In order for a business to be successful all parties involved have to benefit or the relationship will eventually break down.
As an insurance agent, it’s likely only a matter of time until you find yourself in a situation where you feel that your upline partnership isn’t working for you.
When that happens, it may be time to cut ties with your current upline and move on. This can be a simple or complicated process, depending on your upline FMO and the carrier involved.
It is important first to understand that, if the carrier in question will honor a signed release from your upline, it needs to be from the highest level in your hierarchy. Carriers will not accept a signed release from a mid-tier FMO.
For example, as an FMO we have a direct relationship with the carriers we broker for. For the most part, carriers will honor our release requests, no questions asked.
We have a general open release policy and would normally process a release without delay. Having said that, we also give our mid-level down lines flexibility to implement their own release guidelines and allow them to release down lines as they see fit, as long as carrier guidelines are respected.
For the most part there are 2 ways to transfer your contract to a new upline. A “Signed Release” or a “Self-Release”.
Let’s take a look at these options:
An agent may request to be released from their upline for immediate transfer to a new FMO. It is important to stress that this request must be signed by the top level upline and NOT by a mid-tier. If the top line FMO signs the release, the agent is then free to transfer to a different broker immediately.
If an upline doesn’t want to give an agent an immediate release, then an agent can exercise the Self-Release process. It may vary by carrier, but as a general rule there are a couple of ways to do it:
Below is a sampling of a few carriers and their release process:
Aetna Med Advantage/Part D - Notice and new contracting must be sent to Aetna to start the clock. You can continue to write business during their 3 month Self-Release period.
Mutual of Omaha - Non-Production for 6 months will allow an agent to transfer their contract.
Aetna Med Supp - Email notice must be sent to Aetna Supplemental to start the clock. You can continue to write business during their 6 month Self-Release period. However, different guidelines apply if you have producing downlines.
Humana - Notice and new contracting must be sent to Humana to start the clock. You can continue to write business during their 3 month Self-Release period.
United Healthcare – Email notice must be sent to UHC to start the clock. You can continue to write business during their 6 month Self-Release period.
Some Med Advantage carriers implement transfer freezes in the 4th Quarter of each year, which prevents an agent from transferring their contract no matter what the release scenario may be. UnitedHealthcare, Aetna, and Humana are a few of the major carriers who implement a transfer freeze period.
With that being said, it’s important to carefully consider the timing if you’re looking to initiate a self-release.
For example: If an agent were to start a self-release and that self-release time frame expired in the middle of a transfer freeze (9/1/19 to 12/31/19), they would be forced to stay under their current upline until the end of the freeze period. In other words, they are stuck until after AEP and usually until January 1st of the next year.
Obviously, if the agent could have timed the self-release so that the self-release time frame expired before the freeze period, that may have been the more favorable situation.
Again, not all carriers have the same process, so ensure you understand the carrier’s requirements before starting the process.
The important thing to remember is that, if your business relationship isn’t working, you have options. It is also a good idea to understand the release policy of your upline, before you work with them, so you are not surprised when the situation arises.
Your success is up to you, but a bad business relationship can definitely make that success more difficult.
If you have any questions, our experienced marketers are here to help.
|Medicare Marketing Guidelines
What are the Benefits of Using an FMO?
14 Ways to Generate Medicare Leads
An Agents Guide to Dual Eligible Special Needs Plans
Social Media Marketing for Insurance Agents
Medicare Blog | Medicare News | Medicare Information
"You will never get a second chance to make a first impression." - Will Rogers
With all of the technology in this day and age, you probably wouldn’t need to be physically present to make a first impression. Go ahead - Google yourself. Did you stumble across your LinkedIn Profile as the first or second result? Me too.
All thanks to LinkedIn’s SEO efforts, this means your prospective clients are getting to know some bits and pieces prior to even shaking your hand and looking into the whites of your eyes.
Hence, it is more important than ever before that your LinkedIn Profile makes a positive first impression and a lasting one, at that. Precision Senior Marketing is here to share 4 quick tips to establishing and maintaining your digital footprint via LinkedIn. Take a peek!
1. Upload a professional headshot
Your headshot is one of the most essential elements in establishing your LinkedIn profile. In fact, your profile is 14x more likely to be viewed by simply having a profile picture in-place and will encourage viewers to peep the rest of your profile.
2. Develop a professional tagline
Ask yourself, how would you would answer the question, “What do you do for a living?”
Instead of ending the conversation quickly by responding with a mere, "I’m an independent insurance agent,” you should go more in-depth concerning what you actually do. Think of your tagline as a mission statement - something along the lines of: “Educating the senior market to make informed decisions around their healthcare needs”. It is far more intriguing.
3. Provide a summary
Start with your value proposition
Utilize the first paragraph of your LinkedIn Profile summary to provide a quick, high-level overview of the type of work you do - without all of the details. This is not the place for senior market insurance industry jargon.
Following your value proposition, you have the chance to make a real connection with your prospects by showing your human side in the second paragraph. Write your LinkedIn Profile summary as you speak rather than in third person. Reflect and ask yourself, “What do my clients and I have in common?"
Implement a call-to-action
Wrap up your LinkedIn Profile summary by making it easy for your connections to find your contact information by adding it to the closing paragraph.
For example, “If you want to learn more about how I can help you choose a healthcare plan that best suits your needs, feel free to reach out via phone at + 1 (800) 998-7715 or e-mail at email@example.com.”
4. Customize your public profile URL
Your LinkedIn Profile will be much easier to share upon customizing your Public Profile URL. Instead of a default URL with a oodles of confusing numbers at the end, customize it to something with a nice and clean look, like this: http://www.linkedin.com/in/carolinekcallahan.
Customize your LinkedIn Public Profile URL by clicking the gear icon to update your public profile settings beneath your profile photo.
This will redirect you to your Public Profile page, where you may edit your URL on the left hand side.
When utilizing these basic four tips, just remember to stay within your company’s compliance guidelines when making updates to your LinkedIn Profile.
If you are an independent senior market insurance agent needing further direction upon establishing and maintaining your digital footprint via LinkedIn, feel free to give PSM's expert team of marketers a buzz at + 1 (800) 998-7715.
Sources: www.lifehealthpro.com, www.linkedin.com
Our friends at InsuranceNewsNet recently conducted a poll to find just what, exactly, the profiles of success in the insurance industry look like. While most of their readers reported to sell products traditionally associated with insurance, many of the top tier-earning producers tended to have practices that are slightly more hybrid. Lucky for you, Precision Senior Marketing has leveraged the data from INN to give our agents four quick tips to help you get closer to becoming a senior market insurance top earner in 2016.
1. Establish an efficient work environment
While many of the lower earners reported having worked out of their home and as a lone employee in their practice, the poll results show that working in an office with at least two to five people rather than from home and alone is a common trend among the top dogs.
This one goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway to emphasize: Spending enough time in your work and career is crucial to becoming a top earner in the senior market insurance industry. So, burn that midnight oil and put in 40+ hours per week!
2. Fine tune your work ethic toward prospecting efforts
While many, if not all, readers reported a vast majority of their business to have derived from referrals, we could not stress enough how important it is to keep in touch with your current clients. With 55% of online users age 65 and over using Facebook in 2014, it is essential for you to create a Facebook Page to service and retain those existing clients. The smallest of interactions, like dropping by a client’s Facebook to post a comment celebrating another rotation around the sun, helps emphasize your appreciation for their business. Not only will your Facebook Page improve the overall client experience, but also serve as a solid foundation for prospects to gain insight toward your role as a senior market insurance specialist. If social media isn't your thing, be sure to send out a birthday card to your clients and give them a ring every once in a while.
Other ways that the top earners generate new business include forming strategic alliances with attorneys, CPAs or other financial professionals. Think outside of the box!
3. Invest more time and money into your career
While the poll results show that you can expect to hold your insurance license for about 10 years before hitting the $100k mark, there are measures you can take to help get you there at a significantly faster rate.
Annuities wouldn't be a bad idea, either.
If you haven't already considered this option for the near future, you might want to look into attaining your Series 6 license, which allows you to sell variable products, like variable annuities, variable universal life insurance and variable life insurance.
According to the poll results from top earners, it's also safe to say that it certainly helps to obtain at least a few designations (i.e. Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow or Chartered Life Underwriter).
4. Partake in extra curricular activities
Many of the top earners in the poll reported high involvement with industry groups. So, join NAIFA and get out there! Network with colleagues who face similar challenges as you. See what they have to say.
It's also advantageous of you, as a senior market insurance specialist, to hold informational seminars. This will not only help with prospecting, but will also assist in displaying your genuine care and concern for educating the senior market.
If you're interested in learning more about what it takes to be a top earner in the senior market insurance industry, feel free to give one of our expert marketers at PSM a call today at + 1 (800) 998-7715. It would be an absolute pleasure to assist you in reaching an all-time high in your production. :)
To read up on the original InsuranceNewsNet story, please visit: http://www.insurancenewsnetmagazine.com/article/profiles-of-success--what-it-takes-to-be-a-top-earner-3027#.Vo7kJbHnaB8
Earlier this week, LifeHealthPro put out an article regarding the power of “why” in the insurance industry, which highlighted some key points found within an all-time favorite business book, “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek.
Sinek’s TED Talk on the exact subject, called “The Golden Circle”, is something most certainly all insurance agents should watch.
The simplicity of “The Golden Circle” makes the philosophy easy to understand, however many insurance agents become puzzled in the attempt to apply it to their own business.
Every insurance agent knows what they do and can clearly explain how they do it, but few know why they do it.
As Sinek so eloquently states, “Why do you get out of bed each morning, and why should anyone care?”
For us, it's because we feel that agents are the backbone of the senior market insurance industry and are committed to meeting their distribution, marketing and administrative needs on a national scale.
If you can’t answer that question confidently, PSM has crafted it into an out-of-this-world infographic to give you some help. Check it out!
To read up on the original LifeHealthPro article, visit: http://www.lifehealthpro.com/2015/12/01/the-power-of-why-for-your-insurance-agency
To watch Sinek's TED Talk, "The Golden Circle", visit: http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action?language=en
It is a much talked about fact within the PSM office that we work with the nation’s greatest senior market insurance agents. The successes of our agents are our number one focus and everything we do is conceived and designed to best serve them.
With that being said, we could not express our gratitude enough for our agents this Thanksgiving holiday. Just eight short years ago, working with 1,000 agents was a glimmer in our mind’s eye. Today, we're proud to have reached a milestone of working with 15,000 agents and are incredibly thankful for each and every one of them.
This Thanksgiving holiday, we want to take a moment to express our extreme gratitude and heartfelt thanks in a big way.
PSM was started with one simple goal: to meet the distribution, marketing and administrative needs of independent senior market insurance agents on a national scale so that their businesses could continue to flourish. Through our upcoming expansion with the addition of five new Marketing Directors and two Administrative Assistants, that goal has not changed. With every product improvement, new product release and every offering in between, we have been and continue to be laser-focused on making sure that the tools we provide our agents with will ultimately help them grow their businesses.
We're ecstatic for the upcoming 2016 year, with the growth of our business, and know that we could not have done it without our ever-growing PSM community. We are truly grateful for all our incredible agents, marketing agency partners, employees and fans.
We wish that this Thanksgiving holiday finds you with plenty of reasons to give thanks. As we celebrate our gratitude, we look forward to adding 15,000 more agents to the PSM community and leave you with one final, heartfelt thought: THANK YOU FOR BEING YOU AND FOR CHOOSING PSM!
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.
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.