Recently there has been a proliferation of advertisements for health cards. These cards claim to offer access to high quality and affordable medical care, dental care, prescription drugs, vision and other health care services. The rates vary but may be as little as $20 a month to as high of $125 a month for a family. The two big selling points of these plans are that they are affordable and that you cannot be turned down.Exactly what are you buying? Health cards can also be called discount medical programs or plans. This industry has grown so large that they even have their own trade association, the Consumer Health Alliance. Here is the definition of a health card given by the Consumer Health Alliance. “Our member companies make health care products and services, including prescription drugs, dental, chiropractic, eye care, physician, hospital and laboratory services, available to millions of Americans by providing opportunities for consumers to directly purchase health care services and products at discounted rates.” According to the Consumer Health Alliance more then 28 million consumers have purchased these plans for various companies.The problem lies not in the concept of the programs but in the sale and execution. The most important fact you must know about these health cards is that they are NOT health insurance. Many consumers have failed to understand what they are buying and as a result have been saddled with hundreds and even thousands of dollars in medical bills they assumed would be covered by their health card.These plans advertise that they are affiliated with networks of medical providers. That is generally true. Their affiliation may even be with some of the national networks that insurance companies use themselves. The plan representative tells you that if you use the services of a network provider, you will get a discount on the service similar to the discounts that insurance companies negotiate when providers join their networks.One company, for instance, gives you an example. If you see a network provider, that doctor’s normal charge for an office visit may be $120. But with your discount health card, you will only be charged $90 thus saving you $30 each time you visit the doctor, On the surface that may sound good, but remember, the consumer and only the consumer, has to pay the provider $90 every time he visits that doctor.What happens if we discuss a hospitalization rather than a doctor’s visit. You find you need a hip replacement. According the the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the average cost of a hip replacement in 2006 was $42,000. You see a doctor who is in the network used by your $29.95 a month health card. You expect to get a significant discount for the procedure because you used a network provider. Remember your doctor visit. You got a $25% discount and only had to pay the doctor $90 of the $120 bill.But now you have a bill from the hospital for your hip replacement for $42,000. It is also discounted at 25%. That means you owe the hospital $31,500. And you have to pay it. It’s better than owing $42,000 of course, but $31,500 is still a pretty significant amount of money that the consumer has to pay out. Unfortunately, the companies that sell these cards focus your attention on the small services. But, if consumers are smart, they will focus on the big items, which is the real risk of not having health insurance.For some people who don’t qualify for medical insurance, discount cards may be the only option. Individual health insurance generally is medically underwritten which means if a person has a medical condition that the insurance company does not want to insure, they will be unable to get health insurance. Most states have what are called pool plans, which will insure persons with medical conditions, but as you can imagine, these plans are extremely expensive.The real danger of these cards is the aggressive methods used to sell them. Many of these plans are actually sold as Multi Level Marketing plans. The sales representatives do not have to be licensed insurance agents, because the plans are not insurance. There interest is in adding people to their downline as that is how they make money. Learning the programs and carefully advising consumers as to what they are buying may not be the most important thing to these sales representatives.If you are considering buying a health plan, be careful and ask questions. Understand first and foremost, that you are NOT buying insurance. Be wary of extravagant promises of discounts up to 60%. In our hip replacement example, for instance, a 60% discount would mean the service would only cost you $16,800. It is unlikely that a provider hospital would give you that kind of discount. Ask for specifics about hospitals, doctors and procedures. Ask if all the providers honor the advertised discounts. Sometimes doctors and other providers are not even aware they are listed as participants in these plans.Ask about hidden fees. Often there are administrative fees hidden in the fine print. Be especially careful if there are fees charged for each use of your card. These fees may eat up almost all of your discount.Discount health cards are never a substitute for health insurance. Before you consider buying one, think about how you will use it. If your need is for less expensive services, such as routine doctor’s visits, dental or vision discounts, they may be worth it. Remember, if you need an expensive procedure such as a hospitalization or surgery, you will be paying most of the bill yourself. No matter what the representative tells you or the advertisements imply, your card will never pay one single cent to any provider. The consumer will always be responsible for the amount of the charge less any discount that might be applied.Consider your needs and the needs of your family. If you can afford it, buy health insurance. Even a plan with a high deductible such as an HSA will be a better option because at some point after the deductible is met, the insurance will pay the balance of the bill. If you can’t afford insurance or you cannot qualify because of medical problems, a health card may be useful. But before your buy, understand what it is and what it can really do for you.
Health Cards and Health Insurance Are Very Different
Sales Principles & The Mental Health Profession – Strategies That Lead To Success In The Marketplace
CHALLENGES FOR THE PROFESSIONMental Health issues make their way across the newswire at an alarming rate. We hear about teenage suicide, random acts of violence, an increase in depression and anxiety across all ages, substance abuse, complex trauma at home and abroad. Even more alarming are societal maladies that are rarely discussed. Children forever lost in chaotic homes where violence and sexual abuse is pervasive with national and local systems ill equipped to effectively address these tragedies. Such is the world a mental health professional finds herself/himself thrust into as part of a calling to serve and help those suffering psychological and emotional pain.A mental health career is a noble and courageous endeavor, which can come at a significant price. We see state governments use mental health services as a scapegoat for poor financial management and planning, choosing to balance their Medicaid books at the expense of community based mental health programs. As a result, mental health practitioners are asked to serve effectively with few resources, little pay and even fewer options to grow professionally.Mental health services in the private sector are equally challenging. Insurance companies devalue these services as evidenced by limited reimbursement rates, few behavioral healthcare plans for employees, and the implementation of complex and convoluted systems that test the most patient and saint-worthy of practitioners.In spite of all these challenges in the mental health marketplace, there are specific business strategies and approaches practitioners can adopt in an effort to overcome these obstacles and ultimately triumph in the profession. In this article I discuss many of the key strategies and will expound on them in greater detail in future publications. The understanding and use of best-in-class sales and marketing principles will serve to complement an already rich skill set that will help mental health professionals succeed in ways they may not have imagined possible!SECRETS OF SUCCESS & THE SALES STIGMAThe business world is changing at an incredibly fast pace and many of these changes have a profound impact on the way people do business. Most of us in the mental health field, however, remain blissfully ignorant and unaware of these subtle but powerful events. Those lucky few who become aware of some of these changes (e.g., technological advances that decentralize and empower people at all levels; new concepts in sales & marketing that enable you to grow your business at hyper-speed using a sophisticated multimedia approach) are presented with a window of opportunity that can lead to tremendous growth and independence. Opportunities abound for those who are open to some of these new ideas and willing to integrate new concepts into their mental health service model. The key lies in how highly skilled mental health professionals approach the marketplace and what tools they choose to use in order to succeed in a competitive environment. As a licensed clinician and mental health consultant for over 15 years I have seen many success stories that were the direct result of the effective use of the key principles I discuss in this article.A key area most mental health professionals are sorely lacking and unaware is in understanding, utilizing and integrating sophisticated sales skills within their practice! Did you say sales skills?! Yes, indeed I did. Clinicians receive heavy doses of clinical training in graduate schools and continuing education programs. However, very little is offered in terms of how to succeed in the profession from both a financial and career development perspective. There are business seminars focusing on billing practices, business systems, and various administrative tasks but few if any discuss the power and importance of sales skills in our profession. This area is often so untapped that adopting even some of the more basic principles will immediately distinguish you in the profession and give you an extreme economic advantage in the mental health marketplace.At first glance the idea of adopting sales principles conjures up images of self-serving, manipulative tactics and ploys. As a result, a sales approach is often the furthest from the mind of a mental health professional. However, this position is misguided and comes from a limited understanding of sales theory and practice in general. First and foremost, selling and the sales process is a critical element in all areas of commerce. No business takes place without a sales transaction of some sort or another. Mental Health services are not utilized unless a sale is made and someone chooses to use a specific service, you are not hired into a clinical position unless you effectively sell yourself to the hiring manager, a private practice does not last long without consistent sales for services, and funding for community programs is not awarded unless a government entity is sold on the need and importance of those services. As a result, our first step here is to acknowledge and accept that sales are a critical part of the process in the mental health business.Once we come to recognize this fact we must also dispel the myth about sales being a sleazy and unethical profession that utilizes manipulative and self-serving tactics at the expense of others. Like any profession, there are theoretical frameworks and people within the business who would no doubt support these negative stereotypes. However, when we take a closer look at the sales profession we find that it can also be a highly sophisticated, philosophical and value driven profession that is perfectly suited for the helping professions.UNRAVELING THE SALES SKILL MYSTERY: ESSENTIAL PRINCIPLES TO HELP YOU STAND OUTHaving taken a closer look at the importance and scope of sales our next logical step is to explore sales theory and application in greater detail. I have grouped various sales skills/approaches into 4 Core Principles in an effort to help clarify and organize these concepts in a way that makes sense. I must also emphasize that adopting these principles will quickly position you ahead of your competitors! They are extremely powerful principles in that they all contribute to a fundamental shift essential to success in business. What is this shift? The shift I am referring to is a movement away from participating in the selling process to becoming an important/critical part of the buying process. Lead sales experts such as Dale Carnegie, Frank Rumbauskas, and Jeffery Gitomer all emphasize the importance of this paradigm shift in order to achieve high levels of success.So what does it mean when you talk about moving from the selling process to the buying process? Simply put, your current efforts to sell your services can be a difficult and unrewarding process. At its core it is a process whereby you are not in a position of strength, where you tend to focus on your own interests and where you must seek out others and convince others to use your services. Now what would life be like as a mental health practitioner if people recognized you as an authority in the field or as someone who adds tremendous value and can help them with their needs? When a change occurs where you are viewed as a valuable resource and partner people begin to seek you out without any soliciting on your part. Business comes to you and you find yourself in what sales professionals refer to as being a key part of the buying process. The best thing about this approach is that its foundation is based on integrity, honoring your unique attributes, bringing value and helping others – all hallmarks of the mental health profession.Let me offer an example to clarify my point. Let’s say you are a mental health clinician who has been in the field many years, you have an expertise in family/child issues and you decide to offer a group on parenting skills. You attend networking events but find that everyone at those events is pitching their own service and not seeking services to buy. Attendees shower you with praise and tout your service as “much needed” and “long overdue”, however, you generate little to no business from those events. You advertise your group to doctors offices and through basic networking channels such as local counseling chapters and school systems. Still no one comes.The issue here is not necessarily missing the mark in terms of community needs nor is it an issue of skill and competence. People are not coming to you because you have not tapped into the buying process. In the buying scenario, you have built a level of credibility in the community and positioned yourself in such a way that they must go through you in order to access these specific mental health services. Your sales approach and philosophy prompts those in the community to recognize you, talk about you and value you as an important resource. In addition, you create communication channels/systems and remove barriers/obstacles that encourage and allow others to take the next step toward utilizing your services. If you can create this shift your ability to grow as a practitioner multiplies exponentially and with half of the effort! The principles outlined here all contribute to making that change.Let’s take a closer look at each of these principles.Principle 1: Be Solution/Customer FocusedMany people in all areas of business mistakenly take an approach where they sell their services versus selling solutions. A distinguishing factor for most people who are successful in their industry is that they are customer focused, meaning they sell the way the customer wants to buy. They focus solely on the needs, problems, wants of the customer and work to find solutions that will help that customer. This concept sounds basic and simple, however, it takes dedication and a high level of skill to be customer focused in the way I am referring to here. Below are some key factors associated with this approach.
Sell the way customers want to buy. (Take time to understand customer needs, concerns, problems and wants. Show them you understand them and offer solutions even if it means referring them to someone else who can help.)
Give Value! (Use an altruistic approach. Deliver something to potential customers without any expectation of something in return.)
Recognize the only way you get others to do something is if you give them what they want. (Manipulative tactics and high-pressure sales tactics do not work. Be persuasive not manipulative and know the difference!)
Go above and beyond and be remembered! (Over-deliver on services, give of yourself to the community in unique ways, follow-through in ways that highly impress.)
Create a buying atmosphere. (Study customer needs, business systems and their unique market. Provide solutions and remove barriers/obstacles that gives them permission to buy.)
The Power of Presence: Listen First, Talk Last and Ask Excellent Questions! (It is the rare individual who truly focuses on the customer in the here and now. Use your clinical skills to understand the needs of the customer.)
Principle 2: Build Credibility & LegitimacyDo you want to attract high quality referrals for your business? Develop a plan that will position you as an expert in targeted areas within your profession.
Become an expert in something. And share that knowledge for free!
Understand and study social dynamics and the psychology of power. (Know its role in the sales process and in your profession. Use this knowledge to be in a position of strength with regards to the buying process.)
Build credibility and attract what you view as “high-quality referrals” by giving yourself to the community. (e.g., free advice, free services, helpful hints/tips.)
Become Published. (Opportunities abound to become published – See Mark Joyner’s e-book “Rise of the Author.” There is tremendous power in being published.)
Study the art of presenting and find opportunities to present. (This is perhaps the best value proposition for you as a mental health professional! It builds credibility and creates powerful networks.)
Principle 3: Think Long-TermToo often we focus on short-term immediate business needs and neglect longer lasting more powerful methods that lead to much greater growth. Focus on relationships and you will create solid sales processes and networks that will enable you to reach much higher levels of success.
Stop focusing on the short term and work to build lasting relationships that will lead to referrals and other opportunities.(Sales expert, Jeffrey Gitomer, in his great sales book, The Little Red Book of Selling, says it this way, “Think End of Time not end of Month.”)
Focus on others first.(Help colleagues, community members and prospective clients without expectation of something in return.)
Always be a resource! (Offer assistance and solutions even if it has nothing to do with your area of expertise. Leverage the expertise of others and share the wealth! Helping professional colleagues will also lead to your long-term success.)
Let go of the need/want to benefit yourself and act with the intent of helping others. (In today’s self-serving world it is the rare individual who functions in this manner. And yet, it is a distinguishing factor in a competitive marketplace.)
Long-term strategies are equally effective in one’s career development as they are in business development.(Strategies such as informational interviewing and volunteering often lead to significantly better career and advancement opportunities.)
Principle 4: Use Intelligent and Technically Advanced Marketing SystemsTop sales performers in all businesses create effective systems that free up their time for more value driven activities and help create communication and buying vehicles that produce a powerful buying environment for the customer.
Leverage technology to market yourself and to create a buying atmosphere.(e.g., website development, public relations & media opportunities such as e-articles, e-books, audio programs, video snapshots.)
Automate business activities that are non-essential to your core growth opportunities. (Use technology to automate key activities and identify personnel that can help you work more efficiently.)
Build communities that allow for sharing of ideas and networking opportunities. (e.g.,online forums, lunch & learns, supervision meetings.)
Understand marketing principles that will effectively brand you.(Social marketing and Viral Marketing are two powerful concepts that leverage the incredible growth in technology. Learn these and others to increase your growth as a successful mental health practitioner and businessperson!)
Know the sales cycle for your profession and be persistent with your value messages. (Market Research tells us it typically takes 6-10 exposures to your message before a buying decision is made. Create vehicles that give you a high level of visibility.)
IN CLOSINGThe material presented here is merely an introduction to the powerful concepts of selling and how they can be effectively utilized and integrated within a mental health practice. Each of the areas outlined above contain a tremendous amount of depth and richness that require further discussion and clarification in order to gain the full benefits. In the coming months I will look at each principle in greater detail in an effort to clarify concepts, introduce new tools and offer excellent resources from some of the experts in the world of sales and marketing.Thank you for your attention and all the best in your future endeavors within the field!
Automotive Locksmiths Help With Spares and Lost Car Keys
In 1980′s the BMW and General Motors began creating and developing what was called “smart Keys’. This made it difficult for thieves to take the cars. There were glitches that needed to be worked out but over the years it has come a long way.Technology is moving fast and over the last few decades, the automotive industry has changed the most. This change has taken place because of the electronic aspects of how the vehicle operates with electronic ignitions and auto-start up options. About half of the late model vehicles on the road today have electronic options that do require computer chip keys to start.Automotive locksmiths have an important part in the automotive industry because they have become certified in this particular area. They own a stock blank computer chip key, or transponder key as part of their necessary equipment. If you lose or damage your key, they can duplicate it. Because there are different electronic codes, which are in different type of vehicles, this blank key will allow them to program the electronic codes into the blank key so you can use them.The ignition key is made up of a computer chip that has copper wiring. This wiring is embedded inside a plastic head or a rubber head. It uses standard Radio Frequency Identification or RFID in order to communicate between the chip and the ignition. The ignition, when turned on, will signal the vehicle’s computer, which will then signal the key. The key will use these signals to begin emitting a code that contains 32 digits to the computer on the vehicle.The computer will then decipher the signal to make sure that it is a legitimate signal and then begins the process of starting the ignition. If the signal was not valid or if the chip key malfunctions, the vehicle will not turn on. A copy of the computer chip can be duplicated to match the teeth on the ignition key however, if there is not computer chip found in the head then it is not able to communicate with the computer in the vehicle and the key will just be able to unlock the door and manually start the vehicle.Chip keys are out there because automobiles become stolen. The price to assure one’s vehicle or at least reduce the risk is very expensive. This new technology makes it impossible for thieves to get into a vehicle with ease. By the time that they do get in, the vehicle alarm is triggered or they may be caught. Vehicle insurance is a requirement and the cost of the insurance is increasing because of this crime. Automotive locksmiths have the ‘know how’ and the techniques to program and cut keys of any model. Most of the Chicago automotive locksmiths have the latest gadgets and equipment to laser cut keys, program immobilizer and transponder keysA computer chip transponder key is a more secure way to prevent theft. The new computer chip key ignition system provides a wireless ID that only the vehicle can respond to. There are no batteries to keep up with so you never need to worry about a malfunction. The consumer benefits from this the most because of the security it provides. With a demand for high end automotive locksmith in Chicago, it is easy to get a spare key cut and programmed when you need it. Next time you are fretting over a misplaced, lost or broken key, just call an emergency automotive locksmith and get back on road within a few hours!