As I’ve often said, opening the door to the voluntary sale is a much more difficult task than opening the door to the group major medical sale. In the major medical sale the employer is generally highly motivated to seek solutions to the escalating premiums since he is most likely paying the bill. However, there is no such motivation when it comes to voluntary benefits. Despite the increased difficulty in opening new opportunities, the group health agent would be well served to become skilled at this task, since it provides a back door to the group major medical coverage. For those agents who, like me, want to specialize in the sale of voluntary products, the ability to open new opportunities is a foundational skill, as without a sales appointment there can be no sale.
Creating the Approach
The first step in creating a voluntary benefits marketing machine is to identify your value proposition. Your value proposition simply answers the most important question on the business owner’s mind, which is, “How will I benefit from working with you?” It is insufficient to simply say that you can expand the company’s benefits at no cost to the employer because that statement fails to answer the key question. Your value proposition must explicitly state a deliverable outcome to which the prospect can relate. Outcomes may be tied to a specific product or to a specific service that you can deliver. Let’s take a look at two examples.
Hidden Paycheck/Benefit Communication
Whenever I ask insurance agents working in the voluntary benefits marketplace about the value of the “Hidden Paycheck” I often hear: “It helps employees understand the value of their benefits.” While this is entirely true, this explanation simply tells an employer what is does but fails to convey why the employer should care about it. The way to identify the value proposition of your service is to ask the question: “If we engage in benefit communications and the employees have a better understanding of their benefits and the value of those benefits, how will you, the employer, benefit?” When you think about this you will see that the benefits to the employer are:
- Happier employees, as they now understand how much more valuable their benefits are
- More productive employees since we know the correlation between satisfaction with benefits and productivity
- Improvement in retention since employees will be less inclined to change employment over $0.25 per hour
If I were going to use the Hidden Paycheck as the basis of my marketing I would use one or two of these benefits as my value proposition.
Another approach is to focus on specific product as the basis of my door opener. I have done a lot of marketing using a dental product with a unique design as my door opener. My value proposition is: “I have found an innovative new design in dental insurance that lowers premiums by as much as 35 percent while increasing employee satisfaction and providing you with a multi-year rate guarantee.” In this statement you can see two direct benefits to the employer: premium reduction and rate stability. The “employee satisfaction” is not really a direct benefit to the employer, but is included to diffuse any thought that a plan design change may have a negative impact on employee satisfaction.
Build Your Marketing Platform
Once you have chosen one or two outcomes as the basis of your marketing you must put together a marketing system. It is very important to note the difference between prospecting and having a marketing system. Prospecting is simply the act of making calls on prospects, either in person or on the telephone. It is a single method of many others that can be utilized to fill your calendar. A marketing system, on the other hand, is a coordinated effort utilizing multiple marketing tools. In my marketing system I use a combination of postcard mailings, telemarketing, in-person cold calling, a monthly newsletter, networking and public speaking.
In addition to marketing dental insurance, I recently started selling a critical illness policy that I am very excited about. This critical illness product was approved for sale in North Carolina during the first week of June, so I am just launching my campaign. To get started, I downloaded a list of companies in my area that have between 20 to 99 employees (I subscribe to SalesGenie). I then did a postcard mailing focused on dental insurance to this list. I also downloaded a list of 15 home health companies for my immediate city. With owner’s name in hand, I will make a cold call on each of these companies at the rate of five per week with the intention of opening the door to my critical illness sale. (Note: I limit my cold calls to five per week due to time constraints related to my travel as president of NAHU).
Because I know that many of these prospects will have no initial interest, I am creating a monthly newsletter titled “The Benefit Coach,” and will ask every prospect if I can add them to the distribution list. This will allow me to touch each prospect monthly. As a networking tool I will participate in my Chamber of Commerce as well as join an industry trade association such as the Home Health Care Association of the Nursing Home Association. I will update readers on a monthly basis with my progress.
By utilizing multiple marketing tools, I can be assured of consistency of action, which is the cornerstone of a successful voluntary benefits career. As we all know, cold calling can become a rather depressing activity, so it is important to create a diverse marketing strategy. If cold calling fails one week, I might open an opportunity through networking or receive a call-in from my postcard mailing. The goal is to open new opportunities each and every week.
Next month we will examine the sales proposition behind critical illness.