Like most of you I watched in wonder last night as the Electoral College voted in our President for a second term. I am always facinated how an idea hatched over two centuries ago (the Electoral College) seems so archaic and outdated in todays modern information in a second kind of world. On the one hand we are so good at counting votes that we can decide who has won before even 30% of the votes had been counted, but on the other hand we still don’t think that a popular vote where the best man wins is a good idea. When I went to bed Obama had been declared the winner but he was losing the popular vote. In fact, in one state (Ohio) they had declared Obama the winner even though the votes that were in clearly showed Romney in the lead. What a process…what a night!
I woke up this morning and Obama was still President. The Congress was still split and the world was still upside down…especially if you are a health insurance agent. So is your world is upside down? “ObamaCare” has changed our world especially for those of us who make a living in the health insurance world. The sweeping changes that have already begun to happen in how we provide health insurance coverage will have implications for all of us. Most significant is lower commissions, lower renewals and the potential for lost revenues as smaller businesses try to adapt to the changes.
If that was all we had to deal with, maybe we could survive, but other factors have changed our world as well. Perhaps just as impactful to our business as ObamaCare has been is the backlash from the financial crisis in 2008 & 2009. In less than a 12 month period, we saw the world’s global capital go from $60 trillion to $30 trillion dollars. Some called it a correction and others saw it as an inevitable readjustment to a financial world that had run amok. Any way you slice it, the impact was felt by our clients and by us. A greater responsibility was placed on the individual to provide for his needs, and money was short so cuts had to be made. Most often we saw those cuts in benefits. Clients took higher deductibles to lower their premiums and lower premiums meant lower commissions for us. When you factor in the regulatory changes and the impact of an aging work force you can see why many of us in the health insurance world have come to feel like we are riding on a roller coaster that just keeps spiraling down.
So what can we do to stem the tide? You may ask yourself “How do I begin?” In my life I have always been told “do not re-invent the wheel.” I always took that to mean I should find out what works or has worked for others and do the same thing. This makes a lot of sense especially at a time where the world is moving so fast and we cannot afford to make another mistake. In putting together this report I took the best ideas from the best health agents who have changed their lives by following four simple steps. The steps are not complicated and are easy to duplicate. We can help you get there, but you have started down the right path just by reading this blog:.
Step One: Analyze Your Marketing Plan
In business school, perhaps the most fundamental rule that applies to all businesses is that you need to have a plan. A business plan. Our experts all agree that without a business plan you have no road map to success. It is often said that people never plan to fail but instead they fail to plan. Don’t fall into that trap. Begin with an honest assessment of your current clients and business strategy by utilizing a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for:
Most often this can be done rather quickly. It is a simple process to take a piece of paper and divide it into four equal quadrants. Label each section and start brainstorming. If you have a staff, then include them in the process. You will be surprised what comes out of a session like that. Ask yourself the tough questions, and be brutally honest especially in the area of weaknesses and threats. When you are finished, there will be some real clues as to what the next step is. Most importantly, you can have a clear picture as to whether your current business strategy will work in today’s upside-down world. And if you are like most health agents who do this exercise, you will be asking yourself this question: What alternative sources of income are available to me?
Step Two: Look in Your Own Backyard
Our experts all agree, the best place to find more revenues is in “your own backyard.” By that, they mean that in your current book of business lies the seeds for more revenue, you just need to water them and watch them grow. Too often as health agents, we set up our business plan with blinders on. We were singularly focused because our job required that. Our staff was trained to provide service to our clients but only as it related to the health insurance business. Our annual reviews were to discuss the increase in premiums and we rarely brought up any other topics for fear of losing the business we already had. With our world in turmoil now is the time to revisit that idea.
But how do we make that transition? First we have to change our thinking. We have to look at our clients differently. Each annual review can be an opportunity if we look at it that way. Once we change our thinking we then need to change our conversation. This takes a little more practice as so many of us are so used to our usual conversation. Our experts all agree that changing your conversation is vital to finding new revenues in your client base. The most effective programs train you how to ask the right questions. A question based approach is non confrontational and works best because you already have credibility with your clients. They know you, like you and trust you. The idea for transitioning into other opportunities starts with asking questions, but asking questions that you already know the answers too is vital to the process.
Step Three: Change Your Strategy
The culmination of your SWOT analysis and the reshaping of your thinking and conversation will lead you to the inevitable conclusion that you need to change your strategy. Your strategy must be focused on the opportunities and those opportunities are located in your book of business. This does not mean that you should stop what you are doing. Never forget who brought you to the dance and in our case it is the health insurance that opened the door and created the relationship. Now our strategy should be to build on that relationship. LIMRA studies have shown that if we have one piece of business with a client our retention rate is about 75%. If we add a second piece of business retention goes up to almost 85%. If we can add a third piece of business then retention is almost 90%. This is when that same client looks at you not as the “health insurance guy” but as an advisor and go to person on anything regarding his financial well being.
Changing your strategy is not complicated if you have the right approach. Our experts all found it easy to make the transition as they found a support group that had done it before and helped them take the steps necessary. It is important to focus on the change in conversation as part of the change in strategy. A good question based approach will build on your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. The program you use should provide you with tools and support and the confidence to ask questions that you already know the answers too. In this case, the traditional sales approach will not work so we need to “break the rules.” And as we get comfortable with the new strategy we need to practice what we have learned. Gary Player said ‘the more I practice the luckier I get” and this is the case as we make transitions to the other opportunities that are in our backyard.
Step Four: Find the right “help engine”
Finding a mentor. Or even better, finding an agency support line that understands your health business and the health industry in general is crucial to your success. Concerns about formal training disappear when you have daily support and knowledgeable people and teams standing behind you that can help you with every scenario, every client, and every question. This is a must in moving forward with Steps 1-3. Ask your friends, associates, and colleagues, “What agency do you work with? But don’t forget the most important question of all: “Do they specialize in helping health agents?”
We have been where you are now. We have helped 100’s of agents just like you make the transition into the new opportunities that are in their own back yard. It begins with a simple question…and ends with a solution that gives your clients peace of mind. To set up a 30-minute consultation on our marketing program titled “Questions are the Answer” just gives us a call.