How to Improve Renewal Processes and Sell More
To shop or not to shop? That’s the question around renewal season for employee benefits agencies. One regional risk management firm asked its clients this and found that most did want to move forward with going to market, spurred as always by rising rates. Then the circus would start all over again—producers and service teams all working to help the client obtain quotes. In the end, though, only 5% of their clients would want to switch carriers. It was a shocking amount of work that resulted in little action.
But how could producers change? They were hesitant to stop mass remarketing to clients, fearing that they’d appear like they weren’t doing their due diligence and might lose clients. Let’s dive deeper into how one firm found a new approach that addressed client needs while increasing productivity.
Case Study: Firm Stretched During Renewal Process
ReSource Pro worked with an independently-owned risk management firm with global reach. On the employee benefits side of the business, the firm was being stretched during the renewal process.
Challenge: Missing Information in Pre-Renewal Meetings
ReSource Pro’s Operations Optimization consultants conducted a process mapping exercise with the firm that showed that it wasn’t the broker’s process that was to blame. They had a great renewals procedure, including pre-renewal meetings with clients and internal status meetings to market or go with the incumbent.
But what the consultants uncovered was that in the pre-renewal meetings with clients, the producer often showed up with little to no information. To have a successful meeting, the producer needs to convey what’s going on in marketplace and make informed, data-based recommendations. Perhaps because they lacked the information they needed to choose, clients were asking to shop around 80% of the time, even though only 5% switched carriers.
Besides adding extra work to producers and service teams, the always-remarket approach was disruptive to the employer. Each side was feeling the pain.
Solution: Employee Benefits Renewals Best Practices
Together, the firm and ReSource Pro established new best practices for employee benefits renewals.
- Structure in more milestones leading up to renewal. Smaller steps toward renewal can break down the process to manageable pieces, rather than an overwhelming decision for clients. Smaller steps also help clients meet deadlines.
- Define a pre-renewal meeting process. Meetings should have a standard agenda and be infused with insights. This allows producers to figure out the best course of action for clients. And if remarketing is necessary, producers can come to the meeting knowing which plans will provide the most value. This shifts producers’ time and focus to the pre-renewal phase rather than leaving everything until renewal meetings.
- Put producers in the right place to sell. Producers need to own the client relationship because they are the face of the relationship and know the client’s business, the industry, and the strategies for appropriate risk management. To lead properly, though, they’ll need to put time into researching market figures and identifying emerging risks for the client. Done correctly, the producer-led meetings should also provide more opportunities to cross-sell and upsell.
Impact on Teams
While the firms’ producers worried they would lose clients without going to market each year, it turned out that clients valued strategically discussing their needs and hearing about market intelligence. With the new consultative approach, 58% of clients asked to go to market instead of 80%. This saved teams 5 hours per renewal, adding up to 1400 hours saved a year.
The teams used this freed up time for internal meetings to maintain alignment between sales and service teams on all active accounts. Spending just 30-35 minutes per week on this eliminated the need for a lot of back-and-forth and made renewal meetings more efficient and focused. Producers could then devote more time to selling.
The impact included:
- Average time per renewal decreased by 29%
- Producer time devoted to selling increased 25%
- Renewal costs went down 25%
Takeaways: Improve your Employee Benefits Renewals Process
When you’re trying to solve problems in productivity, look at the whole picture, dive deep down to solve root causes, and question what’s assumed. In addition to the best practices that the firm established, here are some more ideas for improving your renewals:
- Segment accounts. Don’t take all your clients down the same road. Segment by size and group needs, such as ease of use and compliance for smaller clients, and loss sensitive plans and cost reduction for larger accounts.
- Be proactive about rate increases. Rates often go up across the board. If producers research this before meeting with the client, they can take action. For example, if rates were going up 7-8% across carriers, the producer may want to negotiate an acceptable rate increase with the carrier in advance, perhaps securing a 3-4% increase, and suggest that the client stay with the incumbent carrier. This background work by the producer saves extra work and disruption to the client while also securing a better rate.
- Don’t sell for the sake of selling. Then you’ll be chasing down missing information until the cows come home. When productivity gains give producers more time, they should invest their time in:
- Creating more first meetings with new prospects
- Cultivating centers of influence to gain more better-fit referrals
- Cross-selling and upselling current clients
- Learning new ways to assist clients and solve their problems and risks
- Meeting with colleagues to improve client service plans and prospect acquisition strategies