1) Be the expert. Most people are still extremely confused about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and what it means to them. Tell them.
2) Very few employers are ready for PPACA reporting requirements. Help them become ready. Tell them what they need to do and when they need to do it by.
3) Get PPACA certified.
4) Don't let the law bring you down.
5) Use the law to your advantage. According to Aflac, more brokers than ever before are now acting as navigators for insurance products, considering setting up private exchanges for clients and expanding their consulting services.
6) Learn everything you can about the Cadillac tax.
7) Keep a checklist/calendar of any and all important PPACA dates.
8) …And send that list to your clients.
9) Keep up-to-date on the latest news, rule changes and delays.
10) Don't expect PPACA to get repealed. It won't.
11) Register for—and attend—the Benefits Selling Expo! See you in Fort Lauderdale on April 18-20.
12) Keep up-to-date on the latest industry news. (It helps to read BenefitsPro.com!)
13) Attend a seminar or conference.
14) Join a Twitter chat.
15) Attend a webinar.
16) Volunteer to speak at an event.
17) Have a conversation with some new people in the business. They may give you a fresh perspective and provide some motivation.
18) Study up on wellness programs—they are quickly becoming an employer's best friend.
19) Stay on top of emerging trends in the industry, such as the most popular voluntary products, nontraditional employee benefits, wellness and telemedicine.
20) Make sure you and others at your agency are getting proper sales training.
21) Use authentic language. “Connect with your clients. Steer clear of jargon, and be positive and transparent. Appeal to emotions, and remember that people want to do the right thing.”—Bruce Hentschel, Principal Financial Group
22) Be prompt in replying to clients. “My goal is to return calls and emails the same day. At 5 p.m, there are no outstanding voicemails or emails on my list.”—Benefits Selling columnist Brian Hicks
23) Don't limit communication to the open enrollment period. Keep in touch year round.
24) Remember details about your clients—their kids’ names, their hobbies, their birthday—and remember to bring it up with them during conversations.
25) Continue to make calls and arrange face-to-face meetings over coffee—email isn't always enough of a connection.
26) Follow up via email.
27) Keep it simple. “Be clear and use easy-to-follow steps in verbal and written communications. Don't complicate it with education or too much detail.”— Bruce Hentschel, Principal Financial Group
28) Work on your elevator pitch.
29) Have an email signature that includes your name, title, company name, email address, mailing address, phone number and social media handles.
30) Consider different generations. Millennials may prefer a different type of communication than baby boomers, for example.
31) Come up with a strategy. Enrollment is one of the most stressful times for brokers. Thinking it through, planning ahead and coming up with a schedule may make it easier to handle.
32) “Keep in mind the problem of choice overload. Employees may actually be happier with fewer benefit choices in a single enrollment augmented by additional choices at a later time.”—Marty Traynor
33) Tell a story. People usually don't remember statistics, but they do remember stories.
34) Compare. “Employees want guidance on benefits buying decisions, particularly from people like them. In behavioral science, this is known as social norms. Using concepts that show what benefits other people like them purchase helps employees make the best buying decisions to protect themselves and their family.”— Najla Frayha, vice president of consumerism at Unum
35) Communicate early and often. Make sure employers have plenty of time to consider their benefits choices. And remind them to do so.
36) Talk about consumer driven health plans. They are becoming more popular as employers look to contain costs.
37) “Automatically schedule appointments with clients rather than leaving attendance as optional or voluntary. It makes a big difference in overcoming employee inertia.”— Najla Frayha, vice president of consumerism at Unum
38) Get to know the workforce. “Today's workforce is more diverse than ever, but whether you are a baby boomer, Gen Xer or millennial we all have one thing in common: we care about our benefits. Employees are all at different stages in their life and are experiencing significant life events, which can have a big impact on benefits selection. Some employees may be looking to start a family, while others are planning for retirement—in each of these scenarios, selecting the right benefits is essential. With that in mind, you can deploy additional resources and decision support tools to help employees plan ahead.” —Cindi Van Meir, Benefitfocus Product Manager
39) Stress the importance of voluntary products. They are becoming more and more popular among employees.
40) Make sure to talk about PPACA compliance during enrollment.
41) Come up with a social media strategy, if you don't already have one.
42) Use different platforms. Most brokers and agents rely on some combination of blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.
43) Post regularly. It helps build your reputation.
44) Know that social media continues to evolve. What was in vogue last year (or last week) may not be anymore. Pay attention to what people are using.
45) Use social media as a way to show potential clients (and current ones) what you offer as a broker.
46) Make it a two-way conversation by asking, and answering, questions.
47) “Stay away from the hard-sell social media post. Consider each post as if it were the first conversation with a potential client.”— Deborah Sternberg, executive vice president of Always Care Benefits
48) Think visual. In addition to text and stories, post photos and infographics.
49) “Use praise in your posts. Complimenting a client, employee, or partner using a link or posting to them is often effective.”— Deborah Sternberg, executive vice president of Always Care Benefits
50) Share relevant news. Post blogs and articles from other news sites.
51) Dedicate the right resources to innovation. “This includes both people and budget. Innovation requires a different kind of focus than that of running an existing business. While it is unrealistic (and unnecessary) to dedicate a large team to innovation, it is important to dedicate a leader and a small team (say two to three people) to set up the innovation priorities, infrastructure and to build out the portfolio.”—Maria Ferrante-Schepis, managing principal, insurance and financial services for Maddock Douglas
52) Drive relevance. “Most people spend more time shopping for a TV than for benefits, so our biggest hurdle is to make complicated products relevant. People don't want to engage with this industry, so they won't watch an educational video. We need to focus on changing the language we use and providing context to make benefits relevant and engaging.”—Veer Gidwaney, CEO and co-founder of Maxwell Health
53) Don't forget about small businesses. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, employer with between 10 and 100 employees account for 92 percent of American businesses and employ more than 27 million people.
54) “Firms need to have the courage to launch a ‘red team’ or a separate entity charged with identifying the latest customer needs and behaviors and creating new services that may cannibalize the existing business where necessary. Most firms need to have this function separate from the traditional business in order to truly foster a new approach to innovation.”—Mark Halverson, senior executive, Accenture's financial services practice
55) “Don't forget about part-time workers. The most successful brokers are full-service; and part-time employees represent yet another essential gap that needs to be filled. Offer your clients knowledge and expertise about part-time populations and customized solutions for these workers, and you’ll be as good as gold.”—Brian Latkowski, EVP Global Sales, New Benefits
56) Create a culture of innovation within your company by setting high standards, encouraging employees and rewarding them for their best ideas.
57) “You have to be willing to grow your business in such a way that you outgrow some of your current team members and some of your current clients. If you don't, the best of both will outgrow you.”—Kevin Trokey, coach and an implementer of business strategies
58) Walk the talk. While 83 percent of insurance representatives acknowledge the need to innovate internally, according to researchers at KPMG, nearly half believe their employers aren't supportive enough to meet market conditions.
59) “We must look at what we do with the wonder and curiosity of a newborn. That's hard to do when many of us, like myself, have been doing this for decades. But it's going to be required if we want to survive. It's in the best interest of our clients, their employees and ourselves.”—David Contorno, President and CEO, Lake Norman Benefits
60) Think differently. Netflix owns no movies. Uber owns no cars. Airbnb owns no properties. What has always been done isn't always the answer.
61) Those who write down plans for the following work day spend less time thinking about incomplete work while at home, according to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology.
62) Keep work time and family time separate. If you need to spend half an hour in the evening answering email from your home office, do it. But when you’re in the room with your family, be present.
63) Ignore the cult of busyness. “Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren't either working or doing something to promote their work … Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.” — Tim Kreider, author of “We Learn Nothing”
64) Take a break! Americans only use around half of their paid vacation and most work even while they’re away. Sounds like a perfect recipe for burnout.
65) Think of the big picture. Australian nurse Bronnie Ware worked for several years in palliative care, and collected the dying epiphanies of the patients she talked to during the last 12 weeks of their lives. The second most common regret she heard was, “I wish I hadn't worked so hard.” According to Ware, “This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship … All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”
66) Put…down…the phone… The average American checks their smart phone 150 times a day.
67) Work/life balance ties with higher compensation as the top reason employees change jobs, according to Manpower.
68) Take care of yourself. Go for a run, meditate, catch a yoga class at lunch. When you come back, you’ll be far more productive—and happy.
69) Remember that work/life balance applies to your employees and clients, too. Make sure to encourage your staff to balance their personal life and career by taking a vacation, unplugging or telecommuting. (And remember: leading by example will help them do so.)
70) Don't get in the habit of answering emails at all hours of the day.
71) “This is the age of the customer. The world of benefits is often viewed negatively by the public, and our poor reputation is partly based on confusing contracts, difficult processes for customers, opaque reports and unfair denials. A claim is often the genesis point of this customer discontent. Think how much better we will be viewed if the claimant/customer tells everyone what a great experience they had.”—Marty Traynor, vice president of voluntary benefits at Mutual of Omaha
72) Don't forget about Generation X. According to Liazon, Gen Xers purchase more insurance products than any other generation, an average of 5.3 non-medical product per person.
73) A typical critical illness policy carries a $2,200 premium, with a 70 percent first-year commission and 4 percent renewal commissions paid to the writing agent.
74) “Simplicity is everything. Some of the practical advice for improving sales is pretty simple but not practiced enough. Agents and enrollers are begging for training—not product training specifically, but ideas for how to demonstrate the need to the consumers. [Critical illness] is sold, not bought, so agents really need to find the right message for each client.”—Mark Randall, researcher and trainer for GoldenCare
75) Having a broad portfolio of competitively-priced, high-quality insurance solutions is important. This will enable a broker to provide the choices needed so that each employee can develop customized insurance coverage that best meets their individual and/or family needs.”—John Thornton, EVP, Amalgamated Life Insurance
76) Be willing to walk away. “Some brokers consistently average 30 percent or more participation, while others struggle to reach 5 percent. And if they are in the same size market, the second broker needs to sell six times as many cases to reach the same number of new enrollees. Guess which one earns more, does a better job for her clients, and is truly partnering with her carriers? Sometimes, not taking every opportunity is the right answer. No wonder it's a virtue.” — Benefits Selling columnists Bonnie Brazzell and Gil Lowerre
77) “[Millennials] don't want the insurance lingo we are used to speaking. They want an easy engagement process, face-to-face enrollment, flexible products, and easy-to-use tools.” — Steve Hesler, assistant vice president of product and market development at Colonial Life
78) The top five voluntary products by sales last year were life insurance, disability, dental, accident and hospital indemnity/supplemental medical.
79) “Perhaps we’ve been missing the boat in the way we present disability income products. Perhaps we should be emphasizing that they are, in fact, the ultimate lifestyle benefits. What other product helps employees maintain lifestyle as effectively as disability protection? What other product actually creates the money necessary to maintain a lifestyle?—Marty Traynor, vice president of voluntary benefits at Mutual of Omaha
80) Pet insurance is a good place to be these days. By 2020, revenue is forecast to increase at an annualized rate of 6.8 percent, driving annual sales to $1 billion, according to IBISWorld.
81) “It's easy to think of claimants in a negative light. But without claimants, we have no business. We exist because people collect money to help them when something bad happens to them.”—Marty Traynor, vice president of voluntary benefits at Mutual of Omaha
82) Don't underestimate the personal touch. Technology is great, but hand-written cards on client birthdays, anniversaries and holidays still go a long way.
83) “Decision-support tools are more important than ever and help guide consumers to the health plan and benefits that best meet their health care needs and budget. Look for partners who offer consumer-decision support tools, which in turn help you provide more value to your clients.”—Ron Goldstein, President & CEO Choice Administrators
84) Just listen. It's tempting to tell them everything you’ve learned in the business, but often, the best plan is to say nothing at all.
85) Become a solutions provider. More than ever before, clients are looking for answers. Make sure you have them.
86) “Personalize the solutions you offer. Through your communications and the solutions you recommend, make sure your clients feel as if you understand them. Help them feel like they are in a special club, but keep in mind that one size doesn't fit all, and recommend options customized for each client.”—Bruce Hentschel, Principal Financial Group
87) Be proactive. Don't wait for clients to come to you with problems or questions.
88) Keep your clients informed year-round. This is no longer a seasonal industry.
89) “Limit the number of choices you offer. It may seem like you should tout how many great options you can provide, but try to keep the options to no more than three. And be sure to tell them which one you recommend. When faced with too many choices, people are often unable to evaluate them all and may take no action at all.”—Bruce Hentschel, Principal Financial Group
90) “Brokers who offer online quoting on their websites or use an exchange or carrier with an online quoting feature can quickly provide clients with multiple options to consider before making a health care decision. For brokers without a website, find a technology partner to help.”—Ron Goldstein, President & CEO Choice Administrators
91) “Our industry is in a place where those who can see possibilities are poised to absolutely own the future … Leading in our industry is easy; just be the person willing to do things a little differently.”—Benefits Selling columnist Brian Hicks
92) It's easy to get bogged down in minutia—take the time to remember why you got into the business in the first place.
93) “Take charge of the process of being a world class benefits professional. People who worry about outcomes are those who won't get them. If you worry about commissions, approvals, closing the sale, you aren't thinking about the right thing. If all you’re worrying about is the outcome—if I’m going to make a sale — you take away the process which leads to the sale.”—Jack Singer, president and CEO of Psychologically Speaking
94) “There are a lot of ways you can capitalize off of PPACA and turn that frown upside-down. Is this what we envisioned fpr our industry five years ago? Absolutely not. But if you get creative and stop complaining, you can really spin some gold and take your business to the next level!”—Susan L. Combs, CEO of Combs & Company
95) “[Benefits professionals] are the most generous people I’ve ever met. Generous with their time; with other competitors; with their money. And you just can't have that many positive people with that much positive energy fail. It's not gonna happen. Change? Yes? Failure? No.”—Don Goldmann, Vice president, Word & Brown, NAHU President
96) “The role of the broker has never been more important, and your clients need you in ways they never have before, which means you have to work in ways you never have before. Sure it's scary, but just look at PPACA. You’ve already proven you’re capable. And, as we all know, facing your own fears is the first step to becoming the feared competitor in your market.”—Kevin Trokey, coach and an implementer of business strategies
97) “I feel that clients look at their consultants as true business partners and are grateful for the knowledge and the solutions we can bring to the table. There's more value in our jobs than ever, and that is a great thing.”—Brandon Scarborough, Business Advisor at Truss
98) “Keep your ego in check by facing the fact that no one person can know it all, no matter what level their position is within the hierarchy.”—Brian Ray, consultant
99) “There are two things we need to do: encourage and incentivize employees to be better consumers of health care.”— David Contorno, 2015 Broker of the Year
100) “I don't even consider myself a broker or an agent. I call myself a ‘giver.’ I give people security for themselves and their families. I listen to a lot of motivational speakers and that's what they tell you—to form relationships with your clients.” — 2015 Broker of the Year finalist Eric Stanton