When asked about their experience with selling workplace voluntary benefits, most brokers often give one of two replies:

"Oh, I've presented voluntary benefits a bunch of times. None of my clients want them; I don't think they can be sold."


"Well, I've put voluntary into several groups, but participation was always low; employees just don't want 'em or can't afford 'em."

When I dig deeper into these failures with voluntary, I invariably find the broker has made one or more of the following five fatal mistakes that rob him or her of revenue potential and threaten valuable client relationships:

1) Didn't learn how voluntary benefits can solve painful HR problems for their client;

2) Pushed products on the client instead of using consultative selling to provide solutions for HR;

3) Selected the wrong voluntary benefits for the case;

4) Didn't partner with the right enrollment firm; and

5) Failed to obtain access to employees with the right enrollment conditions.

Here's how these five mistakes can kill your efforts cross-selling voluntary:


1) Failing to learn the true value proposition of voluntary benefit products

Occasionally, the products themselves can be the solution to a client's problem. Much more often, the enrollment process and its ancillary services provide the solution to a pressing need. Voluntary benefit enrollments can solve many of HR's most challenging problems - usually at no cost to the client. This is the No. 1 secret to successfully cross-selling voluntary.


2) Failing to sell solutions

Voluntary is not a product sale. Clients rarely are looking for additional benefits to offer employees; what they really want are solutions to their most pressing HR problems. To effectively cross-sell voluntary, use a consultative selling approach to uncover the client's HR problems that a voluntary benefit enrollment can solve.


3) Failing to select the right products

The most popular and highly utilized voluntary benefits are short-term disability, critical illness, accident, hospital indemnity and permanent life insurance.

For a successful enrollment with high participation and the satisfaction of both HR and employees, it is critical to select no more than three voluntary benefits that fit the employee's current benefit plan. Fill gaps in the current plan with benefits that offer employees needed financial protection.


4) Failing to partner with the right enrollment firm

For enrolling larger groups (200-plus employees), the right enrollment firm will do 90% of the work. The enrollment firm also will provide the ancillary services that solve clients' HR problems.

The right enrollment partner is essential to solid case management and effective communication of the offering to employees. The expertise and professionalism of your enrollment partner will determine the operational success of the enrollment, the level of participation in the voluntary plans and, not least, the commissions earned.


5) Failing to gain employee access and good enrollment conditions

Successful cross-selling ends with a successful enrollment that satisfies HR and produces high participation in the voluntary plans. Once a voluntary case is sold, the enrollment's success depends on obtaining HR's enthusiastic buy-in for the crucial access to employees under good enrollment conditions.

There are many compelling reasons for HR to provide benefit counselors access to every employee. Low participation in a voluntary enrollment is usually the result of the broker failing to make the case for access.

Avoid these five fatal mistakes and you will succeed with workplace voluntary benefits.

Griswold is an authority on voluntary benefits and consultative selling. His firm, Bottom Line Solutions, consults with agencies across the United States. Reach him at (615) 656-5974, nelson@InsuranceBottomLine.com through InsuranceBottomLine.com.

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