It's finally spring, time for a fresh start. Time to focus on what you can control and what you can positively influence. Apply yourself intelligently to achieve sales success.

 

Be relevant

This is no time to be timid. We need to be proactive and take action, maybe even some risks. I am reminded of a sales meeting I ran that was attended by about 50 agents and five sales managers. I asked them all to stand up and look under their chairs. I had taped dollar bills under each seat in advance of the meeting. Based on the buzz in the meeting room you would have thought that they had won the lottery. The moral of the story is if you are going to make a buck you need to get up off your seat and make something positive happen. Everyone seemed to appreciate the humor, but they also got the message, and we had our best sales week of that year.

Let's focus on what you need to achieve success this year. Clearly you will need to increase your existing customer contact to maintain the relationships you already have established. Likewise, you will need to increase your business development efforts to grow your practice at an accelerated rate. Given the market turmoil, it's an extraordinary marketing opportunity for those that are forward-thinking.

But repeating the same old message and expecting a different client reaction will just not cut it. So what about your marketing positioning? What is your value proposition? Does it resonate with clients and prospects alike? If you can't articulate it clearly in two or three sentences, value-conscious prospects and clients certainly are not going to take the time to figure it out. They will simply move on. Is your marketing message consistent across all your promotional materials? Brochures? Website(s)? Proposals? Other media? Or is it a confusing mix of dated platitudes that were relevant two decades ago?

 

Stand out

You need to clearly differentiate your business in a marketplace that is in flux. What exactly is your competitive advantage? And please, please, please don't tell me it's that your firm gives good service. Everyone says that; and few ever deliver. As a consumer yourself, do you ever believe those claims? And quite frankly every client expects great service, so that's definitely not a differentiator. That is simply meeting the client's expectations.

So where does that leave you? You need to focus on your clients' needs and become much more consultative in your approach. You have to deliver greater value and position yourself to become your clients' human capital consultant. You need to go beyond being perceived as a product vendor. You cannot afford to define your value as the point of access to benefits product information and services. You need to transcend your client's expectations. But how can you do that in these economic conditions when most are being forced to do more with less?

Reconsider your business model and the solutions you can provide to your clients. Employee benefits. Voluntary benefits. Executive benefits. Retirement planning services. HR consulting services. And a myriad of other offerings. Those are all potential solutions. But it all starts with each client's critical needs. If you can help to solve two or three of their most pressing human capital needs, you will have made yourself invaluable.

 

Take action

Ensuring the alignment of HR initiatives and corporate business strategy has never been more important. The traditional "functional" approach to benefits planning must adapt to one that is more strategic and longer term. A benefits strategic plan will allow for a more proactive, holistic and analytical approach for managing the benefits program and improving overall results. So here's a winning action plan designed to stimulate your thinking:

* During the next 30-45 days, review and assess the prior and current year's benefits offering, the enrollment process utilized, and the overall results.

* Note any appropriate changes and lay the ground work for the future.

* Propose developing a three-to-five year strategic plan to the pertinent decision-makers in your organization.

* Encourage HR/Benefits to take the lead, and if possible, get the CFO and CEO involved in the process.

Now is the perfect time of year to initiate such discussions with your clients and prospects as well. It is a powerful planning process that will enable you to guide all the major benefits decisions facing your clients. A benefits strategic plan articulates how the benefits program will continue to support the attainment of the overall business plan and corporate objectives. It will explain how the benefits component fits into the total compensation plan and provides rewards and incentives to employees to achieve the corporation's goals. By using a strategic planning process you will establish greater credibility and elevate your interaction with your various client constituencies to that of a trusted adviser.

Reach Kwicien of Daymark Advisors at jkwicien@daymarkadvisors.com.

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