Business Development and Sales Solutions for Insurance Agents: The Soft Insurance Market is Tough, but Competition from Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs) and Outsourced HR Services are the Real Threat

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“There is a fundamental shift occurring in the small, mid-sized employer market today,” said James A. Schlueter, President of the Total HR Network ( Speaking to a group of insurance agents and brokers in Southern California, he said, “Insurance agents and brokers are searching for ways to deal with deteriorating commissions and increased competition in this soft market. Unfortunately, most of the sales strategies in the media advising the agents/brokers how to respond to the soft market environment are missing a vital point. It’s not about you; it’s about your customer.

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Time is more important than money in the small business environment today. It's simple

"It's a classic mistake," Schlueter said. "Most insurance agents and brokers begin looking at their products, redesign their insurance programs, restate the features and benefits and then send the sales team out to sell it. That's a recipe for failure," he said.

"That thought process needs to be reversed," said Schlueter. "Rather than starting with your product, consider what your customer most desires. Then understand how you can best help your customers achieve their goal." Schlueter stated, "It's not about your features and benefits, it's about your client's aspirations."

To illustrate, Schlueter brought up two photos featuring men's briefs–an equally exciting commodity to insurance. He asked, "If you saw an advertisement picturing a hairy, overweight, middle-aged guy in his briefs with a list of features and benefits telling us how these briefs will make us look and feel better, would you run out and buy them? Not likely," said Schlueter. "Rather, put Mark Wahlberg in those briefs, picture it on a billboard and you don't need to say much to get all the hairy, overweight, middle-aged guys to buy them. It's not about reality or product features and benefits; it's about the individual aspirations of the consumer.

"Now consider," said Schlueter, "while most insurance agents and brokers today are dealing with deteriorating revenues and market share, statistics from NAPEO that show PEOs grew a very robust $10 billion in gross revenues in 2007 to $61 billion. There are over 700 PEOs operating in all 50 states and they are growing at an amazing 20% per year. Small to mid-sized businesses are increasingly outsourcing HR services from administering payroll and employment taxes, to risk management, recruiting, providing health benefits, and securing workers' compensation coverage to PEOs and Outsourced HR companies. How do you explain this?" asked Schlueter.

Schlueter stated, "Sales don't happen until you make someone care about something and most small to mid-sized employers care very little about your insurance products. What employers really want is time to enjoy the fruits of their labors." According to Schlueter, "PEOs are capturing market share because they are responding to this important aspirational goal being expressed by the client.

"PEOs have listened to your clients and have responded to their pain of being overburdened with mundane management issues. These issues are preventing them from doing the things that will actually build their business and eventually allow them to enjoy the fruits of their labors. PEOs," Schlueter noted, "deliver the employer a one-stop shop for all their HR service headaches. A PEO not only serves to eliminate many internal headaches, they cut out the need for several vendors, including insurance sales people, as well.

"Insurance agents that just focus on their insurance products will continue to lose market share until they begin to hear the message coming from the client," Schlueter said. "Time is more important than money in the small business environment today. It's simple," he said, "you can make money, you can't make time. Product oriented insurance agents are picturing a sorry reality; PEOs are promising delivery on an aspirational goal that most small and mid-sized employers have.

"Our future is now," said Schlueter. "The shape of tomorrow is determined by the decisions we make today. The Total HR Network is a business development and sales strategy for forward thinking insurance producers who are unwilling to just sit back and let the future happen to them. The Total HR Network listened to our clients and created a response that increases our revenue streams and protects our primary business lines while we deliver solutions our clients care about. The aspirational values offered via the Total HR Network are simple to understand and separate us from the Plain-Jane insurance producer, outsourced HR companies and the PEOs in our markets."

"What's more," said James Harwood, COO of the Total HR Network, "due to the commission structure offered by the HR Network, our members in many instances will double their total commissionable revenue per client while they protect their market share."

The Total HR Network (, is a division of J.A. Schlueter & Company, Inc., a management consulting company specializing in business development solutions and improving business efficiencies. The Total HR Network's HR services are delivered through JASCO's affiliate Strategic Staffing Services, Inc. D/B/A Total HR Management; offices in California and New York and serve clients nationwide. Total HR Management is a member in good standing with such organizations as NAPEO, PHRA, the BBB, SHRM, and EMA of SoCal.

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James A. Schlueter
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