Back in the '90s, motivational speaker Susan Powter coined the phrase: "Stop the insanity!" Powter recognized that Americans were focused on the wrong thing. They were focused on going from fat to thin and spending thousands of dollars on diets. What Powter recognized was that the choice was not between fat and thin, but between unfit and fit. Agents in the group health insurance business are making the wrong choice as well. They think the road ahead is between providing more value-added services, including compliance advice, versus losing business. Some agents think that the choice is between sell more ancillary products or continue to watch revenues fall. In my mind, the real choice is this: Do you want to be an insurance agent or a fee-based adviser? The difference is huge.
The insurance agent gets paid commissions for helping clients achieve business objectives through creative application of insurance products. The adviser/consultant gets paid a fee for providing advice that may include compliance. I recently spoke to the Virginia Association of Health Underwriters and met an agent there who is collecting commissions for selling insurance products in addition to charging meaningful fees for helping clients with compliance-related issues. More importantly, he is picking up fee-based clients that are keeping their group medical with another agent.
Here are my suggestions for jaw-dropping sales success in the post-Affordable Care Act world:
- 1)Get out of the compliance business or charge fees. You have to recognize that you are putting yourself at serious legal risk by giving compliance guidance. There's a local agent who sent the required employee notifications about the ACA exchanges for his clients. After sending the forms, however, he was notified that he used a mailing address that was no longer valid. This is just one example of how compliance is a huge issue. If you want to get into it, charge high enough fees to allow the hiring of additional, trained legal staff.
- 2) Focus on groups with 30 or fewer employees. While the world is racing to sell groups of 50-plus, this smaller market is ripe for a great agent to dominate.
- 3) Move away from spreadsheets and focus on innovative insurance solutions that are designed with the employer's goals in mind. Spreadsheets convey the message that you are selling a commodity instead of a solution.
- 4) Start a consistent marketing campaign designed to keep your sales pipeline filled - most agents don't have this. If you have 30 or more clients, then you can fill your pipeline with high-quality prospects every week simply by using LinkedIn to connect via existing relationships.
- 5) Design a proactive customer experience rather than a reactive customer service model of today. This will create raving clients who will refer others to you.
- 6) Implement a client testimonial system and incorporate it into your marketing. Testimonials not only make it easier to close new sales, but they will also help make your accounts competitor-proof.
In this new world, don't be working harder for less pay. In fact, there are already many smart agents who have changed their model and are more profitable than they have ever been. In the spirit of old catchphrases, like the Alka-Seltzer commercial: "Try it, you'll like it!"
Schlesinger is a social selling strategist with a focus on helping group insurance agents thrive in today's marketplace. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (336) 525-6357.
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