Worksite Sales Help Brokers Meet Complete Client Needs

By

Worksite sales have experienced explosive growth in recent years. In fact, worksite selling is one of the few areas in the employee benefits industry that is truly growing.

There are many forces driving this growth, including the rising cost of health care, the shift of both benefit funding and decision-making to employees, and the intense competition for clients (and client loyalty) among producers. Since the forces driving worksite growth are not expected to wane, the expansion is likely to continue into the foreseeable future.

While worksite selling has its roots with many of the carriers that sell individual products through either career agents or independent retailers, it is the group employee benefits carriers that have been behind the large increases in total worksite sales over the last few years.

The rapid growth of voluntary group products is related to a change in attitudes about worksite sales: specifically, the growing acceptance of selling group voluntary products among employee benefits brokers. Where employee benefits brokers may have avoided worksite benefits in the past, today nearly 90% are incorporating voluntary group products into their marketing strategy. Why?

There are many reasons, but 3 stand out:

o Employers are asking for voluntary benefits, primarily because their employees are asking for access to these benefits.

Brokers have realized that offering a robust portfolio of voluntary benefits provides value to their clients and increased client satisfaction.

Voluntary benefits are an ideal cross-selling tool, producing additional sales from a broker’s existing client base and diversifying the broker’s income from reliance on employer-paid, core benefits.

If you are looking for ways to increase your chances of success in the worksite market and to take full advantage of the boom by selling group voluntary products, there are a number of things to keep in mind:

1. Keep products affordable. Employees are being asked to share an ever-increasing portion of their health care costs as well as nonmedical benefits. It is imperative that you keep a cautious eye on the wallet-share of your group. Employees find peace of mind when they are able to purchase some level of protection, even if they know it is not comprehensive.

2. Address health care costs. Offer clients benefits that address the skyrocketing costs of health care. Dental, vision and long term care top the list of benefits employees would like added to their offering. A good long-term client strategy may be to add the health-related benefits now and follow up with the traditional voluntary life and disability benefits once the employer and employees are familiar with the benefits of voluntary coverage offerings.

3. Offer choice in benefit amounts. In an Eastbridge Consulting Group study, 73% of employees ranked choice “extremely important.” Employees appear willing to increase their overall contribution toward the cost of benefits if additional choices are available.

4. Befriend the employer. For many employees, choosing a reputable carrier and designing the right mix of policy provisions is a mystery. This is why employees appreciate when their employers review and endorse the voluntary benefits offered. Formalize the employer’s endorsement prior to and during the enrollment meetings to improve enrollment results.

5. Keep products simple. Offer products that your clients will recognize and understand.

6. Educate, don’t sell. Focus on educating employees about the need for the benefits being offered. It is human nature to ignore our own mortality, but educating employees on how they can prepare for uncertainties doesn’t need to be scary or intimidating. Providing facts that identify needs in a truthful, educational manner will enable you to develop a trusting relationship that will ultimately help clients prepare for financial uncertainties.

7. Provide customized materials. Offer customized enrollment materials that apply specifically to the benefits being offered. You can take this one step further by personalizing the materials for each employee.

If selling at the worksite looks complicated and more time-intensive than traditional employer-paid, nonmedical benefits, it is. This is why many employee benefits brokers have entered the market by outsourcing the enrollment and administrative functions that make the worksite market unique.

Considering that an employer’s overall satisfaction with worksite benefits depends on the ease of administration, many brokers rely on carriers to provide enrollments and handle the case installation.

Some benefits of carrier-provided enrollments include:

In-depth product knowledge. Who better to understand the nuances of the benefits and handle procedural questions than the carrier representative?

Shared risk. Obtaining adequate participation is paramount to maintaining voluntary benefit offerings in the long term. Allowing carrier involvement in the process aligns all interested parties with common objectives and offers the opportunity to make an impact on results.

Time and talent. Delegating enrollment responsibility to the carrier’s dedicated enrollment staff enables employee benefits brokers to focus their efforts on what they do best managing client relationships and prospecting for new business.

If you’re not actively taking advantage of worksite sales opportunities with simple and affordable group voluntary benefits, now is the time to start. To formalize your approach to the market, review your current client list for benefit gaps and partner with a trustworthy carrier to develop an appropriate offering. The tips above will help you increase both employer and employee satisfaction and improve your chances for success.

Christopher T. Swanker leads the worksite business unit for the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. His e-mail is chris_swanker@glic.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, June 25, 2004. Copyright 2004 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.