I recently finished a consulting project for a large employer that needed my help finding a new employee benefit broker. I took their senior executive team through a two-month process that included identifying goals and objectives, writing a request for proposal, identifying broker candidates, assessing proposals and interviewing finalists. As an employee benefit broker myself, I found it fascinating to be “on the inside” during the company’s decision-making process. I’d like to share a few tips that may help you the next time you are invited to respond to an RFP.

Bloomberg/file photo

1) Research your prospective client
Don’t just rely on the company information provided in the RFP. Visit the company website and LinkedIn page, do an Internet search, subscribe to news alerts. If you find something interesting, ask questions about how that will affect the company’s benefits strategy. During my consulting project, the prospective client completed an acquisition that immediately increased their employee count by 40%, and the announcement of the acquisition was featured on the company website. The agency that ultimately won the business incorporated the acquisition information into their proposal and asked a lot of questions about the impact of the acquisition during their finalist interview. They impressed the prospective client by recommending a strategy to consolidate two upcoming renewal dates. They also knew the company was looking to make more acquisitions, and were able to highlight their agency’s M&A experience. They stood out over agencies that did not acknowledge the acquisition at all.

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2) Write a thoughtful proposal
Most agencies have standard marketing materials, or a marketing department that will generate a proposal from a template. These methods may save time and result in a consistent message, but the resulting proposals all look the same and it’s very hard to differentiate one agency from another. When I reviewed the proposals, what stood out were the thoughtful, meaningful responses that incorporated the prospective client’s specific needs. Without knowing everything about the prospective client, some agencies were willing to make strategy recommendations, which showed that they were thinking through the company’s specific situation. The winning agency also stood out by including employee communication materials that were customized with the prospective client’s logo and color scheme.

3) Highlight your experience with similarly-situated companies
Include case studies and references that show your applicable experience, whether it be in the prospective client’s industry, or with companies that have the same demographics, benefits structure, or geographical challenges. Show how you improved your client’s situation with measurable results. Case studies and references that aren’t applicable, no matter how impressive, can fall flat.

4) Keep the focus on the team members who will work with the prospective client
If you are fortunate enough to make it to a finalist interview, make sure that you are letting the prospective client interact with the team members who will handle the daily relationship. It may be tempting to show off the corporate execs or agency managers, but you risk creating a disconnect if the prospective client can’t get a feel for what it’s like to work with your agency on a day-to-day basis. Letting your team participate can be a great step toward ensuring that this relationship is a good fit for everyone.

The agency that ultimately won my client’s business followed all of these tips and stood out among seven of their peers to earn a six-figure revenue account. I hope these tips will help you to improve your agency’s proposal process so you can win more business and increase your revenue as well.

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Amy Evans

Amy Evans

Evans is president of Colibri Insurance Services, an employee benefit insurance agency that helps small businesses (up to 100 employees) design and execute comprehensive and cost-effective employee benefit strategies.