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  • 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.

  • Communicating with Seniors

    As an agent you spend most of your working hours trying to make connections to gain more business. But what happens when you make these connections? How do you connect with clients in the senior market to build the trust needed for them to allow you to handle their health care needs?

    Here are a few tips to help build lasting relationships with your clients.

    Speak Clearly and Articulate Your Words – Something as simple as speaking clearly and articulating your words can go a long way. It’s also important to watch your volume. You want to be audible so they can understand you, but you don’t want to be shouting, which could be misconstrued as aggression, when a casual speaking voice would suffice.

    Listen and Remember – People enjoy talking, especially about things they’re excited about like family achievements, upcoming events, or stories from their past they think you’ll enjoy. Learning how to be a good listener is simple but can go a long way to build trust. Especially if you retain some of the details you’ve learned about your client and are able to bring it up again the next time you see them. Asking things like “How was your 50th wedding anniversary celebration,” can go a long way to keep you in good standing with your client.

    Repeat but Don’t Talk Down – As an agent it’s one of your main duties to make sure your client understands what they are signing up for when it comes to their health plan. Making sure they understand might result in you needing to repeat yourself a time or two. This doesn’t mean you should talk down to your client though or that you need to “dumb things down.” It just means you might have to go over the highlights more than once.

    Ask, Don’t Assume – Showing your clients you care about what’s going to work best for them can build a solid foundation for trust. Part of this is asking them to describe what their needs are in their own words. Don’t just assume you know what product would suite them best without having a conversation and getting their input.

    Be Patient – When speaking to a senior client, don’t rush them or talk over them. This really ties into the points above about listening and not assuming. Sometimes it takes a moment for a person to collect their thoughts so they can properly articulate what is needed to be said. Patience goes a long way in building trust.

    Overall the important thing to remember is that the client matters most. If you’re treating the client with respect, listening to their needs and trying to communicate effectively, you’re doing your job right.

  • The Importance of being a Self-Reliant Agent

    Being a health insurance agent is hard work and can be very time intensive, especially during open enrollment. Although the staff at Agent Pitstop is here to help where we can, it’s also important to look at what you know and evaluate if you could be a self-reliant agent if the circumstance were to arise.Knowing how to be more independent could be the difference between making a sale and completely dropping the ball.

    But what does it mean to be self-reliant?

    It’s really all about knowing your industry and what you need to do in order to help your client’s to the best of your ability. Here are some tips for learning to be self-reliant.

    Know How to Market Yourself – Whether through leads or by becoming more involved in your community to help generate referrals, you need to be marketing yourself to make money. Marketing is absolutely key in growing your business and the only way marketing happens is through spending your time, money or both to make sure clients are coming your way. Being proactive with implementing a marketing plan is one of the most important steps you can take towards being a self-reliant agent.

    Popular methods of marketing include buying leads, generic print advertisements, direct mail business reply cards or holding meetings.

    Know Your Product & Where it Comes From – Know the plans in your area and the benefits of the various plans. If you aren’t confident in your product knowledge, there are trainings you can seek out through company offered trainings or from your up line.

    Self-reliant agents also know who to contact to order supplies and they have them on hand before needing them. If you don’t know how to order something, calling a company’s broker support line or your up line is usually the best bet when looking for a way to get supplies. If broker support can’t help you, they’ll at least know where to direct you.

    Just keep in mind the company wants you to have product on hand so that you’re able to write business if the opportunity arises so don’t feel shy about reaching out to request what you need.

    Know What a Clean App Looks Like and Know How to Submit it – Submitting a clean app and knowing how to write the app, as well as knowing who to send the app too once it’s complete, is important. You can know your product information inside and out but unless you know how to properly complete the enrollment process, your knowledge doesn’t help you or your client.

    Submitting a clean app can save hours of headache and upset.

    Know How to Follow Up and Resolve Issues – Making sure you are up-to-date with your applications is key to being a self-reliant agent. The first step is making sure your application has been submitted correctly. After a few days you need to follow up on the application and make sure your client was successfully enrolled. If there are any issues with the application you need to act quickly to take care of these issues. Don’t sit on something that could be taken care of easily because it could result in the application being terminated.

    Track Your Commissions and Know How to Problem Solve – A self-reliant agent has a method in place to help track their commissions. They know what they’re supposed to be getting and when they’re supposed to be getting it. This way, if something isn’t paid out, the issue can be caught sooner rather than later.

    This is something where you’ll have to find the best method that works for you, however if you’re an agent with Agent Pitstop then you’ll be able to track most of your commissions using your agentpitstop.com account.

    **If you’re an agent with Agent Pitstop and have a commissions discrepancy, please fill out a commissions discrepancy form and forward the form to commissions@agentpitstop.com via secure email.

    Download the discrepancy form by clicking here.

    Know Your Tools and Use Them Frequently – Many companies offer a broker portal or resource site of some sort. Here at Van Berg & Associates we offer AgentPitstop.com to track application submissions, contracting, and commissions. These tools, when utilized, help you keep on top of everything else listed above. If you’re not utilizing tools such as broker portals and resource sites like agentpitstop.com than you’re making your job harder than it needs to be.

  • How Agent Pitstop Can Help You and Your Business

    Knowing our agents are busy meeting with clients and running their business, we at Van Berg & Associates strive to help out where we can and make our agents lives as easy as possible.  As a Van Berg agent, using your password protected Agent Pitstop account can be a wonderful resource in helping to manage your applications, review client information, and track commissions. Our goal is to be as transparent as possible regarding your book of business and commissions. Therefore, we try and provide everything you need in one secure place.

    Here are just some of the tabs you’ll find under your personal Agent Pitstop account:

    Clients: Easily access your client information including address, phone number and even the policy ID for the client’s plan.

    Commissions Statements: Commissions statements are uploaded under this section whenever a commission is paid out. The statement shows where your money is coming from, helping you track your commissions.

    To access more tabs, hover over the “Account” tab.

    Invoices: This tab allows you to see any outstanding balances you might have for things such as leads, advertising, marketing, charge backs, etc. Clicking on the title of the invoice will bring up more information about the charge.

    Recent Submissions:  This feature helps you to keep up to date with a client’s application. Once the application is submitted and entered into the system, it will show on your Agent Pitstop account. From there you can track application status and also view your client’s policy ID.

    My Contracts: This section allows agents to see which companies they are currently contracted with through Van Berg & Associates, as well as companies they have been termed or cancelled from. This is also where you can find your writing ID for the companies you’re contracted with.

    Checking Agent Pitstop frequently and utilizing these tools is an easy way to help manage your clients, check application status and keep on top of your commissions.

    Don’t have an Agent Pitstop account yet? Call us today at 877-776-8919 and we’ll help get you set up.

  • Relationship Economics: The More You Give, The More You Get

    It’s common knowledge that you have to invest in your business to make it successful, but it’s important to remember that the same holds true of relationships. Are you investing enough time in developing relationships with clients and people in your community to grow your business? Here are a few tips to remember.

    The more you invest, the more you’ll get out of your relationships with clients and referral sources – This seems obvious, but it can be easy to forget. The more you invest in terms of time, energy, and really listening to people, the more you’ll get out of the relationship, both personally and professionally. Clients and community members are more likely to refer someone to you if they feel a genuine connection and trust between you.

    Spend your time wisely – Investing your time doesn’t mean having to spend hours and hours of your day working for little to no pay, and it also doesn’t mean continually throwing energy into relationships that aren’t flourishing. Your relationships with your clients should be number one, and then focus on whichever community groups or other sources of referrals and exposure are most worth your time. Once you’ve decided where to focus, dedicate yourself to making the most of that relationship.

    Know when to throw in the towel – You only have so many hours in the day and so much energy, so it’s important to know when to accept that a particular partnership is no longer serving you well. For example, if a medical group is expecting hours of time donated on your behalf to help their patients, but you’re only getting a small handful of clients out of it, it may be time to explain that while you’re happy to help, it’s difficult for you to justify the time given the business you’re getting in return. Better to be honest and upfront about it than to be frustrated because you’re no longer invested in the project.

    Understand that it’s a long term strategy – Remember that payoff for time spent now may not come until the end of the year, especially in the Medicare Advantage business where you may spend eight to nine months a year building a list of leads to working during AEP. If you spend extra time with a client now to make sure he or she is totally satisfied and pleased with their experience working with you, they may refer their friends to you in the fall. If you work with community groups or senior centers to do informational meetings, you may not get anything other than a stack of lead cards right now. It’s important to remember in both of these situations that those connections are valuable and can turn into business down the line.

    Especially during lock-in, don’t be afraid to spend the extra time nurturing relationships with your clients and in your community to help build your book of business now and in the future.

  • Growing Your Business During Lock-In

    During the annual election period (AEP) those on Medicare are actively searching for agents to help them enroll onto Medicare plans so it’s far easier to grow your book of business. But what about the other 10 months of the year? Here are some tips to help grow your business all year round.

    Visit Local Doctor’s Office – Going around to local doctor’s offices and introducing yourself could potentially get you referrals. Make sure to bring business cards or flyers to leave behind. Often clients talk to their physicians or doctors’ offices for guidance on insurance. This is especially true for clients who have formed a relationship with their doctor over the years. Knowing the doctor’s offices in your area and making yourself known to them could potentially be an easy way to gain more clients.

    Invest in Leads – Ordering leads is a simple way to open yourself up to new markets, make new contacts and gain more business. There are various lead types to choose from based on your budget. Internet leads tend to be pricier but usually mean the client is actively searching for information. Mail drop leads are much cheaper but the return rate is only around 1-2%. Also, since leads are generated by people actively looking for information on health coverage, it is important to act fast on leads. Acting fast will ensure the client doesn’t go looking for information elsewhere and helps you to get the sale.

    Pay attention to trainings year round – Many companies offer training or informational classes throughout the year to discuss how they can help you grow your business during lock-in. Take advantage of these opportunities and hear what they have to say. Although their suggestions could be tips you already know about, they could also be offering support that could help you toward your goals that you wouldn’t get on your own.

    Have (and know) the right products to sell – Make sure you’re contracted with the right products to help bring you more business outside of AEP. Developing a relationship with a client by starting out with life products could potentially lead to them coming to you for health insurance in later years. Medicare supplement plans are also key to helping grow business during lock-in. This is especially true in states such as California where the birthday rule applies.

    Run meetings within your area – When a person first enters into Medicare it can be difficult for them to navigate the system. Hearing about the various plans can seem confusing and frustrating so having someone on their side who can competently explain their insurance options can drastically ease their worries. Holding meetings throughout your community or service area can help build relationships that lead to sales and referrals. It also helps you become a staple within the community so people know who to go to when they’re ready for help with their insurance needs.