For advisers, winning new business means turning perceptions into reality

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DALLAS -- To win new business and lure clients away from the so-called ‘big box brokerages’ with national standing, benefits advisers from smaller agencies need to carefully pick their targets, identify their weaknesses and then engage in a type of psychological warfare.

That was the message attendees of the Underground Adviser Masterclass heard here earlier this month from Scott Cantrell and other benefits sales experts. Cantrell, a partner at Bottom Line Solutions of Nashville, Tenn., the consultancy that hosted the seminar, told the gathering that to convince employers to stop fully insuring and pursue an alternative strategy such as self-funding requires the adviser to understand how the prospect thinks about value.

And that, said Cantrell, means getting into the employer’s mind.

“The prospect’s perception is based on their knowledge and belief as it relates to the contrast between their status quo and an enhanced value that you’re offering,” he explained to the advisers in attendance.

Advisers, he said, should explain the nature of that value by showing the prospect where his company is spending more than it needs to on benefits and how the services the adviser offers can bring that money back to the business.

If the prospective client doesn’t value what the adviser intends to deliver, Cantrell said, then he is unlikely to entertain the adviser’s strategy. In that case, he said, the adviser should let that employer go and move on to other prospects. However, if the employer believes that there is a problem and that the adviser can address it, then there is a strong chance that the prospect and the adviser can agree on the value of such a solution.

The problems in question can range from low benefits enrollment and high employee turnover to the ever-escalating cost of healthcare. The adviser creates value when he and the employer agree on their financial implications and that the adviser can address them.

“Advisers can demonstrate savings all day long, but if the prospect does not agree, then value has not been achieved,” Cantrell told the group. “Value does not exist without identifying a problem, determining a cost and finding a solution.”

Using emotions plus logic

Moreover, he said, even if the broker identifies multiple issues that are costing the employer money, if the decision to make a change does not have an emotional basis, the change won’t be made.

“You have to be able to quantify the problem to backup what you are saying and to let the employer justify that he is making a logical decision. But we all know that decisions are emotionally based,” Cantrell noted.

Once the problem is identified and its cost determined, then the adviser can present a strategy for resolving it. But to get to this point the employer needs to verbally agree at each step in the process.

“Employers have to articulate that they agree and understand that the solutions offered by the adviser will solve their retention problem, their healthcare problem or their cost problem,” Cantrell said. “If they are unwilling to say that out loud there is a good chance the broker is not going to win this business.”

If during a sales presentation the employer doesn’t understand the problem, its cost or the solution that the adviser has proposed, then the adviser still has the opportunity to back up and review it again.

“Selling is educating and this is just a structured way to educate,” Cantrell concluded. “The status quo broker will start the process with the solution, leaving the employer unsure as to why they need the broker in the first place.”

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