Why brokers should have the company CFO on their radar

Benefit advisers often overlook a key player when crafting a strategic plan: the company CFO.

Benefits have become such an expensive line item that for most firms it now represents up to 11% of total operating expenses and the chief financial officer wants to keep track of how the money is being spent. That’s why you need to connect with the CFO and deepen your relationship.

Who ultimately makes the decision about benefits changes, or even more importantly, changes in adviser relationships? Are they the benefits and human resources team? Generally, benefits and HR admins are recommenders, not decision-makers. The CFO invariably has the final word on benefits and all insurance-related issues for that matter. Just ask your property and casualty counterparts. They already know and understand this important dynamic. High growth benefits practices are focused on connecting with CFOs in a very meaningful way.

The overwhelming majority of organizations have enterprise strategic plans. It’s a written plan that describes how the firm is going to conduct its business. It states its major objectives, revenue and expense forecasts, and contingency plans. Who is the architect of that document? The CFO, because they often are the chief strategist and the “keeper of the numbers.” How can you connect with the CFO? By engaging them in a strategic discussion about their benefits program. What are they trying to accomplish by offering benefits? Why does the organization offer the current array of benefits? Where do they want their benefits program to be in five years?

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The CFO needs an adviser they can trust to be strategic in their thinking and that can create a written “roadmap” to guide all their major benefits decisions. No one can predict the ultimate outcome of “healthcare re-formed” given all the likely legislative, judicial, and administrative changes that are still on the horizon. But you can be an advocate for adopting a methodology or process for managing change, just like every other major business function for which the organization has a plan. By being more consultative you will elevate your status from being perceived as a product vendor to that of being a trusted adviser. You will connect with the CFO and be viewed as an insider whose opinion and counsel is valued.

Approach a CFO along the lines I am describing and just watch their reaction. They get it right away. They have that “Aha moment.” They have a written plan for managing every major function of their business operations but they could have overlooked an important expense line item. More importantly, how could their current broker not have addressed this matter? This is your opportunity to differentiate yourself from 98% of the benefits advisers in the marketplace. Once you adopt this approach, it will forever change your client interaction.

Adopting this approach will also change your prospecting activities as well. Once you see the power in this approach you will realize that you can connect much more easily with CPA firms as a center of influence. Undoubtedly you have attempted to develop a reciprocal relationship with an accounting firm to provide introductions to clients and prospects. Despite all the good intentions, often these solid relationships do not translate into meaningful business opportunities. However, engaging a CPA firm in a strategic discussion ultimately will result in new business relationships. As part of their basic business practice, CPA firms help their clients to create enterprise strategic plans and act as their objective business adviser on a variety of topics. They are already an insider. When they understand that you “get it” and that you are thinking about their clients’ business issues from a consultative perspective before making benefits recommendations, watch how quickly the introductions will start.

Most CPA firms are acutely aware that the vast majority of benefits advisers are product vendors and that they do not connect the benefits program to the employer’s corporate goals and human capital management strategies. You, on the other hand, with your newly adopted strategic approach, will stand out from the pack.

And don’t overlook the joint public speaking opportunities you can explore with a CPA firm as your strategic partner. We are very big advocates of seminar selling and this approach lends itself to public speaking having been introduced as a subject matte expert on the topic of benefits strategic planning. So, don’t stop with a few CPA firms. This approach can be effectively used with law firms that are also viewed as trusted advisers, industry trade associations, CFO conferences, and other business associations. We know some firms that have set a corporate goal of a public speaking engagement each month since this has been so effective at filling their sales pipeline. Wouldn’t your firm benefit from more sales? What are you waiting for?

We hope that we have stimulated your creative thinking sufficiently to get you enthused and motivated about broadening your touch points at client organizations and prospecting in a new more consultative manner. You might consider attending the upcoming Benefits Forum & Expo on Sept. 24-26, 2018 in New Orleans. It will be attended by hundreds of HR, benefits and finance professionals. I hope to see you there.

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