On our Broker Advisor podcast debut, we were lucky enough to speak with Bill Buchholz, a highly regarded and successful disability insurance sales professional who served physicians and other healthcare professionals, who retired in June after a 53-year career. Bill shared insight on a wide range of topics, and in this first installment of our interview with Bill, here are a few lessons that helped guide his success.
Choose your market
Bill graduated in 1968 with a business administration and risk management degree from the University of Wisconsin’s School of Business—somewhat of an insurance education pioneer. (He’d later earn a master’s degree in financial services and the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist, or CEBS, professional designation.)
Something he learned in school guided the then-21-year-old toward the physician disability insurance market. It was, “If you’re going to be involved in sales, you should probably try to work with people that have an ability to purchase things and significant things. It’s the old Willy Sutton theory of ‘Why do you rob banks?’ ‘Because that’s where the money is.’ On my list, I had doctors as people who had money and could buy things.” So, according to Bill, he started with the doctors, and “it turned out to be a good thing.”
Know your contracts
One of Bill’s college professors shared some advice that put Bill on the track to success. He told Bill, “Make sure you understand the contracts thoroughly.” That drove Bill to put a lot of effort into reading insurance contracts in his early years to understand what all the provisions were and talk to the various insurance company claims departments and more.
Bill and folks in his office would go through the contracts together in what he describes as “a little study group, and we would read every single line of these contracts.” Then they’d check with the claims department to ask how the claims people would handle something they weren’t sure of. “And where there was some ambiguity, we’d ask them to clarify it with an email,” Bill explains, adding with a chuckle, “Although, when I started, it was pen and pencil; there wasn’t any email.”
Truly understanding contract language equips brokers to accurately compare competing products and show where limits or provisions or exclusions exist. Bill says that if someone wants to go for a contract that’s considerably less expensive than another, it’s extremely important to be able to explain, “Here’s what you’re giving up, and here are the situations that can cause a problem.”
Do what’s right
When he was younger, Bill says, he was “lucky to get to know Bobby Knight, the basketball coach.” Acknowledging that people’s impressions of Knight vary, Bill counts himself among his fans.
Knight once told him, “Bill, remember this in whatever you’re doing: It’s not really that difficult to know what the right thing to do is. It just takes courage to do it.” When Bill was fairly new in the business, with pressure to perform, sometimes the temptation arose to “not explain something or not do the due diligence I should on a contract so that I could make the sale.”
However, Bill notes, “As time passed,” it became “a mantra within our office to do the right thing and, in the end, you will be paid handsomely for it.” And that happened.