Anyone who has heard me speak or read any of my columns over the years knows that I hate the traditional employee benefit proposal. More importantly, I believe that if agents do not redesign their proposal they will find themselves irrelevant within five years. It is very likely that as you are reading this your silent dialogue sounds like this: "I have a great proposal and it is not at all like my competition." Unfortunately, most of you are sadly mistaken.

The very first page of your proposal is "About the Agency/Agent," and this page is the single most irrelevant page in your entire proposal. The next two pages are a variation of "Our Services" and "The Carriers We Represent." Rather than enhance your standing, these pages simply make you look like your competition. And then you have your spreadsheets. Unfortunately, nowhere in your proposal does it say: "Here are the goals that you told me were important beyond price, and here is the plan that I recommend." At the end of the day, in the absence of any written recommendation, there is very little difference between your proposal and an online quote engine.

What is important about my last statement is that with each passing month another private exchange is being launched. Currently, all of the private exchanges are focused on groups of 100 employees or greater. But in the very near future you will begin to see agencies in the 50 to 99 employee market begin to offer exchanges. By 2015, I predict that you will see private exchanges in the 25 to 50 employee marketplace. In this technology driven marketplace the agent who is willing to provide specific and explicitly stated solutions to issues other than price and PPACA compliance will not just survive but actually thrive. The marketplace is hungry for agents willing to put their expertise on the line and make actual written recommendations.

 

 

The new proposal

The new proposal will open with a section about the prospect. The purpose of talking about the prospect's business is to communicate that you paid attention and understand the prospect's business. More importantly, it communicates that you understand that this is about the prospect, not about you or your agency. The second page should be a review of the employee benefit objectives of the prospect. Page three will identify the obstacles that the prospect has faced in attempting to achieve these goals. If you ask the right questions you will discover the biggest obstacle to achieving benefit objectives is the fact that the current agent hasn't helped the prospect identify those goals.

The fourth page is your recommended solution. This is where you explain the plans of coverage that you are choosing along with the rationale for these plans. This page alone will help you close more business because the great majority of agents are afraid to eliminate the spreadsheets and provide a real, written solution. In fact, by providing a real solution you will enhance your personal brand and you will stand apart.

It is important to recognize that providing this type of proposal is significantly more difficult than the current model. You still do all of the same homework, but you cannot use a fill-in-the-blanks proposal anymore. Like every other consultant, you will now have your reputation on the line because you are making an explicit choice of solution rather than reviewing every plan that you have looked at. And that is what will help you survive and thrive.

Schlesinger is an independent consultant focused on helping benefit professionals double their income. Reach him at (336) 777-3938 or through getmoregroupclients.com.

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