Want to know how workplace voluntary benefits can be your new secret weapon in sales? Read on. But first, a tale of three benefit brokers...

Erik has no problem meeting prospects and getting in front of the employer or the HR decision maker. During the appointment, however, he has difficulty closing his prospects and finding a value proposition that helps him make the sale. Building his book has been a challenge.

Anna is gifted at closing the sale once she's got the appointment. But Anna struggles in finding prospects and getting in the door... and her small book reflects that.

Jeremy, at first glance, is the total sales package, able to prospect with the best and close a high percentage of his prospects. But Jeremy, too, is having limited success in building a quality book, since he does a poor job retaining his clients and building their value by cross-selling them.

In my consulting work with agencies, I often see talented salespeople fail to succeed because they don't execute in all three phases of selling:

1) lead generation (getting the prospect)

2) prospect conversion (closing the prospect)

3) client maximization (keeping and cross-selling the client)

My agency consulting is based on what we call the "seven agency success factors." How well an agency executes these essential factors, which we have identified after working with scores of agencies across the country, determines their ultimate success.

This isn't the place to discuss all seven, but the three selling phases above comprise success factors 4, 5, and 6, respectively. Most brokers and agencies that underperform and aren't achieving their goals are failing in one or more of these three selling phases.

When I tell clients that providing value to the prospect or client is the key to success in all three selling phases, this raises the question, "What else can I do to provide value?"

Most benefit brokers are surprised to discover how workplace voluntary benefits can provide meaningful value to the prospect and client. WVB is a powerful tool for prospecting, closing the sale, and keeping and cross-selling the client.

Let's talk first about voluntary and prospecting. For far too many benefit brokers, prospecting consists of one dubious value proposition: "Would you be interested in hearing how I can save you money on your medical premiums?"

There are two major problems with that gambit. First, it might have worked the first time it was asked, maybe 15 years ago. But today almost all benefit brokers use a variation of that same line. It was tired 10 years ago and now works about as well as "Hey, baby, what's your sign?" during happy hour. It's just more noise to the prospect.

Plus, every employer believes (incorrectly) that the only way to lower medical costs is to cut benefits, shift costs, or both. In other words, they don't believe the value proposition.


Your 'Godfather' moment

Want to stand out from all of your competition? Want to get the prospect's attention with what in marketing we call an "irresistible offer" - one they can't refuse?

You can if you have WVB in your benefits toolbox and know how to use them. Try this opening salvo to get you in the door and get the appointment: "Would you be interested in seeing how you can reduce your medical premiums while improving your employees' benefits?"

Of course they would. Employers are sick of benefit takeaways and cost shifting. Less cost, more benefits? You bet. They're ready for some good news.

So you get the appointment. Here's how you keep your promise. To lower medical costs, move the employer to a higher deductible - at least $3,000 to $5,000 or more - to reduce substantially the medical premiums for both employer and employees. (Consider an HRA for office visits, meds, etc.) Old hat, you say? Wait, don't forget the WVB.


Channeling MC Hammer

To address the inevitable employee pushback and to protect employees from the greater financial exposure of the higher deductible, the employer can apply some of the premium savings to offer voluntary accident and critical illness - but on a fully employer-paid basis. (This is beautiful ... voluntary benefits that are no longer voluntary!)

But even if the employer prefers to keep all of the premium savings and offer the WVB on an employee-paid basis, employees can use some of their own premium savings to insure against the deductible with the WVB. These valuable plans can be ridiculously inexpensive.

The guaranteed-issue accident plan covers out-of-pocket expenses due to an accident. A critical illness plan with a minimum benefit of $5,000 would cover the deductible in the case of a heart attack, stroke or cancer and should be available GI if employer-paid. These two plans cover 84% of instances where the employee would incur $1,000 or more of medical expenses.

Benefit counselors during the one-on-one enrollment meetings with employees will help them understand the value proposition of the higher deductible and the enhanced coverage provided by the WVB. (In fact, offering WVB and the benefit education in the enrollment process can dramatically boost participation in any high-deductible plan.)

Boom! Lower medical premiums and better benefits! Unless your competition is creatively deploying WVB, they can't touch this.


The 'Hey Jude' option

The second problem with the typical "I can save you money on your medical" prospecting pitch is it that it's all about the medical. Now, I know that medical remains the goose that lays the golden egg, so it's natural that brokers focus on it. However, when you're prospecting, many of your prospects aren't yet experiencing sticker shock from a high renewal. In other words, they're not feeling the premium pain at that moment. They will at some point, just not right now.

But WVB gives you an intriguing way to approach the prospect. Ask the prospect which carrier has their medical. Then say this: "That carrier has some good plans. Would you give me 20 minutes to show you how you can make your good plan better, with no impact on your budget?"

Of course, we're talking about adding WVB to the benefit plan, using health benefits like accident, critical illness and medical supplement insurance to enhance the plan and fill gaps for the employees.

By offering these voluntary plans, the employer gives employees access to financial protection against the otherwise unavoidable out-of-pocket expenses that employees face in a serious accident or illness. In addition, the plans serve as positive additions to balance the benefit takeaways that most employers have been forced into.

Again, see how WVB can get you in the door and help you differentiate yourself.


More than just benefits

Finally, your prospecting can leverage the ancillary services that a WVB enrollment can provide an employer. The greatest value to HR is often not in the voluntary benefits themselves but in the enrollment process.

Sometimes a prospect's major pain points are around issues such as open enrollment, employee turnover and benefit communication. With HR budgets already stretched, employers are eager for solutions to these problems that are available at no hard-dollar cost.

Use the valuable services of a WVB enrollment to solve a number of pressing HR problems and pay for the solution with the WVB commission.

Eliminate paper apps, free up HR staff during OE, improve employee morale and reduce turnover, educate employees on their benefits ... all solutions from the WVB enrollment.

Meaningful HR solutions at no cost to the employer. Another value proposition courtesy of WVB, your secret weapon to make your prospecting easier and more effective.

Next month: using the power of voluntary benefits to close the sale.

Griswold is a former senior executive with a national enrollment firm. He now helps agencies and carriers explode their voluntary benefits revenues. He can be reached at (615) 656-5974, nelson@cross-sellsolutions.com or insurancebottomline.com.

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