7 Tips on Becoming a Better Benefits Broker Right Now

Two seated people during a meeting

Hello! Today, the good folks at ALEX invited me on their blog to offer up some practical tips on how insurance brokers like yourself might win more business and be more useful to your clients this year. Some of the ideas I’ve culled from my own experiences over the years. Some I stole from my three brothers, who work with me at Grace & Porta Benefits. (Whichever tip you find the most helpful is one of mine, btw. :))

Anyway, I know I’m always fascinated to hear what’s worked well for my peers and colleagues when we talk shop, and I hope you feel the same about this:

Tip 1. Invest a little in some good prospecting software

We use two pieces of software quite a lot to help us locate new business: miEdge and the D&B Hoovers database.

miEdge is a database that provides a reliable collection of relevant data about companies with 100 or more employees–the commission, for example, and renewal data.

D&B Hoovers database we love using because it tells us who the contact folks are, and compiles any recent news about the company so you don’t have to hunt that down yourself. One cool feature of the database is that it easily allows you to identify similar types of companies near that company. If we’ve got, say, a unique program we offer to manufacturing companies, it’s great to be able to quickly locate other similar kinds of manufacturing companies nearby. When a company hears you’re already helping Company So-and-So down the way, it only helps your cause.

Tip 2. Don’t cold call when nobody’s in the mood to listen to you

HR pros are rarely in the mood to take a call from a broker, which is why cold calling is never exactly a pleasant experience. But you can increase your odds, I think, if you do two things: Avoid calling on a Monday, Tuesday, or Friday—Monday and Tuesday, because that’s usually when they’re focused on payroll, Friday because folks usually aren’t in the mood for a big chat at the end of the week.

Also, try calling in the early morning–the calm before the storm. I find that people are more willing to hear me out when they aren’t yet in the middle of doing 100 other things.

Tip 3. Attend the meetings of the local SHRM chapter in your area to network with HR pros

Cold-calling works sometimes, but I always prefer, if I can, to meet people face to face. To that end, I make a point to show up at the local SHRM chapter meetings near me, as often as I can. It’s a good time, and it’s definitely won me some new clients. I sit at a table with a bunch of HR reps, we talk, I listen to what they’re up to, maybe I hand out a few cards. Or maybe I even offer up free Coach purses to whoever takes a meeting (thanks for that idea, Tim Sackett!). And then people know me, and think of me when they’re looking to make a change.

If it feels a little strange to do this, remember that you’re there to help these folks. You showing up could be the best benefits thing that happened to them all year (if you’re good at what you do, which I know you are).

Tip 4. Make it easy for yourself to notice big wins for your clients…and then send them a note about it

Any of you have a mom or a grandma who kept a binder full of clippings where your name was mentioned in the school or local paper? Or maybe you have a friend who’ll send you something weird in the mail every so often, instead of an email? Feels good, right?

Well, it feels good in the business world, too. And getting handwritten notes via snail mail is only getting more rare with every year. Which is why I think it’s a good idea to do it. Sure, it takes a little extra time to find a notecard and stamp, and drop it in the mail, but it’s the kind of effort that the recipient will really appreciate.

Or, if snail mail isn’t your thing, there are a lot of ways to send congratulations online. And you can use some simple tech to make sure you’re not missing out on opportunities to reach out.

Consider setting up a Google Alert that notifies you every time one of your top 10-15 clients makes news. Take note of when, say, the Inc 5000 or regional Best Places to Work lists are announced–and check those lists for your clients’ names. Easier yet, follow your clients on Twitter and LinkedIn and maybe even create a client news feed there, so when they post good stuff you see it, and can keep in touch about it.

Tip 5. Take the initiative in scheduling reviews with your clients–and do it over lunch

We make a point to have a WWW/CBBI (What went well, could have been better if) meeting in the months after a client’s open enrollment, when it’s still sort of fresh; we set it up ourselves, so the client doesn’t have to do any heavy lifting, and we do it over lunch, so it’s a little more fun than just sitting in a board room for a few hours.

Additionally, we make Fridays our ‘take clients out to lunch’ days. Email and phone calls can sometimes get the job done, but there’s no substitute for face time, one on one.

Tip 6. Read smart industry-related stuff every week – both about being a better broker and being a better HR Pro

We’re all super busy, sure, but even the busiest of us can smuggle 15 minutes into our week for discovering new ideas on how to do our jobs better.

Two guys I always make sure to read are Kevin Trokey, founder of Q4 Intelligence, an insurance broker consulting firm based in the Chicago area, and Anthony Iannarino, the author and sales guru behind the excellent The Sales Blog.

Trokey posts a fun, meaty post weekly (or more) about such topics as agency development, leadership and management, selling and process, and a lot more. His style is fun, conversational, and–in my experience–super helpful.

And if you’re looking for smart, battle-tested ideas for becoming a better salesperson, Iannarino’s blog (which he posts to daily) is consistently strong.

Other great sources of good ideas:

The BenefitsPRO website

The Employee Benefits Adviser website

The newsletter put out by our CRM vendor, AgencyBloc

Tip 7. Be a listener and problem-solver first, a salesperson second

When we do get a meeting with a prospect, we try to avoid having a ‘dump truck mentality,’ in which you just throw everything you can do for a client at them all at once. Instead, we make a point to have a conversation with that person, more along the lines of a discovery session. We ask about their processes, the obstacles they’re facing, the stuff that keeps them up at night. And then, most importantly, we listen. And we try to figure out if there are questions they should be asking that they haven’t asked themselves yet.

Also, we come in understanding that HR pros do a heck of a lot more than handle benefits, and so the easier we can make the process of helping them out that part of their job, the more attractive our services are.

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