The marketing of financial products to employees where they work has grown steadily during the past five years and is expected to resume double-digit percentage growth in coming years.

Now employees increasingly seem to be used to the idea of paying for some benefits, such as disability income insurance, if its available at a discount in the workplace and offers the convenience of automatic payroll deductions. Couple this acceptance with the fact that worksite marketing lends itself to more efficient prospecting and broadened client relationships, and its surprising there are still many producers today who do not include worksite marketing in their practice.

But bullish as this sounds, there can be downsides in the voluntary benefits market. Managing your sales process through gatekeepers, such as human resources or benefits managers, can be most challenging.

Dont be discouraged. But do be careful to steer clear of potential potholes:

Underestimating the importance of employer support. Gaining strong employer buy-in is an absolutely critical first step in worksite marketing. The employers top management and HR staff must understand their role in supporting your employee outreach and education program, application process, efforts to sign up new hires, and overall administration and billing. With support from senior executives responsible for employee benefits, and their help passing on that cooperative attitude to their staff, you gain motivation and momentum throughout the sales process.

Forgetting to set the table. To keep the employers expectations reasonable, be sure to disclose all pertinent details with your client as part of your sales pitch. List all the steps in the process, what the insurance carrier will need from the employer at each stage, what employee communications and meeting strategies can be provided, how employee applications will be tracked and reported to the employer, how new employees can apply for coverage after the initial application cycle, how billing will be handled and so on. In short, educate the employer on what will happen, when and why to ensure a smooth, successful process.

Letting the employer alone handle communications. Face it: Who knows more than you about how to present your products convincingly? Producers should offer a communications strategy and options that have demonstrated a track record of success with various types of companies. Before setting an employee meeting date or drafting a letter, stop and map out a methodical, well-planned employee education and outreach approach, including what communications methods can be used and the content and timing of specific messages.

Multimedia communications tactics can work in tandem to reach all employees through their preferred learning styles and vehicles, particularly when remote locations are in play. Treat access to employees as a privilege, and commit yourself to work with your client to tailor your approach by discussing how to gain employees attention and raise their awareness of your offering.

Failing to demonstrate the need. Before you make your pitch to employees, be sure youre familiar with their existing employee benefits, including any other voluntary benefits. Addressing the existing employee benefits plan during your time with employees proves your interest in delivering a cost-effective voluntary program and illustrates how it will supplement their existing coverage.

According to the MassMutual Benefits Barometer Survey, almost 90% of employees review their benefits package only once a year or when they need to file a claim, so your window of opportunity may be slim.

Assuming if they want it, theyll apply. There are three things that youre always selling concurrently: yourself, the company you represent and the products that meet your clients needs. As soon as the employer has selected you and the company you represent, help its employees understand their personal need for coverage. In todays fast-paced world, its easy for employees to overlook e-mail messages or cafeteria posters. Make sure employees fully understand the coverage their employer is making available to them. Give them useful information and needs analysis tools to make an educated decision.

An often overlooked yet critical step in the application process: Require that all employees reply to your application request, even if they choose to deny coverage. That way, you know at least theyre aware of the coverage and have considered the offer.

If youre not seeing an increase in worksite sales, maybe youre stuck in one or more of these potholes. Get yourself back on track by positioning yourself, your products and your carriers as the answer to the long-term needs of your employer clients as well as their employees and their families.

Ken Carlson leads the metro New York regional disability income insurance sales effort for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Boston. He can be reached via e-mail at kcarlson@massmutual.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, March 25, 2005. Copyright 2005 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.