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Jan 10, 2017

Now that we’re into a new year, it’s a season when many employee benefit consultants turn their sights to earning new clients. Do you still chase new business? Simply getting your foot in the door can be the ticket to earning a group's business, even if they already have a broker. The challenge becomes: how do you get them to open the door?

Here’s an idea! For eight years, I've worked alongside brokers selling telehealth, advocacy and other non-insurance benefits. Bundles of these services are an appealing strategy to prospective groups around the country. If you approach it correctly, they can open doors and set you apart from other brokers. 

TIP #1: Watch your approach

You’ll need to change your approach based on where you’re at in the product cycle. When trying to get your foot in the door, you want an idea that’s innovative enough that someone will want to talk with you to learn about it. But not SO early in the innovation cycle that most people won’t actually bite.

I’ve witnessed firsthand the growth of the telehealth industry as it’s shifted from the “early adopter” phase to the “growth” phase, and expect we’ll soon be in the “maturity” phase. Your prospecting approach doesn’t need to be complicated, time-consuming or fancy. But what worked before won’t work as well now.

TIP #2: Selling to an Early Adopter Phase group

Five years ago, a broker friend was on a push to sell new businesses. He was opening a new office in a new city and was prospecting groups of 250 to 2,500 lives. Most groups would take 18 months to earn a Broker of Record (BOR) on medical insurance. So when prospecting, he spoke about two things: how awesome his team was at analyzing self-funded risk, and how they worked harder to find innovative cost-containment solutions like telehealth. Many times, he got his foot in the door with a freshbenies sale long before he earned the full BOR. It worked because most incumbent brokers weren’t telling their clients about telehealth. And yet its value was undeniably self-evident, so over the next few years, my friend sold many groups and thousands of lives.

For most groups, telehealth is no longer an Early Adopter product. Continue using telehealth to prospect, but shift your focus…

TIP #3: Selling to a Growth Phase group

Last month, I spoke with a 600-store women’s retailer about their benefits. They’ve drastically raised their out of pocket costs on their medical plans, and are getting big-time push-back from the employees. Further, during discoverywe learned they have 3,500 part-time employees that don’t get any benefits.

We introduced the idea of telehealth, which they had not heard of. But we didn’t leave it there. We knew the incumbent broker would immediately tell the client they had a solution. We were at risk. Today, introducing the idea alone isn’t enough. We needed to bring more expertise.

Instead, we introduced the idea of a suite of “consumerism tools,” including:

  • the next-generation of telehealth: being able to save specialist visits by emailing specialists
  • advocacy services to help employees struggling with navigating the complexity (and out-of-network medical bills) of those higher-deductible plans
  • Prescription Savings options and a transparency tool to enlighten employees needing Rx options

Because we’re now in the Growth Phase, the differentiator is more than just telehealth – adding more value with other helpful non-insurance services. Also, it’s having expertise around these services. We told the client that other brokers (or their medical carrier) will tell them they can get them a lower rate on telehealth, but their usage will be many times less. To make sure we set the bar high enough that most others won’t be able to climb over, we ended with a solid case study. Click here to download it.

TIP #4: Change your focus

In the Early Adopter Phase, you could earn significant business by just being the first to mention a new idea. In the Growth Phase, your success rate will shrink unless you change your focus:

  • Expertise: Explain that you will help them successfully launch the new strategy, and therefore get better results and ROI
  • Expanded products: Leverage that product story to introduce other Early Adopter products, or different bundles of services that solve other issues.
  • Address competitors: I don’t believe in directly putting down competitors. But at this phase (and as we grow to the Maturity Phase) you should define for the prospect why your solution is better than “the market.” Need help? Click the graphic below for a list of questions to compare Telehealth vendors. 

Telehealth Comparison Checklist

  • New uses: Find new approaches / strategies for the same product. For this retailer, we showed them how to address a very real employee relations issue: our bundle of services could be either employer-paid or voluntarily offered to the 3,500 part-time employees.

TIP #5: Get through the door

Additionally, here are my best tips for getting through a prospective group’s door:

  • Bring the new idea: Be the broker who introduces a solution the incumbent broker didn’t (and you best not wait to introduce such ideas to your existing clients in 2017).
  • KISS: Your pitch doesn’t have to be complicated. Maybe just “All employers today are struggling with skyrocketing health costs. What truly fresh ideas are you being shown to reduce loss ratio… other than just pushing premiums and out-of-pocket costs to your employees, or adding a wellness program?”
  • Solve a problem: Focus on solving the client’s existing problems, rather than pitching a new product. Click here for a Solutions Selling Chart that addresses 5 common employer issues.
  • Practice what you preach: If you've never used these services, don’t have a freshbenies membership, or haven’t used yours recently, start there so you have some personal experience and testimonials. Click here to contact us for a free trial membership.

It might take some time to earn all a group’s business. But you have a better chance getting your foot in the door with a new strategy, long before earning the BOR on the full suite of benefits. But the Lifetime Value of a client is so much more than just the commissions from one product.

So, get out there, plant your foot in the door and prove how much more awesome you are than the current broker. And remember – if you're not talking about it, someone else is! 

Now it's your turn! What tips do you have for getting through a prospective group's door? Comment below or email me at


Reid has a passion for helping brokers & employers strategize fresh approaches to benefit plans that contain costs and increase access to care - helping employers & employees control their healthcare dime, time, and peace of mind. He writes & speaks around the country and is the Co-Founder & CEO of freshbenies.

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Tanya Boyd
Tanya Boyd
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