Benefit advisors know that their heaviest technical season is Q4. That’s because most employers have at least some if not most of their benefits tied to the calendar year. This leaves precious little time for careful, strategic planning until after the dust has cleared from the work of plan implementation and enrollment campaigns. And because every calendar year begins a fresh planning cycle, right now — late Q2 and early Q3 — is the perfect window for advisors to proactively revisit their strategies.
This article offers ways benefit advisors can rethink and re-navigate four of the most prevalent open-enrollment challenges, giving brokers tools to better empower their clients to offer the best possible benefits to their employees.
1. Start Planning Early
Benefit advisors know that enrollment should not be a last-minute task. By starting the planning process about six months ahead of the opening date, you can develop an overarching strategy, anticipate potential challenges, get buy-in, and allocate the right amount of resources to client and prospect outreach.
Planning early also gives advisors time to conduct research on new products and services that could be a good addition to a client’s current offerings.
2. Reevaluate Your Clients’ Needs
Every benefit advisor should reevaluate their clients’ needs before every open enrollment period. You can do this by conducting surveys, setting up focus groups, or having one-on-one meetings.
What’s important in these conversations is to ask what has changed in the past year for the client and arrive at a firm understanding of updated budgets, goals, and employees’ needs. Reflecting on these variables with the client helps you be able to recommend the right mix of products and services.
Staying up to speed with clients can also help any advisor identify upcoming trends and opportunities for the next year.
3. Develop a Communication Plan
Enrollment periods happen when life is already both hectic and winding down for the holiday season. It’s a period when clear and consistent communication from advisors to clients and from clients to employees is crucial.
For the benefit advisor to clients, a communication plan should outline the best methods and channels to reach each of your employers. You need to communicate the enrollment period, plan options, and deadlines, and highlight any changes since the previous period.
This information can seem perfunctory and tedious, but it goes a long way in building trust and making sure important deadlines are not ignored. Setting up automated personalized reminders for your clients is a great way to streamline the whole process.
4. Evaluate Your Results, Beyond the Numbers
After open enrollment, you should take a look at the results of your strategy. And while, yes, the numbers are critical, it’s just as important to take a deeper dive into how your strategy fared.
One effective method for this is to collect client feedback either during or after the implementation and onboarding processes. Focus on what is working well, what did work well, and what needs improvement.
A benefit advisor can use all of this information to refine their strategy, identify areas for growth, and plan for future enrollments.
Evaluating these results, both quantitatively and qualitatively, can help you not only improve performance and reach your revenue goals, but also cement your reputation as a trusted and reliable partner to your clients.
As employers and advisors begin the annual chore of navigating open enrollment, it is important, long before any deadlines hit, to take a step back and evaluate the overall sales and communication strategy. By starting early, advisors and employers can together use the longer runway to evaluate their current options in relation to the value they are creating for employees.
With proactive planning, active listening, and careful analysis, you can not only hit your goals but also level up as a strategic partner to your clients and help build a chain of good outcomes for their business and employees.