Reeling Them In At Enrollment TimeOnceemployer is sold on the concept, its up to the agent to sign upprospects

If the employer is unwilling to let you have an adequate numberof minutes alone with each employee, a successful enrollment isunlikely, adds Lawrence Prichard, managing general agent in Dayton,Ohio, for Colonial Supplemental Insurance, Columbia, S.C.

"In group meetings, employees dont want to open up because theydont want to appear ignorant or talk about their personalinformation," he said. "The biggest key is the 20-minuteone-on-one. Otherwise, you are not going to sell the productbecause its not going to be understood."

But the initial groupwide meeting also has a critical role, addedMr. Chille. "The group meeting lets you spend less time with eachindividual."

Running a companywide meeting also tells employees you have theall-important backing of top management, he pointed out.

Schedule that rollout meeting well ahead of enrollment time,advised Jerry A. Fisher, agency disability and long term careinsurance specialist and brokerage director in greater Los Angelesfor MassMutual.

"You want to go in six weeks out, so they are set to make aneducated decision," he said.

Making it convenient for employees to arrange their meetings and toenroll is important, too. Mr. Prichard of Colonial Supplementalposts sign-up sheets on employers bulletin boards so employees canreadily schedule 30-minute meetings with a Colonialrepresentative.

"Its important that nobody waits on line or waits around in thelunch room for an enroller," he said.

Mr. Prichards enrollers are equipped with laptops, on which eachemployees personal information is loaded already from the employersdatabase, making sign-up a highly efficient operation, hesaid.

"We electronically submit about 90 percent of enrollments in thefirst two days with that technology," he added. "We dont do anypaper applications, because you are not going to be able to tell aperson much when you only have 20 minutes and youre trying to fillout paper."

James T. Pettapiece, president of Vision Financial Corporation,Derry, N.H., a third-party administrator, said laptop enrollmentlets the enroller skip a lot of information gathering duringindividual meetings and cut to the chase.

"The laptop also adds a tangible feature to the presentation, soagents who use them are reporting a greater feeling ofparticipation by employees," Mr. Pettapiece said.

Laptop enrollments are also much more accurate. "That means thatunderwriting is much faster, and people get their policies quicker,so a sale is much more likely," he said.

But paper-based presentations can be effective, too. The key is tokeep it simple, said Milton Jones, principal, Insurance Plus, anagency in Fayetteville, Ark.

When he recently offered an optional universal life policy as partof an employers 401(k) plan, Mr. Jones used a one-page illustrationwith graphics during his one-on-ones with employees. Theillustration showed how the employee could invest up to 25 percentof money set aside for the 401(k) in the universal life policy andhow that investment could grow.

"They didnt have a lot of information to wade through. I found Igot a lot more interest when I did that. I presented it as part ofthe safe-money component of a balanced 401(k) approach."

Mr. Jones said he earned more than $10,000 in commissions on thatcase.

Danny Walters, a producer in Mr. Jones agency, likes to keepemployee meetings focused on one or two products. "If you try topresent a lot of products, you do it so quickly the employee haslittle understanding of whats being offered and is not going toenroll," he said.

Technology can be a big boon to enrollment building, a number ofproducers say.

For instance, call centers where employees can telephone to findout information and sign up for voluntary products are essentialwhen employees are on the road or spread out in many locations,said Mr. Pettapiece of Vision Financial. When necessary, heoutsources this end of the job to call center specialists, hesaid.

"Telephone enrollment centers are a big player," he said. "Theyrenot as effective as one-on-one, but they are a practical solutionwhen you have a widely spread workforce."

WE-enroll Inc. in Conshohocken, Pa., has built its voluntaryworksite practice around a proprietary software system that enablesit to serve around 200 clients based in the Philadelphiaarea.

The system allows WE-enroll agents to produce a customizedinformation packet for each employee that has his or her name on itand calculates in advance the cost of each benefit option theemployee is interested in.

The approach has built impressive enrollment numbers, said PepperKrach, principal and executive vice president of WE-enroll.

"Carriers will ask for 20 percent or 25 percent participation, butin our experience it is not unusual to get 50 percent to 60 percentparticipation. The packet makes it easy to understand and easy toenroll."

The packets also make it easy to bring in new employees duringsubsequent re-enrollment periods, said Ms. Krach.

"Where most voluntary benefit plans fail is in the open enrollmentperiods" [that follow initial enrollment], said Ms. Krach. "Weproduce these information packets for new hires, so you dont havethe initial enrollment deteriorating."

Because Ms. Krachs company manages not only voluntary benefits butalso core benefits for each employer client, it regularly getsupdated information on new hires and terminations.

MassMutual uses another enrollment-building technique: onlineneeds-analysis tools.

For instance, the company directs worksite customers to an onlineretirement calculator. It also offers a disability insurance Website,, where users find another calculator thatenables them to calculate their income needs should they becomedisabled.

Regarding online enrollment, MassMutuals Mr. Fisher advises keepingtrack of how successful it is, because that helps you keep it tunedin to the needs of users.

"Have the system track how many use online enrollment, who has goneonline, for how long, and how much of the system they go through,"he said.

AFLACs Michael Chille warns about a big enrollment killer:introducing a new voluntary product at a time when the employer ismaking other significant changes to its benefits package.

If, for instance, the employer is announcing significant cuts inits medical program just when the agent is scheduled to launch aJan. 1 sign-up campaign, it may be better to reschedule. Bymid-year, employees will have absorbed the changes and probably arelooking for ways to improve their benefits, he points out.

Another bit of advice from Mr. Chille: Make sure your carriers havea good record in paying claims.

"How easy it is to fill out a claim form and how quickly they paymay not help with your initial enrollment," Mr. Chille said. "Butwith ongoing enrollments, those people who are happy with the waytheir claims have been handled are your greatestendorsement."

MassMutuals Mr. Fisher agreed. "You get the best referrals when youhelp the person the best, and we work in a business where referralsare key," he said.

Trevor Thomas is an associate editor for National Underwriters Life& Health Edition.

Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, October 21, 2004.Copyright 2004 by The National Underwriter Company in the serialpublication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as anindependent work may be held by the author.

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