You're not alone if you've ever felt like renewal dates creep up on you. The employee benefits industry has normalized stressed-out timelines, pushing brokers and carriers to their limits. When timelines are shortened, the accuracy and quality of proposals and plan designs are threatened. The solution, however, can be simple: go to market earlier.

"Going to market earlier creates a waterfall effect for better decisions," said Annie Henaghan, who worked as an account manager at a brokerage firm before joining ThreeFlow's client experience team. "When brokers, carriers, and employer groups have more time to evaluate, analyze, and perform quality control, it benefits everyone."

Here are five things you can do to help ensure that you go to market earlier and with a better RFP in hand.

1. Be proactive, not reactive  

The employee benefits industry is cyclical; renewals, marketing campaigns, and year-end reviews happen at the exact time every year. Henaghan suggests creating a birds-eye view of your groups' renewal dates and setting up reminders on your calendar. The first time you do this will be a heavy lift but it pays off in future go-to-market periods. ThreeFlow users build out their book of business at set up and can track renewal dates right from their homepage.

2. Ask for the renewal earlier

Rather than waiting for the carrier to send you the renewal rates, ask for them earlier. This will give you more lead time to present to your clients and ultimately decide if going to market is the right move. You can also use a renewal request to leverage better rates from the incumbent carrier.

3. Anticipate longer response times

At ThreeFlow, roughly 60% of all products renew with a January effective date, so carriers are undoubtedly juggling several proposals at this time. This can lead to increased response times. In fact, our data also shows that an average response time during the busy season is seven to ten business days, and shortens to four to seven business days in the non-busy season. Keep this in mind as you’re building out your marketing calendar. 

4. Choose carefully

Try to limit how often you go out to market, and when you do, limit the invited carrier list to only the most serious candidates. Underwriters often will consider how many years in a row they see a group go out to market and how many carriers get invited, which then informs how serious (or aggressive) they get when quoting rates and plan designs for you.

Most brokers on ThreeFlow are sharing their RFP with 12-15 carriers, depending on the product. However, even that might be high. Brent Combs, an underwriting consultant at ThreeFlow said, ‘Limiting to five carriers sends a message to those invited that it's a serious opportunity that they need to get competitive on.’

5. Ensure your RFP is underwriting-ready

RFPs typically don't include everything the underwriter needs, and according to Combs, this can cause significant delays.

"When an underwriter receives an incomplete RFP, it can create a back-and-forth that adds days, or even weeks, to the timeline," Brent explained. "This means they have less time to analyze an employer group's specific case and offer them the best plan design and rates.”

Here's what an underwriting-ready RFP should include:

Cover memo describing (at least):

  • Employer group and industry
  • Why they’re going to market
  • Open enrollment strategy, especially for any ancillary products.
  • Desired outcome
  • Plan design requests

Census file:

  • Updated within the last few months
  • Clear headers and rows
  • If you’re using abbreviations in your census file, provide a legend or key
  • Demographic and enrollment details for all benefit-eligible employees
  • Highlight expats/inpats, and provide additional context about those employees.

Claims experience data:

Policies & certificates

  • A policy and certificate for every product
  • Summaries, especially on experience-rated groups

Rates (provide any or all):

  • Rate sheets
  • Policy documents with rates, if still inforce
  • Amendment documents with rates, if still inforce
  • Recent renewal or proposal documents with final sold rates
  • Recent premium statement or invoice which validates enrollment, rate info, etc.

The bottom line   

When you go to market with enough lead time, everyone shares the benefits. Carriers can provide competitive quotes because they have more time to analyze. That often means that employer groups can receive a more customized plan design rather than an apples-to-apples comparison to their current plan.

Ready to see how you can improve your RFP workflow? Contact us today for a demo.