The greatest challenge for insurance brokers selling voluntary insurance benefits is in establishing the need for the coverage, first with employers and then with the employees who will actually buy the benefits.

You create a need not by citing a long list of statistics but rather by emphasizing the benefits of the different coverages you provide. For example, with cancer insurance, you’re offering the ability to offset unanticipated costs incurred as a result of the disease. With disability insurance, you’re offering the opportunity to replace income lost when the employee is unable to work and to preserve his or her lifestyle. With life insurance, it’s the protection of a family’s financial future. And dental insurance is more than a way to offset the cost of various procedures. It’s increasingly clear that dental coverage can help improve general health as well, as evidence grows of a connection between oral health and overall physical health.

The key to achieving employers’ support lies in showing them how the coverages you sell can benefit their company as well as their employees. When employers aren’t on board, employees generally don’t show much interest.

Be sure to assure employers that adding voluntary coverages won’t result in administrative hassles for them. To offer this assurance, understand the strengths and weaknesses of the insurance carriers whose products you sell so that you are able to promote their strengths and help your clients avoid the weaknesses. Working closely with sales representatives at each carrier can provide you with valuable insights.

Conversations with the decision maker will help you determine which voluntary products can best meet the organization’s needs. Once you’ve demonstrated how your products can fill benefits gaps, work on implementing a voluntary benefit enrollment campaign that will lead to high plan participation.

An effective voluntary enrollment campaign should start by raising employee awareness of the benefits offered as well as their attention to the upcoming enrollment. Specific tactics may include:

o Promotion of the voluntary products being offered through employer mailings to employees’ home addresses, e-mail messages in the workplace, and mentions in company newsletters and intranet sites as well as payroll stuffers.

o Prominent display of posters about the offerings in the workplace.

These methods plant the seed of need in the minds of employees who may not have stopped to consider how cancer insurance, supplemental life insurance or other products you’re offering could benefit them.

They also show that the employer is behind the voluntary products being offered, thus encouraging employee participation. Understanding that the employer has researched and selected the products on their behalf can help employees feel more comfortable as they consider their purchase decision.

The most important component of the voluntary enrollment process is mandatory employee meetings. For success, distribute personalized enrollment forms before or during the meetings. Prefilled forms can help facilitate employee decisions to purchase by illustrating pre-calculated benefit elections and premiums, making the limited time allotted for enrollment meetings more efficient. In addition, personalized forms demonstrate an employer’s endorsement of the products and its concern for employees.

Once the meetings have concluded, be sure the employer requires employees to return their forms, whether they purchase coverage or waive it. Creating an expectation that the enrollment process must be completed helps emphasize the importance of the products and of the purchase decision.

Be sure to stand firm on these important steps to achieve desired plan participation, even when an employer resists. Many may balk at the idea of mandatory enrollment meetings and tell you that their employees don’t have the time to attend. However, having time dedicated to explaining the products offered and providing employees the opportunity to ask questions is crucial to a successful enrollment.

If you allow an employer to limit your access to employees during the enrollment process, the result will be lower participation than desired, and neither you nor your client will be happy about that. But when you demonstrate your role as an advisor to your clients and assure them that you know what will work best for them and their employees in enrollment, you’re improving your chances for sales success.

Establishing a need for the products you offer and ensuring that a specific enrollment process is carried out can make all the difference for a successful enrollment for you, your clients and their employees.

Mark Sylvester is vice president of voluntary sales at Assurant Employee Benefits, Kansas City, Mo., a division of Assurant Inc., New York. Mark may be contacted via e-mail at mark.sylvester@assurant.com.