I Dont Sell Things, People Buy Them

Consultative is a pretty big buzzword in the sales world today. Sales professionals and motivational sales coaches travel the country preaching from the mountain tops on the next best thing to do in order to guarantee your next sale. The ugly truth is that nothing will guarantee a sale in any type of business transaction. There are far too many circumstances that need to align in order to close a sale, and if we are honest with ourselves and we look at the criteria we should be amazed we sell anything at all. This of course depends on the product, but at the end of the day – and with the digital world we live in – any amateur can create a website and put something up for sale. We live in a market that is overflowing with product – simply put, oversaturated. talk-at

Some sales people are better at selling than others, but how can this be? The product is the same. The price is the same. The brand recognition and value is the same.

How can we possibly distinguish ourselves from the competition? How do we shine through the foggy marketplace like a beacon of truth in an effort to say “Hey! Look at me.”

First things first, our consumer must find value in the product we have to offer. Today, the ability for consumers to differentiate product has become seemingly impossible without strictly looking at the bottom-line price difference. Most markets, regardless of product, are price driven. But, what if there was a way to shift that paradigm? What if it was possible to not have to sell a product, but rather allow consumers to buy from us.

This is our beacon: consultative selling.

I work in large group commercial health insurance, and the best part of my job is the process of becoming an extension of my clients benefits team. I am given the opportunity to listen to their problems, learn about short/long term business goals, and help provide my consultation on how to get there based on the tools I have in my tool belt – in the form of new products and services. I personally feel that I have achieved some level of success in what I do, and I attribute a large portion of that to my ability to relate to my clients and their needs. They call me to tell me about their daily struggles and vent about the stress of the numerous regulatory requirements they’ve been burdened with as a result of “reform”.

I believe sales today have become more about power, authority, and who comes from the most prestigious background. To be fair, all of those emotions are a product of how we’ve been groomed to treat a competitive landscape. Those with the most power and authority will come out on top, right? Nay, I say!

Challenge: the next opportunity you have to close a sale, humble yourself and step down to look at your client face-to-face. They’ll view you as a partner and not something disposable. Relational sales people are the only sales people, everyone else is just a distraction.

Clinical Research… Why?

The motivation of most anything at the age of 13 is something of monetary value. In 8th grade all I saw was a dollar sign. However, what I gained by taking part in my first clinical drug study for Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is something money will never be able to buy.

My first clinical study was in 2004 for a new and improved digestive enzyme for patients with CF. This new enzyme boasted improved capability for nutritional absorption and came with hopes of being able to take less than the usual 20-30 pills per day. The health risk involved was relatively low, but ultimately my family left the decision up to me regarding whether or not I was going to participate. We met with several of the clinical study nurses in addition to my usual staff of doctors so that we could make an educated decision. After almost no hesitation on my end – again, all I saw were dollar signs – we decided to move forward with the study. Although the risk was low, the commitment to the study was high and involved a two-week hospital stay (a first for me) to monitor vitals and the drug’ effectiveness.

For those who are wondering what happened to the study pill, it was never approved by the FDA for use by the CF community. Although it was disappointing to hear, the outcome of this particular story is far from failure. I gained so much more during this study than a few extra pounds and the added convenience of taking fewer enzymes. I built a deeper relationship with my physicians and nurses, I learned more about the disease I live with, and most importantly I contributed to the continued improvement and quality of life for those living with CF.

A few years later I was asked to take part in one of the preliminary drug trials for Vertex Pharmaceuticals who were pioneering what we now know as Kalydaco and Okrambi – I think we all know how these studies turned out.

Clinical drug studies are not for everyone. Several factors such as lack of time to commit to, health factors, as well as many others may mean that now is not the right time for participation in a drug study. However, I feel it is crucial that those who are capable of participating in these types of studies at least consider doing so for the simple fact that we would not have come as far as we have without the select few who have given their time and effort into making it happen. Tremendous organizations like the CF Foundation can raise as much money as they want to, but without dedication from patients willing to contribute in the name of science those dollars are wasted.

5 Tips For Winning At Life After College

Few people are as sensitive to seasonal change as we are here in Michigan. It sometimes feels as though we could endure both the polar vortex and those scorching hot summer day all in the same week. Nevertheless, we’re accustomed to change regardless of whether we’re prepared for it or not.

Similarly, as an early to middle age twenty-something, our seasons of life can – and often do – change just as abruptly as the change in our Michigan weather.

As graduation from high school opens the door to the new and exciting world of “The College Experience”, graduation from college brings forth new challenges, a new working environment, and new responsibilities – the only difference is that graduation into the working world does not come with a Freshman Transitions leader.

College graduation is a beautiful thing. Finally, after being locked down for the past 4-5 years, it is time to take the skills and relationships you’ve built and put them to work crafting a future that is both successful and community oriented. Everyone that graduates from Grand Valley State University has the capacity to strive for personal success while also making an impact on their community. No matter what your industry is, your geographical location may be, or your social status is it is always important to remember the value of we versus me.

But enough listening to me preach about things you already know. What I really want to do is dive into the five lessons I’ve learned to help college graduates transition into “Corporate America”.

The Top 5

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Photo Courtesy of Flikr – Sophia Jones

Treat Every Day Like Your First

It’s easy to get complacent in any environment, especially if you’ve been in that same environment for several years. Why do you think senioritis exists? In the working world there is no such thing as senioritis. In order to be the best at what you do and to continue to perform at the highest level for your company, treat every day as if it’s your first. Never stop learning, always ask questions, and remember that there is always someone waiting in line for your position

Learn the Dress Code

More likely than not, any professional career choice is going to have a dress code other than sweatpants and leggings. Sweats are cozy and it’s how graduates have been working and doing school for years, but making the adjustment to wardrobe that is workplace appropriate can be a challenge. Unfortunately, it can be much easier to be workplace inappropriate for women than for men.

Take time to learn how to dress appropriately and still feel as cozy as the living room sofa.

 

Conquer “The Age Gap”

For several years, college grads are surrounded by hundreds, even thousands, of young twenty-something’s who are at similar stages in life. Some are in committed relations, others are far from it, but for the most part are all experiencing life at the same pace. In the workplace, this may or may not be the case. Depending on the industry and type of job, it’s possible to be the youngest employee by close to a decade.

But it’s okay! With a dedicated, professional attitude it is possible to conquer the Age Gap and earn the respect of fellow professionals.

Never, Ever, Ever Burn Bridges

We’ve all heard the saying, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

While this is still a pretty important approach to networking, I would argue the most important approach is considering who knows you? The reality to this question is that the answer is everyone!

In the workplace, building a reputation as reliable, knowledgeable, and hard working can pave your way to a successful career.

Now, it is unrealistic to expect that anyone and everyone you meet will be your best friend, but it is important to distinguish between a friendship and a working relationship. You never know which connections made, both inside and outside of your organization, could turn out to be the gatekeeper for the next step in your career.

This is why I always say, never burn a bridge you cannot repair!

Its Okay To Move On

A career is often a product of several different job titles coupled with life experiences that enable us to combine 1) our skills with 2) our interests and 3) our passions.

This is different from a job.

Graduation from college opens a door to a whole new beginning. The days of working for the same company for 40+ years have come and gone, so it is important to keep long term goals in mind at all times.  It is okay to move on from one job opportunity to the next in order to meet your personal career goals.

20-Something Health Insurance

I’ve worked in the insurance industry for nearly 3 years now, and without fail, every year I have a friend, or five, who takes on full-time employment ask me, “what plan should I take for health insurance?” So I thought I would try to explain a few key concepts for all to enjoy.

With Open Enrollment right around the corner for the National Healthcare Exchange – otherwise know as the Insurance Marketplace or “Obamacare” – I thought it would be beneficial to explain what all of these crazy healthcare terms means and what it looks like for my fellow 20-somethings to take ownership of their healthcare.

Whether you have a benefits package from your employer, or you’re in search of a health plan via the online marketplace, there are a few things to take into consideration before deciding on a plan that’s right for you:

  • Network
  • Budget
  • Healthcare Utilization

Network

Photo Courtesy of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

Lets start with Network. Most individuals have the option between an HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) and a PPO (Preferred Provider Organization).

An HMO puts more emphasis on the role of the Primary Care Physician (PCP). Think of your PCP as your healthcare quarterback. PCP’s coordinate your care in the event of a hospitalization or, if you need to see a specialist, they provide the referral – or permission slip – for you to see that doctor. There is a culture of health and wellness built into the HMO methodology as well.

In a PPO, these referrals are not typically needed and most individuals have more freedom when it comes to what doctor they want to see and when. The unfortunate reality to PPO Networks is they are typically more money upfront due to the higher cost of maintaining these provider networks

Budget

Financial security is easily the most concerning factor when deciding on which health plan to purchase. Health Insurance was designed to protect people from potentially high costs of receiving care. From a financial standpoint, there are two components to look at – monthly premium and out of pocket expenses.

The monthly premium is the amount per month it costs to have access to health insurance coverage. A good comparison to this is with car insurance. Each month you pay a set premium amount in the event something happens to your car. The next thing to consider is out of pocket expenses, in this case a deductible. On most health plans, you’re required to pay a set amount of dollars out of pocket before the insurance plan begins to pay benefits. For example, if your plan has a $500 deductible, you would pay the first $500 out of pocket and then the insurance plan would begin to pay anything after that

The amount you pay in monthly premium is related to how much you can expect to pay in deductible.

Typically, the higher the deductible the lower the monthly premium. This is because you, the insured, takes responsibility for more risk of these health care expenses than the insurer does – meaning less money up front.

Healthcare Utilization

How often do you go to the doctor?

Some individuals are prone to seeing the doctor for one reason or another on a weekly basis. Others, however, can go years without seeing a doctor simply because they do not need to. In this instance, its not uncommon for someone to ask, “why do I need insurance if i never use it?”

At its core, insurance was built for the unknown. So its always important to carry insurance in some capacity or another. But, for someone to pay dubious amounts in monthly premium for a rich health insurance benefit they will never utilize wouldn’t make sense either.

Utilization of healthcare is also important when deciding which plan to choose because it is the single most important factor when choosing a health insurance plan that works for you rather than the other way around. Each individual case is special, so unfortunately there is no special equation. However with a few simple calculations you can come up with a financial balance of out of pocket expenses and monthly premium.

Lets recap.

There has been a lot much negative attention over the topic of health insurance over the last 4 years, but just like any other consumer product in this country a little bit of research and education can save you a lot of time and frustration down the road.

In a later post, ill talk about starting a Health Savings Account (HSA) for those who really want to grab healthcare by the horns. In the meantime, you can read more here from my friends at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Until next time,

B

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Beer With Jesus

How’d you turn the other cheek?

Do you hear the prayers I send?

What happens when life ends?

When you comin’ back?

I was out and about this past weekend running errands and taking care of typical weekend things. It’s summer in “Pure Michigan” which can only mean the music is turned up and the windows are rolled down, and while blasting my favorite county music station this song by Thomas Rhett came on the radio.

Besides the fact that it’s Thomas Rhett and everything that comes from his mouth is pure gold, this song had struck a chord with me in that moment and aside from hearing this song numerous times I was challenged to listen to what the lyrics were saying. “If I could have a beer with Jesus…”

Well shoot.

What a groundbreaking moment that would be! Ill be the first to admit im not a perfect man – I have my faults, my sins, my imperfections. For starters, my faith makes me question my ability to merely stand in His presence. What could someone like me even think to ask the God of the universe? The truth, at least for me, is that that level of understanding is far beyond my mental capacity at the moment. Last time I checked, “what’s your favorite color” isn’t an adequate inquiry to the creation of this world.

Listen to the Thomas Rhett song I have posted above. I’ve listed a few of the questions in the song to get the juices flowing.

It’s such an interesting topic where the sky is the limit, and I have found that my own spiritual growth has been fueled by this kind of reflecting. If you could have a beer with Jesus, what would you ask? What would you want to know?

For me, it goes beyond the obvious of knowing who I will marry, what is purpose(s), why [insert name] had to die so young. These are all great questions, but dig deeper. Why did I date my ex-girlfriend and what exactly was I supposed to learn from that? Why did I meet this person at a bus stop 4 years ago and we’re still friends to this day? Why do Chineese people make the best food?

But seriously…

We all need to be challenged if we want to grow, and our Christian faith is no different. Finally, when you come up with these questions, its time to ask. So grab a beer… find some space… and pray.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.” – James 1:2-4

B

Video courtesy VEVO and Thomas Rhett

What Is Whole Grain?

Whole grain.

It’s one of those healthy buzz words plastered on food labels everywhere to make the food you eat more appealing. But studies have shown the consumption of whole grain foods, versus those with refined grains, can provide a much greater health benefit when properly added to your everyday dietary regimen. Whole grains are high in fiber and contain phytochemicals and antioxidants that, according to the Journal of Nutrition, have been linked to a reduced risk of several chronic illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, and type-2 diabetes. Whole grains also play a vital role in healthy weight management and gastrointestinal health.

what-is-a-whole-grainBut what exactly is whole grain, and how can we tell if what’s on the food label is accurate?
Well, there are three components to whole grain – the outer Bran, Endosperm, and the Germ. All grains start out as whole grain, but the refining process typically removes the outer Bran and Germ portion to give the grain a better texture and preserve its shelf life. The downside to grain refinement is that what’s left remains only the inner Endosperm which contains mostly complex carbohydrates and only a few of the essential vitamins and minerals. A few good sources of whole grain include Barley, Buckwheat, Quinoa, Rice (both brown and white), Rye, and Corn.

In order for foods to be labeled as whole grain, the USDA requires that at least 8g of whole grain content be in each serving. The US dietary guidelines suggest that at least half of our daily serving of grain be from these whole grains – that comes out to about 3-5 servings of whole grain each day!
Whether you’re trying to shed some unwanted pounds or just trying to maintain the ones you have, a balanced diet is crucial to achieving your health goals. Try to integrate whole grains into your diet, and be sure to always look for the certified whole grain stamp when planning your next meal:

whole grain stamp

 

 

 

 

-B

 

Photo courtesy of WholeGrainCouncil.org

Stairway To Seven

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Spring – where every day is a balmy 40 degrees, foggy, and there is enough moisture in the air to water a hibiscus. It also means that civilization is beginning to wander back outdoors for some fresh air as the great thaw begins to settle in. For those who work in the city, it means street vendors, spontaneous musical performances, and jumping at every opportunity to get out of the office and enjoy the nicer weather.

Spring also provides an in between period of winter and summer where we come out of hibernation and begin to refocus our free time on being active and getting rid of those unwanted winter pounds. According to a study by Johns Hopkins, the average American can gain anywhere between five and seven pounds during the winter months. Add this to a typical 40 hour work week, family, and other extracurricular activities and that those unwanted pounds can add up rather quickly.

The good news is there are plenty of ways we can integrate daily exercise into our already busy schedules and get back on track to a healthier lifestyle. Did you know, it takes approximately 10,000 steps to burn 1lb of fat? For an average adult standing 5’9”, that comes out to roughly five and a half miles! Couple this activity with a healthy diet and you have the recipe for success.

Here are 5 ways to help integrate a daily dose of exercise into your busy lifestyle and get you on track to a healthier you this spring:

Take the stairs

Stairs are the secret weapon nobody knows about. We see stairs every day and, chances are, we do not even take the time to use them. They are in our offices, parking garages, entertainment facilities, restaurants, etc.

Track your progress

How can we know that progress is being made if we don’t track our performance? There are lots of great tools to help track your daily exercise. Pedometers are a great way to measure the number of steps you take and you can find them at your local fitness store for under $20. There is also a great app for iPhone and Android called Moves that uses the technology in your phone to count steps as well – the best part is, it’s FREE.

Find a buddy

Studies have shown that those who exercise with a partner are nearly twice as motivated to continue with their routine than those who exercise alone. So find someone who shares in your fitness goals and exercise together.

Buy new shoes

It sounds crazy, but who doesn’t love getting some cool new gear? Whenever I get something new I want to use it all the time. So try jump starting your mentality with a new pair of walking shoes. You can get your daily dose of exercise and look good doing it!

Reward Yourself

Exercise requires hard work and dedication. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t reward yourself after a long week of hard work. Reward yourself with a day of rest or some time off doing something you enjoy.

-B

Photo courtesy of Dietsinreview.com

The Birthday Challenge

Today is March 16, 2014 – otherwise known as my birthday. Yup. Twenty-three whole years of walking, talking, and being me – whatever that entails. It’s a day typically filled with celebration, some degree of partying (this changes with age), and a non-stop flow of friends and strangers wishing you the best on your special day.

The fun thing about birthdays is that they mean something totally different depending on who you talk to. Some grow up celebrating quick and easy birth-days, others birth-weeks, and then there is the occasional birth-month individual who feels entitled to even the last pot of coffee because their birthday is less than a month away.

For me, a birthday means there is officially 365 less days to make a difference. 365 days less to build relationships. 365 less days to spend with those whom I love. It also means there is one more day to appreciate all of the blessings God has gifted me.

So here’s the challenge.

In an attempt to reflect on the grace and mercy I’ve been given over the years, I wanted to bring a smile and some joy to some random people on this day. So, for every year of life under my belt I wanted to spend $1 on an unsuspecting individual.

So on this day my goal was to spend $23.

That’s $23 worth of appreciation for my health, my friends, my professional opportunities, my faults, my failures….. my life.

I know this wont work for everybody on every year, but I challenge you to try it on YOUR birthday. Because the reward, I promise, is worth far more than the $23 dollars.

If I could have a beer with Jesus, I like to think he would agree.

-B

Sunglasses – Another LaughFest Record

GlassesCreated by Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids as a celebration of “laughter for the health of it”, LaughFest is now in its 4th year of operation as one of the Midwest’s largest comedy festival. A 10-day festival featuring some of the largest names in comedy, it has become the winter edition of ArtPrize in Grand Rapids as a large scale attempt to drive economic growth and community engagement.

This year, the lineup for the week-and-a-half long festival is as impressive as ever. With headliner names like Jim Gaffigan, Chris Tucker, Lily Tomlin, Sinbad, and former Tonight Show host Jay Leno, it’s nearly impossible to find an evening without five-star comedic excellence.

But big-name headline shows aren’t the only thing going on at LaughFest that makes it worth adding to your to-do list.

As is with ArtPrize, and really anything else you find in the city of Grand Rapids, LaughFest puts a big dose of family friendly fun into the 10-day festival. At the kick-off event held on Thursday, March 6th, the LaughFest community continued their tradition of breaking world records by attempting to break a Guinness World Record for the number of people wearing sunglasses at night. The unofficial number of 1,675 people wearing sunglasses at the LaughFest kick-off party beat the previous record held by Chicago’s Wrigley Field.

A new event to the festival this year is the Clean Comedy Showcase underwritten by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The clean comedy showcase brings a refreshing cast of comedians committed to making people laugh without vulgar or crude language.

For a complete list of upcoming events, visit the LaughFest events page here.

As wonderful as an entire 10-days committed to fun and laughter is, it is important to remember the root cause of such a fundraiser – that’s right, fundraiser. The LaughFest fundraiser is brought to the community through Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids, a free

gildas

community with a comprehensive educational program, lectures, workshops, and social activities all designed with the intent of helping people deal with emotional health and wellness needs.

 

-B

 

 

 

Photo Courtesy of Gilda’s Club

Jesus and Jimmy Johns

Rock Harbor

“… why don’t we pray to God with the same faith that we have in that 17 year old. ” – Travis Radaz (1:09:45)

This past Sunday I went to church. Now, for me, this is not an unusual thing to do on a Sunday morning. For the past three years or so, I have discovered the comfort and wisdom that comes with hearing the word of God in the company of fellow community members and close friends. I like to think that I have it all figured out, but as I have described in past blog postings, there are seasons where life meets you at a high point and there are times when reality smacks you in the face and successfully humbles you right there on the spot.

This past Sunday was one of the later.

Why don’t we pray with the same faith that we have in a 17 year old delivery driver from Jimmy Johns? If you’re up to it, I encourage you to watch the above message summed up perfectly by a dear friend of mine (Travis Radaz) at the end – click on the above picture and it will redirect you to the actual video. If you’re like me, you find comfort in the things you have the ability to control. Personally, I like to control those little irrelevant details in a my personal relationships. I try to control my personal image – my personal “brand” if you will. I do my best to control health related issues. The list goes on of things that I try to control that, in all reality, are beyond my reach.

Do you ever find yourself just praying out loud? Maybe in the car on the way to an important interview, or on the way to your significant others house to have that conversation you really don’t want to have. While you’re praying these prayers, do you truly believe in your heart that you are talking to the God of the universe? Do you genuinely believe that what you say matters in the eyes of the creator and that, despite our idea of good timing, He loves to provide for us and come through right at the moment when we thought nobody could.

I found myself doing this just the other day. I was driving home from a stressful day at work and got to thinking about futuristic things because, well, that’s just what I do. So I turned the music down and started to just speak out loud in the solitude of my own car. I began to ask God for wisdom, guidance for my future, peace of mind in the situation, and to just be there in the moment. And about halfway through my spiel I felt.. unsuccessful? No. I felt yet alone as if no one was even listening. I didn’t believe God was listening. We’ve all experienced that spiritual high, the kind you get on a weekend retreat, where it doesn’t matter what you say or how you even say it, but you have full confidence and faith that God is right there listening. Almost as if you could pray and ask for a pizza and in no time at all you would have a deep-dish supreme from Jets right there in front of you.

Spiritual high or not, God is there. Do you really believe that as Jesus hung there on the cross crying out, “… my God my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mat 27:46) he was shouting to the air?! I’d like to believe not.

How can we bring that kind of faith to the table every… single… day….? Try praying to the King of the universe with the level of faith that you have in the #5 Vito without onions and honey mustard.

It can be life-changing

-B