This guest blog post was written by Michael Sams, Director of Sales Training and Development at New Horizons Insurance Marketing. At New Horizons, he trains and mentors independent agents in the senior market. Sams has a personal book of business of over 2,000 customers, and he has been awarded Agent of the Year in 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.
Fighting the Post-Medicare AEP Lull
The whirlwind of the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is over. Right about now, I’m taking some deep breaths, spending more time with my family, and preparing for the new year.
Every year, we find ourselves in somewhat of a panic mode followed by complete silence. It’s a rollercoaster, and I’m always looking for ways to fill up this slow season and make it productive.
December and January are the perfect time to do three things:
- Set goals for the new year
- Introduce new technology
- Learn new products
Set Goals For the New Year
Every December, when the biggest selling season of the year is over, I take some time to reflect.
I’m reflecting on my production over the last few years, and of course, my production this year. Am I growing, staying the same, or losing traction?
I always want to be moving up, and for many years, I had a hard time breaking the $1 million production goal. Last year, I finally hit that goal, and I attribute that to this reflection time every December.
Planning for the slow seasons
During the slow season, I create an action plan for monthly and quarterly goals. We know there’s going to be certain times of the year where things are slower. So, I ask myself: “What will I do during these slower times to help guard against lost production?”
Here are some things I’ve done in the past to help stir up some business during the slow times:
- Send a letter to bring awareness about interest rates on fixed annuities
- Hold educational events and seminars
- Work renewals
The first quarter is pretty difficult when it comes to seeing people because you just saw everyone during AEP. So, working renewals and touching base with everyone is great for Quarters 2 and 3.
We use AgencyBloc to run reports and organize lists of people to contact. They make it easy to figure out who should be contacted and when. In addition, it’s so helpful to access policy information, renewal dates, and maturity dates on annuities.
Knowing when things need to be renewed and serviced is critical, and AgencyBloc is a huge help for that.
Planning for the busy seasons
Another great thing to do during December and January is simply reflect on how AEP went. What worked well; what drove you crazy? I’m always asking myself what I want to do differently for the fourth quarter next year. I start to build out a new plan while it’s still fresh on my mind.
For example, something I changed this year is putting together an automated phone call that went out to all clients who didn’t need to change their Part D drug plan for 2021. That saved us a lot of time on the phones, which was a hurdle the year prior.
Something we did many years ago was bring in extra staff and seasonal help for support. We get them trained and ready to go for the fourth quarter as we approach October.
I have about 2,000 clients, so I really need the help. If you don’t have that many clients, the second thing I’d suggest is to have a game plan in place for how you’ll manage, stay ahead, and get organized. Some ideas include:
- Gathering drug lists prior to October 15th
- Sending out a letter asking for drug updates and information prior to October 15th
- Sending out emails leading up to the enrollment period
Break the whole year into quarters
I break my year into quarters and come up with a plan for how to tackle each one.
Here’s what I’m planning for:
- Q1: Make a concerted effort to promote activity as it’s naturally slower during this time. If you’re a veteran agent and you welcome the slowness, embrace it! But just come up with a plan of something to do during that time.
- Q2 and Q3: Update Medicare Supplements and other coverages by setting renewal appointments. Get this done before the fourth quarter!
- Q4: Focus entirely on Medicare Advantage and Part D enrollments.
Introduce New Technology
If you’re open-minded, there’s always something you can use to improve your efficiency.
The tool that has revolutionized the way we do business, hands-down, is AgencyBloc. That almost goes without saying.
If you’re tracking everything with spreadsheets and file cabinets, bringing in a CRM or AMS is a great thing to do as you approach the new year.
Some other things I’d suggest to improve your efficiency:
- Implement an online scheduling system, such as Calendly or Acuity Scheduling
- Add a communication software to get more referrals and reviews, such as Rocket Referrals
- Use a mileage tracker app, like MileIQ, to maximize your tax deductions and save you time
- Use a receipt app, like Evernote or Expensify, to make tax-deductible expenses less of a pain
- Learn how to host client appointments over video conferencing software, such as Zoom
Those are just some ideas, but my advice is to pinpoint what’s taking up way too much of your time that’s not sales-related. Where can you reclaim some of your time? Usually, there’s some kind of technology to help.
Learn New Products
There’s no way any of us are adding any new products or carriers to our portfolio during AEP. However, once AEP is over, it’s the ideal time to consider expanding your business.
I hear a lot of agents talking about sticking to one insurance niche, and I personally have never subscribed to that idea. Agents that only sell one product don’t know there’s a better way.
Clients appreciate having one agent for a variety of their insurance policies. It's simply a better, less complicated experience for them. You also service these clients better while growing your business at the same time.
There’s also a ton of research on having multiple policies in a household and experiencing higher retention rates. Clients are more loyal when they have more business with you.
For agents in the senior market like myself, I suggest adding life insurance (including life with long-term care riders and final expense) and annuities.
Too often, we are guilty of becoming one-dimensional agents and limiting ourselves.
During the slow time, I want to educate myself on a new product like long-term care; I’m going to learn how to present it, why there’s a need, and I’ll add it to my arsenal.
In December and January, I recommend independent insurance agents set goals, map out their year, consider new technology, and learn new products.
It’s the ideal time to do everything you can’t do when you’re busy seeing clients—so, take advantage of it!
Kickstart Your Goal-Setting Now!
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