There are as many stories of what brought someone into insurance sales as there are people selling insurance. Once in the business, though, we begin to see some patterns we can all learn from.
Kevin started in the insurance industry at the bottom but quickly became one of the nation’s top Medicare supplement producers. Remarkably, Kevin got to the top without doing cold calls. Instead, he focused on serving his clients well and systematically building a growing stream of referrals.
We sat down with Kevin to talk about his agent success story.
GETTING STARTED IN MEDICARE SUPPLEMENT INSURANCE SALES
I changed majors a couple times at Washington State University and did the five-year plan since I was having such a good time. I went to work for a radio station right out of college. But, when my internship was over and they said, “we’ll offer you a job at 30 hours a week for 10 bucks an hour.” I said, “well, that’s not going to work.”
My brother worked for Blue Cross at the time and notified me of a position at a subsidiary of theirs. I started my career in insurance at the bottom – front desk, answering phones and working in a support role.
I went from the front desk sales support to an account coordinator, and while I was in operations, I just started selling business. It started with individual medical and dental insurance and eventually expanded into Medicare products. I talked to clients that had questions and I’d say, “Why are you doing that? Why don’t you think about this? Let me send you a link to a few alternative options.”
Once I began to build a block of business, they moved me over to the sales team…and my sales career got started.
Entering the Medicare market was very appealing because people are required to make decisions. I’m not there to sell them something – they’ve got to go to Medicare. Instead, I find myself acting as more of an educator and trusted advisor, helping them make informed decisions. That’s one of the reasons I’ve really come to like this business.
KNOWING YOUR MEDICARE SUPPLEMENT PRODUCTS IS CRUCIAL
When you start at the bottom, you learn the business from the most mundane up to the complex. You are not only learning the fundamentals of the business from the ground up, but you also still understand the operations side of it and all the pain points and processes that go along with it.
Even though I am now in sales, I have that experience of starting at the front desk, answering phones, assigning leads to the agents. I saw the problems and the pain points as I went up the ladder.
I see Medicare brokers all the time that aren’t running medications, checking doctors, or doing a needs assessment. All they want to do is make a sale. If that’s the case, they aren’t adding any value to a client relationship. They might make a few sales here and there but they aren’t going to stay on the books very long nor generate a loyal and personal relationship with their clients.
The second something goes wrong — that client’s gone. And the referrals and additional business goes along with it.
THE MEDICARE SUPPLEMENT SALES PROCESS
In Medicare, you’ve got to have volume to be successful financially. So, I try to be as efficient as possible. I try to get clients to come to my office to be cost conscious. 70% of my Medicare sales are done over the phone. 25% come to my office, face to face. Maybe 5% would be where I’m going out to a client’s house.
I’m a pretty tight scheduler. When I get a referral, I speak to the client for a few minutes to qualify the lead. I don’t want to set aside an hour on another day to find out the client is just going to stay with their employer plan at age 65.
On the qualification call, I’ll tell the client that I would prefer a list of the following: their zip code, a list of their doctors and specialists, a list of their prescription drugs, and their adjusted gross income just in case they have IRMAA charges (Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amount which can affect the amount they pay for their Medicare premiums). That way when I call them for the appointment, I have all the information I need to make the most accurate plan recommendation for their specific needs.
I typically dedicate an hour to do a full review of a Medicare plan with a client. Most of them don’t take that long. Typically they take around 30 to 45 minutes.
In the call, I do a brief education about original Medicare, what a supplement plan does and doesn’t do, and what an advantage plan does and doesn’t do. Based on that conversation, 95% of the time they tell me if a supplement plan or an advantage plan is better fit for them.
Then we figure out which specific advantage plan or specific supplement plan is going to be the best fit. By running their medications, checking to see if their doctors are in the network and pharmacy combinations, I’m able to create a very accurate plan assessment based on their particular needs and budget and proceed with a plan enrollment.
I consider myself to be very much an educational broker. I want to build confidence and rapport. On the client’s end they know, “this guy knows what he’s talking about and he’s taking the time to make sure I understand my options and how each plan works.” By spending ample time with each client and providing this education we typically see a close ratio of over 90%.
TRADITIONAL MEDICARE SUPPLEMENT MARKETING
I recently qualified for several of the Mutual of Omaha Mutual Sales Leaders’ conferences. One of the things I really liked about them was that I got to rub shoulders with some of the highest Medicare Supplement producers in the nation. Listening to how people did business was fascinating.
I remember speaking to one particular broker in Killarney, Ireland. He said, “We do Medicare supplement dial-a-thons. We don’t go home until we make 200 phone calls in a day. We’ll get hung up on 196 times, but as long as we can sell four a day, we are killing it.”
He asked me how many outbound calls I do. I said zero.
Then he asked me how many states I sell in. The answer? 99% of my businesses is in one state.
They’re dialing all over the nation. For them it was really interesting to hear that we don’t do any outbound solicitation calls.
One client I talked with recently said he put his name and date of birth on a website form to obtain a quote and he received 45 calls from all over the country in two hours. No one – NO ONE – wants to buy insurance that way.
If you have the right relationships, you’re good at what you do, you are trustworthy and responsive and you build a good reputation — you don’t have to go looking for business. It comes to you.
So, that’s the model that I’ve established and it has proven to be quite successful.
BUILDING A MEDICARE SUPPLEMENT REFERRAL SOURCE
I have spent a lot of time building relationships with other business professionals throughout the Pacific Northwest. I partner with other insurance brokers that are not actively selling Medicare, Financial Planners and Wealth Managers and many HR departments from large employers in the area. These folks have a constant need for an outside insurance expert to assist their clients and employees in navigating their insurance options. Referrals that come from these types of relationships are a trusted handoff which creates a welcoming and friendly introduction.
The hardest part about building these types of relationships is simply getting your foot in the door. I have found that once you have a sizeable book of clients and have built a solid reputation in the market many of these partnerships come to you. A few of my Wealth Management relationships resulted in one of their clients mentioning my name and describing how helpful I was during their Medicare transition that they reached out to me asking if they can refer all of their clients to me for insurance needs.
FUTURE OF MEDICARE AND LONG-TERM OUTLOOK
Medicare is going to continue to grow for many years to come. The baby boomers just started entering the Medicare age within the last few years and will continue to do so for many years to come. I have found that there are very few young Medicare insurance agents entering the business and most of the Medicare brokers out there are aging and approaching retirement age. I feel it is a great time for young insurance professionals to join the Medicare business as the senior population will continue to look for assistance and guidance in navigating the complex Medicare market. Getting to know your clients personally and sharing their stories along with your own makes this very much a people business. Being able to advise your clients and assist them through problems and provide financial protection when they need it the most is one of the most rewarding aspects of this business. I would encourage anyone interested in joining the Medicare business to give it a shot. If you are ethical, trustworthy, and always put the needs of the client first you will surely be successful.
Thanks for sharing your story Kevin and for letting American Independent Marketing be part of your success!