How To Expand Your Portfolio Through Cross Selling

As more people return to the office over the next several months, business will really begin building to pre-pandemic levels and beyond. We will continue to see unemployment trend downward as companies hire additional staff, as well as an increased emphasis on better supporting the workforce in a post-pandemic world. Both will create unique opportunities for brokers as they work with their clients to create a package of offerings to help them attract and retain employees in an increasingly competitive world.

Cross selling complementary products is not a new practice to our industry. But uncertainty caused by the pandemic and the scramble to shift to a virtual environment had many of us prioritizing our selling focus on core coverages. Ironically, the pandemic seems to have accelerated a trend toward clients and employees looking for additional coverages to enhance their benefits in an uncertain world.

This presents a unique opportunity. Your book of business will naturally grow as clients expand their workforces. Yet it is important to remember to analyze how you can increase revenue even more by cross selling with your current clients.

To effectively cross sell without looking “money hungry” or too sales driven, consider some out-of-the-box thinking and setting up an honest conversation on the needs of the client’s workforce.

Begin With Reflecting on Your Own Business
As a broker and manager of your own business, there’s a lot to consider and track. Am I ensuring none of my clients slip through the cracks? How is my marketing? How could I sell better? Are my margins healthy?

Begin by first analyzing your business and finding areas of improvement that create greater efficiencies and help you operate better. For example, how do you communicate with clients and is it effective? If you’re going to cross sell effectively, you need to ensure you’ve got your own administrative items in line. Also, look at the types of insurance you offer and the partners with whom you work. If you need to reevaluate, let’s say your life insurance or short-term disability offering, now is the time.

Search for Insights With Clients
That same thought process we apply to our own business, and the package of benefits we offer, suggests the approach you should consider when approaching your clients about enhancing their own offerings for their employees. As you catch up and learn how their business is doing, listen to their pain points. What worries them most in the night? What do they worry about in terms of their workforce and supporting their employees? The answers to these questions will reveal areas of opportunity for you to better support your client. Ask detailed questions and give them the freedom to answer honestly.

Additionally, focus on the relationship and really get to know your clients. Approximately 80 percent of a company’s future revenue comes from 20 percent of its existing customer base. Therefore, enhancing your relationships with your best customers is the best way to increase profit, because you not only have the opportunity to cross-sell to them but you gain valuable insight about ways to attract more clients like them.

Discuss Future Needs and Wants
In these crucial conversations, you can begin discussing what types of support you can offer the client through benefits that address these pain points. Some that will and should be more top of mind this year include:

  1. The Importance of Mental Health
    Mental health is not a new topic, but it was pushed to the forefront of workplace issues due to the pandemic. Employees want more access to mental health services than ever before and employers that are capable of providing that access will reap the benefits. Productive workforces are comprised of team members who are highly functioning, a state which depends on their mental health. In 2021, being “healthy” is no longer only a physical state, but a mental one as well.
  2. Coronavirus-Related Coverage
    All carriers are approaching coverage for the coronavirus differently, and it is critical you familiarize yourself with the various approaches and coverage plans. Additionally, make sure to discuss short-term and long-term disabilities with your client, as many carriers are evaluating these in relation to potential short or long-term treatment plans and effects of COVID-19.
  3. Supplemental Insurance Options
    Previously overlooked by many, supplemental products that can fill the gaps left by traditional insurance plans will be more top-of-mind this year—particularly those related to critical care and income protection. The pandemic unfortunately forced many families to wonder how they will make ends meet due to being laid off, or what would happen if one of their family members became hospitalized or, heaven forbid, died unexpectedly. If the families are thinking about these topics, so are decision-makers among your client base.
  4. Retirement Plan Reviews
    In addition to our daily lives and everyday expenses being impacted by the coronavirus, our retirement plans were likely impacted as well. Consider encouraging your client to evaluate their retirement offerings and conducting a formal plan review. This analysis is likely to reveal gaps or areas of expansion that you can offer them. It is also critical to have conversations with all employees on the value, particularly with the economy in flux, and ensure each individual is set up with a plan if not already in one.
  5. Worker’s Comp Assessment
    There are still some unknowns when it comes to COVID-19’s impact on worker’s compensation and work-related injuries and illness. However, as states evaluate this change and inclusion in the context of worker’s comp, it is a good time to review what is and is not covered under a client’s worker’s compensation insurance. Particularly if a client has had numerous employees contract the coronavirus, a discussion about how to best protect them is certainly in order.

Move Beyond Traditional Health Insurance
While health insurance is still your go-to revenue producer, there are more product lines available for you to focus on and begin talking about regularly. One place to start is by looking at non-insurance products you can offer to clients.

For example, many small businesses do not have a dedicated HR manager or full HR department. Consider combining employee benefits administration with an HR function and offering your clients access to an HR software platform for which you can charge a fee that addresses both needs. There are also vendors you can partner with that can assist companies in compliance, technology/IT support and staff training.

Persistence is Key
With open enrollment season right around the corner, it’s critical to start the conversations now. Particularly if an employer is hiring new employees right now, they may just want to push off any conversations until closer to the open enrollment period. However, onboarding each of these new employees is an opportunity for you to start gaining that critical data on their needs, bring up options and educate them on your offerings.

Sometimes it takes multiple conversations and multiple points of contact for a consumer to actually make a purchasing decision, and the same is true, if not even more so, with insurance. Employers will worry about the costs to them, or wonder if employees will actually use it, so begin those conversations and that selling process early so you can make those critical cross sells during open enrollment.

Scott Kirksey is the CEO of BenefitMall, which partners with a network of 20,000 brokers and more than 120 carriers to deliver employee benefits to more than 140,000 small and medium-sized businesses.

For more information about BenefitMall, visit

Kirksey can be reached by telephone at 469-791-3300.