Employer/Broker Relationship | By Scott Schulte,

Why Innovative Benefits Brokers are Worth Their Weight in Gold

Employers need improved results more than ever before. And the demands on Human Resources Departments have never been more complex.

Let’s face it. Today’s employers are navigating some very complicated circumstances— with increasingly more at stake.

You want to take control

Every business needs to control, at least to some degree, several things related to employees and employee benefits:

  • The cost of their benefit programs
  • Time demands associated with administering and servicing the programs
  • Organizational goals related to the employee benefits strategy
  • The ROI on insurance programs
  • The ability to attract and retain talent
  • Levels of morale and employee engagement

Historically, insurance brokers have only focused on the first two items related to the cost and service of the benefits. But as the needs of employers change, so too should the services provided by insurance consultants.  

A simple policy won’t cut it

A great employee benefits consultant will be intimately familiar with:

  • The finances of your benefits program
  • Who your employees and their families are and the needs they have as a group
  • The choices you made in selecting the plan design as it relates to the needs of your employees, the values of your organization, and your financial considerations
  • Benchmarking ideas of how you compare to others in your market

If you’re working with someone innovative, your insurance agent should be one of the first people offering ideas and advice on how to help you take control over many aspects of your employee management programs. But brokers like this can be hard to find.

So how do you tell a basic broker from an innovative one?

Just the basics

Typical, basic brokers are more like middlemen. They tend to focus simply on insurance products and the reactive service they provide to businesses who need group benefits.

Want to know if you’re dealing with one? See if you recognize some of these common sales pitches:

“We have great relationships with carriers. Let us give you a free insurance quote and see if we can beat your price.”

“Nobody provides better service than we do. We’ll be like an extension of your HR department.”

“Look at all of the ‘free stuff’ we’ll give you if you become a client!”

A broker who focuses on product and price will deliver just that. They’re much more interested in selling you something than in solving your HR and business problems. Organizational improvement stuff takes time, effort, and lots of listening. Delivering once-a-year policy quotes and waiting for commission checks is WAY easier.

The full meal deal

Innovative brokers are business consultants who use their expertise to help employers create strategies for better alignment between HR and company goals.

Yes, these brokers are committed to providing the right insurance solutions at the right price, but they also understand that insurance is just one part of the answer their clients really need.

Instead of showing up with a standard sales pitch and a spreadsheet, innovative brokers will show up with a bunch of questions to get at the heart of what you really need. These folks are genuinely interested in your business, and intensely focused on uncovering what things may be holding you back.

Best of all? Instead of hitting you with an insurance product and price scenario, they’ll come back with custom solutions to address your most pressing HR and organizational issues. In some cases, they’ll identify and fix problems you didn’t even know you had.

Choose carefully

When deciding who you want to work with, think about the conversations you’ve had with your current and/or potential broker.

If the time spent talking with them is all about carriers, products, prices and spreadsheets, you’re dealing with a basic broker.

If the time spent talking with them centers around you, your HR and company goals, your employees, and your strategy, you just may have found yourself an innovative broker. Test it out by asking yourself these questions:

  • Has this person explained how he or she will help me improve these things?
  • Have they made a clear distinction between the insurance carrier and their own advising services?
  • Are they bringing up fresh ideas and solutions I never knew were available?

Yes? Awesome!

But before you sign on the dotted line, make sure it’s not just innovative talk. Follow all the way through the process.

  • Have your key needs and issues been identified, prioritized and addressed?
  • Are you confident this person knows how to help you make these things happen?
  • Have logical, helpful solutions been presented?
  • Is there a plan/timeline for implementation?

If not, you may be dealing with an insurance salesperson disguised as an innovative broker. This is a big difference.

When you find that employee benefits broker who develops a strategy to help you drive better overall business results, and then builds a plan of action to make sure those results are predictable and manageable, you can stop looking.

You’ve found gold.


At Sonus Benefits, we build cost effective, long-lasting benefits strategies to keep your business and your employees in optimum health. Located in Kirkwood, MO, we help clients throughout the greater St. Louis area identify and manage complex employee benefits challenges. If you would like help managing your employee programs, we may be the insurance consultant and business partner you need.