The purpose of today’s talk is to share with you six strategies that will help you grow your employee benefits practice, leverage current relationships into more life and disability sales, improve your top and bottom lines, and have more fun.
1. Serve clients, not customers.
We oftentimes hear those terms used interchangeably, but there is a difference. A customer buys widgets and other commodities and is primarily concerned with price, terms and conditions. Having customers is only advantageous for litigation and E&O purposes, as the professional standards are far lower for the widget salesperson.
We view a client as one of two parties in a counselor relationship, where one is providing advice and the other is acting as a business partner and providing value-added planning solutions. Firms must decide whether they want clients or customers for their benefits practice. I submit to you that “clients” will be more loyal, profitable and fulfilling to work with.
2. Be a specialist, not a generalist.
We prefer being specialists and focusing on three core industry groups. This path has a number of advantages. You develop a reputation within those industry groups, which enhances your ability to leverage relationships and obtain referrals.
Additionally, you develop a keen understanding of the culture of those industries in which you specialize. This makes you more valuable as an advisor. Last, specializing allows you to deploy and target resources to markets that will generate the greatest returns.
3. Use a client suitability questionnaire.
You’ve decided that you want to develop client relationships and have defined your target market clearly. How do you avoid drifting back to your old ways? The client suitability questionnaire is a tool that can help you focus your energies appropriately. You use it to determine if a benefits prospect is appropriate to engage as a client.
We may not always complete the questionnaire in the prospect’s presence, but most of the questions are asked at the initial consultation. We are vitally interested in determining if a prospect is an appropriate fit. The areas of concern include:
–Are prospects the right size and in the right industry and geographic location?
–What is the three-year vision for the company? We want clients with big visions.
–What is the prospect’s most valuable corporate asset? Obviously we want companies that value their human capital.
–What is the company’s benefits philosophy? Is the firm more concerned about price or providing high-quality benefits?
–What is the firm’s employee contribution strategy? Is the company paying a large percentage of the benefit premiums or passing through the maximum amount to employees?
–How would the company allocate a 25% rate increase between the employer and the employees?
–Who handles the company’s administration internally? What is the individual’s training and background? We would much prefer to deal with an HR benefits professional than an office manager who has limited knowledge of benefits.
–Are annual employee meetings scheduled and mandatory? We insist on at least one annual meeting so we have the opportunity to not only explain the benefits but also point out planning concerns and, thereby, anticipate potential problems.
–How does the company determine employee benefits and satisfaction? Does it regularly distribute an employee survey?