The way people buy employee benefits is changing and as a result brokers need to change how they sell. This will help them to not only be successful, but to simply exist, Chad Schneider, chief sales officer at brokerage consultancy Code SixFour, said at a recent industry conference.

The average buyer wants to make three touchpoints with a seller before buying something and the average sales cycle time has increased 22% in the last five years, according to Schneider. In addition, there is a 23% increase in decision-makers and clients are becoming savvier about how they buy: 61% of all business-to-business buyers have a formal bidding process, up from 45% a year ago.

“These trends strongly affect the way agencies and producers go to market and interact with employers,” Schneider said. “It is more difficult. So how can [brokers] become more effective?”

One way he advised is by using LinkedIn to sell. Every person who has a LinkedIn profile has a social selling index (SSI), which gives a score based on the users’ effectiveness of using LinkedIn. The score includes factors such as maintaining a professional brand, finding the right people, engaging with insights, building relationships and updating a profile daily.

According to Schneider, the average sales professional in the insurance industry has a score of 13 out of 100. “We have a long way to go; we need it to rise,” he said, “[because] LinkedIn is the most powerful social selling tool on the market today.”

It is the most powerful tool because, according to Corporate Executive Board, it takes five people to get to a ‘yes’ when selling and 75% of buyers use social media. Through LinkedIn, many of those decision-makers at a prospect company are already connected. On top of that, according to the Harvard Business Review, 90% of decision-makers will never respond to a cold sales outreach, so connecting first on LinkedIn provides an entry point.

Raising the score
Since the social selling index is so important, Schneider advises brokers to work on raising their score, which they can do by talking about what they do in their profile. “Don’t just say you are a benefits broker,” he said. “Say why you help people and why you are the best at it.”

Additionally, he advises searching “like crazy” to make connections on LinkedIn and engage with insights, “so they know who they are working with is a top notch [adviser].”

The numbers, he said, prove it is worth the time. Those with high SSIs have 45% more opportunities to sell, are 51% more likely to reach quota and 78% outsell their peers, Schneider said.

“If we don’t adapt, we hang on trying to survive,” he said.

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