Medicare enrollment is on the rise, and it shows no signs of slowing. Consider this: It is projected that the 65+ population will double in size by 2030 when it will reach 71.5 million, and by 2050 it will be over 86 million.1 With this growth in Medicare buyers, no one should be surprised that an increasing number of consumers are looking for supplemental coverage to bridge the gaps left by Medicare.
The need to effectively educate and engage consumers has never been greater. At the end of last year, we conducted consumer research to learn more about how the senior population navigates the health insurance decision-making process, and what level of engagement exists between them and insurance agents.
This research was a follow-up to a qualitative consumer study we conducted in 2013 that evaluated Medicare Supplement insurance buyers and non-buyers (see more details at end of article). For the recent study, our researchers tested some initial findings from the 2013 research in which we categorized buyers as “Info-Takers” or “Info-Seekers.”
Topics we explored through this latest study included consumer engagement with agents and the role the agent plays in the decision-making process, the health insurance education process, and when and how consumers evaluate their coverage options. In this article, we discuss what we found to be some of the most useful takeaways.
Conducted in December 2014, our research targeted two distinct groups of consumers:
Participants were obtained through a national survey panel. Responses were collected via telephone and online and were weighted based on Internet usage levels and leveraging Pew Research statistics. All participants were U.S. residents and had health insurance coverage beyond Medicare Part A and/or Part B, with additional coverage of either Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement insurance.
Key Survey Findings
Agents’ Influence on the Plan Selection Process
Nearly 60% of consumers surveyed shared that they received assistance from a professional. Surprisingly, 56% had already made their decision on whether or not to enroll in Medicare prior to receiving assistance from a professional. However, many may have selected a different option after meeting with the agent.
For those that received assistance with the decision-making process, fewer than 20% of them were contacted without having any prior conversation with that agent. The majority - nearly 40% - selected an agent based on a recommendation from a family member or friend. Referrals also came from former employers, physicians or financial planners.
Only about 20% of consumers said they connected with their agent by responding to an advertisement or mailer. This was an interesting finding considering the deluge of marketing materials sent to consumers upon turning age 65.
In our 2013 consumer study, we found that individuals received so many marketing mailers about Medicare Supplement insurance options that they only paid attention to the first few received and then tossed the majority of them in the trash without reading them.
When deciding which health insurance option to select, 31% of participants reported wanting a high degree of assistance from a professional. Those that sought support were looking for help in a variety of areas including:
About 30% of consumers said they looked for considerable or high-level assistance across all of these areas. [See Exhibit A]
Exhibit A. Percentage Reporting They Desire Considerable or High Level of Assistance in Selecting a Medicare Supplement Plan
Unfortunately, nearly a third of consumers that indicated they were seeking a high degree of assistance did not end up working with a professional at all. These individuals either didn’t know where to turn for help, or chose to seek advice from family or friends rather than a professional. Individuals with this profile would therefore be excellent candidates for outreach by agents as they aren’t receiving the level of assistance they seem to desire.
Agents’ Influence on Buying Decisions
Our data shows that the majority of the time agents clearly influence consumers’ buying decisions regarding a Medicare Supplement plan.
For example, among the cohort of consumers who felt they needed a lot of direction/advice on which plan to select (and for whom an agent made a recommendation 72% of the time), they reported going with that plan nearly 95% of the time. Those consumers went with that plan 94% of the time. Even with those individuals who felt they already knew or had a strong idea about which plan they wanted, agents made recommendations 60% of the time, and once again, the recommended plan was selected the majority (88%) of the time.
The same holds true when selecting which company to choose for purchasing Medicare Supplement insurance coverage. Consumers who felt they needed a lot of direction/advice were offered a recommendation 62% of the time, and they selected the company recommended 92% of the time. For those who felt they already knew or had a strong idea of which company they would select, agents gave a recommendation just under 50% of the time, and the consumers opted for that choice 93% of the time. [See Exhibit B]
Exhibit B. Influence of Agent Recommendation When Selecting a Company for Medicare Supplement Insurance
We dug deeper into the agent influence data and found a difference between when the consumer initiated contact after receiving an advertisement and when the agent initiated contact. When consumers initiated the contact with the agent, they opted for the carrier with the lowest cost option more often than when they had received a referral or if the agent had contacted them directly. We also learned that when the consumer was referred to the agent, which occurred most often, the majority of the time (nearly 60%) these individuals selected the company with a reasonably priced option, but not the lowest. [See Exhibit C]
This could indicate that consumers who initiated contact with the agent had already done research on which plan they wanted, and had determined their best options from the various companies available.
Exhibit C. How the Selected Insurance Company Compared to Other Companies Offering Medicare Supplement Plans
Another significant result we found was that when consumers had received no previous assistance at all from an agent, they were far more likely to select a company they’ve used before. About half of participants indicated this, and another 45% reported they selected a company that they were aware of but had never used. Interestingly, when an agent provided assistance, consumers were more likely to select a previously unknown company.
Customer Communication Preferences
Among those that met with a professional, over 65% had a one-on-one meeting. While consumers appear to prefer in-person contact, agents seem to be missing opportunities during those meetings to advise their clients on other insurance products that may be of interest. In fact nearly 80% of respondents shared that they do not work with the agent to purchase any other product.
In addition, nearly half (46%) of consumers reported that their health insurance agent had not kept in contact with them once they sold the policy. However, when asked how often consumers wanted to be in touch with their agents, the majority (46%) said at their policy anniversary date. About a third reported wanting to be contacted with important updates.
Very few, only 12%, said they never wanted to be contacted. Even for those who had kept in contact, over 50% of consumers, not their agents, initiated the contact with the agent at their first anniversary date. [See Exhibit D]
Exhibit D. Preferred Level of Contact With Original Agent
Of those that prefer to have an ongoing relationship with their agent, nearly 70% said they prefer contact by telephone or email. Apparently, this is an area where agents are not meeting their customers’ needs.
We also asked participants ages 66–75 if they had changed their Medicare Supplement plan selections or switched companies since they originally purchased their coverage. We were surprised by their responses - less than 30% had made a change to their coverage since turning 65 and selecting Medicare. The older segment of this group (those ages 71–75) were more likely than the younger group (65–70) to have done so.
Even more surprising was that the consumers, not agents, had initiated this switch - nearly 60% of the time. According to our findings, agents initiated the switch less than 10% of the time. While consumers appear to be driving these decisions to switch companies, agents definitely can help them understand how they compare.
Consumers clearly value recommendations provided by agents concerning Medicare Supplement plans, regardless of whether they initiated the contact with the agent or not. They prefer to have an ongoing relationship with the agent and are looking for the agent to stay connected with a phone call or email at the anniversary date, or with important updates to share.
Referrals from family members, friends, physicians and financial advisors are the more common ways that consumers get connected to agents. Therefore, we believe that maintaining strong relationships with consumers after the initial sale is the best way for agents to secure new business opportunities.
While agents do not appear to drive consumers’ decisions to switch plans or companies, when consumers are considering if they want to make a change, agents are helpful in comparing the options. When making a decision to switch, consumers were more likely to choose a lower cost option.
Another way agents help consumers to make decisions is to introduce them to companies that are not familiar to them. The likelihood of consumers selecting an unfamiliar company for coverage increases if an agent makes the recommendation. We will share other findings from this survey in the coming weeks in blog posts and webinars.
Findings Compared to 2013 Study
Our latest quantitative study supports a variety of findings from our initial consumer research on seniors. For example, some consumers, also known as “Info-Seekers,” are far more likely to follow a do-it-yourself approach when researching health insurance options after age 65. These individuals will drive the decision-making process but still value agents’ recommendations.
We saw a strong tendency for these individuals to be healthy, and healthier consumers are less likely to desire a high level of agent assistance.
Overall, agent involvement in the decision-making process is valued when consumers are selecting which plan and which company for purchasing their coverage, and they are less likely than unhealthy consumers to review their health insurance options every year. The data also indicates that this group of consumers received a higher level of formal education and has higher household incomes.
Medicare Blog | Medicare News | Medicare Information
Blah, blah, blah.
Let’s face it — that’s what many sales presentations sound like. If you’ve been on the customer side of one, all you can think of is when it will end. And if you are on the selling side of the table, you might be thinking the same thing.
The way to convert a painful sales process into a powerful, productive conversation is to ask questions. Not just getting-to-know-you questions, although they are important. But getting at the probing questions that provoke deep thought and produce real answers for clients’ problems.
Questions are the cornerstone to building trust that leads to business, according to Andrew Sobel. He has made strategies to build trusted business relationships his life’s work. He has written eight best-selling books on the subject, such as Building C-Suite Relationships, Clients for Life, Power Relationships and Power Questions. He has also published more than 150 articles and contributed chapters to four books on leadership, strategy and marketing.
Andrew has worked for more than 30 years as a strategy advisor to senior management and an executive educator and coach. He has had many of the world’s leading companies as clients, such as Citigroup, Experian, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Towers Watson, UBS, Lloyds Banking Group, Ernst & Young, and Deloitte.
What he has learned and taught is that the best way to become trusted is to draw out clients’ or prospects’ deepest concerns or dreams. Who wouldn’t want to be that kind of agent and advisor? And the best route there is through the right questions.
In this interview with Publisher Paul Feldman, although Andrew is not only doing the answering, he is also presenting some provocative questions that can improve just about anybody’s sales game.
FELDMAN: Why are power questions important?
SOBEL: It’s because the sales environment has changed. I say this not just as someone who studies this and trains lots of professionals, but as someone who is a target for lots of people who want to connect with me and sell me things. Sophisticated buyers want to feel like buyers and not like they’re being sold to. People want to feel like they’re buyers because they’re educated now. Anything we want to buy, we go on the Internet and we research it. So, when I walk into Best Buy, as good as some of their salespeople are, frankly I often know more about what they’re selling than they do. People really want to feel like a buyer, and questions are a great way to do that. It’s a fundamental part of the way you do business with clients.
FELDMAN: Many people believe that they win sales by being quick on their feet and saying the right thing the right way. But you say that knowing the right questions is far more important to connect and persuade. Would you explain that?
SOBEL: Of course you have to be extremely knowledgeable about your subject matter and your products. But what makes people stop and listen is not when you are lecturing them or pushing something on them, citing all the benefits of a particular product. It’s when clients or prospects think a little differently because of the thought-provoking questions you are asking.
Consider the greatest thinkers in history. Think of Socrates, who of course developed the Socratic method of teaching by asking questions. Or people like Einstein, who had a very childlike sense of curiosity. Or people like Peter Drucker, who is considered the greatest management thinker of the 20th century.
Peter Drucker had five questions he asked his CEO clients. Whenever a leadership team would come out to California to meet with Drucker for a workshop, he would walk them through five questions that he had developed.
Our greatest thinkers were all more focused on the questions that surface the important issues so that we’re talking about the right things. If you step back, you realize you can really come across as wise and experienced when you are asking good questions.
FELDMAN: You said that you could overcome anything if you ask why. What did you mean by that?
SOBEL: By way of background, the idea around “why” was developed by Toyota. The company’s founder, [Sakichi] Toyoda, told his engineers they can diagnose any quality problem by asking “why” five times. Those were Toyota’s five whys. The point is when someone tells you something, usually there’s a higher-level issue that you really want to connect to.
So, if a client says, “I want to set aside some money for my children’s college,” it may seem ridiculous to ask them why they want to do that. But you may want to ask him to tell you a little more about that: “Why did you decide to do that now? How does this fit into your overall thinking about the responsibilities that you want to have when you finally retire?” There are always bigger issues above the specific request or the specific desire.
So, “why” can be a very important question, but you have to be careful with it. Why can come across as critical, carping or disapproving. You need to ask it with the right demeanor.
Anyone reading this who has teenagers knows that as soon as you ask them “Why they did something, usually you’re saying, why did you do such a dumb thing? What were you thinking?”
But used the right way, “why” can be a powerful question. It broadens it from a technical discussion about alternatives for saving for college to perhaps a larger discussion about that person’s goals and where they see themselves going.
FELDMAN: What are some “Power Questions” you recommend to break the ice and create new relationships?
SOBEL: First of all, let’s recognize that there’s a process. At one end, you meet someone for the first time. And at the other end, that has developed into a relationship where they’re a client. Obviously, a lot of things happen between those points, so we have to break it down.
Your best friend, especially at the early stage, is curiosity. It’s a genuine abiding curiosity about other people. I like to start out with some icebreaker questions that are not going to be too deep and won’t upset anyone. An icebreaker question could be as simple as “Who are you?” or “Why did you come?” or “What’s your connection with this event?” that tells me what sort of business you’re in.
You’re just breaking the ice, but you’re making it about the other person. Always remember that the process goes something like this: We build some initial rapport that may lead to an additional meeting or additional points of contact, which creates familiarity, which may create likeability, which leads to trust, and then that can be the basis for a business transaction.
FELDMAN: What’s the next step after you break the ice?
SOBEL: At some point, this conversation is going to shift to what you do, and here’s where it’s important to be able to describe that in a compelling way.
Someone can say, “I’m an insurance agent,” or they could frame that as a more appealing value proposition. Because if someone says to me, “I’m an insurance agent,” my first thought is probably going to be that I have all the insurance I need. So, I am thinking “It’s nice to meet you, but I don’t see a business relationship here.”
You can frame that differently around security or risk reduction and say: “I help people retire faster so that they can enjoy the things they want to do in life outside of work.”
That’s something just to think about because what you’re trying to do is get the other person engaged and excited. To get relationships and then drive those relationships toward possible business, you have to learn a little bit about the other person’s agenda. What are their top three to five important professional priorities and their three to five personal priorities?
FELDMAN: Should you be addressing and uncovering their professional and personal priorities every time you speak?
SOBEL: Absolutely. But you don’t do this all in one conversation over cocktails.
I want to know their priorities because what I do may or may not be very relevant to their concerns. So, I’m trying to surface their concerns and learning something about what’s important in their lives. On the other hand, I want them to understand what I do and how I help people.
It’s going to be the marriage of those two that ultimately leads to a business relationship as opposed to just a nice-to-know-you relationship where you send a Christmas card every year. I do this by gently asking questions.
FELDMAN: How do you move from the initial conversation to a meeting?
SOBEL: In order to pique their curiosity about meeting with you, you have to establish your credibility that you do some really interesting things for people just like them. One way to do that is to ask what I call a credibility-building question.
I don’t know the exact credibility-building question for insurance, but I would be asking something like, “A number of my clients who have large families like yours have looked at the following strategy as a very powerful way to dramatically reduce state taxes. I’m curious, is that something you’ve looked at?”
I state an observation, often referring to what other clients of mine are doing, and then I turn to a question. The credibility part is the observation that several of my clients have undertaken this type of strategy in order to achieve a goal. Then the question is “Is that something you’ve considered?”
You build curiosity and, of course, curiosity is your most powerful tool in the sales process.
FELDMAN: How do you turn a pitch into a highly engaged collaborative working session?
SOBEL: Most busy people don’t like to sit down and be presented to. They want to have a conversation. If you’re going to pitch a proposal to a client, think about it as having a conversation together. We’re going to have a conversation about this issue as opposed to my needing to pitch them on this proposal and walk them through every single aspect of it.
So, for example, I often will start a meeting by saying, “Our agenda today was to talk about this proposal, but from your perspective, what are the most important issues on your mind that you want to make sure we cover?”
I think most people don’t do a good enough job of letting the client define where they’d like to focus the conversation. With one simple question, they’ll quickly say they read the proposal and what their concern is. It’s better to address that than waste half an hour of their time lavishly going through the slides of the spreadsheets that you’ve prepared.
Sometimes when I see a client, I’ll say, “I know we’ve got our little agenda here, but from your perspective what’s the most important issue we should be discussing this morning?”
The other thing I do early on is test for urgency, because people have lots of issues. They have lots of concerns, but I always want to focus in on the ones that have the highest level of urgency. It could be as simple as, “Where would you position doing this among your priorities right now?” or “What is your timing on this?”
FELDMAN: What are some questions to get a deeper understanding of a client?
SOBEL: You might ask questions that increase personal understanding. Those kinds of questions often aren’t covered in sales training methodologies because increasing personal understanding doesn’t specifically have to do with the sales opportunity. It comes under the category of building trust and rapport with the person.
One question I like to ask is, “Wow! You’ve accomplished a great deal in your career. I’m just curious, is there still something you’d like to accomplish? Is there some dream you still have right now?”
I’ve asked some very senior executives that question and gotten incredible answers that help me understand them and help create additional opportunities to work with them.
FELDMAN: What are some other tips for connecting with the C suite?
SOBEL: One of the relationship laws in my book Power of Relationships is to walk in the other person’s shoes. If I’m meeting with a C-suite executive I’m thinking about what pressures they are under. The fact is, C-suite executives, people in senior leadership positions, are under a different set of pressures.
Turnover in those positions has accelerated. They’re time-starved. They’re under enormous pressure to perform. They’re struggling to balance their family life and their work life. And so you have to understand what that’s like.
In a C-suite meeting, focus on adding value for time. For top executives, their very first question to themselves is, “Am I going to get value out of taking half an hour out of my day to meet with you?” You’ve got to have a very clear value proposition about what piques their curiosity to spend that time with you.
The next thing is to walk in as an equal. If you walk in with your head stooped and you’re shaking their hands and saying, “Oh my goodness, thank you for your time. I know how busy you are. Thank you so much. I don’t know how you managed to make time in your busy day.”
I’m exaggerating, of course, but you have to walk in as an equal, which means you’re neither looking up to them nor looking down at them. You’re treating them as a peer or a friend. You’re not overly familiar, but you’re there as a peer because you’ve got very valuable knowledge that is going to help them. I think the third thing is it’s important to understand that C-suite executives tend to process information in very short chunks.
Most C-suite executives don’t have the patience for a long drawn-out introductions as in someone spending five, 10, 15 minutes talking about something. They process things in three- or four-minute bits.
You want to have an opening hook just the way a great rock song does. Think about the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction, which of course dates me, but it’s still a popular song. You know you have that great Keith Richards guitar hook that starts it out. Or the Beatles Help! You know the song starts out with this enormous cry for help.
You also want to be memorable in a meeting with a top executive because they meet with people all day. You might be the 50th person they’ve talked to that day, and you want to be memorable. You want them to say, “He asked me some interesting questions that no one else is asking me.”
You’ve got to take some risks. When you meet with a C-suite executive, if you play not to lose, you lose. You have to play to win. You’ve got to be a little bolder because if you go in and you’re like, “Oh my God, we’ve got this meeting with the CEO of this company,” your tendency is often to play it safe, be anodyne, not rock the boat and not ask him too many challenging questions. That’s often a losing proposition.
So, for example, in my context a challenge question might go something like this: A CEO might say, “Well, Andrew, we’re growing our client relationships 5 percent year in and year out.” I might come back and say, “That sounds good but some of my clients are achieving 10 percent. Do you think 5 percent is the best you can do?” I’ll ask challenging questions like that.
FELDMAN: Do you have any insight into what might be a challenge question in insurance or finance for an executive?
SOBEL: Top executives are always interested to know what other people are doing and what’s going on in the marketplace. So it’s being able to summarize very powerfully the critical things that have happened in the past 18 months that they need to know.
I’ll give you an example. I talked to some lawyers because my wife and I were redoing some of our estate-planning. One of the lawyers said, “Well, Andrew, let me summarize for you some of the trends in estate-planning among people like you who have your kinds of needs and family.” He rattled off about five things. I read a lot and I’m pretty educated, but he told me a few new things. That drew my interest It was a great credibility-builder.
FELDMAN: What are some good closing questions?
SOBEL: I’ll give you one that I don’t think you should ask — one that starts on a negative. This guy wrote years ago that his killer question to ask at the end of a meeting was, “What question haven’t I asked you that I should have?”
I think the clients are too sophisticated for that today. Because what that question is doing is trying to say, “We’re really on the same side here and let me move my chair over to the same side of the desk as you and could you give me some advice on being a better salesperson?”
I don’t mean to be flip, but that’s a question I occasionally hear and I think it’s outlived its usefulness. I would be careful about cutesy things like that.
I would also be careful of presumptive close questions. I think you earn the business by adding value and showing how you can solve important challenges for the client.
I don’t like presumptive close questions like, “Is there anything getting in the way of your signing this today?” There are all kinds of questions like that. Or “For the next meeting, would you like to meet at 9 a.m. on Wednesday or would 4 p.m. on Friday be better for you?” Maybe I’m different from a lot of people, but to me I like being in control and that’s trying to take the control away from me.
FELDMAN: Those tactics can seem forced and controlling. But what do you recommend to make sure you get the next meeting?
SOBEL: The goal of every meeting is to get another meeting until you close. You create the follow-on by evoking their curiosity that you might be able to help do something unique for them or help them with something.
At the end of a conversation, I have a couple of techniques. One is more traditional, which is to say something like, “Based on this conversation, I get the sense that there are a couple of areas where you may have a need. I’d like to suggest as a follow-on that I prepare an analysis for you around issue X or issue Y that I think would help you make a better decision about it.” You suggest a follow-up step.
But the other way is to give control to the client. It’s a little riskier, but it can create “reach.” That is when they’re reaching toward you as opposed to sitting back in their chair and saying, “OK, show me how brilliant you are.”
It might be as simple as, “We’ve talked about three things today, A, B and C. From your perspective what would be a good follow-up to this discussion?” Now some salespeople may be nervous about leaving it open-ended. In the worst case, the prospect might say, “I really don’t think I have a need.”
That’s possible. Or they might say they aren’t really sure. That’s a very different position than being aggressive and pushing something on them. They’re now reaching toward you, and that’s where I want the person to be. I want them leaning toward me, saying this was a helpful discussion and that they’d like to talk again.
I would just caution people against being overly scripted and sounding like they’ve got this list of memorized questions. Buyers your readers are calling on are much more sophisticated than they used to be. The salesman’s job used to be to inform people and give them product knowledge at the beginning.
Now it’s actually problem-solving. It’s “Tell me what you’re trying to accomplish. Tell me your goals.” Then it’s helping solve the problem and create alternatives.
The No. 1 relationship law in Power Relationships is based on great conversations. It’s not one person showing the other how much they know.
That’s a two-way conversation as opposed to showing them how much you know about the insurance business or how much you know about financial planning.
So, we could leave it with that. You want to have a great conversation with someone that informs them, educates them, gets them interested and advances their thinking.
And it all starts with questions.
The 2015 Medicare Trustees report was released last week with the news that the long-term outlook of Medicare has improved overall. It has already been reported by several sources that Part B premiums are projected to increase by 52%, but what hasn’t yet been reported is that the same section of the report also projects that the Part B deductible will also increase by 52%. This could mean a double-whammy for many seniors who will end up paying a higher premium for their Part B coverage, and also end up paying more out-of-pocket costs in order to meet their deductible.
The projected increase in the Part B deductible also impacts Medicare Supplement carriers, and CSG Actuarial is working with many of their clients to analyze what the impact will be to Medicare Supplement claim costs for 2016, as well as how it translates to rate adjustments being filed here in the next several months.
CSG Actuarial estimates that the increase in the Part B deductible would lead to 4% higher Plan F claim costs in 2016 (this is compared to no increase in the Part B deductible, excluding all other medical trends, and is based on age 70 claim costs). This increase, combined with normal medical trends could mean Plan F claim costs could be 8% higher in 2016. Will carriers file for 2016 rate adjustments to match the claim cost increase, or will they take a longer term approach?
Other Medicare Supplement plans, such as Plan G, will be affected differently than Plan F. Since Plan G does not pay the Part B deductible, but does pay the Part B coinsurance amount, the claim costs associated with Part B payments may actually be down slightly overall.
Table V.E2 of the Trustees report shows the 2016 Part B deductible is projected to increase to $223 per year, which is up from $147 per year in 2015. The large projected increase in the Part B deductible is due to the projected increase in the Part B premiums (from $104.90 to $159.30 per month) which is caused by the hold-harmless provision in the law and the expected 0% cost-of-living adjustment to Social Security.
It will be interesting to watch how Medicare Supplement carriers respond to this projected Part B deductible increase. Though the Part B deductible is not officially determined until closer to the start of 2016, many Medicare Supplement carriers are already beginning to file rate increases for 2016 effective dates.
The big unknown is whether the cost-of-living adjustment for social security will ultimately be set at 0% as expected, or if a positive cost-of-living adjustment will be implemented. Unfortunately for carriers filing 2016 rate adjustments in the next few months, there is no way to know, and they will have to make decisions based on what is projected today.
Succeeding as an insurance agent means making use of the best available tech toys.
From keeping business data accessible to having client contact information at your fingertips, technology augments success. Choosing a few exceptional apps and putting them to work for your business may result in a marked positive impact on revenues. Beyond that, apps are great for saving time (and maintaining your sanity during busy workdays).
Characterized by PCMag.com as “…multipurpose note-taking and organization program [that] couldn't get any more useful,” EverNote offers a lot to busy insurance professionals. Creating and maintaining a successful insurance business involves constantly developing new and constantly refreshing existing client relationships. It also requires gathering and organizing scads of information. EverNote functions as the ultimate professional organizer, enabling users to:
With Evernote, users can capture data through photos, including business cards, and then do text searches within the photos. However, here is the kicker: all the information gathered through the app is downloadable to computers and the Internet, in addition to sharing through mobile devices. Perhaps that’s why devoted users use words and phrases such as “brilliant” and “feature-packed.”
2. Dragon Dictation
Many people claim they do some of their best, most creative thinking when sitting…in their car, stuck in traffic. Imagine turning a smartphone into the perfect assistant, one that can not only interpret your musings, but also translate them into text, whether for social media posts, emails, or notes and reminders. Dragon Dictation allows you to work (safely) while driving, walking, or even working out.
Dragon Dictation is virtually hands-free (you must tap the screen to start and stop dictation). It transcribes speech up to five times quicker than it takes to type out on a keyboard. Users laud its amazing accuracy and ease of use. For insurance agents, that means creating follow-up emails while in the car returning from an important meeting, or creating notes immediately after an initial meeting with a potential client.
For an industry that still relies on a lot of paperwork, DocuSign may prove revolutionary. It makes it possible for anyone to sign documents online from almost any device. DocuSign entails a three-step process:
The signatures are legally valid, but the app offers additional signature verification options by linking to DocuSign ID cards (note that this service may incur additional charges).
Reviews on Google’s app store mention DocuSign’s ease of use, convenience, and helpful features. With many businesses trying to go “paperless,” digital signature capability is a must. DocuSign provides quick client interactions despite different locations, increases revenues by quickly obtaining signed policies, and increases form completeness and accuracy.
4. QQ Catalyst
There are many document and client management mobile apps available. Addressing another component of successful agencies, QQ Catalyst offers five ways their app helps successful insurance agencies:
Since QQ Catalyst can be accessed from almost any device, you have immediate access to client records and policies from just about anywhere.
5. iQ Agents
Chances are that you spend a fair amount of money on online leads. Making the most of results provided by lead generators involves moving quickly and effectively when a new lead comes in.
Specialized apps that generate alerts regarding new leads make quick response possible, regardless of whether or not you are at your desk. One example is iQ Agents, the mobile component of Insurance Quotes lead generating services. It permits users quick access to information on incoming leads. Beyond that, it grants access to InsuranceQuotes.com account features.
The future of the insurance industry is mobile
Technology is an incredible tool for creating and keeping insurance business. At all stages of the process, there are apps that provide great support. Even if you are an aspiring insurance agent, there is an app for you. Life & Health Agent Prep helps prepare you for insurance licensing exams through multiple choice sample questions and flashcards that you can access at any time, for as long a time as you wish.
It’s no secret that as a business you need to stay top-of-mind with your clients so that they can give you that sweet repeat business and even sweeter referral business — truly the gift that keeps on giving. Being excellent at what you do helps you attract new clients, but there’s a lot that you can and should be doing to set yourself up for referrals. Getting the ask or the timing wrong can mean losing your chance, so having a plan is essential.
Most business owners realize that referrals are critical to their bottom line. Adweek.com shared a survey that found that for B2B brands, referrals converted two times better than websites or social media. A Nielsen study found that 92 percent of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising — an increase of 18 percent since 2007.
It’s no wonder experts say that referrals can be more beneficial to your success than advertising. Easier said than done, you say? We get it. We’ve all been there. You ask a client for referrals only to get an empty promise to follow up, or even a straight-up no. But know this: you are in control of the process and results of your referral ask.
Before you can ask for referrals, you must realize how important referrals are to your business, then commit to prioritizing them. Put the work in so that you can maximize your results; you’ll be glad you did.
Referrals don’t just happen.
Asking customers for referrals must become part of your routine. It must be a consistent business practice that becomes a natural part of your daily work. But before you make your first referral ask, you need to develop a strategy.
Author, trainer and former financial adviser Frank Maselli says many people use archaic techniques or just awkwardly ask clients for names. Instead, Maselli recommends changing the conversation and reframing your ask so you don’t sound like you’re requesting a favor. David Finkel, author of “Scale: 7 Proven Principles to Grow Your Business and Get Your Life Back,” says when most businesses talk about referrals, they are referring to word-of-mouth referrals, or what he calls “passive referrals.” Instead, Finkel recommends an active referral strategy.
Before you get started, take a look at a few of the popular resources we’ve created for what to do (and not do) when asking for referrals:
The first step in developing your strategy is to decide which type of referrals are best for your business by assessing what has and hasn’t worked for you and similar businesses in the past. There are three types of referrals:
Keep in mind that word-of-mouth referrals are great, but for many industries, the power of an online referral can be more visual and permanent. Remember that 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
You will, of course, need to customize your strategy to your business’ specific requirements, but it’s helpful to begin with some best business practices in mind. Joanne Black, author of “Pick Up the Damn Phone,” offers the following advice:
Timing is key.
There are no absolutes when it comes to timing except this one thing: your customer must be completely satisfied with your services or product. There are no referrals without happy customers. Asking an unhappy customer for a referral isn’t just a waste of time — it could further damage your reputation with them and their networks.
Getting the timing right can be tricky. Asking too early can make a bad impression, and asking too late can mean your request gets ignored. Experts say that the right time to ask for referrals varies by industry. The Small Business Administration advises business owners to: “Ask for referrals at a time when the customer is in a mood to give them.” While that’s true, it varies a bit from customer to customer. You want to be sure your customer is in a good mood, so catch them at a point when they’re satisfied with your service and are not in the throes of buyer’s remorse.
Ray Sliverstein calls referrals “the number-one tool in your tool kit. “Get in the habit of reaching for it often–say, as often as you might glance at your watch.” Silverstein advises businesses to follow up after the transaction with a thank you and a question: “Do you know anyone else who can benefit from my services?” Silverstein also recommends that when you begin working with a new customer, bring up referrals early. You could mention that you have a profile on Yelp, for example, or give the customer a few extra business cards to give to friends who might need your help.
In his Inc.com article, Finkel suggests creating referral systems, including a script that requests referrals at the point of purchase; as soon as the customer makes the purchase, thank them for their business and ask for the names of two people who would also benefit from their service. Another of his ideas is a “gift for your friend” campaign that uses gift certificates for the customer’s friends after the transaction is complete.
Referral strategies vary, but an analysis of the advice experts give shows that the best time to ask for referrals is immediately after your successful transaction with them is complete.
For a real estate agent, this could mean getting permission from your client for a Facebook post of a congratulatory photo of you at closing on your new dream home. This way, all of the client’s friends and their friends see your success, and those who need your service can easily find you.
For more transactional businesses, like HVAC repair, plumbers, salons, spas, etc., offering a small discount for a quick Yelp or Google review before a customer pays would be an easy way to get the word out to people who are searching for your service — and reputation — online.
Obtain a referral in 3 easy steps.
Here is how the experts say you get it done, step-by-step:
Step 1: Do your homework. Determine what has worked for your business and others like yours. You could ask your client for referrals before or after you complete your work. You could send an email immediately after your transaction including an easy way to post a review on a social media site or other website.
Step 2: Deliver exceptional service, ensuring that your customer is happy — so happy that they will share their love for you with their friends.
Step 3: The moment a customer compliments you, accept the compliment and thank them, then make your referral ask. Be polite and direct. Make it easy for them, and thank them for their business — and referrals.
Bringing it all together, it’s important to remember a few things about referrals. First, you are the driving force behind your own success. Do good work and be specific about what you want from your clients. Second, time your ask appropriately. Make sure that your job really is done. And lastly, make it a habit. The more you do it, the more natural this process will be in the future.
Anthem will acquire Cigna for $188 per share, the health insurance companies said Friday. The deal, including Cigna's debt, will be worth $54.2 billion. It is the largest-ever health insurance transaction and part of the mass-scale merger race that is fundamentally changing the industry and fueling concerns over costs and competition.
The definitive agreement comes a little more than a month after Anthem went public with an offer of $184 per share, which Cigna rejected. The two sides had sharp disagreements over who would lead the combined company, which will have $115 billion of revenue, and if Anthem would receive approval from its sponsor, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
Industry analysts have pointed out several advantages to an industry consolidation.
A larger insurer can gain more leverage and negotiating power to use in hashing out rates with care providers. However, the two mega deals announced this month are going to be scrutinized heavily by regulators, who want to ensure that they do not gain so much power that they can dominate the market.
The impact these big acquisitions have on consumers likely won't be felt for at least a year, because insurers have already finalized most of their plans for coverage that starts in January. A combination may lead to fewer choices and some price changes for consumers, depending on where they live and who already is in their market.
Anthem's combination with Cigna will result in a company with a much broader base over which to spread costs and expenses, and it could make technology investments over the industry's biggest customer pool.
Data and technology are playing a growing role in monitoring patients and care. At a very basic level, that means things like tracking whether patients are keeping up with their immunizations.
Insurers also are trying to give consumers better information on the cost and quality of the care they buy, based on their coverage. Deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs have been rising for years. That leaves a growing number of consumers with bigger bills to pay before most of their insurance coverage starts, so it can encourage more to shop around.
Anthem officials have noted that a Cigna deal will help build their company's Medicare Advantage enrollment in states like Texas and Florida. Medicare Advantage plans are privately run, fast-growing versions of the federally-funded program for people over age 65 and the disabled.
Anthem, based in Indianapolis, is currently the nation's second-largesthealth insurer, while Cigna ranks fourth in terms of enrollment. Anthem Inc. specializes in selling individual coverage and insurance to workers of small businesses. It also has grown its government business, which includes Medicare, Medicaid and coverage of federal employees.
Health insurance is Cigna Corp.'s main business, but it also sells group disability and life coverage in the U.S., and it has a growing international segment that Anthem lacks. Much of Cigna's health insurance business involves coverage where the employer pays the claims and then hires Cigna to administer the plan, a growing and less-profitable form of coverage in employer-sponsored health care.
The deal is targeted to close in the second half of 2016. Cigna stockholders still need to approve the agreement, and Anthem shareholders need to approve the issuance of shares in the transaction.
Anthem stockholders will own about 67 percent of the combined company, with Cigna shareholders owning approximately 33 percent.
The Anthem board will expand to 14 members. Cigna's President and CEO David Cordani and for independent directors from Cigna's current board will join the nine current members of Anthem's board.
Cordani will serve as president and chief operating officer of the combined business, with Anthem's Joseph Swedish as chairman and CEO.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
While the definition of success may be debatable, most people would agree that the leaders of companies getting good traction have likely garnered some measure of it. Want to know how high achievers get to the top? Here are quotes from 20 founders and CEOs on the daily habits that help them get more out of business and life.
1. Prioritize a daily to-do list.
I've got a running task list called "near-term," which contains things that I want to get done during the next one to two weeks. Every morning over coffee, I pull from that list to build a task list called "today." I make a commitment in the morning to clear this and make sure to deliver at the end of each day.
--Sean Duffy, CEO of Omada Health, a digital-therapeutics company that was selected by Fast Company as one of "The World's 50 Most Innovative Companies."
2. Remember names.
Not just staff members but also their spouses, kids, and even pets, if appropriate. Obviously I don't interrogate people for these names, but as they come up in conversation, I try to make a mental note. It helps me to get to know my team...and your team [notices] that you are actually paying attention.... There are several tricks you can do to try to remember someone's name. I always repeat the name when I hear it and then say it a few times over in my head.
--Jonathan Cogley, CEO and founder of IT security company Thycotic which ranks at the 2,671 on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing companies in 2014, up 760 spots from 2013.
3. Research people before meeting with them.
Before a meeting, I always do research on whom I'll be meeting with. Understanding the person's work history, the school they went to, or even knowing their hometown helps me tailor the way I communicate with them.
--Mike Zivin, cofounder and CEO of Whittl, an online appointment booking platform for neighborhood businesses, which recently raised a $3.3 million series A round with backing from GrubHub co-founder Mike Evans as well as GrubHub's first VC, Origin Ventures in Chicago.
4. Schedule family time.
Most small-business owners and entrepreneurs start a business to make a better life for their families. If you get caught in the trap of working 20-hour days, your business may thrive, but at what cost? You may be able to send your kids to a great college, but if they've never spent an afternoon with you in 18 years, is it worth it? I'm very conscious of making time for my kids, whether that means working with them (my oldest is interning in the office this summer) or carving time out to go to tournaments and games. It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, but it's so important to step back and look at the big picture.
--Ted Devine, CEO of online small- and microbusiness insurance agent Insureon, a company at the 107 spot on last year's Inc. 5000 list.
5. Walk while working.
Part of being a successful executive is being able to interact with people at a moment's notice, which requires a fair amount of stamina. To achieve that, I work at a treadmill desk all day, and end up walking about eight miles each day.
--Douglas Merrill, former CIO of Google and now CEO of ZestFinance, a big-data startup that uses more than 100,000 data points about an individual to figure out if he or she will pay back a loan.
6. Avoid all habits.
I think having randomness in my day is critical and keeps my brain active. I see too many people whose habits ultimately stifle them. They won't try something new because it conflicts with something they've always done. When I feel I'm falling into a rut, I try to find a way to change things up. That's one of the reasons I travel so much. Of course, it gets me in front of clients, which is critical, but as much as anything, always being in new environments keeps my mind sharp and my thoughts flowing.
--Rodney Williams, cofounder and CEO of LISNR, a new communications technology company that sends data over sound waves (such as streaming video) and recently won the Gold Cannes Lion for Innovation in Mobile.
7. Purge your email inbox.
I get my email inbox to one page by day's end. My job is to communicate and build relationships with clients, prospects, and employees, and all email is dealt with, responded to, or filed as complete. It only stays in the inbox if it needs further follow-up. People need to know they can get response from me, not just the other way around.
--Darin LeGrange, CEO of Aldera, a company that provides health plans (insurers) with the back-office technology that handles billing, claims processing, coverages, and more.
8. Avoid all carbs before noon.
That's my peak energy time, and too many carbs throw me off my game. The momentum created in the morning goes a long way into the afternoon. If you don't start strong, you don't finish strong.
--David Kalt, founder and CEO of Reverb, a marketplace for musical instruments and gear that has raised about $5 million in funding and expects to do $130 million in transactions this year, up from $40 million last year.
9. Don't dive right into work in the morning.
Without fail, I start every morning off with a cup of "proper English tea," even when traveling in San Francisco, and leisurely check the daily newspaper headlines on my tablet, before diving into email and catching up on the company Chatter feed. Having a slower-paced morning routine helps me work more efficiently as the day goes on.
--Jeremy Roche, CEO of FinancialForce.com, an ERP solutions provider built on the Salesforce1 Platform which equips customer-centric businesses with a unified cloud platform and all the applications necessary to grow both the top and bottom line.
10. Make small but meaningful personal statements.
After the ritual coffee every morning, I make sure I have a clean pair of crazy socks. No crazy socks, no glory. They anchor my confidence and remind me that different is good. Everyone could use a personal statement.
--Ahmed Albaiti, founder and CEO of Medullan, a digital health innovation company that works with payers, providers, and pharma on patient engagement.
11. Quantify your life.
There are 8,760 hours in a year, and I know exactly how many of them I have spent working, with family, exercising, or on community activities. For the last 15 years, I have kept a matrix of how I spend each hour in the day in an effort to live a balanced and optimized life. I've had nine major surgeries as part of a lifelong battle with Crohn's disease, so tracking my time and health is essential to helping me maximize every moment. It's also provided the perspective of both a patient and an executive to my companies.
--Jeff Margolis, chairman and CEO of Welltok, creator of CafWell, the health optimization platform that helps consumers achieve optimal health. Previously, he founded the health IT company TriZetto, and took it from startup, through IPO, to a $1.4 billion leveraged buyout.
12. Pay attention to people, not devices.
Put the cell phones away. I try to keep them out of sight when I'm around my kids and in all executive meetings.
--Rick Morrison, CEO of Comprehend Systems, which works with big names in the life-sciences industry, such as Boston Scientific, Astellas, and AstraZeneca, modernizing and improving the quality in their clinical process through cloud-based tech.
13. Wake up early and swallow the frog.
Mark Twain was onto something when he suggested you should tackle your most challenging project first thing in the morning. I wake up at 5 a.m. almost every morning, including weekends. My mornings are a time to tackle thought-intensive tasks, or approach projects with a new perspective. I consider 5 to 8 a.m. my power hours, and try to get through one significant undertaking by 8 a.m. every day.
--Neha Sampat, CEO of digital tech solutions provider Built.io, which powers innovation at the intersection of enterprise mobility and the Internet of Things (IoT) for startups and Fortune 500 companies. Sampat also co-founded KurbKarma, was named a "San Francisco Business Times 40 under 40" honoree, as well as one of "50 Women in Tech Dominating Silicon Valley" in 2015.
14. Don't "find" time for family, make time.
As the CEO of a rapidly growing company, it's easy to let the job consume you completely, to the detriment of those closest to you: your family. It's not enough to "find" time to spend with your children, because the job will always find a way to fill every minute. So I make it a priority to spend two hours a day focusing only on my children. It helps me to recharge my batteries, think more creatively, and it also gives me that daily reminder of why I work so hard.
--Ratmir Timashev, CEO of Veeam, a data center backup company founded in 2006 which now employs more than 1,500 employees around the world and brings in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, with its sights on reaching $1 billion in revenue in the next five years.
15. Talk constantly with your team.
Team culture is critical in the American service economy. The only way to make sure that your team is working together at an optimal level is to make sure that you talk both formally and informally with your team.
--Vikram Aggarwal, CEO of EnergySage, a solar-marketplace company that recently secured a $1.5 million Series A round of funding and announced a partnership with Green America.
16. Drive your kids to school every day.
Sure, I would love to sleep later than 6 a.m. every day, but that half hour we spend in the car is amazing. I also try not to schedule client or internal meetings at 3 p.m. That's when I have a scheduled conference call with my sons. They get on board the bus from school, and that's our time to chat about the day so far. Finally, in the evenings, from the moment I walk in my home until they go to bed, my phone stays at the front door so they understand that family time is a priority.
--Sandy Rubinstein, CEO of DXagency, an ad-engagement agency with clients that include DirecTV, HBO, MTV, and Whole Foods.
17. Meditate daily.
Twenty minutes upon waking and 20 minutes as soon as I walk in the door at the end of a day helps me maintain a level of mindfulness that enables moment-to-moment awareness. Meditation has strengthened my ability to be open to new possibilities and ideas without attachment to "my way," and has helped foster a level of communication amongst my team that respects and celebrates new ideas, the very thing that inevitably moves business forward.
--Ernie Capobianco, CEO of digital marketing agency Sq1, which serves clients including Michaels, Jiffy Lube, Shell, and Papa Murphy's.
18. Plan for tomorrow.
At the end of each business day, I take some time to regroup and think about the most important items that need to be accomplished the next day, as well as what actions the team needs to take to accomplish those tasks.
--Michael MacDonald, CEO of nutrition and weight-loss company Medifast.
19. Exercise at least five times a week.
I either hit the gym or get 90 minutes on my mountain bike in the morning and start at 6 a.m. At first it was hard, but now I can't go without it. It de-stresses and sets the tone for the entire day.
--Jason van den Brand, co-founder and CEO of online mortgage refinancing startup Lenda, which graduated from Silicon Valley-based 500 Startups last year. Since then, the company raised its first round of funding, has been growing 40 percent month over month since December, and recently passed the $40 million mark in loans financed through the platform.
20. Publicly commend an employee.
I try to give a written compliment to an employee on something they accomplished the previous day that aligns with our company's core values. The written compliment is public to the entire company through a platform we use called HighGround. I think that doing so helps reinforce our company's core values and helps us live our values every day.
--Ethan Austin, founder of the online fundraising website GiveForward, which has raised more than $150 million and hosts 20,000 active fundraisers at any given time.
What daily habits help you achieve more in business and life?
(Bloomberg) -- Aetna Inc. agreed to buy Humana Inc., the second-largest provider of private Medicare insurance, for $37 billion in cash and stock to broaden its health-care coverage.
The transaction values Humana at $230 a share based on yesterday’s closing price for Aetna, the companies said in a statement Friday. That’s 23 percent above Humana’s last close.
The acquisition comes amid a period of consolidation in the industry, with all of the five biggest health insurers looking at deals. Humana’s 3.2 million Medicare Advantage members have made it a target, since more Americans are turning 65 and becoming eligible for the health program for the elderly and its private insurer-run version.
Willis to merge with Towers Watson in $8.7 billion deal
“Medicare Advantage is a coveted space,” Michael Bernstein, a partner at Baird Capital’s U.S. private equity team who focuses on health care, said in an interview before the transaction was announced. “To develop a similar scale in Medicare would take a great deal of work and time, which would be bypassed by making that transaction happen.”
Terms of Deal
Humana shareholders will receive $125 in cash and 0.8375 of an Aetna share for each of Humana’s. Aetna’s shareholders will own about 74 percent of the combined company and Humana’s will own about 26 percent.
The deal is expected to close in the second half of 2016. Aetna’s chief executive officer, Mark Bertolini, will be chairman and CEO of the combined company.
Medicare membership is projected to rise to 68.4 million in 2023, up 26 percent from this year, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Humana, based in Louisville, Kentucky, covers more than 14 million people through commercial, Medicare and Medicaid plans.
Centene Corp. said Thursday it agreed to buy Health Net Inc. for about $6.3 billion in a deal that creates the biggest private administrator of Medicaid, the federally funded health program for the poor. Cigna Corp. rejected a $47 billion takeover bid from Anthem Inc. last month, saying the offer wasn’t in the best interests of shareholders and Anthem executives weren’t fit to lead a merged insurance giant.
Some of the consolidation talk has been fueled by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Known as Obamacare, the 2010 law overhauled the U.S. health-care system with new rules that push insurers to look for savings. The law also provides subsidies to help people afford coverage, creating millions of new customers that the companies are racing to capture.
A Supreme Court ruling upholding those subsidies for more than 6 million people has helped clear the path to dealmaking. The 6-3 decision on June 25 in the King v. Burwell case said the U.S. can continue to give people money to help them buy coverage on the federal healthcare.gov website.
Citigroup Inc. and Lazard Ltd. provided financial advice to Aetna, while Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP is acting as legal advisor. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. gave financial advice to Humana and Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP is its legal advisor.
Following up is a key part of any sales job. It's extremely rare that a rep will connect with their prospect on their first attempt, and so they must try again. And again.
Big U.S. insurers are courting one another for possible multibillion-dollar deals. How they pair off could have significant implications for the managed-care industry, its individual and corporate customers, and U.S. medical providers.