and impediments to innovation. We are asking the same people who have been successful in this industry because they like process, certainty, contracts and an annual “cycle of things” to now be flexible,...

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Let's put down the Magic 8 Ball and get real about the new business budget

firm operations sales Nov 27, 2018

Who produced 20% of your practice revenue this year? Do you have a high degree of confidence that they’ll repeat or was that “accidental” revenue? If production isn’t going to come from them, who will deliver? Benefits leadership is tough enough; let's get real about new business and remove some mystery from 2019. What resources will your new clients leverage? It varies widely based on size, industry and funding mechanisms, making those details in a pipeline invaluable.

In many firms, benefit leaders are responsible for practice investments without reliable insights into producer activity. I think we’ve outgrown leveraging historical production and a Magic 8 Ball to “guess-ti-budget” new business revenue and then holding our breath to see if it materializes. As I’ve written previously here, I'm empathetic to the challenges in our business. I'm concurrently optimistic and believe it's possible to tactically prioritize...

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Modernizing your Employee Benefits Practice: Empathy (and help) for Fatigued Executives

firm operations Nov 01, 2018
 

Industry change is everywhere and angst-inducing shifts, like the impact of leveraging artificial intelligence, are emerging. Few retail insurance brokerage firms (and their Benefits P&L leaders) have tangible proof that they're pivoting and building a modern practice equipped to capitalize on the opportunities ahead.

This is an understandable consequence of player-coach "stretched-too-thin-fire-fighting" leaders who, while smart and experienced, are barely hanging on keeping their operation profitable. Despite their aspirations, they're also constrained by "just in time" hiring budgets that prioritize (and reward) near term valuations over long-term growth strategies. This is universal and not just a public broker phenomenon. Teams must have the resources and bandwidth (during the day, not the night shift) to succeed. No business benefits - pun intended - from another list of strategic ideas that well-intentioned people can't execute.

Sounds familiar? If it does,...

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How to Use Digital Engagement on LinkedIn To Sell And Hire, with Jenn Walsh, Episode #87

Uncategorized Oct 19, 2018

It was fun collaborating here with Kurt Shaver on his podcast.

I'm currently obsessed with helping firms grow and have seen that it's possible to accelerate how quickly a potential customer will trust you by demonstrating your expertise. Fine-tuning how you present yourself is a manageable "ask" - even during the busy season.

One tip: Print out your LinkedIn profile at least once a year. For some reason opportunities to update & edit seem more obvious that way.

I'm currently obsessed with organic growth and modernizing employee benefits practices. Fine-tuning how you present yourself is a manageable "ask" even when you feel stretched-too-thin. It's possible to accelerate how quickly a potential customer will trust you by demonstrating your expertise.

[1:22] Who is Jenn Walsh – she helps high-level experts get unstuck

[6:27] More and more sales are happening through team selling

[11:47] Why relationships matter and how LinkedIn can accelerate trust

[16:33] Getting into...

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