One skill that epitomizes the successful benefit adviser is selling. From the dollar-and-cents results to the art of persuasion, benefit advisers understand the sales process. So why not use that skill to assist human resource professionals in selling their C-suite on a corporate wellness program?

The professional salesperson understands the key to a sale is identifying the customer's problem and offering a solution to that problem. The challenge is proving that your solution works.


Identify the problem

If you want to know what the pain points are for senior executives, just ask them. What's important to them? What keeps them up at night? The answers will vary depending on the business. A hospitality client may have issues with turnover, while a manufacturing business could have concerns with productivity or workers compensation claims. Hearing the problem from the executives' perspective is the first step in selling them on a solution.

Now that you have identified the problem, you need to understand its severity and determine what factors contribute to the problem. For that, you need data. Regardless of what you track, certain elements should always be included:

  • demographics (age, sex, length of service, hourly vs. salaried, average wage and benefit election)
  • all types of claims, including workers' compensation
  • paid time off and/or absences
  • health assessment data
  • employee survey and anecdotal feedback
  • participation levels in existing health promotion activities

Next you need to know the lay of the land. Conduct an environmental assessment, such as a walking tour of what the company offers in its vending machines and cafeteria, and what's available in the surrounding area. Do they have walking paths or onsite exercise areas? Are they being used? Does the C-suite use the amenities?
If your client has an existing program but the C-suite questions its return on investment, review how the program operates. Look at communication venues, program policies and the current engagement levels of employees. What is the nature of the company culture? Is there trust, motivation and commitment?

Once the information gathering is completed, the next step is an assessment and the development of a solution.


Find a solution

A common misperception is that an effective health promotion program means spending major dollars. When the C-suite thinks that, it's often a deal-breaker. This is where your knowledge of vendors, carrier programs and funding strategy is invaluable.

Start with what you know best - benefits. Rethink your client's benefits strategy to spend their health care dollars more wisely. Consider changing contributions on low-value benefits so the company allocates funds for programs with a higher return.

For example, change low-value benefit programs from employer-funded to employee-pay-all. Drop low-value benefits programs with low participation rates. Use high-value programs like the company's employee assistance program more effectively. Develop communication strategy for increasing participation. Talk to carriers and vendors about funding and training support.

There are plenty of no-cost and low-cost tools for keeping a wellness program alive and well.

Work with the carriers in identifying the specific health risks of your client's population and design benefits that invite compliance with recommended treatment plans. Use claims, health assessment and all other data to build your case for the C-suite.


Make the sale

You've identified the problem, assessed the data and come up with solutions. It's time to convince the C-suite.

Enlightened CFOs recognize that you cannot always put a price tag on value. Improved morale and high levels of employee engagement offer intangibles that contribute to success. However, even the most enlightened C-suite executive wants facts, not concepts.

Tailor your presentation to address the issues that are important to the C-suite. Use carrier and vendor analysis and modeling tools. Use company data and compare it to industry benchmarks. Validate your analysis with recognized resources like Gallup polls, statistics from the National Institute of Health and introduce them (if they don't already know about it) to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

For a company that has productivity issues, use risk factor analysis tools that document the excess cost related to claims, productivity and absences for their employee population. Offer plan design models that demonstrate how to lower those costs.

In companies with high turnover, share success stories about your clients who changed their cultures through community and family involvement in health promotion programs that lowered turnover and increased referrals. Incorporate concerns about program costs in your analysis. And offer solutions that push the hot buttons of the C-suite.

In other words, do what you do best - make the sale.

Taylor is a consultant and certified wellness program manager for Intercare Insurance Solutions in San Diego.

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