America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) will release their annual Medicare training modules June 22nd for the 2016 sales season. I’ve been involved with Medicare since 1996, so I’m proud to say this will be my 20th campaign as a successful senior insurance advisor!
AHIP has gone through many changes in the past two decades, but one thing that has never changed is the great opportunity waiting for agents who will take it.
October 15 will be here before we all know it, and while some agents will be ready to maximize its great opportunity, others will not. That’s why you should seize the Medicare sales season starting now.
If you’re a new agent, AHIP and everything else an agent needs to take care of before AEP can be daunting. However, I can tell you personally that the career satisfaction and earning possibilities through lifetime renewals far outweigh the effort you will expend.
Whether this is your first AEP or your 20th, your most precious asset is time.
How can you make the most of it? Make a plan and take action.
Planning is vital to sales success during AEP and beyond it if you are looking to sell year-round. Multiple to-do’s will be competing for your time and energy, so having an outlined process is critical.
If you’re a seasoned agent working the Medicare Advantage market, then you already know the drill that is the Annual Enrollment Period, the legally designated sales period for Medicare Advantage. You need to complete AHIP certification, complete various carrier trainings and Continuing Education for licensing; read up on new products to stay current and keep revenue flowing in; do member outreach and education to make sure you don’t lose current clients; engage in CMS-compliant marketing strategies to find new clients and continue to add to your portfolio of products to maximize cross-selling activities.
You can adapt my personal outline below to your specific business approach:
- Begin your AHIP certification the moment it becomes available. It will help you get through most other carrier certifications faster. with less time involved.
- Complete carrier’s certifications and live trainings as soon they are made available, too.
- Organize your clients for outreach and education activity. Are you using a Client Relationship Management (CRM) tool?
- Prepare your Annual Review Letter for an October mailing to your clients (I’ll be posting more about this soon!)
- Conduct plan reviews to identify the strongest in your market.
- Identify your mentor. Who will turn to when questions pop up while you’re in the field?
After you have created your plan you must take action. Make each step simple so you still have time for all your other daily activities. For example, you can do one AHIP training module a day and finish the test by the end of the week. Getting an early start leaves enough time for effort without rushing. It will help you feel organized, which just might keep you from getting frustrated or overwhelmend.
Whatever you decide to do — and how — do not procrastinate.
That simple advice is also the hardest to do, but understand the sales season means nothing if you are not Ready To Sell!
Will you be ready?
Up to now, the first five tools have been what most people would expect — everything from products, training and Lead opportunities. These are the foundation of every successful senior insurance advisor. As my experiences have shown me, it’s these next five tools that separate potential partners from the pack and give you the power to go the extra mile.
6. A Client Relationship Manager (CRM)
How you manage your Book of Business is just as important as writing it to begin with. Sure, the sale you make today is next month’s mortgage, but the key to repeat business, referrals and ongoing renewals from this newly secured client is in how well you serve them. A robust CRM makes the average senior insurance advisor 50 percent better! Higher retention; accurate closing rate (How can everyone be closing 60 percent?); the ability to monitor, measure and manage your precious marketing dollars can all be done with a CRM from your computer, smartphone or tablet. This is the tool of the 21st century, so get on board now!
- Pop Quiz (yes, another one!): Can you produce your Book of Business? Can you separate your clients by product? Can you send out communications and newsletters by email or mail merge to alert clients about annual changes or new products? My straw polling says that less than 10 percent of you can do this. In fact, if your Book of Business is in a heap in the back of your car, you need this tool!
7. Product quoting software
Imagine this scenario: Your client calls to tell you that another Agent has a cheaper life insurance policy, so she’s considering changing to save on premium or increase face value. Do you panic? No, not you! You pull her information down from your CRM, add in some search criteria (Yes, as you talk to her on the phone — impressive, right?), and in a few moments several carrier options appear. You click a button, and the application populates for you to input her information for a face-to-face meeting. Ahh, but you are not done yet. “Ms. Jones, with the saving on the new policy, I can help you with the cost of hospitalization. I know that has been a concern of yours. I can handle them both when I see you next week, okay?”
- Pop Quiz (Last one — I promise!): Are all your quote tables up to date? Are you afraid to quote Medicare Supplements because you have never sold them and don’t understand all the criteria? Do you only have one company (maybe not the best one?) loaded on your smartphone with rates? My straw polling says that you are overwhelmed by all the things that come with accurate product pricing. Wouldn’t it be nice to let your computer, smartphone or tablet tell you?
8. Business submission
Where is your pager? How ’80s is that. What about your fax machine? That tone is going away for business submissions, and sooner rather than later. If you are not tapped into the new business submission methods ranging from online applications to tablet apps, then you are already behind. A few years ago, some carriers paid more for electronic submissions when this action was allowed. In the next few years, senior insurance advisors who can’t submit electronic business will be extinct (Hey, don’t shoot the messenger!). The best partners have tools for seamless and easy to use business submission and training for those who need it. Make no mistake, nothing happens until there is a sale, but be prepared to turn it in a different way. Grow with the times!
9. Commission Reconciliation
If you sell more than a few policies (I hope so!), then you need to make sure you are being paid fairly and accurately. The whole point of what you do is revenue for your family, your needs and desires. The carriers want to be accurate as well (Really, they do!), but sometimes, they need help. Based on the Book of Business pop quiz, most Agents are ill-equipped to fight commission battles since they are unarmed with the right information. Imagine that your CRM had all of your client information that your back office support team could use to help you get paid accurately. Automation is powerful and is the key to ensuring you get what you have earned. Lifetime renewals for some products make this mandatory!
10. Industry Updates and Insight
Do you know what Congress is doing right now (No, not a trick question!) or what changes may occur within the various products we represent as senior insurance advisors? I pride myself on staying abreast and reading everything I can but the changes move faster than I can. Case in point, many Medicare Advantage Agents didn’t know they were not going to be paid on AEP sales in January until December. Yikes! This stuff isn’t always sexy, but as Tom Cruise says in the movie The Firm, “It has teeth!” As a professional with clients and renewals to protect, it is your responsibility to remain connected and stay in the loop. The best partners help you do that with relevant communications that boil the environment down to the vital information!
Are you looking for a good partner? A value-add FMO or Agency? Then you need to take this list and ask them how many of them they do and make them prove it! If I were beginning a partnership and wanted to ensure mutual success, these Top 10 Tools of the 6-Figure Senior Insurance Advisors would be non-negotiable “must haves.”
Be encouraged! There are good partners out there who are loaded with best-in-class tools.
Until next time, I wish you Money, Power, Success!