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It All Started with a Frustrated Broker

It was 2013. Justin Sylvester had been working as a benefits broker for almost seven years. Over that time, he’d become frustrated with the sales process used by his firm – the same process, he knew, that had been used by almost every benefits brokerage firm across the country for the last 30 years. 

“It was just so inefficient,” he said, “So much wasted time and paper putting together spreadsheets – and most clients wanted to renew with as little changes as possible.”

Inspired by a ‘Difficult’ Client

It was Q4, renewal season, when every second counts. After the initial pre-renewal call, Justin made the 2½ -hour drive from Austin to Houston for the renewal meeting with the client. Right away, there was a problem – the client caught an error in the spreadsheets Justin’s team had prepared. “How can I trust any of these numbers?” the client said, and canceled the meeting on the spot.  

Justin Sylvester during his early years as a group insurance broker

Justin was left to make the drive back to Austin and have his team correct the numbers. One week later, he was back in the client’s office – and again, there was a problem. There was a 1% increase in total cost for the plans presented, and the client, calling this increase “unsustainable,” wanted to see alternate plan designs. Once again, Justin made the drive back to Austin to rework the numbers. The second renewal meeting hadn’t gone according to plan, and Justin’s team was now worried about getting decisions in time.

“He wasn’t trying to be a difficult client,” Justin recalls. “He was a good businessman and wanted to explore alternatives, see tweaks and alternates in real-time and basically have a meaningful, dynamic review of all his options – the same kinds of expectations companies have with literally every other business decision.”

On his third trip to Houston, Justin once again presented the new plan options for the client. But there was one more request. The client asked how much it would cost to move from a $50 copay to a $45 copay – considering a lower copay a great employee benefit. Justin didn’t have the exact numbers, but did some quick math and answered that it would cost about $10k. 

“Great,” the client said. “I want to see every $45 copay plan available.”

Up until then, Justin’s frustrations had been something like a proverbial pebble in his shoe, but now the pebble was beginning to feel a bit more like a boulder. Justin knew there was no feasible way to create the kind of unwieldy presentation the client was asking for, one that included every available plan to the market, and definitely no way to get it done in time. 

An Industry Slow to Innovate

It was after this meeting that Justin began to look for solutions that he could bring into his organization. Surely other brokers had run into this problem over and over again in their careers? 

“If I had the right technology, I could have easily met his expectations without wasting his time and mine – he wasn’t a “difficult client.” Our agency had certain defined processes that made it was difficult to work with because we lacked the ability to meet his demands,” Justin reflects. 

“I’m sure I wasn’t the only extremely frustrated broker that had to waste nine hours of travel time to meet a client’s expectations. I knew we could do things better, much more efficiently.”

However, after bouncing the idea off the upper ranks of his firm, Justin realized that there was little interest in trying to solve the problem. In 2016, frustrated with the lack of tools and support, Justin left his book of business to pursue insurance technology sales and explore the potential of cloud computing software for the insurance industry. 

The Birth of PerfectQuote & Group Insurance CPQ

Inspired by stories of founders working out of their garages at night, in 2017 Justin and his fellow co-Founder, Aaron Snyder, started on their journey to develop the application that would eventually be known as PerfectQuote with the motto, “Any carrier. Any size group. Instant analysis.” Their goal? To create software that could handle all the needs of a broker, whether sourcing new business or managing a renewal meeting from start to finish in one setting. 

Aaron Snyder, Esq. during his career as an entertainment lawyer

In 2018, they released the first version of PerfectQuote, which was able to display plans and rates from carrier proposals in one place. Key to this effort was the development of industry-specific OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology that can recognize plan data regardless of the format provided by the carrier. This early version was far from their lofty goal of handling the entire renewal process – it lacked ACA support, and had its share of bugs and quirks. But it worked. 

An early version of PerfectQuote, one of the first Group Insurance CPQs and the only one to allow viewing all carrier proposals in one place

Building the Team

Dan Hettrich, a former broker and carrier rep himself, joined in April 2019 as Director of Sales, taking on the monumental task of selling PerfectQuote – a CPQ solution – to an industry that is famously resistant to change. Success was slow, but little by little, firms began to see the value of PerfectQuote, aided by industry visionaries who (like Justin) see not only a better way to do business, but potential financial ROI in automating the client presentation process. 

Dan Hettrich – a former broker and carrier rep turned CPQ sales visionary.

The Future of PerfectQuote & Group Insurance CPQ

In 2019, PerfectQuote released its small group (ACA) module, creating the first (and still today, only) Group Insurance CPQ solution that supports a broker’s entire book of business in one place.

Since 2019, the company has continuously invested in the development of the platform as well as developing integrations with other key broker solutions, such as agency CRMs and benefit administration solutions. As Aaron Snyder says, “Being just a presentation tool has never been the goal. Ultimately we want to create an entirely connected technical environment of best-of-breed solutions with PerfectQuote filling the role of the central point for data distribution.”

What’s next for PerfectQuote? According to Justin,

“It’s getting close to what I envisioned. What we’ve built – it already has the technology I needed with that Houston client to be dynamically effective, but now we want to push it much further. The earlier waves of InsurTech solutions really benefited employees and employers, but we are delivering something special for brokers that circumvents some of the limits of carrier technology. We see how integrations can create even more efficiencies for brokers, and we’ve been developing our Data Management strategy to move well beyond a CPQ solution. We already significantly reduce manual data entry, now we want to see if we can eliminate it.”

The updated PerfectQuote interface, including small group (ACA) as well as large group carrier proposals.