A consulting client of mine — a highly successful benefit broker — asked me why his HR clients kept saying, “No,” when he tried to cross-sell worksite voluntary benefits. My answer: “You’re not offering a cookie they want.”

If you’re not using cookies to cross-sell voluntary benefits, you’re making the voluntary sale way too hard and probably killing sales. I’ve written previously that cross-selling voluntary is not a product sale; it’s a consultative sale. You ask the client discovery questions to identify a pain point, to which you can provide a solution to end the pain.

Consultative selling has been called solution selling. And no high-powered sales superstar sells better than a Girl Scout when she’s hawking her tasty cookies. Why? She’s not selling — she’s providing a solution, a solution to your cookie craving. Because everyone loves a cookie.

Notice that you might not have been aware of your cookie craving before the Girl Scout knocked on your door or ambushed you outside the grocery. Here’s an important lesson. Your client will often be unaware of a problem he has. It isn’t painful, only because it’s not recognized.

Or perhaps the client is aware of the pain point, but has put it out of his mind because there seems to be no available or affordable solution. So part of your consultative role is, like a Girl Scout, to show or remind the client of their problem so they will want your solution.

Push cookie, not product

When you try to sell voluntary by pushing product, the client almost always pushes back with their own objections, real or contrived, because he or she doesn’t want any more benefits.

A cold, hard fact: Almost no employer or HR director wants voluntary benefits. Understand what I’m saying here. Employees want more choices in their benefits plan and love voluntary benefits. But employers rarely are interested in offering more benefits to their employees.

Your clients, however, do want solutions to serious HR problems that cost them time and/or money. Voluntary gives you a solution to many of these pain points, usually at no impact to the client’s budget. (See “The adviser’s Swiss Army knife,” EBA June 2011) Sometimes the benefits themselves are the solution, but usually it’s one of the valuable ancillary services provided by the worksite enrollment.

This is your cookie. This no-cost solution to the client’s HR problem is the cookie that you should offer your client to make the voluntary sale.

Imagine selling a voluntary case without ever discussing the benefits themselves.

When you push product, you get pushback and objections. When you cross-sell voluntary by offering a cookie, the client’s focus is on the cookie — the solution — and not the voluntary benefits that provide or fund the solution.

A broker I know closed a voluntary case with an HR director using a cookie (in this case, benefit counselors providing no-cost benefit education for each employee as part of a voluntary enrollment). En route back to his agency, the broker got a call from the client. The client was thrilled with the upcoming benefit education but sheepishly said, “I probably should ask what voluntary benefits we’re offering.”

The broker sold the case with no mention of the voluntary benefits — and no objections. Boom! Ready to sell some cookies?


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