If you are like most of the group health insurance agents that I speak with you sell new groups one of three ways: 1) You wait for the occasional referral; 2) You call companies asking for a chance to quote on their health plan; 3) You call companies asking for an opportunity to stop by and introduce yourself.

Of the three, the last one is the absolute worst, since it is more of a visit than a sales call. The first is generally not really a referral but more of a prospect who received a premium increase and complained to one of your clients. Bottom line: Looking for opportunities to quote is no longer a viable strategy. If you really want to grow your book of business, you will have to develop new approaches to the business community.


Sales approach No. 1: Solve the employer's No.1 problem

This is one of the best conversations to have with an employer because no one is addressing it. Most agents haven't even given this any thought, but it is a discussion that will change the nature of your sales conversation. So, what is the No. 1 problem? Consider the strategies that you have used to help your clients reduce rate increases such as increasing deductibles, increasing coinsurance and copayments. In some cases you may have actually encouraged an employer to shift more of the premium burden onto the employees. Now consider the reasons that employers offer benefits in the first place: To attract and retain high quality employees and to improve productivity. How does increasing deductibles and coinsurance impact those goals? So the real issue is that employee morale is at the lowest point ever measured and that negatively impacts productivity. If you are wondering why employers aren't asking for help with this if it is such a big issue, the reason is simple: we do not know what we do not know! But with the right questions you can help an employer recognize the real issues.

Instead of calling employers asking for a chance to quote on their health insurance, call and tell them that you have an idea that can help solve their most pressing issue and it is one of which they are not even aware.


Sales approach No. 2: Prospect for dental insurance

As long time readers already know, I make my living with dental as my lead product. The beauty of prospecting for dental is that no other agents are using this technique (except for agents working with me) and more importantly most other agents are ignoring dental completely unless they are quoting on the health insurance and the employer asks for a dental quote. There are two ways to be effective with dental. First, have a competitive product that is less expensive than the competition and second, have a product with a very different plan design so that you cannot be placed on a spreadsheet. The approach with dental is simple: "I specialize in a revolutionary new design in dental insurance that can lower premiums and improve employee morale."

I strongly recommend that you find a plan that uses either a lifetime deductible, per-visit copayments, graded benefits or a combination. These designs lower premiums, often significantly, and allow the chance to sell the value of your plan.


Sales approach No. 3: Prospect voluntary replacement

There is no doubt that some will oppose this idea, but from my perspective, existing voluntary business is fair game. As in any group sale, if the agent has done a good job, the client will not be open to talking with other agents. Unfortunately, as we all know, there have been many agents that enter the voluntary marketplace, make a few sales to friends and relatives, then disappear when they are unable to open new groups. A second and equally sad fact of the voluntary marketplace is that there are agents who both over-sell employees and sell coverage which duplicates employer-provided benefits. Nothing makes me angrier than seeing an employee paying $30+ dollars for a dental plan when the employer provides dental coverage. This is a huge opportunity for a quality benefit professional to make a difference and generate new revenue.

The approach is very straightforward and is similar to the current medical approach. It is about helping employers see that they should be reviewing voluntary benefits in the same way that they review their core benefits. Employers should want to make sure that employees are getting the best benefits at the lowest possible cost. Providing employees voluntary benefits that offer similar benefits at lower premiums helps the employer reduce employee pressure for increased wages that is a result of four years of stagnant wages. But the biggest benefit is the fact that they get a better agent.

Reach Schlesinger at mel@melschlesinger.com.

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