Join us on Thursday, August 30th, to take part in “Cleaning up the Technology you use in your Medicare business” Q&A session!
This session is for any and all agents and will be centered around all of the technology that
usually makes your life easier. During this Q&A, you’ll have the opportunity to ask our panel of experts the questions you REALLY need answered.
To ask questions and participate, you’ll need the following:
- Access to an internet connection and computer (or mobile)
- A phone or microphone to call in with
- Questions you need answering!
Last week I wrote that referrals maximize your hard-earned Medicare book of business and shared just five of the best ways to stay in touch with your clients as part of your Medicare marketing. This week I’m sharing five more tips that should get you thinking about marketing your Medicare business the way big companies think about their campaigns.
Why do you think big companies spend millions of dollars on TV commercials, newspaper inserts and other promotions? They know that building a successful brand requires a consistent approach to reaching consumers. In our world of information overload, you may not notice most of the ads on the sides of your favorite web sites, print magazine pages or even the ads before the latest viral YouTube video, but some of them are bound to capture your attention. My wife just bought a 20 oz. Coke simply because it had my name on the bottle — part of Coca-Cola’s instantly effective Share A Coke campaign.
Balancing innovation with consistency in messaging is vital to any brand’s success, and that includes your senior insurance business. Having a great product for sale is only a beginning — you have to reach out to consumers with advertising to succeed. It also takes continuous messaging to enter consumers’ consciousness. What if a big brand like Coca-Cola stopped its marketing efforts after the first try? It would have wasted precious time, energy and money. So will you if you don’t commit to marketing your Medicare business!
It’s possible your clients have forgotten you just three weeks after giving you apple pie and ice cream at the kitchen table when you went over Medicare Supplements with them. It’s much more likely they have forgotten about you if the last time you contacted them was your initial appointment last AEP. That’s why you have to conduct your business like the big corporations do — stay in touch!
Think of your business, your products and your clients. What types of ongoing communications yield greater client satisfaction, repeat business and referrals? Here are the next five in My top 10 ways to stay in touch with clients:
7. Connect with social media. OK, so your clients probably shouldn’t be adding you as a friend on Facebook, but they can follow your business and “Like” it. There When used effectively, social media can help you reach clients in innovative new ways. Of course, make sure to keep these outreaches strictly business!
8. Video messages. YouTube, Vimeo and other services make it possible for anyone to present relevant information to a worldwide audience. You can make a message or series of messages that provide greater insight into your products and your services. You can even create your own channel that your clients can watch and refer people to. I know a life insurance agent that does short, information-packed videos to teach his clients about the different forms of insurance. This establishes his credibility and allows new clients a way to get to know him prior to calling.
9. Send emails. We all get more emails than we can read each day. You could use form emails to send to your entire client base through a CRM, but a personal email is more effective. You could send a “thinking of you” email that contains an interesting article. You can also send new product information that attaches all the company bells and whistles to make it compelling and interesting.
10. Conduct a survey. Do you really want to know what your clients think or what they want? You should, because that’s the key to determining how to get them to buy more or refer more people to you. Several online survey platforms like Survey Monkey will allow you to send a simple, short survey and even offer an incentive for their feedback.
As you stay in contact with your clients, not everything you do will be a hit. Some things will miss. What matters is being consistent and being motivated to serve. The effort is worth it, so stay in touch!
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Probably the most effective way to find your next client is by looking to the clients you already have.
Referrals are the Holy Grail of building your Medicare book of business. The credibility and trust you have built with one client automatically transfers to your new one, so you start from a hero status, not at ground zero, if your first client is a raving fan. Closing rates on referrals have always been high, too, which means referrals maximize your investment of time and energy into your business. And yet most agents still don’t ask their clients for referrals!
When I inquire as to why, many feel they haven’t earned or warranted them. They think they haven’t built the connection that establishes the right to ask for and expect referrals. However, communication is the key to building any relationship, and oftentimes it’s the well timed, small outreaches that make us more memorable than any over the top gestures. When you communicate to create raving fans, get repeat business and generate referrals, you are simply making sure you are on the top of their minds when a friend, coworker or relative mentions a problem you can help solve.
Getting referrals is not nearly as hard as some sales people try to make it, but you do have to have a strategy. Here are my top 10 ways to stay in touch with clients:
2. Use a Client Relationship Manager (CRM). Once you have your clients organized and electronically archived, take the next step and upload them into a CRM. This will allow you to conduct specific outreach campaigns, set up reminders and do a host of other structured, “high touch” activities. Free CRM obviously has no cost, but the most robust and agent-focused CRM I’ve seen is the Medicare Sales Engine.
3. Send a Thank You. This is the icebreaker for all your future communications. It sets the stage for elevating your clients to raving fans status. Write them by hand (No rubber stamps!) and include a personal note to make it memorable.
4. Call them after 30, 60 and 90 days. The best time to solidify the sale and the relationship is during the reinforcement phase after the sale. Set yourself up to respond to service issues and product problems when you call and put yourself in the position to get repeat business and referrals. Show your client you care by asking how their family is doing and remember any health issues they may have gone through and needed your assistance with.
5. Remember them on special occasions. Your CRM is fantastic for reminding you about client birthdays, product anniversaries, annual reviews and more. These contacts have to be personal in nature to set them apart from what others are doing.
As you build your year-long strategy, the key is not to saturate your client with frivolous outreach or give them a sales pitch each time. You want to make sure they know you will stay in touch! I’ll share the remaining top 10 items next week.
Last week I encouraged you to build and organize your Medicare book of business. This week I want to show you how a well-organized book of business is the best way to maximize your return on that investment of time and energy.
Let’s be honest — gathering up all of your clients’ information and entering it into an Excel spreadsheet or CRM is tedious and time consuming. For the DIY crowd, I suggest breaking your Medicare book of business down into small pieces by entering 10 clients a day until you’ve included everyone. For agents with an expansive clientele, think about paying a college student or your industrious child a fair hourly rate to do the data entry.
No matter how you do it, your Medicare book of business needs to be organized in order to have the most value to your senior insurance business. The investment of of time, energy and even money you make to get it that way will be returned many times over.
Let me prove it to you:
Did you know that Medicare Advantage carriers can pay you up to a $100 referral fee if you allow them to market to your clients? You don’t have to certify or actually sell the product — just compliantly give them access to your Medicare book of business, and they will do the rest. If you have 300 clients and they sell 100, that’s $10,000 for you. Not bad for no more than a day’s worth of work, right?
What if you leveraged your own Medicare book of business and your “Existing Business Relationship” — defined as such by CMS because you have sold them a legitimate product like final expense or life insurance? If you did compliant outreach to these clients and sold the same 100, your first-year commission could be $30,000 (a combination of initial payments and like-plan changes). That’s three times what you would get for the referral fee!
Want to make it even better? Those 100 people would now be worth about $20,000 a year via annual servicing renewals. Most carriers now pay lifetime renewals, but over the first six-year cycle, your clients would now be worth an additional $120,000 for a total of $150,000 in seven years!
Yes, you still have to complete AHIP (RB Insurance is offering an incredible discount program) if you decide to add Medicare Advantage to your portfolio of products. And yes, you have to complete carrier certifications and learn which products best fit your clients’ needs. That’s all part of running a successful business. It takes time and energy, but you already have the most important element: Clients!
Leverage the hard work you’ve put into securing your clients. Organize your book of business and look for ways to maximize your revenue.
Call RB Insurance at (800) 997 3107 to learn more about quick contracting opportunities for Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplements, Hospital Indemnity and Final Expense. For a limited time, agents can receive 100 percent reimbursement on their 2016 AHIP certification when they make five sales with any Medicare Advantage product this AEP. Learn more here.
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?
When you tell someone you vacationed in Las Vegas, as I recently did with my wife, they inevitably ask if you gambled.
My answer may surprise you: No, I did not gamble. I hate losing money! Instead, I took a blackjack class. I did some research before I put my heard-earned money at risk.
This week, I can’t help but share what I learned in Vegas because of the similarities between how we can play the odds in a game of cards and how agents should approach marketing themselves. In both cases, I’m here to tell you it can pay to place a bet!
My teacher’s name was Tony, and, for some reason, I was the only student for his 15-minute session. He ran me through several scenarios, and, being naturally inquisitive, I asked questions that extended the class to 45 minutes. Armed with basic knowledge, I was more confident about approaching the gambling table.
The little card had numbers all over it — most of them were too small to be read without my reading glasses. The information was invaluable, and I was becoming more comfortable with the game. That little card showed me there was a scientific element to the game.
Now that it was beginning to make sense, I — wait for it — downloaded a blackjack app on my tablet.
Prepare before you spend money
I played over 1,000 hands on the app as I sunbathed with my wife by the resort’s sparkling pool. I tried to use my instincts for the first 500 hands and was down $1,000 on $5 dollar hands. At that point, I hated gambling!
Then I played 500 hands using the $2 card and what Tony taught me in the class. I was up $750 on $5 hands as I split cards, bought insurance and doubled down. At that point, I loved gambling!
What did I do next? I finally walked up to a blackjack table with $50 of chips in hand and sat down.
You can laugh if you want to, but with my preparation and dedication to learning I felt ready to play the odds.
When it comes to marketing your business and spending your hard-earned money, I have one question:
Are you ready to invest your money into a marketing strategy and play the odds?
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!
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