What Factors Make A Good Prospect For Worksite Products?

When selling an employer on the idea of offering voluntary benefits to their employees, dont rush: The cost of selling to the wrong accounts is too great.

Being able to sell to employees is the essence of worksite marketing, but finding the work environment where you can do that effectively is even more critical.

The insurance industry is good at assessing the risk associated with an insurance product, but in the case of worksite, theres another kind of risk determining whether an account is worth the work and expense of enrollment. That risk assessment is usually left up to the person opening the account. So, what do you look for in an employer account?

A lot has been written about good case characteristics for worksite sales. For obvious reasons, these usually focus on the tangible characteristics of companies. They include things like:

Company size: enough employees to make it worthwhile but not so many that its overwhelming to enroll everyone.

Number of locations: the more employees in one location, the better.

Limited core benefits: plans that can be enriched by supplemental products.

Income levels: employees with adequate income to pay for voluntary benefits but not so much that they are already likely to be dealing with personal insurance professionals.

Employee access: an employer willing to let you market voluntary benefits directly to all employees.

But its the intangible characteristics of a company that will make or break a worksite offering. Yes, these characteristics are hard to identify, but the benefit of selling voluntary products to the right accounts, and not to the ones that wont be worth your while, is tremendous.

The intangibles that lead to successful worksite sales include:

–Employees trust of their employer. This is difficult to gauge but also can have the greatest impact on results of all the intangible elements. Do the employees trust that their employer has their personal interests at heart? Only someone very close to the company, such as the employee benefits broker, knows what the relationship between employer and employees is like. Ive seen initial long term care participation in excess of 20% at a manufacturing plant where employees really believed their management when told, “You should think seriously about buying this coverage.”

–Benefits philosophy. Does the employer have a benefits strategy that has been articulated and understood by employees? In these times of rising health care costs, any employer needs to be sure people understand why certain changesotherwise seen as simple cost-shiftingare occurring. Without that understanding, employees will see voluntary benefits as a takeaway. I also believe worksite sales will be much more successful when employees understand each of their benefits and how they fit with one another, so they have a context in which to make their buying decision.

–Employer endorsement. If an employer is trusted and has provided employees with a roadmap as to where its headed with benefits, then the endorsement of a supplemental benefit should make sense and carry weight. This is typically done through a sponsor endorsement letter, on company stationary or e-mail, and should be reinforced at supervisor meetings where enthusiasm is driven down through the organization. Be sure the employer is going to do this enthusiastically before opening an account.

–Employer support and commitment. Its relatively easy to get a decision-maker to say “yes” to offering worksite products, at no premium cost to the company. The challenge lies in making sure things get done when needed. Major strides have been taken to make administration of worksite products simple for employers, but that doesnt mean they can sit on their hands and let you do all the work. Gauging whether an employer will follow through is a critical step of the account-opening process. That requires needs-based selling, so the decision-maker understands the benefits of supporting a successful marketing campaign. It also requires that everyone who is collectively known as “the employer” is onboardthe decision-maker, human resources, payroll/accounting and management.

The old worksite sale was about asking the employers permission to market supplemental benefits to their employees. But as voluntary products have become a major component of companies benefit plans, we have had to ask employers to promote them as such to their employee population. Finding out if you are dealing with an employer who sees it that way is a key to success.

Alan F. Barthelman is president of AB & Associates, Cape Elizabeth, Maine. His e-mail is albarthelman@earthlink.net.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, September 23, 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.