Over the last 15 years, Daymark Advisors has worked with hundreds of benefits professionals and voluntary benefits firms across the nation. We've observed that some of the most successful practices create strategic plans for their clients. These observations are consistent across all types of firms and goals. The very best advisers are highly consultative and strategic in their approach to client engagement.

Why, you might ask? First of all, it is the right thing to do for your clients. It provides them with a multi-year roadmap to guide all their major benefits decisions and expenditures. It enables them to analyze why they even offer benefits and which benefits are best for their employee population. The process positions you as their trusted adviser who is going to facilitate the development of their benefits strategy and be the architect to achieving their human capital goals. Some of this you do already today from an intuitive perspective. But what we are talking about is formalizing the process and committing it to writing. Here's what's in it for you if you do this:

  • Sell more products per client
  • Generate more revenue per client
  • Retain clients longer than average brokers
  • Achieve higher profit margins
  • Command a higher overall business valuation

Firms that embrace benefits strategic planning begin to see double-digit sales revenue growth and achieve profit margins above 30%, even in the face of health care reform. They are moving up-market and pursuing more clients with 50-500 employees on a regular basis. They are taking accounts away from much larger brokers. As a result, many have developed expertise in self-funded plans, while others have started to offer executive benefits. It also logically leads to the integration of voluntary benefits and the application of technology solutions. Imagine having four, five or six revenue sources per client while making yourself an indispensable member of their team.

What a winner looks like

In last month's column, I referenced EBA's 2013 Employee Benefit Adviser of the Year, Jennifer Eilers of Intercare. Her strategic approach contributes to much of her success. Now, I'd like to mention this month's cover person, Lou Faiola of Employee Family Protection, who is also very consultative and strategic. While Lou's product focus is voluntary benefits, his client approach starts with identifying critical issues and then providing solutions. Faiola is recognized as EBA's 2013 Voluntary Benefit Adviser of the Year because he engages prospects and clients in a business dialogue about their corporate values, critical issues and strategic goals. His vision and dedication have enabled him to transform from a grassroots sales professional to a strategic benefits adviser.

Both Eilers and Faiola are benefits professionals who are making a difference and continuing to grow their practices, despite the challenges of health care reform.

Regardless of your product focus or expertise, taking a strategic and consultative approach will yield tremendous sales results and improve client retention. It will also lead to an increase in referrals, which in turn generates more sales. So while you are reflecting upon your annual accomplishments and contemplating your 2014 personal goals, please consider committing to becoming a more consultative and strategic benefits adviser. Once the New Year starts, you will be glad you read this article.

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

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