After the June 28 Supreme Court ruling that found the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to be constitutional, many group medical producers felt that their business was over. I want to begin by saying that there has never been more opportunity than there is right now and that there will be for the foreseeable future.

While commissions will likely be reduced, agents in New Jersey know that an 80% MLR is not the end of the world. Minnesota agents know that a PMPM commission of $19 monthly will not put them out of business.

But nothing is certain. So the question becomes: How do I continue to make good money in this business? The solution is quite simple. Start by accepting that you are a salesperson and get back to the basics of good selling.

Historically, selling medical insurance was relatively easy. The agent made calls requesting permission to quote on the group's medical plan in order to help the employer reduce costs. If the agent made enough of these calls he/she would get a combination of renewal dates and quote opportunities. Securing opportunities to quote medical was relatively straightforward since most employers had a personal interest in the plans chosen.

That approach is no longer as effective as it was five years ago. Every agent now hears prospects ask, "What carriers will you quote that my current broker cannot?"

In lieu of a proprietary product it has become increasingly more difficult to open the doors to new prospects. And with commission reductions it is becoming more necessary than ever to sell more new business.

In a recent article I discussed the need to be able to "pivot" to another product line when faced with either a renewal date or a prospect that is not interested in allowing you to quote. This is a simple transition which is made by saying, "Before we get off the telephone may I ask you one quick question?"

Most prospects will grant permission. You then ask something along the lines of, "Do you currently offer any voluntary products?"

If the response is yes, you can suggest an alternative. To be successful with the "pivot" you must have at least one alternative product that you can turn to, such as a dental plan.

To avoid working with another transactional product such as medical I suggest that you find one or two products that cannot be compared on a spreadsheet. This will allow you to "sell" the value of your product.

You might want to try to open the door to new prospects by using a different product such as dental or disability income insurance. While prospecting in this way will be more challenging (hence the need to get back to selling basics), it does provide a less competitive sales situation.

Let me close by defining what "sales" is for those of you who prefer to think of yourself as a "consultant."

Selling is not about manipulation or getting someone to buy something that they do not need or want. Selling is about recognizing that people do not know what they do not know.

As a benefits professional, you should understand how various products help the consumer. Prospects do not know that they need disability income coverage until the salesperson helps them understand that.

Next month I will share the simplest strategy of all if you want to double your business in 18 months.

Schlesinger is immediate past president of NAHU and a sales coach specializing in working with employee benefits professionals. Reach him at (336) 777-3938 or mel@melschlesinger.com.

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