A Comprehensive Guide to Talking to Prospects on the Phone
If you’re not comfortable on the phone, sales probably isn't the career for you. Learning how to capture and keep someone's attention without physically being in their presence is a skill all salespeople need. It’s also a skill that demands constant practice and improvement.
This guide covers everything from pre-call preparation to sales script tips. More of a visual learner? Scroll down, or click here, to see a detailed infographic from The Gap Partnership.
Phone Sales Tips
Make Sure You’re Comfortable on the Phone
There are a few basic characteristics everyone needs in a phone-centric career like sales. Don't have the characteristics outlined below? Either practice until you do or look for another gig.
Never dial the phone without preparing. Whether you’re taking your first call or your 400th, there are a few things you should do before every meeting:
Achieve a Relaxed Voice
You can sense when someone’s smiling on the phone, right? It’s not just your imagination. Talking with a grin creates a higher frequency in your mouth which changes the tone of your voice and reassures the listener.
To practice this technique, record a sentence in your own non-smiling style. Then record the same words again with a smile and notice the difference.
Also, you can achieve a relaxed and persuasive tone by putting your voice’s most powerful tools to work. Here’s how:
Take these examples:
• Apathetic: “What would you like us to do about it?”
Convince Your Listener
They key to running professional calls is being aware of how your physical cues are impacting your prospect and the energy of your meeting. Here are a few things to be aware of:
Use Your Call Script Successfully
Call scripts are there for a reason. Practice with them, but keep a few other things in mind before you jump on a call:
Be a Good Listener
Easier said than done. Many salespeople railroad their prospects with too many questions, giving them little or no time to respond.
Others ask too few questions and simply throw out solutions without really understanding their prospect’s unique use case. Here are a few tips for being a good listener who really “gets” your prospect:
Have Great Timing
The best time to conduct outreach is on Thursdays between 8:00 am and 10:00 am and again between 4:00 pm and 5:00 pm. The worse time to call someone is on Tuesdays between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm.
You can also use timing to get a leg up on your competitors. Know they’re calling prospects between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm? Try phoning prospects outside this timeframe to stand out, and maybe reach high-level prospects who normally have a gatekeeper screening their calls.
Don’t overwhelm prospects with your intense enthusiasm. Starting a sales calls with an eager “Hey! How are you [prospect name]!?” might come off as a pushy and inauthentic.
Maintain a genuine tone and mirror your prospect’s demeanor. A less salesy way to keep things light is by sprinkling positive language into your call. Here are a few examples of cheerful language:
And don’t forget to establish rapport. The best way to start off on a positive note is to be polite, honest, and personalized with your prospect. Use their name, give them your full attention, and take ownership of follow up and next steps.
Close with Style
All of this is worth nothing unless you close the call well. Be clear, offer a review of what you’ve discussed, and always thank your prospect for their time.
Successful phone calls are an art. Master these techniques and see more deals move forward and your peers and managers take notice. For more information on selling Medicare Supplements and Medicare Advantage Plans over the phone, check out this resource page: http://www.psmbrokerage.com/sell-medicare-supplements-online or contact us at 800-998-7715 to request information.
Medicare Blog | Medicare News | Medicare Information
Mutual of Omaha to Enter Medicare Advantage Market in 2019
I'm sure if you've spent even a short amount of time in the Insurance industry you will recognize the name Mutual of Omaha.
But did you know that Mutual of Omaha will begin selling its first Medicare Advantage health plan in 2019?
Mutual of Omaha will work in cooperation with Lumeris Inc., a St. Louis company that will arrange health provider networks and manage the plans.
It’s a big step for the Omaha-based insurer, which got out of the individual and small-group health insurance business more than a decade ago, although it has sold Medicare Supplement plans since 1966 and is the second-largest source of those plans.
But Medicare Supplement enrollment is declining and Medicare Advantage sales are increasing, said Brad Buechler, a Mutual executive vice president.
Medicare Supplement insurance, also known as Medigap, is sold by private companies to help pay some costs not covered by government Medicare.
Medicare Advantage plans also are sold by private companies but are an alternative to government-run Medicare, providing the traditional coverage plus other benefits.
About one-fifth of Medicare recipients use Medicare Supplement coverage to augment their Medicare plans. About one-third use Medicare Advantage plans, and Kaiser Family Foundation predicts that share to pass 40 percent by 2027.
“The goal here is to ensure that we’ve got all of the interests of all parties aligned through the whole health care delivery value system,” Buechler said.
Between 2001 and 2007 Mutual got out of small-group, individual major and group health insurance, dismantling its health care provider networks.
Lumeris has the expertise to set up new networks of providers that want to practice “value-based” care that depends on good medical outcomes rather than traditional fees for each medical service, Buechler said.
Lumeris also will help identify metropolitan statistical areas — yet to be selected — where the new plans can compete for significant market share, he said.
Mutual, which is likely to count more than $8 billion in revenue this year, will own the plans under the Mutual Medicare Advantage name and will provide brand, marketing and distribution expertise and capital.
Mutual declined to reveal its financial goals for the Medicare Advantage business.
Buechler said the plans will have “narrow” networks, meaning clients will choose from limited numbers of physicians, hospitals and other care providers. Such managed care networks are designed to reduce costs while improving efficiency and medical outcomes.
The two companies expect the first plans to be ready for the Medicare open enrollment period that starts Oct. 15, with advertising leading up to that and plans taking effect Jan. 1, 2019.
Precision Senior Marketing is a proud partner of Mutual of Omaha and we look forward to offer agents another quality Mutual of Omaha product as soon it comes available.
The insurer surpassed $200B in revenue in 2017, and forecasts more earnings and investment.
UnitedHealth Group on Tuesday reported fourth-quarter earnings that easily beat estimates and vaulted the company over $200 billion in annual revenue for the first time, and said it expects the federal tax overhaul will provide a significant profit boost this year.
The Minnetonka-based health care giant, which is the nation’s largest health insurer, said Tuesday that the tax law in 2018 would increase earnings and cash flow by $1.7 billion, prompting UnitedHealth Group to boost earnings guidance by about 16 percent.
The tax overhaul will result in UnitedHealth Group’s rate falling from about 37 percent to 24 percent, analysts say. The savings will allow for investments in everything from data analytics and digital health to the application of artificial intelligence in delivering health insurance benefits.
“We concluded that our ambitions for better health and a better health system are best achieved through investment in ways that will make health care far more affordable and of far higher quality,” David Wichmann, the UnitedHealth Group chief executive, said during a conference call with investors. It’s too soon to detail the 2019 impact, Wichmann said.
The tax law commentary came as UnitedHealth Group reported fourth-quarter earnings that capped a record year for the company in terms of revenue, with full-year sales growing 9 percent in 2017 to $201 billion.
During the fourth quarter, UnitedHealth Group saw strong growth from its Optum division for health services, where each of three key business units reported year-over-year growth in operating earnings of just over 20 percent, wrote Peter Costa, an analyst with Wells Fargo Securities, in a note to investors. Optum includes a pharmaceutical benefits manager, a business that provides IT and data services to other health care companies and a division for nonhospital health care services.
In December, Optum bolstered its business providing health care directly to patients with a $4.9 billion deal to acquire DaVita Medical Group. With the acquisition, the company says it will have a presence in 35 local health care markets across the country, or nearly half the 75 markets it has targeted for development.
The health insurance business at UnitedHealth Group has been growing, too. At the end of the fourth quarter, the company’s UnitedHealthcare division was providing insurance coverage to about 45.4 million people in the U.S., up from nearly 45 million people at the end of the third quarter.
UnitedHealth Group employs about 18,000 people in Minnesota. Historically, the company has had only a minimal presence in Minnesota’s health insurance market, but UnitedHealthcare officials last year said they have plans for selling more coverage to employer groups in the state.
During Tuesday’s conference call, a company official said the push into Minnesota and the northern plains would come in the second half of 2018.
UnitedHealth Group closed 2017 with not just with the DaVita Medical Group deal, but also an agreement to acquire a health care provider and insurer operating in Chile, Colombia and Peru for roughly $2.8 billion. In 2012, the company acquired the largest hospital operator and health insurer in Brazil.
“Collectively, these countries have a population roughly equal to that of the U.S., but perhaps more growth opportunity in these emerging private health care markets, as well as a broader and longer term opportunity to serve the systems more holistically by also serving public markets,” said Molly Joseph, chief executive of UnitedHealth Group’s international business.
The deal to acquire Empresas Banmédica is expected to close in the first quarter. Wichmann said UnitedHealth Group had been studying the South American markets for about five years.
In December, President Donald Trump signed legislation that significantly reduces the tax rate on corporations including UnitedHealth Group. The savings result in reduced premium revenue and certain fees for UnitedHealth Group, due in part to increased consumer rebates triggered by regulation on the share of UnitedHealthcare premium revenue that’s directed to medical costs.
Even after adjusting for the estimated $400 million to $500 million hit on premiums and fees, UnitedHealth Group expects the law to benefit earnings and cash flow by $1.7 billion.
In addition, the tax law savings will allow for an additional $200 million to $300 million investment to reduce operating costs by accelerating “existing initiatives in artificial intelligence, data analytics, individual health record custodianship, digital health ... [and] more health-related initiatives in local communities,” Wichmann said.
“We expect to invest the remaining increased cash flows to better fulfill our mission and, in turn, to grow and diversify our enterprise,” he said.
For the fourth quarter, UnitedHealth Group saw net income more than double, to $3.6 billion, on $52 billion in revenue.
After excluding one-time items, earnings per share of $2.59 beat the $2.52 expected among analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters. Benefits from the tax bill did not affect the quarterly earnings per share calculation, the company said.
“We revalued our U.S. deferred tax liabilities to reflect the newly enacted federal statutory rate of 21 percent, which added $1.2 billion in noncash earnings in 2017,” said John Rex, the company’s chief financial officer, during the conference call.
UnitedHealth Group says it now expects in 2018 adjusted earnings of $12.30 to $12.60 per share, up from a November forecast of $10.55 to $10.85. The company expects 2018 revenue in the range of $223 billion to $225 billion.
UnitedHealth Group shares closed Tuesday at $232.90, up nearly 2 percent for the day.
Sales and Marketing = Creation and Capture
No one works in sales without having losses. Some of those losses are the result of errors, bad choices, poor strategy, or sloppy sales approaches. Some of those losses are the result of circumstances that are difficult to overcome. You can do everything right and lose, and you can do many things wrong and win. Either way, losses come with the territory.
Client issues are also part of sales. Even if you own the outcomes you sell your clients with someone else being responsible for doing the work that generates those outcomes, because you promised your client better results, they are going to look to you for help and for answers. You are accountable for the outcomes you sell, or you put future deals at risk (or more likely, you never see the new opportunities at all).
Selling is made up of two major outcomes. The first outcome is opportunity creation, and it requires that you do the work of prospecting, whether you like that work or wish there was another way. The second outcome is opportunity capture. The first outcome always precedes the second. The workload for opportunity creation is equal or greater than the workload of opportunity capture.
There will always be someone with a lower price that sells by suggesting they can produce the same result at a lower price point. Much of the time, these competitors will have an irrational pricing model that would cause you to lose money, and you will struggle to understand how they stay in business. But when they have been in business for decades, the only way you beat them is by creating greater value, not by explaining that they can’t survive with their pricing model.
Selling is not situational. It is individual. There are always salespeople who succeed at selling the most commoditized, undifferentiated products and services and do well for being able to so. There are also people in sales roles with the most compelling, differentiated offer who struggle to sell what should be a much easier sell. There are intangibles that count for a lot more than most people recognize, and these tangibles are not commonly taught or developed. Success then, is a product of developing yourself.
Independent Agents Hold a Significant Advantage over Insurtech Startups
Insurance agents can provide something their insurtech rivals cannot: a human touch.
Independent insurance agents don’t need to fear that they’ll be replaced by insurtech startups powered by artificial intelligence. Recent studies reveal that insurance customers still want to talk to a live agent, especially when they need to file a claim or buy a complex product.
According to a recent survey conducted by insurance technology provider Vertafore, 60% of nearly American consumers worry that an AI-generated insurance purchasing process might automatically reject their coverage request, even when a human agent would likely give them a policy. Even tech-savvy Millennials shared this concern, with nearly 50% claiming that they’d prefer to buy an insurance contract from a live agent.
These findings are no surprise to Vertafore’s Chief Sales and Marketing Officer BJ Schaknowski. Speaking at recent conference, he stressed that since insurance is a complicated subject, people feel more confident speaking to someone who can guide them to the “right protection for their family and business.” The Vertafore survey is all the more evidence that independent agents can still compete with insurtech startups.
Build Relationships through Technology
As the Vertafore survey indicates, consumers overwhelmingly prefer human interaction when buying insurance, as 72% said they were turned off by the prospect of purchasing it with a chatbot. Insurance agents, however, cannot ignore recent technologies that are rapidly transforming the industry. Prospects and clients expect a user-friendly and robust web presence, complete with digital portals that enable them to search for information, submit payments, or handle basic inquiries.
Rather than resist these services, successful agents utilize the latest technologies like online lead generation systems, automated email and marketing campaigns, and AI-powered programs to engage with clients and prospects more regularly than ever. In other words, they use technology to cultivate a deeper relationship with their clients — not as a vehicle to offload all customer service functions to a digital system. When an agent responds to a client’s comment on Facebook or Twitter or through a text, he or she is doing so as a human — not a bot.
The challenge for independent agents in today’s tech-driven world is to set themselves apart from their insurtech rivals by providing a human touch — even when that human touch comes through technology. It’s what clients and prospects alike want and expect.