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Benefits Agents: Opportunity in the Midst of Health Market Chaos

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In the ever-changing world of employee benefits, there is more opportunity than ever before. With health insurance and employee benefits-related legislative changes coming out of Washington on what seems to be a weekly basis, I want to challenge agents in our great industry to deliver the guidance our clients need. It would be easy for an individual to tuck tail and run when people ask questions for which there are no answers, yet as confusing and frustrating as this last year has been for us, the opportunity is there for those willing to stand in the face of adversity.

One of the hardest things in any sales job is the thought of prospecting. When you think about picking up the phone and making the call, asking for the referral, and stepping out of your comfort zone to try something new just to face rejection eight times out of 10, it can seem daunting and not worth the effort. Yet while there is no proven way to close every sale, you can instead use an old approach to deliver a new message and bring value to those we serve: the agent of record letter.

To the old-school agent, this strategy has been akin to a four letter word, a cheater’s way to the top, an underhanded maneuver by newer agents to steal others’ clients. First and foremost, we always must adhere to an unwavering commitment to do what’s right and be honest with those we serve. Unfortunately, some individuals have abused this code and said anything to try to win business. Now more than ever, with so many agents retiring, not answering calls, and not educating employers and employees, and with so many companies moving to other benefit platforms that fail to provide service, there is a huge educational gap in our industry that needs to be served. Who will be there to fill the void?

For the agents who are committed to helping those we insure by communicating the changes, addressing the issues, and helping people understand the implications, there is more opportunity than ever. No one likes to feel as if they don’t understand what’s going on – and that includes companies. Groups are more willing than ever to change agents to someone who can help them navigate the current benefits maze. Employees are asking their owners, supervisors, and managers more questions than ever, and if that higher-up cannot or does not have an answer, they will look to us, their agents, for guidance. For those agents who are willing to step out on the front lines right now, when the industry is going through so much change, this can be very rewarding, both personally and professionally. Often, a group might be best served staying where they are, but there is nothing better than a well-educated agent who can inform, advise, and consult a group on the right direction for them.

Our agency has averaged between a 30 and 40 percent closing ratio on new business prospects over the last five years, and of that, almost 30 percent has come from the agent of record letter. I charge agents today to get out, be a voice for our industry, get in front of your clients, and help explain what is going on – because if you don’t, somebody else will.

Danny O’Connell is partner at Benefit Resource Group. He can be reached at [email protected].

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