It’s the image most of us have when we think of selling insurance: agent and client sitting at the kitchen table, discussing plans and premiums, and sealing the deal by putting pen to paper.
Many of the most successful producers in the senior market have been selling this way their entire careers and some may never change their methods. Why fix it if it ain’t broke, right? Well, agents in the Medicare insurance market know that today’s seniors are often uncomfortable inviting strangers into their homes, which means fewer prospects who are willing to open their doors. Also, most agents today cannot survive as the neighborhood insurance agent, so they need to expand their territory in order to make ends meet.
Furthermore, independent agents today are spread thinner than ever before. In the last 25 years, the number of agents in the field has dwindled from 750,000 to 300,000 today. Compounding the issue, the age-65 and over population is expected to double by 2030, increasing from some 36 million to 72 million people. So, fewer agents will have to figure out how to serve more people.
As is often the case these days, the answer to these challenges can be found in technology, which has opened up a world of options for selling in today’s Medicare market. While the road to a sale used to be a one-way street leading straight to the client’s house, there are now seven ways to sell Medicare insurance. From the tried-and-true practice of building relationships with in-person meetings to Web-based enrollment tools that save time and erase geographic limitations, the 21st-century agent has a host of techniques at his or her disposal.
1) Face-to-face with a paper application
Selling at the kitchen table is still the best way to develop a personal connection with your client. However, let’s be honest, some people just do not want you inside their homes. They could be shy or embarrassed by their home, or maybe they are afraid of high-pressure sales tactics. Also, there are people who would buy insurance from you, but they may live too far away for you to visit them.
Sales tip: In-person Medicare Supplement sales are an excellent opportunity to cross-sell a life, annuity or LTC policy. However, new CMS guidelines prohibit cross-selling of non-health care-related products during Medicare Advantage appointments.
2) Paper application via mail
After selling face-to-face, the most popular method of selling a Medicare insurance policy today is by mail. In most cases, the quoting, qualifying and sales consultation are handled during an initial phone call, after which an application packet is sent to the prospect for signature and premium collection.
Sales tip: Pre-populating the application with as much of the client’s personal information as possible increases the likelihood that the applicant will complete it.
3) Application via e-mail with ink signature
If the carrier or Field Marketing Organization (FMO) you contract with offers access to online quotes, forms and applications, e-mailing a fully or partially completed Medicare insurance application to a client is another option. The client must print out the application, sign it, and then return it to the agent by fax, mail or e-mail. This speeds up the sales process, and, by delivering a pre-filled application with easy-to-read type along with all the required disclosures and sales materials in a secure online package, your credibility as a professional is strongly reinforced.
Sales tip: Increase the likelihood of a sale by walking the client through the application over the phone after you’ve e-mailed it to them.
4) Online application with electronic signature
Utilizing the insurance carrier’s agent portal Web site, you can enter the client’s application information using an online form. The applicant then receives an e-mail notification from the insurance carrier that the electronic application is ready for his or her electronic signature. This process varies somewhat depending on the carrier, but generally the client logs into the insurance carrier’s Web site to review the application for accuracy, then electronically signs the application by typing their full name, and some additional information that may include the current date, the last four numbers of their social security number and/or their birth date.