Employee benefits products and services have changed dramatically over the past 20 years. The transition of this industry has changed for the buyer, providers, and agents/broker. The changes cross borders but have some different terms and labels. However, the answers and strategies for successful brokers will be very similar. The changes in the industry and in business needs have created an amazing opportunity for brokers who understand and take advantage of these changes.
My first experience with employee benefits was as a buyer in the mid 1990s. The buying decision was relatively simple. Price, doctor choices, plan design, carrier options, and the broker’s ability to respond to us if we needed them.
In the early 2000s, I saw a shift in what it took to sell benefits. Self funded plans became more accessible to smaller businesses and that required brokers to understand actuarial models and self funded options. We also saw products introduced and/or accelerating in popularity that helped control costs. HSA’s, HRA’s, Wellness programs, biometric testing, and other items became part of the value proposition. Some brokers differentiated themselves by attaching healthcare and workers compensation strategies into a single sales process.
Over the next few years, HR components became a popular value proposition. Brokers provided insourced and outsourced support for HR needs of midsize companies.
2010 – 2013 brought in additional challenges with political influence and change. Healthcare reform created a need for navigation through the new healthcare laws. Understanding tax implications, compliance requirements, hiring strategies, expanded HR needs, and a new need of businesses to address employee programs with more strategy.
Just go back and look at these different paragraphs and think about what type of sales person and what type of organization it takes to successfully sell and service these products. It doesn’t take long to realize the job has become more complex and the organizational capabilities are expanding and becoming more demanding and specialized.
Since I have spent a lot of time thinking about this evolution and have observed the successes and failures of salespeople over the past 15 years, I will give my insights to what it takes in 2014 to be the best of the best.
A salesperson/consultant must have business acumen to understand benefits both strategically and tactically. The ability to understand the Human Resource strategies of an organization and designing proactive plans to help them reach those strategies is valuable.
The complexity of needs has created a huge problem for business decision makers. They can’t keep up with all of the issues that impact employees from health, compliance, attracting and retaining talent, HR, Legal, how they compare to other companies, healthcare choices and options, and more. Great salespeople and benefits organizations are able to analyze and give complete clarity to clients in all of these areas.
Time. Companies don’t have time to take care of all of these issues. Great benefits organizations have systems to deliver support and resource to address where they can’t do things themselves. They will be able to charge for those services due to the value they will create.
The best of the best understand new insurance programs and options. They will be experts in captive insurance programs, self insurance, and sourcing third party support in delivering these programs.
Teachers. The best will educate their clients on options, clarity, and strategic models to maximize their potential.
Custom Solutions. Every company is different and every company needs and wants to see employee strategies that will help them meet their company objectives. Return on Human Capital is one of the most critical strategic initiatives most companies will deal with in the next 10 years. Each company needs a plan to help them reach a healthy return.
Benefits have changed. The shift is one that goes across boarders. It has less to do with insurance markets and specifics of politics and law. The world of benefits has shifted to where it really belongs… with the needs of business and employees to maximize their return on dollars spent on every employee. The game has changed. Those who embrace and develop these changes will have great success.