The Joy of Canvassing: Be confident when prospecting life insurance

Important note: Canvassing can be used to market life insurance, but NOT Medicare Advantage. The Medicare Marketing Guidelines prohibit canvassing for any Medicare Advantage product.

As a young child, a rainy Saturday afternoon would have me sitting in front of the television (before cable!) with four programming choices: CBS, NBC, ABC and PBS. “Sesame Street” would just be signing off and Bob Ross’ “The Joy of Painting.” would come on.  He would stand in front of a blank canvas and say, “What do I see today? A happy little tree could go right here or a singing bird would go perfect there.” 

Joy of Canvassing
His soft-spoken “don’t worry, be happy” demeanor belied his military background and was part of the charm of the show. At the end of 30 minutes, there would be an amazing scene that evolved right before your eyes from a blank canvas.  He believed you could do the same if you could find your happy place.
 
Pardon my pun here: Prospecting is also an art because it starts with a blank canvas.
Canvassing is basic. Primal even. To be good at it you have to find your happy place because it is hard work (that actually does work! More on that below). 

Depending on your age and industry, canvassing can be called door-knocking, soliciting, clover-leafing, hot-knocking, cold-calling and gold-calling. The more contemporary names are grassroots and community-based outreach and B2B marketing. Just remember that if you’re a senior insurance advisor selling Medicare Advantage, canvassing — no matter what it’s called — is not allowed by CMS.

For sales professionals like senior insurance advisors selling life products, canvassing boils down to you meeting a stranger, engaging them in a conversation about your business or product and anticipating that interaction evolves into a sale.

When you hear it said like that, no wonder most sales people turn up their nose at it. But there is one thing you need to know before you get a nose bleed: Canvassing works! Let me give you an example:

While I was in college I needed money. I needed a flexible schedule and a chance to make $10-$15 an hour. One day I saw an ad on the corner of Georgia Tech and North Avenue: College Students! Earn $10-$15 an hour! Flexible Schedule Call Today!

 My prayers were answered! I went for the interview and they told me I fit the profile: young, good-looking and energetic (Just telling you what I was told!). I was partnered with an extremely attractive female manager who took me out in the field and showed me the ropes.

I had no idea of the product or where we were going, but when this manager smiled and said, “It’s going to be a great day,” something inside me said, “Yes, I agree!”

I left my car at the office and drove with the manager to a less than desirable part of town. She had nerves of steel as she went door to door with an attaché case.  I had no idea what was inside.

“Is the lady of the house in today?” she would say if a man answered the door. If his answer was “no” then she hit another speed, “As I am sure you treat your woman like a queen, what I have today would be perfect for the person in your life.”

She took a velvet bag out of the attaché and pulled out an exotic bottle of perfume. She sprayed a light mist in her direction. She then stepped closer to the man as the door opened wider and she tilted her head to the side and back to give him a whiff of her neck. “Smells amazing, doesn’t it?” she asked.

Here are her results from 6 hours of doing this:

  • 200 knocks (she put tic marks on a page),
  • 40 people answering (she tic marked that too!)
  • She sold 9 bottles at $25 each
  • Her cost was $6 a bottle
  • Daily profit of $171 cash, making an hourly rate of $28.50
What lessons can be learned from my experience? You could say that sex sells — and it does — but this was not that simple. You could say men buy from beautiful women, and they do, but many men said “no,” and only some women  said “yes” to my manager.  She was neither overt nor acting with poor taste — she just exuded a confidence that I had never seen before or since.
The real lesson I have for you today is that canvassing works when you work it with boldness and confidence. Your approach to the sales process is built to not only your product, but your personality as well. To be truly effective you must find your happy place and embrace what I’ll call the Joy of Canvassing!
Want to get more confident with the Joy of Canvassing? We can help you with this! Call RBI today at 1-800-997-3107 for help on canvassing and other great community marketing ideas.  Click here to watch our recorded webinar on “Marketing for Success.”

Limit free Medicare advice in your business

I referenced “charity work” on behalf of non-clients toward the end of my post on appeals and the CMS-1696 Appointment of Representative form a couple of weeks ago. I should have referred to these non-clients as Leads. As I mentioned then, this type of work is unwelcome, given that I don’t see the commissions for my services. I actually severely limit free Medicare advice in my business.

Image courtesy Google Images

Limit free Medicare Advice

In my first few years in the field selling the old Medicare HMO products I assiduously avoided friends, relatives and their various cronies who wanted free help with their HMO. Having been advised by some old timer agents that working pro bono was a waste of time, I steered clear of helping these kinds of folks. After about 10 years into the Medicare insurance business I changed my tune when I met Ralph.

The exception that proves the rule

Ralph was a retired construction guy who was also married to one of my HMO clients. I was a captive employee agent at the time. Ralph was enrolled with a decent HMO plan offered by our main competitor in Arizona. He had a problem with a claim from an emergency room visit at Hayseed General or some such rural facility, while fishing up in Wyoming.

The doctor portion of his ER claim was billed separately and denied by the carrier as “out of network.” It amounted to over $500. My client, his wife, called me and asked if I could give them some advice before they sent out a check. I knew what probably happened even before I saw the bill. The doctors working at Hayseed General belonged to a private group separately contracted to provide ER services at that facility.

I’d seen this type of claim denial several times when I was an appeals supervisor, usually for services provided out somewhere in the sticks. We called the customer service department at Ralph’s HMO, but they refused to consider the emergency circumstances of his treatment. I typed up a quick appeal, had him sign it and was out the door in less than half an hour plus a quick stop at the corner post office. Ralph, of course, had no stamps!

A happy ending for everyone

Fast forward 30 days: Ralph’s appeal was sustained, and the doctors were paid by the carrier. Mrs. Ralph really appreciated the help. So much so, that just about every referred Medicare beneficiary living on her street is still my client.

That was a happy and profitable ending, but let me stress that I’ve become discerning about who I will help. I’m not an employee of the Bishop’s Relief Fund, and at my advanced age I still need to make an income that supports my “lavish lifestyle” and visits to Las Vegas.

Almost without exception, if I am assisting a non-client I ask them two questions. The first is “I take it your current agent has been unable or unwilling to help you?” and second “I’ll be glad to help if you will give me the opportunity to be your agent. Agreed?” A few beneficiaries have hemmed and hawed about the second question. Send those folks to their customer service department — don’t waste your time with them. I’ve found that a majority of people will hire me when I give them the benefit of my expertise.

You should have the same results.  Bottom line: limit free Medicare advice, not because you lack compassion, but rather because your time and expertise are money.

Like our content? Subscribe to the RBI Agent’s Advantage blog and check out our event calendar for training opportunities for more Medicare sales.

Send clients your very own Annual Notification of Change letter this AEP

An agent once perfectly explained the paradox of the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period to me: “It’s hard to keep the client in your hand as you chase the one in the bush.”

Everyone is after your clients during the designated Medicare Advantage sales season (Remember, it runs from October 15 to December 7 every year, and you need to complete the AHIP, contracting and certification in order to sell). Numerous carriers and other agents in your area are all vying for the attention of your clients and prospects. 

Keeping the clients you have while attracting new ones during the six weeks of AEP is challenging to say the least. Send clients a generic ANOC letter reminding them you’re their agent, ready to educate and support their insurance decisions. Image courtesy of iStock

First, clients receive their Annual Notification of Change (ANOC) correspondence from their current carrier. Carriers may also conduct telephonic outreach at the same time because they’re set on preserving your client as their member. This works in your favor if the plan’s benefits are still strong and the member had a good experience during the year. But it can make your job tougher if your client thinks finding better plan is in order this AEP.

Your clients are bombarded with form letters, printed advertisements, special offers and other outreach from other carriers to get them to enroll in a new plan during the fall. Agents who are competing with your senior insurance business may send your clients mail or place ads in their favorite pennysavers, promising to help them move to a better plan (You can learn more about how to use direct mail to maximize your personal marketing investment here).

In the real world, clients don’t always call you before they make a decision. We risk losing clients when they make decisions without us, and yet scrambling to keep them with us can cut into our prospecting efforts. Both of these affect how successful we will be during AEP.

That’s why I highly recommend sending your clients your very own Annual Review Mailer. Sending your clients a personalized letter around the time they receive notifications from their plan carrier is completely compliant, and it will set the stage for you as their trusted senior insurance advisor and the person they should consult before they make any decision. 

Your very own ANOC letter must be generic and cannot mention carrier-specific benefits. See examples below!

Click here to view CMS’ official sample for an ANOC sent from a carrier to a beneficiary enrolled in a typical HMO Medicare Advantage plan.

Click here to download a FREE sample of an agent ANOC letter from RB Insurance.

Make sure your social media outreach complies with Medicare’s Marketing Guidelines

Since I last wrote about making sure your custom Medicare marketing website is compliant, CMS and individual carriers have drastically increased their oversight for agents’ websites and use of social media. Many carriers now require agents to submit all of their website content for approval and ask questions about how we as agents are using social media to communicate with our clients.

CMS launched an official Facebook page for Medicare recently, which might be what spurred several carriers to send mandatory surveys to agents (You can view it by clicking here). Agents are required to complete these surveys, which go over what kind of communications we use to generate new business, if at all. They cover use of social media as well as online Lead generation services.

This scope of the Medicare Marketing Guidelines extends to all electronic communications, including websites, email and social media. As agents we need to be diligent about how we use social media and other online media to generate new opportunities. After all, we always need to be in compliance with the Medicare Marketing Guidelines if we want to continue selling.

Here are three easy tips to follow for using social media compliantly.

Do not engage in unsolicited contact. The Medicare Marketing Guidelines prevent agents from making unsolicited contact to a Medicare beneficiary for the purposes of enrolling them into a Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Plan. This extends to social media and should be considered prior to reaching out to beneficiaries on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or any other social media website. Unless you were contacted first, do not send private messages or leave comments for beneficiaries advertising your service — CMS can consider these actions to be unsolicited contact. Don’t let a Facebook private message be your downfall!

Don’t make false statements or claims. While this tip seems pretty common sense, social media is often full of exaggeration and partisan information. Your opinions are important, but remember as a senior insurance advisor, anything you post could be reviewed by CMS for compliance if it ultimately led you to a sale.

Make sure your profiles are set to private. Social media is the ultimate public forum. Agents may sometimes get requests from beneficiaries through a public forum like Twitter or a from Facebook comment asking for help. Always direct beneficiaries to a private form of communication prior to discussing their unique situation, even if they have already shared part of their story on the public page.

Here’s the reason why: As covered entities under HIPPA, agents are required to make every effort to protect a member or prospective member’s Personal or Protected Health Information.

While this is not an exhaustive list, these three rules can help you remain compliant when using social media or other digital media to communicate with your clients or prospects. If you have questions about how to design a social media campaign to generate Leads,or how you can build your own compliant Medicare Lead generation website, review part one and part two of my previous series or feel free to email me. You can reach RB Insurance by phone at (800) 997 3107.

Click here to subscribe to The Agent’s Advantage blog for more practical tips on how to market your senior insurance business with proven direct mail, effective event participation and new digital media.

Harbor Health agents: Don’t miss out on our latest meeting!

Whether you’re new to Medicare sales and this is your first AEP or you’re looking to rejuvenate your senior business this sales season, our next meeting for Harbor Health Plan agents in Detroit is all about how RB Insurance and Medicare Compare are here to make it happen for you. More information about our event can be found here.

Take note we are requiring Harbor Health agents to attend our event on September 24 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Embassy Suites Southfield (more information below). In order to receive free carrier Leads during AEP, you will need to complete a brief certification for our custom Lead Management System, the Medicare Sales Engine. That’s the only reason why we’re making attendance mandatory — we’re standing by with the easy to use tool that can help you convert Leads, close sales and complete all the necessary tasks that ensure prompt receipt of commission.

We also have two great speakers lined up to talk sales. Our founder and CEO Robert “Bob” Bever, the “RB” in RB Insurance, will be discussing Harbor Health Plan‘s unique network and how to discuss plan benefits with prospects. Bob will show you how to talk to prospects in a way that will make them ignore every other agent out there. 

Medicaid Expansion

Bestselling author, speaker and sales mentor Brandon Clay, who writes for our blog every Tuesday, will be presenting a shortened version of his groundbreaking 6 Hours to 6 Figures strategy for substantially increasing revenue for your senior insurance business. He’s offering all RB Insurance-affiliated agents exclusive access to his online training course.

If the mere mention of “online training course” reminds you of the drudgery that is annual AHIP certification, prepared to be pleasantly surprised that someone in the industry has crafted an educational program that speaks directly to agent’s interests and aspirations. Brandon aims to show agents how to get themselves in front of more potential clients by practicing simple techniques such as compliant final expense cross-sales, methods of regular communication with clients and how to tactfully request referrals.

Oh, lunch and refreshments will be provided in case you need another reason to save your seat at our event.

You can register by phone by calling (800) 997 3107. Online registration is available here.

What: Medicare Compare and Harbor Health Plan 2016 Medicare Advantage Product Rollout

When: Thursday, September 24, 2015, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Where: Embassy Suites Southfield

28100 Franklin Rd.

Southfield, MI 48034

Why: Agents who want to work free carrier Leads this AEP need to complete Medicare Sales Engine training. Agents will also learn sales strategies for securing clients by highlighting unique plan benefits and payment models.

Who: Founder and CEO Bob Bever and author, speaker and sales mentor Brandon Clay

Register here.

Don’t give up on prospecting Medicare Advantage and life insurance!

Prospecting.

The word alone conjures images of doors slamming in our face and telephone hang ups while we scramble to finish our sales pitch. And yet it’s the first stage of the sales process that can lead you to 6-figure senior insurance sales success.

Even if you’ve heard that 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day, you’ve probably wondered how you can even reach them with all the rules, regulations and market challenges that are part of the industry. To make matters worse, seniors are flooded with marketing materials during AEP from carriers and other agents and might not be in the mood to hear yet another pitch. This is why you have to reach them with smart prospecting.

How you prospect makes all the difference between making a sale, earning a client’s trust and generating referrals for your business or walking away without a sale, feeling the sting of rejection and self-doubt.

Death of a Salesman image courtesy of The New York Times (http://nyti.ms/1KZf4qg)

do-not-give-up-on-prospecting-get-smart-about-Medicare-Advatange-prospecting

Old-fashioned canvassing, leaving door hangers, telemarketing, sending small-batch mailers and pre-set appointments, direct mail campaigns, earning repeat business from existing clients and generating referrals are all methods of engaging prospects, and you will need to find the best method for your personal communication style. Be careful to comply with the Medicare Marketing Guidelines, as some of the methods I’ve listed above cannot be used for selling Medicare Advantage.

If you sell just Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplements, you must follow the Medicare Marketing Guidelines, which you can review here. I highly recommend that every senior insurance advisor I mentor add final expense or life insurance to his or her portfolio of products to maximize earnings from repeat business. You can cross sell both products and still be in compliance!

Stay with me as we head into the sales season as I review strategies for your prospecting efforts. You’ll have to suspend judgment on what you think will work and what won’t work because any of them can work for you if you’re willing to be diligent and persistent.

Although I will ask: Which methods should you predominantly spend your time pursuing? I hope you answered repeat business and referrals — they have the lowest cost (essentially free!) and the highest close ratio. That puts a higher importance on each sale that you close because these two sources can only come from a current client.

You have you stick to prospecting because it just doesn’t work automatically. Refine your methods to be smart about prospecting and watch your metrics improve. Giving up on prospecting after one day because “it’s not working” or because you feel the sting of rejection is not true prospecting. You’ve likely heard the saying, “Nothing begins until a sale is made,” but that really means that nothing begins until you are sitting down with the prospect.

Read my post on overcoming the fear of rejection when prospecting for Medicare Advantage and other senior products.

Educate your clients on hospital observation stays and the NOTICE Act

Congress finally updated the rules hospitals must follow when they keep Medicare beneficiaries for observation.

The NOTICE Act, which is short for “Notice of Observation Treatment and Implication for Care Eligibility,” requires hospitals to provide written notification to patients within 36 hours of beginning observation care that lasts more than 24 hours. Hospitals must explain that patients under observation status have not been admitted and why, and they must also notify patients of the potential financial implications. Hospitals have 12 months to comply with the NOTICE Act, so it may be a while before it’s fully implemented. 

Help your Medicare Advantage clients understand how their plan covers hospital observation stays. A new law requires hospitals to disclose whether a Medicare beneficiary has been admitted or is under observation status. Image courtesy of iStock.

Hospital, Medical, Insurance, Indemnity, Agent, Commission

According to a press release from the American Health Care Association, the House unanimously passed the bipartisan legislation on March 16, and the Senate unanimously passed it on June 24 without amendment. Policy wonks can read the full text of the reform here. President Obama signed the bill into law on August 6.

Prior to the reform, Medicare regulations allowed hospitals to observe patients for up to 72 hours without actually admitting them. Beneficiaries who thought they were admitted to the hospital subject to Medicare Part A billing would be shocked to find their entire stay under observation was actually billed subject to Medicare Part B deductibles and cost sharing.

As agents we have a responsibility to make sure our clients know how to use their benefits, especially as the incidence of claims that hospitals submit for observation care continues to skyrocket. According to a Kaiser Health News analysis using the most recently available data from CMS, total claims increased 91 percent between 2006 and 2013 to 1.9 million. Long observation stays, which last 48 hours or more, rose by 450 percent to 170,219 during the same period.

Most Medicare Advantage plans cover hospital observation stays as an outpatient surgery co-pay at an in-patient facility (also known as a hospital). Make sure you check with each individual plan you represent so you can inform your clients before unexpected observation status happens. If they call you in panic after being hopsitalized, you can reassure them of their coverage and how it works. It’s that kind of consideration that can get you friend and family member referrals.

Read more about advising clients on hospital observation status here.

Beneficiaries’ potential liability doesn’t end with hospital costs either. Medicare regulations require an individual be hospitalized for three midnights in order to qualify for Medicare Covered Skilled Nursing  facility (SNF) care. With the high rate of observation stays, more beneficiaries face astronomical costs in a SNF without help from Medicare. Most simply cannot afford the $200+ per day cost of a SNF out of their own pocket.

Fortunately for some, most Medicare Advantage plans waive Medicare’s outdated three-midnight rule. Certain members can go directly to a SNF after 1 day in the hospital. I had a Medicare Advantage client who fell, broke her hip and went from the ER to surgery to recovery to SNF without ever spending the night in the hospital.

As always, you can call RB Insurance at (800) 997 3107 or email me to learn more about the NOTICE Act and other changes in Medicare policy.

Click here to subscribe to The Agent’s Advantange to get the latest news on Medicare reforms and changes to Medicare Part B. RB Insurance will never share, sell or rent your information.

You really can generate 6 figures in the senior insurance industry. Here’s how.

“Sales professionals needed to earn $10,000 a month!” We’ve all seen the ads before, right?

I have to admit that early in my sales career, I was wooed by these kinds of classifieds.  The great paradox about them is that in sales, incomes in the coveted 6-figure range are possible, particularly in the rapidly growing senior insurance advisor profession. As I mentioned in last week’s post,  what sets someone earning this type of income apart from someone struggling to earn, is their knowledge of and adherence to a proven system.

Sales is truly a process, and as professionals we need to understand it to be successful.  While an ad like the one above can be misleading, it does do something that every successful sales person does for him or herself: It sets the objective.

Laurence J. Peter, an educator, once said “If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.” I think this is a perfect illustration of the need to understand the opportunity. This also means knowing the number of people who need your product, who can buy your product and, yes, how much you will earn in commission when it all comes together as a result of the sales process.

Oddly, many agents don’t fully understand their commission structures and how to maximize their product portfolio to generate higher income.

Commissions are a complex and sensitive topic because they are vital to a senior insurance advisor’s business model. Be aware that commissions may vary from company to company, product to product and agency to agency. Any discussion on commissions will invite debate and send agents looking for “a few dollars more.” You should view commissions as a total package and not just from a single-product perspective, and you should review commission much like a mutual fund manager views a stock portfolio.

In my 6 Hours to 6 Figures training program, I outline the three-product approach that can help you generate 6 figures for your income:

  1. Life Insurance. Specifically, Final Expense. It provides insurability and affordability to a large segment of the senior population.
  2. Medicare products. Sell Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplements with a best-fit approach for each client.
  3. Hospital Indemnity, a powerful tool of offset the potentially higher copay of many Medicare Advantage plans or as a stand-alone product to help defray the costs of hospitalization under Original Medicare.

While each product can stand on its own and there are one-product agents earning great incomes, the power of this portfolio will help you achieve a higher revenue target with less effort.

Next week, I’ll show you what exactly it takes to generate 6 figures in the senior insurance industry in 12-18 months, even if you are new to the industry.