Just to recap, in my previous post I argued that as benefits advisers we need to change the conversation with our clients. I used the example of my client who asked me to present at a sales seminar on solution-based (vs. product-based) selling. I also said I would share some thoughts on how to effectively move our role as advisers forward. If you don’t remember or need to remind yourself, please go here.

I believe finding ways to change the conversation with your clients is perhaps the single most important topic for benefits shops across the country. Yet how we change the conversation is almost nearly as important.

In order to be effective in the future, I believe that benefits brokers must re-define the unit of measurement. By unit of measurement, I mean those elements/things that clients assign value too, like our services, products, etc. Let’s face it we all like to measure things. But what if in our race to measurement, our metrics were wrong? What if we simply think we know how our clients assign value?

Quite naturally because of the products and services that abound in our industry, the tendency is to believe that we are measured only by these things. While this is not all bad, it is limiting because it restricts our ability to be solution-focused and pushes us further down the commoditization trap. In other words, if the only unit of measurement that our clients use to understand our role in their company is the products/services we sell then, in my opinion, we should sound the ‘health-care reform’ alarm bell because those doomsday predictions might come true.

What should the unit of measurement be? How can we start to change how our clients buy us and assign value to our relationship? I don’t intend to give answers to these difficult questions, but I would like to offer some opening comments.

There are at least three inter-related areas that I believe need to become the units of measurement going forward:

1. Strategic Value

2. Innovation

3. Relevance

I will only tackle Strategic Value for this post.

Strategic Value: In his book, A Seat at the Table, Marc Miller talks about strategic value. He specifically argues that salespeople should stop selling and start helping – a novel concept! Salespeople (e.g. brokers) should connect themselves to their customers’ strategy and create space for “non-traditional” value. When we connect to our clients’ business strategy we not only change the way clients buy us, we also create stickyness. We simply change the unit of measurement from products/services to strategic value.

How do we measure strategic value? The way clients talk about us is a good place to start. I was recently with a client who was introducing me to another employee in their business. She said, “this is Mark from Lacher & Associates, you know the firm that does all our insurance and a million other things for us.” The “million other things” is part of the unit of measurement.

Lacher, CIC, leads the Employee Benefits and Consulting divisions of Lacher & Associates, a second-generation firm located outside Philadelphia. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkLacher and @Lacherinsurance

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