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4 Tips for Selling Non-Essential Benefits

Oct 18, 2016

Have you noticed the amount of new services in the benefits industry? To name a few: identity theft protection, telehealth, doctors online, advocacy, pet care insurance, savings networks, legal plans, cancer/critical illness/accident insurances, international medical and the list goes on.

While these can bring added complication to a sales or planning conversation, there’s a lot of opportunity to not only help your client, but also your paycheck.

These services can be a GREAT door opener and a vital part of a strategic benefits package. We asked 5 of our freshbenies sales team members to share the best ideas they’ve gleaned. Note that this team has a combined experience of 100 years in the health insurance industry and they talk to thousands of employee benefit consultants in a given year.

1. Remind employers that essential benefits aren’t differentiators.

Most employers offer benefits to differentiate themselves in order to attract and retain quality employees. If that’s true, then only offering the typical benefits won’t achieve this. Non-essential benefits allow an employer to stand out by offering something other than the bare minimum. freshbenies BSE Eric Johnson says, “When making their decision, future employees may dismiss a $400 per month health plan and focus instead on an inexpensive bundle of non-insurance benefits.”

2.  Ask questions and uncover the pain points. 

As Reid noted in a recent article, “I believe your discussion and presentation strategy for all these additional products can make or break you. Here’s how I would differentiate our most successful brokers and our least successful: Our least successful brokers are product-oriented. They pitch ideas like telehealth and advocacy services as a product. Our most successful brokers are solutions-oriented. They ask lots of questions to develop a ‘Needs Assessment,’ which they use to pitch ideas like telehealth and advocacy services as a set of solutions.” In other words, recognize the pain points your client is REALLY trying to solve and then make changes that will help them. Dan shares a common pain point he runs into: “Most employers can’t afford the comprehensive plans offered in the past, so current offerings have some pretty big holes in them. If a broker can show that a non-essential benefit makes the essential insurance plan work better for the employees while also helping the employer control costs and fill in gaps, it’s a win-win. Take telehealth, for example. When a company drops the up-front copayments that employees are used to, the option of calling a doctor at a low or no cost helps replace those missing copayments. That’s great for the employees while also reducing unnecessary urgent care and ER claims for the employer."

3. Understand the products  – especially the member experience.

Brokers tend to approach selling non-essential benefits as an afterthought, suggesting them only if there’s enough money left after all the other essential benefits. Jadd Kekhia says, “By not offering non-essential benefits as part of the main conversation, you could be doing a disservice to your client – especially if this year’s plan looks worse than it did in the past. Then, take some time to understand these other options. Look for partners who understand your time-starved schedule and help you educate your client. Also, try to experience the service first-hand, whether it’s through a trial program or actually purchasing. When you use the services, you’ll have more credibility and stories to share. Plus, you’ll truly understand how a non-essential benefit can fill the gaps and help bolster an overall benefits package.”

4. Empower employees and give them choices.

For the last 15 years, consumers have been given more control so they can make decisions about their own health care. While some benefits like telehealth and advocacy have not historically been considered essential benefits, they’re becoming essential ingredients in a consumer directed solution. Jo Ann Vernon describes these as ‘tools’ for the employee, “Telehealth gives the employee the choice of going to the doctor or calling the doctor. An advocate offers transparency by shopping around for the employee. As networks shrink, a strong advocacy program can help employees find in-network providers. Different pharmacies contract at different rates. An advocate or an Rx Savings Plan can help an employee decide if they want to keep their current pharmacy or switch to another that may offer a better rate. Part of the idea of consumerism is to empower employees, but they can’t do that unless they actually have the information and help to make those decisions.”

Think of essential benefits as the cake and non-essential benefits as the icing. Sure, the cake is nice, but the icing completes it in the same way non-essential benefits complete the benefits package. Otherwise, the benefits are boring – like a cake with no icing.

Now it's your turn! How do you approach the value of non-essentials as part of a strategic benefits package to help your clients and their employees? Share your experiences by commenting below or send me an email at


Heidi has a passion for helping busy families control their healthcare dime, time and peace of mind! She writes articles to do just that, while keeping it fun and simple for her readers! She also speaks on healthcare issues and is the owner of

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Tanya Boyd
Tanya Boyd
President of Tanya Boyd & Associates

I didn’t want to go to urgent care or the ER. Using Doctors Online in my freshbenies membership, I went online to ask a doctor. The doctor responded and said to check my blood pressure. He followed up with the next day to make sure my numbers were OK. By then, the feeling was starting to go away. He told me if it persists to contact my doctor. It was great that I didn’t have to go somewhere and wait forever, and it was free.” - Kelli from Texas

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