Inside Story - From the high seas to the high road

After six years with the navy, regional sales manager Alex Connor has found a natural home at Benenden. 

Most people would find travelling hundreds of miles across England and Wales each week somewhat gruelling. When you’ve already sailed around the world with the Royal Navy, though, it’s a doddle in comparison.

From her home in Marske, North Yorkshire, regional sales manager Alex Connor visits Benenden corporate clients on her ‘patch’, which stretches from Nottingham to Cornwall and across the country from the east coast of England to west Wales.

“I don’t find the travel tiring,” says Alex cheerfully. “I try to have a day or so a week at home where I can speak to and email clients [and] I do stay away in hotels a lot.”

Alex also spends around a day a month at Benenden’s offices in York, touching base with colleagues and her counterpart who covers the rest of the country.

When she started her job in May 2016 she would mainly drive, but now she takes the train if possible, and she can work as she goes. Her role is to manage all the accounts of businesses and organisations in Wales and southern England that pay for Healthcare for Business as a company benefit.

Alex, 29, ensures these members are kept informed about their healthcare service and how it can be accessed, and are up to date with any changes. “I have to show the corporate members a return on their investment, and make sure they’re being well looked after,” she explains. She also works to expand the schemes by ensuring all staff are signed up and encouraging them to add family and friends to their membership.

In her first year or so she has visited most of her clients at least once, including Limes GP practice in Essex, which you can read about. 

“I look at the usage stats and do presentations for the employees to ensure they are using the Benenden membership if they need to,” says Alex. “People get the chance to see me and ask questions. I look after a lot of colleges and schools, and it is sometimes difficult to get everyone together so I’ll work around them and do one-to-one meetings.”

“Some people prefer to speak in private, as it’s more personal,” she adds. “Often they’ll say ‘I’ve been meaning to call Benenden’, but perhaps they’re not sure how or they need a bit of confidence to do so. This is where I can help.

“I’ll also tell them about any updates – for example, changes to how members access physiotherapy. Previously they would pay for physio then claim the money back, but now we settle the cost directly for everything. If they’re a Benenden member they can access physiotherapy if they need it and there’s a delay on the NHS.”

It is also about making members aware that they can use a nearby hospital for diagnostic tests. “People assume that they are going to have to travel but that isn’t the case,” explains Alex.

With her warm, friendly manner it’s clear where her strengths lie. “Talking’s my favourite thing, so it’s perfect,” she says, laughing. “To be good at this job you need to be able to speak to people. I don’t think you need any specific qualifications. You need to be a people person, you need to be able to go into any situation and listen, and talk. Although I’m not medically qualified people come to me and want to tell me about what’s been going on and how Benenden has helped them.”

Formerly a client development manager for an IT company she is delighted she made the move to Benenden. “It’s such a nice company to shout about because what it does is so good,” says Alex. “It really is the best job I’ve had.”

This is a big compliment considering, as a weapons engineer on the Ark Royal, she travelled to South and North America, the Falkland Islands and the Baltics. Alex eventually left the navy after six years, partly because she suffered from seasickness.

Nowadays, at the end of a busy week she can go home to her family and friends, boyfriend Jonathan – a fellow Newcastle United season ticket holder – and their cats, Simba and Zara. Alex can also walk from her home to Saltburn Beach when she wants to blow away the cobwebs and have “a bit of me time”, she says. 

How I stay healthy when I travel

1.Stepping up
I’ve got a Fitbit so I use that to try to hit the 10,000 steps a day if I can.

2.Working out
I choose hotels with a gym and a pool so I can exercise after work.

3.Eating well
I eat a lot of salads when I’m away at work rather than stocking up on hotel food, which can
be unhealthy.

To find out how Alex Connor and her team can help your business call 0800 414 8179 or visit our website