As a way to fight back against health care reform, 58% of benefit brokers report they will become more consultative, and the same percentage report they'll sell more voluntary, according to the MetLife Broker and Consultant Study.

In my book, DO or DIE: Reinventing Your Benefits Agency for Post-Reform Success, I describe consultative selling as the foundation of the 21st Century Agency, the successful post-reform benefits firm based on the book's reform-proof business model. Additionally, in a recent column (March 2013) I recommend worksite voluntary benefits as one of three essential strategies for the 21st Century Agency. Both are excellent strategies if you want to stay relevant and profitable. But the real power comes when you combine the two.

Like all of us, clients get stuck working in their business and often don't make the time to work on their business. Yet solutions and improvements result from working on the business. With question-based consultative selling, you help the client to focus on their business, exploring pain points and uncovering problems that you can help solve with your products and services.

Voluntary provides you with a full toolbox of valuable solutions to HR problems. Plus, worksite voluntary is the most effective way to replace lost medical commissions. In conjunction with voluntary, being consultative can open doors and help you get into an account.

A great example comes from one of our Agency Growth Mastermind Network Partners, Cathy Aitken, president of Corporate Benefit Analysts in Nashville. One of her producers, Bill, had developed a very good relationship with the HR director at a mid-size firm, but was unable to secure the AOR. Instead of waiting another year for a shot at the medical, Bill used a consultative approach to discover that the HR director had been wanting to offer his employees a legal plan, a need the in-force broker never identified. Seizing the opportunity, Bill placed a voluntary group legal plan. After a successful enrollment, Bill was able to expand the offering to include home and auto. With two product lines in place, the firm is well positioned to get a shot at the medical when the time is right, and they're getting paid while patiently awaiting the opportunity.


The back door as Plan A

Using a consultative approach to find a back door to the medical isn't always a Plan B. Arty Accardo, the president of Dominion Broker Services in Unionville, Va., has begun deploying an intentional strategy of not even asking prospects for the medical. Instead, he focuses on client problems that he can solve with voluntary benefits. For instance, by asking questions about how well employees understand and appreciate their benefits, Accardo is looking for an opportunity to provide benefit education to the employees with benefit counselors as part of a voluntary benefit enrollment.

His strategy is extremely powerful, especially today. First, you differentiate yourself from all the brokers focused just on the medical. Second, you can generate revenue that can equal or exceed commission on the medical. Incidentally, when he gets into an account with just the voluntary, Accardo fully expects he'll eventually get the AOR on the medical.

Combining consultative selling with voluntary makes for a powerful one-two punch that will keep you relevant and profitable post-reform.

Griswold is an agency growth consultant and author of DO or DIE: Reinventing Your Benefits Agency for Post-Reform Success. His Agency Growth Mastermind Network helps agency leaders reform-proof their firm. Reach him at (615) 656-5974, or through

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