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Differentiating Yourself in a World of Sameness

Follow these steps to stand out in the increasingly competitive world of employee benefits.

By Mel Schlesinger, RHU, REBC

The world of employee benefits has always been attractive to financial advisors for a number of reasons: access to business owners, daytime activity and level commissions, just to list a few. Unfortunately, the employee-benefits arena has become increasingly competitive with fewer carriers operating in every geographic area of the country. The days of simply collecting renewal dates and delivering quotes are over. So, the challenge today is in showing the prospect that you are different from every other advisor wanting to quote his health plan.

Change your approach
As a sales coach who speaks with hundreds of benefits professionals, I can tell you that in the eyes of most business owners and HR professionals, managing their benefits has been reduced to shopping for a commodity. Virtually every advisor I speak with uses the following two approaches:

  • I would love an opportunity to shop your health plan. I know that I can save you money.
  • I would love to tell you a little about our service. We provide an extraordinary level of customer service that includes (list of services).

Since everyone uses the same approach, it is easy for the prospect to assume that everyone is the same. To change this dynamic, you should shift to using ideas as the basis of your approach. An idea answers the question: “What do you do for clients?” An example might be an idea about getting control of health insurance premiums and minimizing future rate increases. Cost control is distinctly different from saving money. Of course, you have to be able to deliver this but that is another discussion.

Change your sales conversation
Ninety-nine percent of advisors begin a first appointment with a variation of this opening: “Before we talk about your benefits, let me tell you a little about my background and a little about our agency.” They then proceed to list every service they can provide, followed by a list of clients. During this monologue, the prospect is probably thinking about going shopping after work because he does not care about what the advisor is saying.

The first appointment is about gathering information and raising the prospect’s sense of urgency about the need to make a change. This is accomplished by asking really great questions. A great question cannot be answered quickly. A great question makes the prospect stop and think; it creates a shift in perception. If you ask an inane question such as: “What is it that you would like me to accomplish for you?” the immediate response will be “lower my premium.” Unfortunately, that is not what the prospect really wants. If, instead, you asked this: “As I prepare to work on your benefits, are you primarily interested in getting the lowest premium with the best benefits on your health plan, or would you rather look for a long-term strategy that can take control of your costs?” Until the prospect hears that question, he does not even know that cost control is an option.

On your next appointment with a new client, try spending the entire time without telling the prospect anything about yourself or your agency. Instead, just ask questions. Then, as you conclude, ask if the prospect has any questions about you or your agency. You will discover that he believes that he knows all that he needs to know.

Every benefit proposal that I have ever seen looks exactly like every other proposal.

Change your presentation
Every benefit proposal that I have ever seen looks exactly like every other proposal. The typical proposal has these four opening pages: about our agency, about the agent, a list of every possible service, and, in an attempt to show how independent-minded the advisor is, there is a list of every carrier he works with. Then there is the inevitable spreadsheet.

Nowhere in the proposal is there anything that says: “This is what you told me that was important to you, here are your goals and this how my proposal is going to help you.” The prospect does not want a spreadsheet; he wants to know what to do. Deliver a new kind of proposal and you will definitely stand out.

Mel Schlesinger has more than 25 years of commission-only insurance sales experience. He began by selling life insurance at the kitchen table and today has a thriving business marketing voluntary employee benefits. In 2000 Schlesinger graduated from Coach U and today coaches insurance agents in the objection-free sales system. You can reach him at 336-774-3075.


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