Crossing the value gap should be a top priority for benefit sellers. The value gap is a chasm that exists between how most advisers sell, which buyers view as ho-hum, and a wonderful place where relatively few sellers travel, but buyers love. Taking your buyers across the value gap lands you in a place where buyers are more frequently willing to buy and where you'll have more fun than a kid in a candy store.
The candy store contains all the products, service and advice that buyers find valuable. I'll warn the inexperienced sellers: Crossing the value gap takes some getting used to because of the many things you'll have to become familiar with that the buyer already knows and that he just needs help. Where you are headed is a place where technology is advanced and well-suited to helping the buyer with a multitude of tasks. It is a place where you advise clients on areas of expertise they never expected you to, and they like it. It is a place where products - and sometimes brokers and consultants - are picked with finely tuned, data-driven methodologies that improve the efficacy of the buyers' benefit system at a competitive cost. In short, it is the future.
Commodity versus specialty
The value gap is a psychological place where a buyer evaluates you as either a commodity or a specialist. Which one are you? Being a commodity means being just like everyone else. You have the same products, same services, same everything. When you are a commodity, profits are lower and sales fewer, due to the abundant availability of other sellers and services that are just like you.
What you want to be is a specialist. Buyers view specialists as what marketing specialist Seth Godin calls "a purple cow," a stand-out from the herd of Holsteins. Being a specialist means you offer knowledge, products and services that are unique in their presentation and implementation.
Unlike commodity sellers, specialty sellers command higher prices and bigger profit margins. Where do you want to be? My guess is you want to be a differentiated specialist. That requires that you understand the value gap and what is on either side of this psychological chasm.
Understanding the value gap
The value gap is a chasm, but it also is a bridge that connects two worlds.
The one world is overpopulated with buyers overwhelmed by commodity sellers. Yes, insurance is a commodity. These buyers are tired of all the commodities disguised as specialties. Buyers want to find a specialty seller, but it's such a trial-and-error journey that they give up in despair. It seems specialists are rare.
Some commodity sellers have already crossed the value gap bridge. Along the way they picked up fresh vision with new expertise and tools that buyers want for their future now.
Although the road across the value gap bridge goes both ways, few specialists go back, and neither will you. Why? You see, specialists enjoy new business and higher incomes, but they love the vision and expertise they picked up in the value gap even more.
The knowledge is all about a new set of buyers' wants and desires ,and the specialists now know how to deliver on these wants and desires. Today's buyers' wants and desires are wide and deep. What an opportunity for benefits consultants to go wild learning how to serve those buyers and then providing that service.
However, you must focus on a few key areas and specialize to be successful. Here is some good news: Technology and specialized people solutions stand ready to help you assist your clients on the specialist side of the value gap.
Let's talk about a few of these areas and some products that offer solutions for you and your clients and prospects
Some day the economy will start generating jobs again. When it does, your employer groups and prospects will start doing something they haven't done for a few years - onboarding. This is the process of hiring employees and socializing them. Author James Collins would call it placing them in the right seat on the bus. Hopefully your trip across the value gap bridge taught you to help customers with onboarding by providing technologies that streamline the repetitive communications and paperwork that each new employee, and HR manager, must face with new hires.
Legal compliance means the rules of engagement across the five core disciplines of HR: employment law, compensation, administration, employee communications and employee benefits - but not just employee benefits. Each consists of rules, forms, posters and more rules. However, these five disciplines are viewed as one by your buyers. You can make a big impression by helping them corral compliance with a piece of technology that acts as a digital assistant. If you've crossed the value gap bridge, why not make these services available to your customers today?
The list of employee communications is long and includes newsletters, custom communications, legal disclosures, etc. Customers want sellers who have navigated the value gap to provide employee communications on these and other topics. They want communications that are personalized, professionally prepared and fast. In fact, customers want to sign up with the technology and have it send the employee communications they're interested in until further notice.
Legislative updates from Washington and the states, insurance alerts and a gazillion model notices are all highly desired by your customers. Do you have a digital assistant that takes care of these for your clients? If not, why not? Surely it cannot be price. Costs have dropped dramatically to where if you sell one group per year with the technology, you'll pay for the whole subscription. You have doubts? Call me, and I'll guarantee it for you.
Analytics help customers log routine legal information like OSHA losses. We offer a product called OSHA Tracker. It easily logs OSHA 300 losses and any state's first report of injury with one data entry. Analytics also help customers make better health care decisions. For example, our MedAnalyzer collects and analyzes health care claims and provides predictive modeling. Our LossAnalyzer allows customers to slice and dice losses for a variety of insurances to determined patterns why losses occur. Once this is known, you can help your customer take action on those patterns by eliminating or, at least, reducing losses to save premium for the buyer.
Everything is marketing in the benefits business. I believe that. Your stroll across the value gap bridge allowed you to pick up technologies that can automate your marketing with a strong, consistent message that connects with your customers for tomorrow, not yesterday.
Our marketing automation tool is futureofficenetwork.com. It will help you generate marketing that results in doors opening for you to prospects who want what you have to offer and are willing, more often than not, to give you an AOR for stopping by and offering your knowledge and wares.
Educating customers on the never-ending tsunami of state and federal rules, regulations and statutes is a daunting task, but a necessary one. Try attending a Smartcast once and see how easy it is to keep your customers and prospects educated on everything the value gap bridge says you should be talking about - the stuff customers really want to know, but probably are not getting from their broker. Maybe you're not providing educational web seminars twice a month, but you could be.
Sign up for a free Smartcast on our website and see what your customers are missing from you. Smartcasts are marketing wildfire once you understand the sophisticated ways you can use them. They drive strong satisfaction with customers and prospects and produce sales leads at the same time.
Accompany your customers and prospects on a one-way trip across the value gap bridge. It is a business necessity for you and your customers if you want to survive and thrive in the benefits business. Your customers and prospects have been dropping subtle hints for a long time, but have you been listening?
The value gap calls. Listen.
Davidson, CEBS, is founder of futureofficenetwork.com and mysalesrockstar.com. He is also principal of davidsonmarketing.com. Davidson is on the faculty of the Sheldon B. Lubar School of Business at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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