As a benefits producer, how many times have you complained about not being able to get an audience with the real decision maker? I’ve heard you say, “I call on the CEO/C00/CFO, but I always get passed off to HR!” Well, I have good news and bad news. Bad news first: It’s your fault. The good news? You can fix the problem.

I recently introduced our new benefits sales system at a networking event that included many agency principals who have a background in the property and casualty side of the industry. I have been approached or contacted by several of them since my presentation with a common reaction, “I’ve worked in insurance for umpteen years and never before has the benefits side of the business made sense to me, but what you shared with us today, that makes sense. I get it!”

Without going into the specifics of our sales system, I will tell you why they “got it.” They got it because the system is built around addressing identifiable, quantifiable, and obvious strategic risks faced by every business such as: employee engagement, training and leadership development, and attraction/retention issues. Just as important is what the system isn’t — a repackaging of the same old spreadsheet approach that focuses on the commoditized issues of price and product.

As business owners, they recognized and identified with the challenges these risks pose to their business. They have been exposed to the technical/commodity side of benefits for decades, but that never resonated with them, it never struck a nerve, and never presented itself as a catalyst. Once they were presented with issues that resonated with them as business owners, they were interested, they paid attention, they wanted and needed the answer.

So, if the owners of insurance agencies can’t be moved by the technical/commodity side of benefits, what makes you think the owners of your clients will be moved? They won’t be. If they don’t see how you, and what you offer, can impact their business at the highest level, they will always, always look for someone else within their organization to pass you to. As the saying goes, “They have people for that.”

How do you fix it?

Know what drives the C-level. The C-level is always looking for resources that will allow them to meet their strategic goals and objectives. Position yourself as a resource to assist with the following and you will move from being an expense to an investment.

  • They want and need to differentiate themselves from their competition. Hint – To be consistently innovative within an industry requires the highest level of talent. The solutions you bring from an attraction and retention perspective are key.
  • They want and need to move faster than anyone else. Hint – To move fast, organizations have to have strong leadership, cohesive management, well trained and educated employees. You can introduce solutions to address every one of these areas.
  • They want and need to perform more efficiently. Hint – Efficiency will be the post-recession mantra. The solutions you offer to help improve productivity and lower turnover will immediately improve your clients’ efficiencies.
  • They want and need to effectively allocate their resources. Hint – Anything that can be performed as well by someone on the outside (i.e. outsourced), to allow better internal deployment of resources, has to be moved.

Build your business acumen. You have to be able to speak knowledgeably to broad, high-level business issues. If all you speak is the language of benefits, guess where all of your conversations will take place? Be able to discuss:

  • Financials
  • Economics
  • Political issues (both sides)
  • Operational issues
  • Sales and marketing principles
  • Corporate structure
  • Performance management
  • Technology

Develop the right value proposition. Build your value proposition on delivering a better business solution rather than a fancier spreadsheet. Understand and be able to articulate how your solutions will make your prospect/client more successful at what they do. In other words, because of your involvement:

  • How will they become more profitable?
  • How will they improve the relationship they have with their employees?
  • How will they be able to better serve their clients?

Bottom line, if you want the CEO/COO/CFO to take your meeting, you have the responsibility to give them a reason to do so; simply asking isn’t enough. You may have heard me say it before: The role of the benefits producer is changing. With our new role, having an audience with the C-suite is no longer going to be a “nice to have” — it will be a “have to have.”

Someone will attain the key to the C-suite — it will either be you or your competition. I contend that the C-suite is a room from which you cannot afford to be blocked. Now be honest with yourself, “How badly do you want in?”

Photo by Micky Zlimen.