The Power of Conversation: How Great Discussions Create Great Solutions for Your Clients

Robert Crowder, founder and President of The Benefits Trust, has over 30 years of experience serving pension and employee benefits clients. In 1994, he founded The Benefits Trust as a Third Party Administrator serving small and mid-sized business across Canada. Through Rob Crowder's dedication and leadership, The Benefits Trust has grown into the successful benefits provider that it is today.

The Power of Conversation: How Great Discussions Create Great Solutions for Your Clients

As a benefits advisor in Ontario, it’s important to understand where the money is. There are just under 500,000 businesses in Ontario. Of those businesses, 440,000 have less than 100 full-time employees. Canada – and Ontario especially – is made up of small businesses. Many of them are looking to attract and retain talented employees, and offering attractive benefits as a part of their compensation plan is a big component in securing that top talent. As an employee benefits advisor, you have an incredible opportunity to help your clients do just that.

Your goal is to provide value added service to your clients. But more than that, you want to provide value-added service at a profit. Thin files are more profitable than thick files, so the question is: how do you generate thin files? Through meaningful conversations. 

Client Needs Analysis Through Valuable Conversations 

Meaningful discussions benefit you as a professional advisor as much as they do your clients and prospects. For the client, they provide value creation. For you, you gain more profitable relationships. It’s a win-win! 

At the end of the day, you need to understand where your client is headed in order to provide that value-added service. Knowing where they’re going equips you to determine the best way to help them, or if you even want to help them in the first place (this is the “at a profit” part).  

Ask future-based questions to establish their goals and ambitions. Selling is engaging someone in a future result that’s good for them, so it’s integral to understand exactly what that future result looks like. Are they hoping to grow, sell, or merge their business? Are they planning to enter new markets or develop new products? These things will influence their benefits needs. 

The answers to your future-based questions should provide you with a clear, concise, and specific understanding of where they’re going and how you can best help them. They will outline a road map of where they’re going in business, which will allow you to advise them in a way that is conducive to those goals.  

What if the client or prospect is unwilling to engage with you in meaningful discussion? Move on to the next prospect! Remember, there are plenty of opportunities for you as an advisor in the Greater Toronto Area and beyond. Focus on those clients who are willing to engage – those are the clients with thin files, and those are the clients who will deliver a profit. 

Setting the Foundation for a Great Discussion

So, how do we generate those meaningful conversations that will enable us to provide value in a profitable way? Here are a few things to keep in mind: 

Clear Communication

You want to go into the discussion with organized thoughts. Feel free to take notes, and keep those notes organized. It’s also important to use simple language – remember, you’re the expert, not them. There’s no need to use insurance jargon or confusing acronyms! It’s far more effective to speak to clients and prospects in a way that they easily understand to facilitate those meaningful conversations. 

Use context, examples, and analogies to get your point across and establish mutual understanding. Don’t forget to check in with them throughout the chat and ensure that you’re on the same page, too. Ask them to clarify things, pay attention to body language, and check in to make sure they understand.  

Active Listening

It’s crucial to pay attention and be present if you want to establish a meaningful conversation. Don’t engage with outside distractions and put your phone on airplane mode to eliminate notifications. Respect is the foundation of effective discussion, and that goes right out the window if you’re unable to give the prospect your full attention. 

Demonstrate your attention through body language, asking questions to check-in, and summarizing what the client has said in your own words. It’s all about empathizing and understanding your client’s feelings and perspective, and it’s especially important to avoid making assumptions or jumping to any conclusions. 

Respectful Attitude

Of course, it’s essential to treat your clients with dignity – and it goes both ways. Celebrate their achievements and interact with them in a way that demonstrates your respect for their business and for them as an individual.  

Be curious and ask questions! Not just about benefits, but about their business journey and the goings on in their life. Acknowledge their thoughts and feelings throughout the discussion and always treat them with the utmost respect. 

Shared Purpose

Be sure to establish the shared purpose between yourself and the client. This doesn’t mean you need to jump into benefits straight out of the gate. Yes, keep your eyes on the prize, but don’t forget that the “prize” is to become their trusted advisor. To do so, you need to establish a relationship through great discussions. Happy relationships drive performance! 

Show the client that you have the same mission and show alignment by circling back throughout the conversation and focusing on that shared purpose. You want them to succeed just as much as they want to succeed, and it’s important to show them you’re on the same team with that mission.


Show up prepared, or don’t show up at all. If you arrive to a meeting unprepared, the chances of that meeting progressing into a meaningful discussion are slim to none. You will have wasted your time, the client’s time, and damaged your reputation as an advisor. 

Conducting research is easier than ever! Scour the internet, peruse their social media, and look into their community involvement. You want to keep an eye out for common interests between yourself and your client that you can use to connect with them and lay a foundation for a productive relationship. The only way to find those common interests is to conduct a bit of research and show up prepared! 

The When, Where, and What of Meaningful Conversations

Now, onto the logistics of these great discussions.  

When is the best time to have a great discussion?

Whenever both you and your prospect or client are available. In essence, take every chance you get! Every single interaction is an opportunity. Discussions don’t have to be long to be effective – if you’re able to communicate in a way that counts, you’ve succeeded. 

Where do you have these great discussions?

Anywhere, as long as you’re both ready and willing to engage! You could just as easily have a meaningful client conversation on a ski lift or on an airplane as you could in a board room. The setting isn’t important, it’s the content and delivery that matters. Just be sure to be respectful of their time and ask permission before diving in – nobody wants to get hounded about employee benefits while they’re trying to relax on vacation.  

What sort of questions should you ask?

As always, we recommend future-based questions. It’s all about understanding the client to better cater to their needs and showing them a future result that’s good for them. Remain positive and show genuine interest at all times as you ask questions regarding their business philosophy, their risk management approach, and the business cycle within their industry. You might also want to ask questions regarding their relationships with other professionals (like their lawyer or accountant) to help you determine how they value those relationships and whether or not their values align with your own.  

Need some more inspiration? Take a look through these 101 sales questions every benefits advisor should know

Don’t forget, the name of the game is to provide value-added service at a profit. Both parts of that statement – value-added service and profit – are equally important! If a prospect is unwilling to engage in great discussions or if the way they conduct business doesn’t align with your preferences, there is an abundance of other prospects for you to choose from who will check those boxes. 

The Benefits Trust is a trusted third-party administrator, providing services and resources to benefits advisors for almost thirty years. Contact us today to speak with our team and become the best advisor you can be! 


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