In last month's column we detailed the three psychological states that benefits buyers find themselves in, especially the one you want to lead a buyer to - "satisfied." If you missed my last column, you may want to pick up a copy of the February issue of EBA or read the digital edition on the EBA website,

This month, we'll look at how to get a buyer from "dissatisfied" right to "satisfied" - and get an AOR as a result.


Which sales methods leave buyers dissatisfied or not dissatisfied?

Following are three common sales methods that leave buyers dissatisfied or not satisfied, and thus deny you an AOR.

1) Rates. Having a rate discussion near the beginning of your sales presentation will not satisfy your buyer or you. At best, your buyer will focus on your rate discussion and you'll have no opportunity to develop a differentiated position that will lead your buyer to a long relationship with you based on value.

Rates are rates. A relationship based on rate and nothing else will position you as a peddler. Live by the rates, die by the rates - perhaps as soon as next year, when a competitor spreadsheets you. So deliver the rates, but make your sale based on value.

2) Insurance talk. Insurance talk is another satisfaction killer. We all know the jargon. The problem is that your buyer doesn't care. Do you like going into a car dealer and hearing a salesperson jaw on about suspension systems, camshafts and Johnson rods? Most people don't. They want to know about the steak, but they care about the experience first and the price second. If it all comes together in the buyer's mind, satisfaction occurs.

3) Customer service talk. You may disagree with me on this one, but I'll say it anyway: Stay away from too much talk about your firm's customer service. Everyone does it, and it all sounds the same to the buyer. Does a buyer really care that you've been in business 100 years and stuff like that? You're wasting valuable time and momentum.

If a buyer asks about your customer service, or if you have a differentiating service to offer, like value-added technology, then you should definitely talk that up. Assume that you have stiff competition on almost every hunt and that you and your competition sound alike to a buyer. Stake out your value proposition, differentiate it and leave an impression that sets you up for a positive close at that meeting or in the near future.


Which sales methods leave buyers satisfied and score you an AOR?

I've saved the best for last. Here are some discussion points you can use to dominate your presentation, especially this year when your buyer faces benefit cost issues and many more other legal issues that are confusing and varied.

* Benefits compliance. Health care reform is big, loud and confusing. As I mentioned in a previous column, you want to be an expert on this, because most sellers are not. Health care reform will be a moving target this year and that spells opportunity for you to show off.

Don't forget, however, the bread-and-butter compliance issues like FMLA, COBRA, Section 125 and the myriad of other matters that you and your buyer have to contend with. The breadth and depth of these compliance issues is overwhelming to buyers and the pros alike. As a general rule, you should assume that the smaller the employer, the more out-of-compliance the buyer is likely to be.

Every broker may understand the basics of benefits compliance, but it is the deeper, more subtle details that elude most advisers and their customers. I receive calls almost every day from producers and employers in our FutureOffice Network asking for help on the deeper, less obvious rules. That should be you fielding those calls.

Noncompliance is a fear motivator. The penalties for being out of compliance can be severe. Are you having that discussion with prospects? Your knowledge of compliance, along with some thinly veiled fear, is a tried and true method of bringing an employer into the world of satisfaction - and bringing you an AOR.

* Human resource management. Help with human resource management is a bigger concern among employers than benefits is. Call me a heretic, but that statement is true. Price notwithstanding, benefit issues ebb and flow as front-burner issues for employers. Human resource matters are front and center each day, and different every day. That spells need - and that should ring the opportunity bell for you.

Human resource management is complex and getting more so, understaffed, and extremely litigious. All of that equals a quagmire of compliance and a minefield of litigation risk. You are in the insurance business. You manage risk. You definitely want to jump into this one.

Technology is a great way to help your buyers with these issues without you having to become an HR expert. However you do it, work a quality HR discussion into your value proposition and sales presentation. It's another golden way of moving your prospect from "dissatisfied" directly to "satisfied." Why do you think so many brokerage and consulting firms employ HR people to go on sales calls and work with their clients? Because it works! (For a more detailed discussion on this topic, see my column on selling the five core disciplines of HR in the October and November 2010 issues of EBA.)

* Compensation. Talking about compensation does not just mean how to pay people. The real sales gems in compensation are proper classification of employees and independent contractors, and exempt versus non-exempt employees. It includes slick techniques for bonusing employees, proper job description design and executive compensation. Compliance with federal and state wage and hour rules are also in this category.

Do you know of a friend in the brokerage business who is talking to prospects about this very important subject that affects every employer? Are you talking about it?

Be schooled in the basics of compensation and talking about it in your sales presentation. Think of the term, "comp and benefits." The two go together hand in hand. It's a natural evolution for you to talk about compensation and benefits together. So don't be afraid to put a toe in the waters of compensation. Your prospects are already in up to their necks, and the water is fine. Compensation is the single largest cost an employer has. Talking about compensation will bring satisfaction to your prospects and, of course, an AOR for you.

Well, I'm out of space, but I could keep on writing about the importance of moving beyond taking a dissatisfied prospect to a nebulous place called "not dissatisfied" and on to a "satisfied" state. Only there will you score an AOR.

Imagine practicing these techniques all the time and scoring more AORs as a result. You can do it.

Please contact me if you have any questions about these proven techniques or if I can help you in any way. I can be reached at or by emailing me at


Davidson is the founder of and He is also on the faculty of the Sheldon B. Lubar School of Business at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.





Benefits savvy

The economy and health reform may have prompted the youngest workers at U.S. companies to take a deeper interest in workplace benefits, according to online research conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Unum. For example, the percentage of workers age 18 to 32 that said they are extremely or very familiar with retirement accounts jumped from 31% (2008) to 43% (2010). "Members of this generation are entering the workforce and building careers during a time of economic uncertainty and intense debate over health care reform," says Barbara Nash, vice president of corporate research for Unum. "They're clearly taking an increased interest in how they can build and protect their financial lives."

Benefits professionals should take note of the research findings, given that Generation Y workers make up about 75 million of the U.S. population, which is nearly the size of the baby boomer generation of 80 million. "This generation of workers is a large and influential group coming of age at a time when the benefits landscape is changing quickly," Nash says. "Understanding what drives their decision-making and how we can meet their benefits needs on their terms is critical."

The data reflect the results of two online surveys conducted in 2008 and 2010. The 2008 survey involved 357 Generation Y respondents (ages 18 to 32) employed full- or part-time, while the 2010 poll interviewed 387 Gen Y workers.

Other key findings include:

* The percentage of young workers who are extremely or very familiar with disability insurance increased from 16% (2008) to 24% (2010).

* More young employees are also visiting insurance-company websites to learn about benefits providers, with 32% in 2008 to 44% in 2010.

* The percentage of Gen Y workers who are extremely or very familiar with life insurance increased from 31% (2008) to 44% (2010).

* Young workers are also logging onto consumer-advice websites, with 21% in 2008 to 27% in 2010.

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