If you’re a health insurance broker or consultant, you put in a lot of time and effort to excel in your multiple roles. You have to know local and federal laws governing employee benefits so you advise clients correctly. You have to promote yourself and your company to acquire new clients. You have to constantly provide exceptional customer service to keep the clients you already have.
You have to… hopefully take a few vacation days and recharge.
But I’m guessing that even when you have some downtime and step back from the day-to-day grind, you start thinking about the bigger picture: how do I make changes that will improve myself and my work at a macro level? What can I do that’s going to make a real, positive difference?
With that in mind, I reached out to some veteran benefits professionals for book recommendations to pass along to advisors. Hopefully the books highlighted below will help you take a new, energized approach to achieving your goals.
The Trusted Advisor and The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook by Charles H. Green & Others
First on the list is actually a twosome: The Trusted Advisor and the follow-up, The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook — both of which were co-authored by Charles H. Green, Founder and CEO of Trusted Advisor Associates.
First published in 2000, The Trusted Advisor by Green, David H. Master, and Robert M. Galford provides advice for those that… well, want to be a source of trusted advice. This book is a great read for health insurance brokers and consultants that want insightful, practical tips for building and then strengthening relationships with clients.
The original’s successor, The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook by Green and Andrew P. Howe, is a workbook that deep-dives the how-to’s of business relationship-building, providing specifics tips for earning trust in each chapter along with to-do lists, exercises, tools, and other resources.
I reached out to Green to see if I could get his thoughts on what health benefits advisors specifically can expect to get from his books, and he kindly obliged, writing:
In The Trusted Advisor, we set forth how to become a “trusted advisor” to clients of complex intangible services businesses – which certainly describes benefits consultants and brokers. The core message: long-term dedication to our clients as individuals (not just as rational calculators) is a recipe for success. Trust is a complex mixture of credibility, reliability, intimacy and other-orientation.
In The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook, we go into much greater behavioral “how to” detail, as well as sharing results of some research which underscores the original insight – people buy from people who treat them like people, not just as economic maximizers.
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Made to Stick is all about helping readers become more effective communicators. Why are some stories memorable? What makes others forgettable? Those questions are at the heart of this book.
The authors introduce their six underlying principles that determine an idea’s stickiness: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions and stories.
The Heaths support these principles and their advice with entertaining stories and the findings of psycho-social studies, making the book well-researched, impactful, and – of course – memorable.
Made to Stick is a book that can help any advisor become a more effective advocate of important solutions their clients need but often don’t buy. If you want your clients to win when you ethically persuade, read Made to Stick!
Breaking Through The Status Quo by Nelson L. Griswold & More
In order to exceed expectations, you have to know what the modern expectations are. Breaking Through The Status Quo arms the C-Suite and HR professionals with strategies for improving employee benefits while controlling employee healthcare costs.
The authors emphasize exactly what clients should expect and demand from those we often think of and refer to as “benefits brokers” — strategic guidance, insightful advice, and measurable outcomes.
In one chapter, co-author Scott Cantrell, Partner at Bottom Line Solutions, Inc., goes as far as writing:
“The health insurance status quo is quickly going extinct and it’s taking another breed along with it, that of the ‘broker.'”
Cantrell is just one of many of the industry-leading consultants that contributed to the book. Some of the others include:
- Felipe Barganier, Broker of the Year finalist (2017)
- Will Glaros, EBA Employee Benefit Adviser of the Year (2014)
- Nelson L. Griswold, Voluntary Benefits Association’s Industry Leadership Award recipient
- Tim Olson, EBA Employee Benefit Adviser of the Year (2015)
- Karin Rettger, one of EBA‘s Most Influential Women in Benefit Advising
- Michael “Mick” Rodgers, EBA Employee Benefit Adviser of the Year (2017)
- John Sbrocco, EBA Rising Start for 2018 (2018)
- Dawn Sheue, one of EBA‘s Most Influential Women in Benefit Advising
- And many more
You may know Cantrell and Griswold from their past collaboration, which produced the acclaimed DO or DIE: Reinventing Your Benefits Agency for Post-Reform Success. Trusted advisors will no doubt want to hear what they and the other respected benefits veterans that contributed to this book have to say about the industry in Breaking Through the Status Quo.
An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back by Elisabeth Rosenthal
Benefits advisors, TPAs, and HR professionals share a variety of goals, but one of them is this: help companies and their employees afford the care they need.
Understanding what’s contributing to the high costs of healthcare informs how we approach that goal, and An American Sickness is all about dissecting that topic.
The author, Dr. Elisabeth L. Rosenthal, has a resume that makes her perfectly suited for investigating health care costs and reporting her findings in a compelling way for readers.
- Editor-in-chief of Kaiser Health News
- Journalist for the New York Times for more than two decades
- D. degree from Harvard Medical School
- S. degree in biology from Stanford University
- A. degree in English literature from Cambridge University
While Rosenthal is primarily writing to consumers when turning to her recommended cures of this financial “sickness,” the unique perspective and storytelling, in-depth research, and extensive interviews make this a vivid analysis of the American health care system any audience should be able to appreciate.
StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath
StrengthsFinder 2.0 is the new-and-improved version of Gallup’s online self-assessment designed to help you uncover your talents.
Once you take the assessment, you then receive a report outlining the five “themes” that encapsulate your patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior — areas where your unique talents are strongest. From there, the real fun begins as the book acts as a guide for identifying strategies for building on each of your top five themes.
Anyone can apply what they learn to personal or professional betterment, but for benefits advisors and insurance agency owners, the exercise will likely shed new light on how to improve their business; interactions with employees, coworkers, and clients; and their approach to essential tasks.
In a Gallup Management Journal interview with Jennifer Robinson, Rath explained:
“The one thing that we were clear about in StrengthsFinder 2.0 is that the American dream ideal that ‘You can be anything you want if you just try hard enough’ is detrimental. This is especially true when people buy into it hook, line, and sinker.
“You may not be able to be anything you want to be, but you can be a lot more of who you already are. [Taking] StrengthsFinder is just a starting point; it’s step one of a hundred in figuring out the areas where you have the most potential for growth.”
The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson
Building and strengthening client relationships is a running theme throughout many books well-suited for benefits consultants.
But in The Challenger Sale, authors Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson explain why that’s not quite far enough. Achieving the results salespeople want, they assert, requires them to make clients think, bring them new ideas, and offer creative solutions to their problems.
“In recent years, customers have been demanding more depth and expertise,” Professor Neil Rackham writes in the Introduction. “They expect salespeople to teach them things they don’t know. These are the core skills of Challengers. They are the skills of the future, and any sales force that ignores the message of this book does so at its peril.”
The Challenger Sale will sharpen your instincts. Offering top notch service and innovative technology just doesn’t cut it when your competitors can say the same thing. This books helps you figure out how to inspire your clients to think, ‘Huh, I never thought about that before,’ which is pivotal. Now they’re engaged and want to know what else they don’t know. Now they SEE things differently. Now, you can help them to DO things differently.
Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles
Originally published in 1993, Raving Fans has now earned “classic status” among customer service books, but it remains relevant today and is a resource that many readers discover after its referenced by other respected business books.
Raving Fans isn’t just for customer service professionals. Business owners and benefits advisors wishing to improve their clients’ experiences (i.e. everyone) should find the book inspiring and the tips it offers actionable.
As many online reviewers note, it’s also a quick read thanks to the fairytale-esque storytelling style the authors use to walk readers breezily through customer service lessons that can be applied to virtually any business.
Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant
“Originals is one of the most important and captivating books I have ever read, full of surprising and powerful ideas,” writes Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, in her Foreword for the book. “It will not only change the way you see the world; it might just change the way you live your life. And it could very well inspire you to change your world.”
You can’t get a much more emphatic endorsement than that.
This #1 New York Times bestseller isn’t just focused on helping people improve their professional lives. The book casts a much larger social-science net, aiming to help readers improve their creativity, innovation, management, and even parenting.
Debunking some modern myths and faulty assumptions, Adam Grant combines compelling stories and academic studies to walk readers through:
- Generating and recognizing your original ideas;
- When and how to voice, defend, and act on those ideas;
- Making originality sustainable;
- Building a “coalition” to help enhance original ideas;
- Dealing with the barriers and limitations of originality;
- Nurturing children’s originality;
- Overcoming faulty groupthink; and
- Managing anxiety, anger, and other emotions.
Like the above-mentioned Made to Stick, Originals should appeal to brokers and consultants that aspire to improve the status quo through innovation.
Agents of Change: Rethinking Insurance Agency Marketing by John M. Tate, Jay Adkins, and Natalia Tate
There are a lot of great books covering the ins-and-outs of small business marketing. What sets this one apart is that the authors introduce topics and related tips in each chapter by telling readers the story of fictional insurance agency owner, Jim Wakefield.
The approach makes the book easy to read and relatable for any small or midsize agency owners or decision-makers.
After the first section of each chapter tells Jim’s story as he discovers how to find and retain more customers through marketing initiatives, the writers from Agency Marketing Machine step in to summarize the marketing lessons learned from the chapter along with actionable tips and resources.