In the U.S., the majority of life, health and wealth insurance products are purchased through the workplace. While insurers and retirement providers rightly focus on account acquisition, they often fall short on an equally important profit driver: post-sale retention, penetration and cross-sell. Working with clients across the employer benefits landscape, we’ve identified five key steps that can help any company get more out of their existing accounts.

  1. Prioritize your opportunities. Quantify the upside and decide which accounts are worth investing in to grow, and which can be put on a more standard renewal or account management process. Look beyond just the size of the account: How many lines of business do you have in place? How does participation compare to peer accounts? How profitable is that account for your company? What’s the turnover risk? How is the relationship you have with the broker, financial advisor or account decision maker? It can be tricky to quantify and balance these things, but we’ve worked with clients to create scoring systems to help value the opportunity, combining turnover risk and cross-sell upside based on the business need.
  2. Bring silos together. Renewals should be a cross-functional exercise, but often the roles are unclear and incentives and normal operating processes make collaboration difficult. Designing an effective renewal process means bringing these parties together early in the cycle to share information and strategize. Form a cross-functional renewal pursuit team (typically the sales rep and the account manager but sometimes managers or underwriting for high priority accounts) to create and execute on an account plan. Make sure everyone on the team has a role, and put a dollar goal on the account. You should also arm this team with good information - we’ve worked with clients to create a simple, consolidated report on the account that includes sales, service and claims data. These reports can unearth new insights about the account to form a strategy for renewal.
  3. Think outside the box. Brokers, advisors and accounts are working across many carriers and providers, so you need to find creative ways to add value and cut through the clutter. Can you pursue a block renewal strategy with a broker to simplify the process? Can you offer insight into the account that will help the broker or account better manage their benefits? For employee-elected benefits, consider tactics to better reach the employees and increase knowledge of the benefits and participation. Voluntary benefits companies have long used posters, direct mailers and benefits fairs to engage with employees, but what about more modern approaches? For example, we helped a client experiment with geo-targeted ads centered around a large employer headquarters and found they were able to boost voluntary product enrollments at a very attractive ROI.
  4. Follow up, follow up and follow up again. Once you have a plan in place, you need to execute on it. This may seem simple, but everyone knows how hectic it can be leading up to enrollments. The renewal pursuit team should meet to create the account plan and update each other on the progress, following up on action items to drive accountability. Grouping these meetings by broker is more efficient and helps you think about the broker relationship more holistically. Also consider the timing – brokers and accounts have different enrollment timeframes throughout the year, with bigger accounts and brokers planning early, and decisions about product and platform changes needing a lot of lead time. Find ways to automate the cadence and remind people to follow up with the account the same way they would with a new pipeline opportunity.
  5. Measure and learn. Track the leading and lagging KPIs to understand the impact. Measure the number of meetings and quotes for new lines of business throughout the year and check the increase in renewal sales and persistency after the enrollment is closed. Tracking KPIs will not only help quantify the value for future investment, but also help the team learn and adapt. What segment of accounts performed the best? What can be implemented across other segments next year? What didn’t work? When creating a program like this for a client, we actually held out some accounts to serve as a test group so we could measure the impact.

By following this process, some of our clients have seen a double-digit ROI on their renewal program investment, and individual account impacts of millions of dollars. While this may seem like a lot of work, the impact is more than worth the investment.