Photo credit: <a href="http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=2664">Stuart Miles</a>

Selling voluntary benet products in the worksite offers great rewards for agents, employers and employees.  But to achieve sales success, agents must master the complexities of a constantly changing market.  The key, we’ve discovered, is to keep things simple with a consistent five-step process.

Step 1: Obtain employer buy-in

As all worksite pros know, marketing involves not one but two sales. The rst sale is obtaining agreement from the employer to offer voluntary products to employees. During this step, successful agents work hard to: (1) learn about the employer’s benet challenges; (2) describe the most signicant benets of voluntary products; and (3) discuss appropriate solutions.

 Here are a few of the best tools to use in this step:

  • Employer presentation.  Your presentation should introduce your company and make the case for voluntary benets in today’s workplace.  At the same time, you should demonstrate your awareness of the general challenges facing many employers and employees.  You’ll then present—in broad outline—the options and services available, including ways you can help employers better manage core medical insurance costs.
  • Employer benets survey.  This tool helps you gather details about an employer’s specic benet plans and challenges.  With this information, you’re able to identify the gaps you can ll and the costs you can help manage.
  • Product brochures.  These items introduce the employer to your products, billing services, enrollment capabilities and claims administration process.
  • Proposal.  Using the data and feedback you’ve gathered, you’ll present a customized solution to your client.

 Step 2: Develop your enrollment plan and communication campaign

Once you obtain employer buy-in, enrollment planning begins. At this step you prepare for the second sale—your presentation to employees, who select the coverage they want and can afford.

Useful tools in this step include:

  • Pre-enrollment checklist.  Beginning about three months before enrollment, you can use a checklist to guide you in: (1) gathering vital information, such as payroll and employee censuses, lists of business locations and liaison personnel, etc.; (2) determining the least disruptive schedule for employee meetings; (3) scheduling the meetings and (4) distributing pre-enrollment and announcement materials.
  • Pre-enrollment communications.  Begin your communication campaign one to two weeks before the enrollment start date.  Focus on: (1) generating awareness and understanding of the new benets program; (2) announcing upcoming educational opportunities and (3) promoting the enrollment process.  Be sure to include a message from the employer endorsing the new benets and reinforcing the importance of maximum participation.  Consider using payroll stuffers and posters, as frequent and diverse communications raise awareness and boost interest. 

Step 3: Communicate benets to employees

After you establish your enrollment plan and reach employees with your pre-enrollment campaign, the next step is to communicate benets and prepare for the enrollment.  Two key goals of this step are to educate employees about their new benet options and to boost enrollment interest to maximize participation.

In this step, consider using these tools:

  • Employee presentation.  Ideally, the employer will agree to require all eligible employees to attend—on company time—a group benet communication meeting.  Use a customized PowerPoint presentation to show the benets and features of the available voluntary plans, highlighting any changes to core benets, to help employees make thoughtful decisions about their coverages.
  • Employee benets survey.  An individual survey captures an overview of each employee’s insurance needs and assesses her or his interest in the product options.  Use this information to customize your one-on-one meetings in the next step.
  • Enrollment kits. Each kit should include all appropriate enrollment forms—including the important “waiver of coverage” form, which protects the employer from future discrimination claims—and product brochures.  Your insurance partner may be able to provide electronic kits, which speed enrollment and help ensure a consistent, uniform process.

Step 4: Execute the enrollment

This step is all about administering your enrollment.  Employers today expect enrollments to be smooth and hassle-free. Ask your insurance partner about these tools:

  • Electronic exchange of enrollment data.  This helps ensure accurate policy issuance and billing.
  • Electronic applications.  Software that integrates with your carrier’s policy administration and billing systems can eliminate mistakes and speed processing.  If the software also integrates with the employer’s human resource information system, it simplifies payroll deductions and billing reconciliations.
  • Back-ofce support. Employers appreciate the support provided by dedicated service teams, whose specialists set up cases, handle group and individual underwriting, and work directly with employers to set deduction and billing timelines.  They also appreciate manuals and guides that assist their payroll administrators with enrollment and ongoing processing.

Step 5: Communicate existing and new programs each year

Commitment after the sale is crucial for every successful benets program.  Your goals in this step are to conduct periodic reviews, present benet enhancements and coordinate education and re-enrollment for current and new employees.  At re-enrollment, you should have employees’ current benet and premium information ready for your one-on-one sessions.  This information helps you identify up-selling opportunities.

The worksite market is growing and dynamic; following this five-step process will help you keep your sales program on track year after year.  Another critical step is selecting an insurance partner.  Choose one that is committed to your success through each of these vital steps.

The right partner will do more than provide convenient, affordable products.  The right partner will provide the complete toolkit—the education programs, robust enrollment technology system and effective tools, materials and instructions—you need to succeed.

With this five-step process and the right partner, you’ll gain employer buy-in, run productive enrollments, serve more worksite groups and win more employee sales.

Shawn Ardizone is director of field sales support and contracting at Washington National Insurance Company, a subsidiary of CNO Financial Group, Inc. Cindy Frank is director of product marketing and worksite support at Washington National.