Because the market for group benefits has become more consolidated than ever before, agents will need to think creatively to succeed.
From commercial insurance to health insurance, coverage is a necessity for any business. For insurance agents, this means that selling to businesses is an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed — but following the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the market for group health benefits has become limited. An ongoing series of mergers and acquisitions have reduced group health plan providers to a handful of companies, leaving businesses with fewer options to choose from (Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, United Healthcare, and Cigna). At the same time, rising premiums and shrinking commissions have cornered many agents and pushed others out of the group benefits market.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however; to succeed in this potentially tricky market, agents simply need to think outside the box. Read on to learn more about strategies that balance limited coverage options with the excellent customer service your prospects have come to expect.
Embrace the Change
Perhaps the most useful thing for you to keep in mind when developing sales strategies for group benefits is that successful agents work with market changes, not against them.
One major expectation shift in this market is that employers expect insurers to do more than simply quote policies. As Lockton Insurance Brokers’ Sallie Giblin explains on PropertyCasualty360, “Larger employers, especially, are expecting their broker to structure a wellness program for them.” Accordingly, many agencies have seen success after offering consulting and communications services for their clients — after all, isn’t it much easier to sell a health plan if the client (and all of their employees) actually understand how the plan works?
To that end, you should be willing and able to leverage technology in service of your clients. For instance, Marshall & Sterling uses a technology called iNavigator to help onboard and offboard employees. With the help of predictive modeling algorithms, the agency is capable of custom-designing employer benefits plans that account for high-risk employees, among other factors. Other brokers have also seen good results from providing “shopping carts,” or tools for client HR departments which help employees decide between the options available to them.
As an insurance agent, you understand the human variable of the sales process. You’re not just selling a product and walking away — you’re the main point of contact for the implementation of the plan you sell, not to mention future questions about costs or logistics.
It shouldn’t surprise you, then, that the bulk of your work in the group health benefits space will consist of maintaining any existing client relationships you have and cultivating new ones. For that reason, one of the most direct strategies to boost your sales numbers is simply to rely on the relationships you already have. In the words of VP of Strategy at VUE Software John Sarich, “if you have a client who is spending $100,000 a year with you in premiums, it isn’t a great leap to sit down with them and talk about employee benefits.”
If you have a client who has already purchased some type of high-dollar premium insurance, reach out to them and discuss the possibility of a health plan. While you obviously shouldn’t push products to clients who aren’t interested in them, it’s easy to see why focusing your energies on existing relationships can be an effective strategy: “When you bring in the employee benefits and P&C sides together, you now have an opportunity to become a one-stop financial store,” Sarich explains.
Lead Generation is Essential
Although existing clients will be the backbone of your business, you can’t grow your business without new clients. Cold calling may bring in one or two qualified leads, but it’s a tactic which saps your morale and can potentially ruin relationships with prospects.
Instead of spending your days calling businesses who may have zero interest in your policies, then, you should partner with an internet lead provider. These services source contact information from prospects who have already expressed interest in buying insurance, and the best lead providers will segment leads by product line for maximum effectiveness. Wouldn’t it be easier to establish a relationship with a prospect if you knew they were already interested in what you’re selling?
At the end of the day, the condensed market can make selling group health plans a challenge, but if you examine the options available to you and adopt a savvy approach to selling group benefits, you’ll be able to grow your business in no time.