How to Grow Your CDH Programs through Strong Broker Relationships

When you’re trying to grow a CDH program, your destiny isn’t entirely in your own hands. There will always be entities downstream that play a vital role in the process and your success.

As a TPA or health plan, your ability to grow a CDH program can depend heavily on your brokers and the approach they take when guiding employers and consumers to make the right decisions.

So, here’s a piece of advice: When you’re trying to grow your programs, don’t assume best practice will happen without your involvement.

If you aren’t typically involved in important decisions, such as plan design or open enrollment communications, it’s highly likely that opportunities are being left on the table.

To help you maximize the growth of your CDH programs, this post will focus on how to improve relationships with your existing brokers and how to position your programs to attract new brokers.

Target the right brokers

The first thing to recognize is that every broker is different. They don’t all have the same desires and values, so you need to figure out which factors are valued most highly by your broker targets.

When it comes to differentiation, there are plenty of levers that can be used. For example:

  • Service experience
  • Breadth of services
  • Unique capabilities
  • Price
  • Value
  • Niche expertise
  • Geographic focus

At the same time, each broker will also have their own set of beliefs. When considering potential targets, ask yourself how they perceive consumer driven healthcare (CDH). For example, do they…

…believe CDH strategies are purely designed to shift costs?

…just want to retain relationships with employers who are shifting away from traditional products?

…see CDH as a ride-along with other products?

…or, do they believe CDH leads to lower costs and greater control, differentiated benefit offerings, and superior value and experience for employers and employees?

You need to identify and target brokers who embrace CDH for the right reasons, and avoid wasting too much energy trying to change the mindsets of brokers who are resistant to CDH.

Finally, it’s important to understand that more broker relationships aren’t always better. Instead, you need to find the right brokers (who are aligned with your specific beliefs) and figure out ways to grow relationships with those brokers in order to play a greater role in their business.

Set a clear value proposition

In order to attract new brokers – and to maximize the role you play with existing brokers – a clear and compelling value proposition is essential.

Realistically, this comes down to five things:

1. Are your offerings easy to understand and sell?

Seems obvious, doesn’t it? If your CDH products aren’t easy to understand and sell, you’ll never get anywhere.

When you’re developing and positioning new products, ask yourself how you can make it crystal clear to brokers what you’re selling and how it’s different. Equally, how will you provide comprehensive support, enablement, and training to help them sell on your behalf?

Answering these questions will dramatically improve your CDH products, not just in the eyes of brokers, but in the eyes of employer groups and employees as well.

2. Offer a “no noise” experience

This weighs extremely heavy on broker decision making, even above the incentives that surround a product. If your products are perceived to be “noisy,” they will be extremely difficult to sell. Cutting out the noise will allow brokers to realize much higher levels of customer satisfaction and it will also reduce calls and escalations.

3. Incentives

Let’s get one thing straight: Incentives are not essential to the process of establishing and building relationships with brokers. It’s far more important to ensure you’re rewarding your top producers and finding ways to make them feel special.

With that said, incentives are a lever you can use to maximize results.

The most basic thing here is to be aware of what your competitors offer. Are they offering financial incentives per account? Do they compensate based on HSA assets transferred? If you’re going to offer these types of incentives, ensure they are comparable to those offered by your competitors.

4. Competitive advantage

Simply put, are there things you can offer that are different and better than the competition? Can you bundle different products together or offer more meaningful consumer engagement programs?

Show brokers you’re going to take the best care of their employers and employees – and that you have programs and touchpoints in place to ensure high levels of participation and funding – and you’ll be a long way towards convincing them.

5. Client growth and retention

One of the greatest advantages of account-based programs is that they can be extremely “sticky”. Brokers change out their medical providers all the time, but, in our experience, account-based programs offer much higher employer retention rates.

Naturally, this is seen as a huge advantage by brokers, so be sure to position your solutions as a way to maintain and grow customer relationships.

Maximize value from the broker channel

Once you have determined which brokers to target and you have ensured your value proposition is as compelling as it can possibly be, it’s time to start establishing and growing relationships.

In order to do this effectively, there are several steps you’ll need to take:

Know the gatekeeper. Let’s be honest, it can be challenging to penetrate new firms. In order to succeed, you need to identify and build relationships with key individuals within a target brokerage.

In an ideal world, you would build these relationships from the top down, but of course this isn’t always possible. Individual team members are a good place to start, particularly if you’re able to identify the “right” person within a team.

Once you have your foot in the door, you’ll want to grow your influence across the whole team of producers, as this will best position you to influence the way your CDH solutions are positioned and sold. For more centralized firms, you should aim to make it onto their preferred vendor lists.

Ultimately, it’s essential to be cognizant of where you currently are with a broker and do everything you can to swim “upstream” wherever possible.

Know your unique value. Your value proposition for brokers is different than your value proposition for employers. In essence, you need to determine how you’ll help your target brokers win more business. What is your unique value?

Position yourself to win. If you really want to get ahead with brokers, you need to become indispensable to their success. Ideally, you need to provide so much value that they would rather work with you than anyone else.

Perhaps the simplest way to do this is to become their CDH expert. When they think about CDH products and opportunities, you want them to come to you because they know you’re a CDH thought leader that they can rely on and learn from.

Crucially, don’t just communicate with them from a tactical perspective. Provide them with industry updates, like changes to legislation or contribution limits. At Alegeus, we do our best to share these types of information through our blog, emails, materials available on our marketing portal and research reports, and we’d strongly encourage you to make use of the resources we provide to establish and develop relationships with your brokers.

On a similar note, try to be an active participant in your brokers’ sales process with their employer groups. Help them respond to RFPs, and help them understand the CDH space so they are more able and prepared when responding to employer questions.

Finally, be data driven. If you really want to excel with brokers, take an analytical approach. You need to understand where you’re winning…and where you’re losing.

Good questions to ask (and answer) include:

  • How many times have you and a broker engaged in business for an employer group?
  • How many times did you win, and how many times did you lose?
  • How does your performance with broker A compare to broker B?
  • What can you learn from wins and losses to maximize future performance?

Having these data points available will enable you to determine which of your broker relationships are successful, and (crucially) why they are successful. Even better, you’ll be able to identify which relationships aren’t currently succeeding and take action to improve the situation.

You Reap What You Sow

Establishing and building strong broker relationships takes time and energy. The more you put into the process, the better your chances of fostering relationships that help grow your CDH programs.

If we had to boil the process down to one element, it would simply be to create complete solutions.

Don’t just offer account-based CDH products. Think through the entire experience, including the communication and support you’ll provide. By doing this, you’ll set your offerings apart from the vast majority of your competitors and make them far more appealing to brokers, employers, and employees.

Watch our webinar for (much) more on this topic

If you’ve found this article useful, we highly recommend that you register for our on-demand webinar to find out how you can maximize the growth and adoption of your CDH programs. Click here now to watch, Sales & Marketing Exploration: Unlocking Consumer Directed Program Growth.

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