For many of us, 2013 has been a very interesting and challenging year. What kind of year was 2013 for you? What are you doing to plan now for next year? Since many of us at this time of year start reflecting upon what we can do to improve ourselves, our personal lives or our business results, now is a great time to commit to changing your approach to the sales process. Commit to making 2014 a break-out sales year. You need to start now, but how?

Over the last several years, I have written in this column about the necessity of becoming more strategic and consultative in your client and prospect interactions. You need to elevate your relationship stature to that of a trusted adviser. In order to accomplish that, you need to change your approach to the entire prospecting and sales process. You need a proprietary sales process and a client engagement process that is sustainable and replicable.

Think strategically about what your clients' values are. If the business owners could, would they eliminate 50% of their employees? Or do they recognize that their employees are their single largest business asset? How can you design programs that will meet the needs of both the employer and the employee if you don't understand what they are trying to accomplish by offering benefits at all? Or are you stuck selling widgets, so to speak? If your client or prospect does not want your widget today, does that mean you have nothing to discuss with them? How about talking about what they want their benefits program to look like over the next three to five years. That's a start.



Business issue focus

Note that I have not even mentioned a specific product or service yet. I am simply exploring client values, critical business issues and long-term goals. Product solutions, design and carrier selections are tactical decisions that can be made more intelligently once you understand a client's or prospect's strategic goals. And every employer has them. In fact, they likely have an enterprise strategic plan that the owner or management team drafted to guide all their major business decisions. It probably articulates their revenue and expense goals, major challenges and maybe even their contingency plans. But did you ever ask about these issues? Do they have a written road map to guide their major benefits decisions? If not, you are like the overwhelming majority of brokers who are making benefits recommendations with no regard for how the benefits program supports their clients' overall business operations.

Still not convinced? Let's look at what one of the best in our industry is doing. In the September issue, Jennifer Eilers of Intercare was recognized as EBA's 2013 Employee Benefit Adviser of the Year. Her client was quoted as saying, "Jennifer has exceeded our expectations and supported our business and our employees in very meaningful and strategic ways." Eilers added perspective saying, "We always have an over-arching three-year strategy that drills down on what their overall goals are."

Do your clients say this about you? Do you think Eilers is invaluable to her clients? Do you think she's perceived as a trusted adviser? You bet. As you can see, it has nothing to do with your products. It has everything to do with your strategic sales expertise and your ability to translate client critical needs while providing them with solutions. Commit to changing your sales approach in 2014 and engage your clients in a strategic dialogue.

Kwicien is managing partner at Baltimore-based consulting and advisory services firm Daymark Advisors. Reach him at

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