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Jan 25, 2018

Have you ever returned from a conference with literally dozens of "must do" strategies in your brain? I just attended the 2018 ASCEND Agency Growth & Leadership Summit in Music City, Tennessee. A tremendous amount of talent was in the room and tools and strategies were shared to help agencies grow to the next level. 

I'm sharing 5 of my favorite overall learnings. Believe me, it wasn't easy to narrow the list! 

1. Change your messaging

This was the over-arching message of the entire conference: don't be like all other brokers in the marketplace. Don't be a "quoter" or health-insurance pitch-man. Never start with product - always start with the strategy needed to get your clients where they want (or need) to be. We were also reminded to be creative in the approach. How do you market yourself? What's your differentiator? Who's your ideal client? What's your brand and message? You must know the answers. 

2. Find new cost-containment strategies

The attendees of this conference are consultants who are always looking for new, innovative ideas to help their clients. Obviously, that's why we like the conference and we saw other new ideas, too. Specifically, I gained new perspective on a medical management plan that focuses on an employer's culture, population, goals, objectives and budget. A great strategy for prospects that are currently Self-Funded or looking to move from Fully-Insured to Self-Insured.

Strategic Solutions Common Employer Challenges

3. The power of gift-giving

John Ruhlin is the founder of a gift logistics company that helps corporations execute year-round gifting strategies. In his book, Giftology, he explains the art and science of using gifts to cut through the noise, increase referrals and strengthen retention. The strategies he shared apply to all of us. In a nutshell, John says, "If you want to BE like nobody else, you have to GIFT like nobody else!"

4. Be sure to engage C-level executives  

According to Craig Lack, if you start your pitch with the HR department, you might consider going up a level. He referenced the 6 Human Needs from Tony Robbins: certainty, uncertainty/variety, significance, connection/love, growth and contribution. In Craig's experience, the C-suite needs certainty, while HR is looking for love, so we need to speak to them differently. When speaking to CEOs, it's imperative to engage in financial conversations around profit margins - NOT in conversations about products or "benefits." What's the best question to ask the C-suite? "What's your #1 strategy to reduce the frequency and severity of claims?"

5. How to excel as a CEO

Trey Taylor, CEO Taylor Insurance Services took over his dad's insurance brokerage after his sudden passing. Trey was very well educated, and his background was in corporate America, so he took his knowledge and applied it to small business. His main message to CEOs is to know your role. As an example, he said, "Your job is not to choose the creamer in the break room!" Trey identified three areas of focus for every CEO - to know these things are being done, NOT doing them yourself. 

  1. Culture - setting and communicating the overall company vision  
  2. People - making sure the right people are on the team
  3. Numbers - knowing your financials in and out 

At the end of the conference, Scott Cantrell reminded all of us that "Execution is everything." This is true of every new strategy we discover - it's only as effective as our implementation. 

Now it's your turn! What were your biggest takeaways from ASCEND? How do you map steps to execute new strategies and integrate them into your business?


With 15+ years as an employee benefits advocate, David brings energy and passion to helping groups navigate the healthcare spectrum. He’s a consultant at heart who’s worked with brokers across the U. S. to provide ancillary benefits to their clients. David is a Broker Sales Executive for freshbenies where he strategizes with brokers and employers to control their healthcare dime, time and peace of mind. He can be reached at

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