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  • What to Know to Market at AEP

    While AEP is the source of most of an agent’s Medicare Advantage business for the year, it’s also the time of year when every agent is working, including the ones you might not be competing against during lock-in. This means it’s that much more important for you to make the most of the marketing opportunities you have available.

    Brand Yourself

    Insurance is, more than anything, a relationship business. Think about what sets you apart from an agent down the street who could offer a client the same products. Have you been involved in the community for a long time? Do you have a deep knowledge of a particular set of products? Do you offer a wide variety of products to provide a one stop shop for clients? Once you figure this out, incorporate it into your advertising, office signage, business cards, and your introduction to potential clients and colleagues.

    Generate Leads

    If you’re still building your book of business, simply buying leads from a direct mail or online lead company is a great way to get started. Direct mail leads are generally the least expensive, but have a lower response rate, whereas online leads are more expensive but are more likely to lead to a sale. In many cases you can narrow down the demographics to particular zip codes, ages, and income levels to help you focus on exactly the prospects you want.

    If you already have an established book of business, whether from Medicare or other products, AEP is a perfect time to get in touch with them. By sending your clients a letter or even giving them a personal call to let them know that you’re available and can help them with their Medicare plan needs, you can help your retention with any existing Medicare plan business, as well as generate referrals from your clients’ family and friends. Remember that you should also be planning a review with your existing Medicare Advantage clients during AEP, since their plan availability and benefits can change every year.

    Another option for generating new business is to hold sales events in your community. These are public events where you invite prospects to either come to a presentation on Medicare and the benefits of a particular plan or plans, or to drop by a table or kiosk during a particular time to ask questions or get information. These events need to be filed with CMS through carriers with which you’re contracted, and you must follow the CMS guidelines for registering, advertising, and conducting these events. Each carrier’s requirements for conducting sales events can vary, so it’s important that you’re familiar with the process for each carrier with which you work. You can view our guide to deadlines and other info about registration here. If you have any questions about sales events, feel free to email our team at events@agentpitstop.com.

    Leverage Your Community

    Are you involved in your local Chamber of Commerce, small business association, Lion’s Club, or other community group? Those groups and relationships are a prime opportunity for you to reach out and market yourself as an available resource. That kind of visibility and good will can be a great way to generate referrals as well as making your other marketing that much more effective. People are more likely to want to do business with someone who is seen as a trustworthy and active member of their community than someone with whom they’re not familiar.

    AEP will be here before you know it, so get out there and sell!

  • Time to Get Certified!

    Here at Agent Pitstop we want you to have a successful AEP, and getting certified is the first step. Below you will find tips to get you started on the right foot and get you ready to head into AEP with minimal hiccups.

    2018 AHIP certifications are now available, so if you haven’t completed it yet, don’t wait! It will be much easier to get it done now instead of when we get closer to AEP. Make a date and time for yourself where you clear your schedule for a few hours to get it done. Did you know that most carriers will provide a $50 discount if you complete your AHIP through them? Some carriers also offer reimbursements for even more of the cost if you write a minimum number of applications. Check the agent portals of carriers you work with to see what they offer, and watch your email for announcements of any special programs.

    If you’re not already, you should make a habit of checking out our certifications page. Here you can find links to the online carrier certifications, as well as schedules and information on in-person certifications. For certain carriers you can RSVP through us by e-mailing rsvp@agentpitstop.com. You’ll need to send us your 2018 AHIP, current license, and current E&O to RSVP. Even if you’re not RSVPing for a training, we appreciate getting your current documentation as soon as possible so that we can keep our records up to date.

    If you don’t complete your certifications on time, there can be some real consequences for you and your business. If you don’t certify, you cannot write that product at all for the upcoming plan year and you won’t be paid on your renewals, which is enough reason for most of us to go ahead and get it done! So, even if a plan has left your area or you just no longer want to write for that carrier, you still need to recertify or risking losing out on renewals that should be yours!

    It’s also worth it to get certified as early as possible, because until you’ve finished your certification, you can’t access enrollment kits, marketing materials, or other resources provided by carriers. Plus, certifications are one of the simplest things to complete early.

    If you have any questions regarding certifications, please give us a call at (800) 723-5228.

  • Do you have a client on an AARP Medicare Supplement?

    Here are some important facts you need to know about them switching from one AARP Medicare Supplement plan to another AARP Medicare Supplement plan with an effective date of July 1, 2017 and later.

    1. Current members with plan effective dates between June 1, 2010 and June 1, 2017
      • Members in this range looking to change from say a Plan F to Plan G, will ignore the rates laid out in the enrollment kit. To get your member an accurate rate, you will need to refer to the plan change rate charts, which you can find here.  Also, for these members their current 10-year enrollment discount structure will be applied to their new plan.
    1. Current members with plan effective dates before June 1, 2010
      • Members with plans effective before this date looking to change from say a Plan F to Plan G will require a new application to be submitted. You will treat these just like a new sale, meaning underwriting and rating rules will apply.
    1. New members looking to get a plan with an effective date of July 1, 2017 or later
      • You will use the new July 1, 2017 enrollment kit and rate pages. Again, underwriting rules will apply and obviously, a new application must be submitted.  Once accepted, these new members will receive the new Enrollment Discount.

    As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (800)723-5228.

  • Bonus Programs and Structure

    Let's Talk Money

    Most companies have bonus programs to help you earn extra cash. Before you start planning your next trip to the Caribbean with all of this newly acquired money, make sure you check out the details of each program.

    THE FINE PRINT <—That’s what I am talking about. You need to pay attention to get paid. Make sure you are reading the fine print for each of these programs because you will notice that they differ from carrier to carrier. Policies will only count towards bonus qualification if they meet the requirements, such as the effective date of the policy, whether the policy is underwritten, or which plan it was. You must make sure you are reading the details.

    KEEP TRACK OF YOUR APPS!
    I cannot say this enough. You may have to submit a form to collect your extra bonus, and you will be out of luck if you were not keeping track. Even if you racked up thousands of dollars, it is your job to keep track of the apps you are submitting, so make sure you are doing so.

  • Get to Know Your Carriers

    We want you to take a moment and answer a couple questions. (We promise these are easy.)
    1. How many carriers are you appointed with?
    2. How many of their websites have you been to?

    The reason we ask is there is a whole network of information on those carrier websites.
    • Detailed information about their products
    • Live chat
    • Direct phone numbers for Agents Only
    • Material ordering (that sometimes goes straight to your house)
    • Promo ordering
    • Insurance Resources
    • Contact forms
    • Specials/prizes/events

    With AEP right around the corner we think it would be a great time for you to familiarize yourself with the companies that you are appointed with. By doing so, you have all the knowledge you need to give potential clients.

    Need some help finding your carrier website? Type the carrier name in the search bar of your preferred internet search engine and the carrier you are looking for should pop up on the top of your search.

    With that being said, we have another great reference for you to use:

    That’s right. Agent Pit Stop. Did you know that on our webpage you can:
    Click on the CLIENTS tab to see all your clients, plus you can see all upcoming birthdays. Making it easy for you to give them a phone call, send a card, or let them know of plans that may be more suitable to their health needs.

    Under the CONTRACTS tab you can see which documents we have on file and when they are expiring, plus you can request contracting information for carriers you may not be appointed with.

    The RATES tab has a search engine for you to use to better prepare you for your appointments. It helps your clients know the most updated rates that are available.

    The BILLING tab will show any balances you have with Van Berg.

    The COMMISSION STATEMENTS tab will show you exactly that. What date you were paid, the company/companies, and a file to download of the statement for that date.

    The SECURE EMAIL tab is for those who would like to sign up or log in to their secure email page.

    Last, but not least, the BLOG tab. Keep up to date with information about carriers, helpful tips, changes in insurance, and other information that may be pertain to the business.

    As always, if you cannot find what you are looking for here and still need additional help, we have several people in the office to help point you in the right direction. Please do not hesitate to call us at (800) 723-5228.

  • 10 Words That Could Kill a Health Insurance Sale

    Setting up a meeting with potential new clients can be a lot of work. Why ruin a potential sale by using easily avoidable words?

    Here are ten words that can kill a sale and how to avoid them if possible.

    Customer
    Yes, the people you serve are considered customers, however the word “customer” isn’t a very personable word. Using a word like “client” instead of customer helps make a person feel more valued.

    Commission
    When you remind client’s you’re getting paid for helping them with their insurance needs they might suddenly feel like you’re looking out for your own interests instead of theirs. Even though you both know you’re more than likely getting something out of helping them, there’s really no reason to bring it up.

    Buy/Purchase
    It’s important your clients knows exactly how much they’re going to have to pay for their insurance. However, it’s also important not to sound too pushy. Sometimes the word “buy” leads a client into feeling like they’re cornered or like they’re talking to a pushy used car salesman and not someone helping to plan their insurance needs. Using words like “enroll” or “invest” help create a friendlier environment.

    Free
    Calling an insurance plan “Free” is just asking for an issue later on down the road. When there is a zero premium plan do not tell your clients that it is “free.” Instead, call it exactly what it is: a zero premium plan.

    Cheap
    Whether or not something is “cheap” is completely subjective. This is a word that could lead to hard feelings or could create an awkward environment. Instead, try using the phrase “relatively inexpensive.”

    Maybe/Possibly
    Both of these words could make you look wishy-washy. The only way these words are ever acceptable is if they’re followed up with an action plan. EX: “Possibly, but let me just call the company real quick so I can have a solid answer for you.” By adding the action sequence, you’re telling the client that you’re not sure but you’re willing to figure it out.

    Honestly
    “Honestly” completely backfires because it actually causes distrust. If you start a sentence with “Honestly…” your client will subconsciously think you’re not being completely honest with them.

    Satisfaction
    This word is one of the most used words in sales, which is why it has come to have a negative effect in sales meetings. Just saying the word lowers the meeting in a way where it can sound like an infomercial.

    Obviously
    If the information you are providing your client is obvious, then they wouldn’t need you. To assume what you’re saying is already known could cause the client to feel like they are incompetent. Making your client feel incompetent could cause hard feelings, in turn making you lose the sale.

    Best-Seller
    Just because something is a best-seller, doesn’t mean it’s the product that’s best for your client. It’s easy for a client to feel like you’re not doing your due diligence in helping them and are just putting them in a box because it’s what other people choose. It’s better to make a client feel special than making them feel like they’re just one of many. Even if a product is a “best-seller” it’s better not to mention it unless a client specifically wants what’s most popular.

    Phrases and words like these can hinder your ability to reach clients. Subtle changes like these can help you improve your relationships, in turn helping you bring in more business.

  • The Impact of the Election Year on Medicare Marketing

    The results of the upcoming Presidential election could bring about a host of changes, but even before that, the election year itself can mean new marketing challenges for agents during AEP. So what should you be prepared for?

    Fear of changes – Because Medicare is a major campaign issue, seniors are likely to be more concerned about potential changes and less certain about their options for 2017. With the promise of a new administration reforming Medicare, clients may be worried about making a decision, only to have things change.

    Congested advertising space – Remember that the election is smack in the middle of AEP! In the final lead up to the election, people will be inundated with campaign related direct mail pieces, television commercials, and print ads, making it harder for yours to be seen.

    Limited advertising available – Due to the volume of political ads being scheduled in the lead up to the election, television networks will almost certainly run out of available advertising space, and print publications may as well. Both will likely charge a premium, particularly on the specific networks and publications that best reach seniors.

    So, how do you combat this?

    Be prepared to reassure clients – Clients may be more cautious with their choices or less sure about their options because of potential changes to the Medicare program. Have some talking points in mind to remind them that any changes as a result of a new Presidential administration will take time and they should make the best choice they can based on where things stand now.

    Plan for advertising early – Get in touch with your contacts at television providers, newspapers, and direct mail houses earlier than you think is necessary to make sure you can get your advertising out when you need to. There’s likely to be longer turn around time in addition to less availability, so getting in early will be key.

    Be as creative as possible – There will be so much advertising, it will be more important than ever to find ways to stand out from the crowd. People are going to have red, white, and blue postcards by the dozens in their mailboxes and wall to wall ads in their newspapers and magazines, so start thinking now about how to make yours stand out.

    While planning marketing for AEP is always a significant undertaking, remember that this year will bring with it unique challenges. Plan ahead and save yourself some headaches!

  • What NOT to do When Working With Clients

    There are tons of articles out there telling agents what they should remember to do while on a client visit… but what about what not to do?

    Here are 4 tips on things to avoid when working with a client.

    Treating Your Clients like a Sale and Not a Person
    Sometimes when you get caught up in the moment you just want to “close the deal” but when it comes to insurance that “deal” is actually a person. Insurance directly affects the well being of a person so it’s always important to remember to go into a sales meeting with the best interests of the client in mind, not with whether or not you’re about to make more money. This thought process can actually help create more business through referrals, because if your client is happy, they’ll want people to know.

    Showing up Without Being Prepared
    When you schedule a meeting you’re not only carving out a chunk of your own time, but your client’s time as well. They also have places to be or people to see, so showing up unprepared could easily be the primer of what makes them unreceptive to what you have to say. Taking the time to ask a few questions and do a little research beforehand could be the thing that helps you seal the deal.

    Leaving out Information or Options
    One of the biggest reasons an agent can face an allegation is because they didn’t thoroughly cover the plan options with their client and later their client becomes confused. It’s important to give the information as plainly as possible and also to leave all of the necessary paper work so the client has the information at their fingertips. The client is relying on you to help them understand their policy so by leaving out pertinent information you could be jeopardizing your relationship with your client and also the client’s health in general.

    Forgetting to Complete a Follow-up
    You’ve met with your client, you’ve figured out their needs, you’ve written the policy and now you’re done, right? Not exactly. Following up to make sure your client’s policy was approved is an important final step to securing your sale and making sure your client is insured and happy. Don’t go through all of the work just to fall flat at the last step by forgetting to make sure there aren’t any loose ends that need attention.

     

  • 4 Tips When Making the Switch to Work at Home

    One of the perks of being an independent insurance agent is being able to make your own schedule and choosing whether or not you work from home. However, working at home comes with its own set of hurdles that you’ll need to overcome. Making sure you’re just as productive at home (or more productive) is important to keeping your business alive and thriving.

    Keep a Routine
    Just because you’re now working at home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still get up at a decent hour. “The early bird gets the worm” is still something you should take into consideration, even when working from a home office. Getting up in the morning and going through a typical routine of showering, having breakfast and getting dressed in clothes outside of pajamas will help you get in the right frame of mind to work.

    Have a Dedicated Work Space
    Having a dedicated work space can significantly help you focus on business. Having this space will also help create a mental shift from home life to work life. Making sure your mind is on business is half the battle when working from home.

    Have Business Hours
    Creating a balance between home life and work life is an important thing to establish right from the start when your home becomes your office. With your office at home, it’s easy to work longer hours and think about work in the evenings when you could be spending time with family or friends. Having a set start time and end time will help you keep that balance. It will also help you focus on business instead of letting family obligations cloud your work time.

    Don’t Wander Around
    Keep out of the kitchen if it’s not time for lunch. Don’t sit in the living room watching TV when you become bored. Make sure people know even though you’re home, you’re not available during work hours. One of the perks of working at home is being in your own space and being comfortable, however allowing yourself to become too comfortable or distracted is going to lower your work production and create bad working habits.

    Overall working out of your house could create a more positive quality of life for you, as long as you put in the effort to keep your business up, while also not letting it take over your home.

  • Keeping Your Client Information Secure

    In 2015 there were multiple data hacks with big companies where client’s information was infiltrated, leaving clients vulnerable to fraud. Now, moving forward from these huge data breaches, many companies are cracking down on making sure client’s information is as secure as it can be, especially in the insurance field where client’s information is floating around on applications, ID cards, etc.

    As an agent it is your responsibility to keep your client’s data as protected as possible. But what information needs to be protected and how far do you actually need to go to protect the info?

    What information needs to be kept secure?

    The first thing about making sure your client’s information is protected is knowing what information actually needs to be protected. The most basic and secure answer is that everything should be protected. It is your responsibility to protect any information a client gives you which includes their addresses, email addresses, social security or tax identification numbers, credit card or bank account info, and anything else that you collect that could be used against your client in a fraudulent manner.

    This means applications, copies of clients ID cards, and other personal documents all need to be securely stored, whether in electronic format or hardcopy. Also, when disposing of old documents make sure they are disposed of properly such as with a paper shredder or similar method.

    How do you keep clients information secure?

    Keeping a clients information secure really depends on how you are using your client’s information. Is it a hard copy application or document or is it purely electronic?

    • Hard Copy: All applications and documents with client information should be kept in a locked area. This could be a room or something as simple as a filing cabinet with a lock. Applications and documents should not be left out in the open or stored in areas easily accessible by outside persons.
    • Electronic Storage: Documents with client’s information should be kept in limited access areas, even on computers. This means making sure a computer is password protected, and that firewalls and anti-virus software are in place, etc. Also, the computer or server where the client’s info is kept should not be something that is easily accessible by the public or even employees who have no reason to have access.
    • Electronic Communication: All electronic correspondence regarding your client should be done through a secured manner, such as a secured email system. You can find your own form of secure email by doing something as simple as googling “secure email service” or talk with fellow agents or up line* to see what they’re using.

    *Agent Pitstop offers a secure email service for our agents to correspond securely with us, free of charge. If agents would like full access where they are able to email anyone, it is $60 per year.

    What can happen if you don’t keep your clients info secure?

    If you are not currently doing everything you can to keep your client’s information secure, you are not only putting your clients at risk, but yourself as well. If you are found at fault for not securing your client’s information and it is stolen you could be at risk of not only losing your contracts with carriers but also your insurance license in general.

    If you have any questions or concerns about securing your client’s information contact our compliance department at compliance@agentpitstop.com.