Nobody ever plans to get into the health insurance business. At least, that’s what all of our Better Benefits guests tell us — and that certainly was the case for Tom DiLiegro. In fact, Tom thought it was the last thing he ever wanted to do. It wasn’t until some breakthrough conversations with mentors that he realized what being a broker really means. It means being a trusted partner, helping clients with meaningful advice, and potentially changing the course of somebody’s life.
Growing up, Tom felt the impact that quality medical and long term disability insurance could have on a family first-hand when his father passed away. So it only makes sense that he is now passionate about his role as a broker and both beloved by clients and recognized by the industry as a 2021 BenefitsPRO Broker of the Year Finalist. We chatted with Tom to get his take on how to be a great broker in 2021, particularly in light of rapid changes that have been brought on by the pandemic.
Connecting with Clients: The Importance of Authenticity and Curiosity
Over the years, Tom has found that the key to success when working with clients is authenticity. Many clients don’t want to be dealing with insurance at all. So Tom meets them where they’re at, being straightforward about their options, and giving to-the-point advice. He knows that they don’t want to be bogged down in insurance jargon or tons of numbers, so it is important to make a personal connection and speak to the things they care about.
Another essential skill for brokers to hone is natural curiosity. Employers can tell when things aren’t right with their benefits package, but it can be hard for them to figure out what exactly is going on. That is where brokers come in. Brokers have to ask the right questions. What do their employees need? Where do they want to grow their company in the next year? What would make a benefits plan really work for them? They need that personal touch to make sure that they can get the best benefits plan possible. Excellent questioning skills are key so that brokers can get those details that will help them design the right benefits package for a particular employer. There are so many great options out there, including many new and innovative solutions, which makes it even more important to be picky and get employers on the right plans, not just the newest, shiniest plans or the ones you’ve been using for years. Brokers need to be an advocate for employers to get them what they want and need, whether that’s a standby solution or a new option.
How the Pandemic Has Changed the Insurance Industry
It was an open secret that the way things were being run in the health insurance industry before the pandemic was unsustainable. The pandemic exposed all the inefficiencies of the old model and is forcing long overdue changes. It is likely that we would have gotten to this point anyway in five to ten years, Tom said, but the past 24 months really accelerated that timeline.
Nowadays, people are now interested in direct, intimate relationships with vendors. Tom tells us, when he brings a physician or administrator in-person to a meeting, that really moves the needle for the client. People are starving for those personal, emotional connections, and that is really different than it has been in the past. Nobody wants to work with faceless, nameless bureaucrats at an insurance company or hospital. Whenever possible, Tom looks to connect the employer with local healthcare providers who are willing to invest in a relationship.
Another thing that is slowly changing is the availability and stigma around mental health care. In the past it was sometimes extremely difficult to find somebody in-network, and wait times were long. Now we are starting to embrace telehealth and explore new ways of delivering mental health care. But we have a long way to go, especially for the coverage of lifelong mental health conditions, which aren’t covered well, especially from the standpoint of disability insurance. So there is still work to be done in the future.
To hear more insights from Tom, listen to Episode 30 of Better Benefits now. If you enjoy the episode, don’t forget to subscribe and leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform.
Tom’s Recommended Resource
On every episode of Better Benefits, we ask our expert guests for a book or resource they’d recommend to others working in the benefits space. This week, Tom recommended all of Jim Collins’ books, particularly How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In. He also recommends The Go Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann and Getting Naked by Patrick Lencioni. Both are business books that help with client relationships and building a great business.
If you’d like to connect with Tom, you can message him on LinkedIn.
Note, this episode is for informational and educational purposes only. Tom DiLiegro and Benefit Advisors of Charleston are not endorsed, affiliated with, nor compensated by Brella Insurance Inc.