If the post-reform world of health insurance has you feeling like your plane crash-landed in a strange jungle God knows where, you’re not alone.

The good news is that your rescue crew is on its way. This is the first in a series of articles that will give you seven critical tactics you can deploy in your health insurance practice — tips that will help you not only survive but prosper immensely in the immediate future, as well as for years to come.

Only the most determined, savvy agents will remain to enjoy the lion’s share of the profits and the lifelong satisfaction of building a successful agency. For those of you who are up for a challenge, read on and take heart — there is a way out.

Survival tactic #1: Get a very clear picture of your ideal client.

There’s evidence abundant that one shared characteristic among POWs and others who survive tough situations is the ability to visualize their desired outcome. In practical terms, this means that you are wasting precious time if you’re not clear on who your ideal prospects are, where they hang out and what’s driving their health insurance-buying behavior. Let’s break this down.

(Note: If you are accustomed to buying your leads, hang on — life is going to get a whole lot better for you once you begin attracting your own ideal clients.)

Part 1: Start by describing your ideal client. This person must be ready, willing and able to make a buying decision. You do not want to waste your precious minutes with shoppers who are only interested in sucking your time to gather information. Instead, you want to establish a single profile, or set of profiles, that is worth pursuing. Do this by visualizing as many details as you can.

It might help to think of the clients who’ve brought you the most success. Use your past experience as a jumping-off point to visualize the prospective client who believes in you and your service, and is ready to buy when you speak with them. Write it down.

Part 2: Get clear on where these prospects hang out. Where do they live? Where do they work? What do they do for fun? Where do they pick up information about health insurance: Google, Facebook, television, radio, newspapers and magazines, family and friends, work colleagues? Write it down.

Part 3: What’s driving your prospect to get involved with health insurance? Is it a recent layoff? A rate increase from their current provider? Think about what keeps this prospect up at night. Maybe a relative has recently experienced a sudden unexpected health problem. Who do they trust? What do they need to believe in order to make a buying decision? Again, write it down.

Congratulations! You have now established your target audience. These are the prospects you should spend time pursuing.

Action Step #1: Block out 45-90 minutes this week to turn off all distractions — cell phone, email, etc. — get out a sheet of paper or your laptop and describe your prospective client with as many details as you can in the time you have. Try to write down at least 20 items. If you find you have two or three ideal clients, see if you can finish one before moving on to the next. Complete at least one profile in your time block. Now, give this prospect a name. You might even find a picture in a magazine or online that you can keep alongside the prospect’s profile. File all of this away in a folder labeled “Survival Plan.”

Survival tactic #2: Offer valuable, compelling information to your target audience.

While state insurance rules put restrictions on what we can give clients and prospects to attract more business, there’s no limit on providing free, accurate information. Even better, oftentimes this information is intensely interesting to the people you want to get to know.

Here’s why: The moment we realize a need to provide protection for ourselves and our families against high and unexpected medical expenses, our brains immediately start scanning the landscape looking for information and solutions. So, when a prospective client finds an article you have written, hits a web page with relevant information or reads a press release or news story or Facebook snippet or ad about something you are doing that could help them find answers and solutions, they will naturally look to you for help.

One of the most effective tools in your survival kit is a consumer awareness guide. This guide will talk about your areas of expertise, and show how you can help your prospective client solve a particular health insurance concern. It needs to be everywhere people can find you: on your web page, your newspaper ad, your business card, your article tagline. Each of these places should include a web page prospects can visit to sign up for a free copy of your guide in exchange for their contact information.

This is so critical! When someone takes immediate action toward easing their stress with something you’ve provided them — even if it’s just an informational piece — they are inclined to be grateful and to believe you have the solution they want.

ACTION STEP #2: Create, acquire or improve a consumer awareness guide you can provide for prospective clients. Assuming you are starting from scratch, again, block out 45-90 minutes of uninterrupted time, sit down and outline an area of particular expertise or interest you may have as it relates to your ideal prospects’ pain, problem or predicament.

Keep your outline simple and to the point. Then, write down everything you know about that topic as if you were having a conversation with a friend or family member, using your outline as a guide. Give it a compelling title, something like “5 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Health Insurance for Your Family.”

Now put it all together, or hire a copywriter to do it for you. This should take you one to two hours, maybe a little longer if you are starting from scratch.

Once your guide is ready and you’ve made it available through Facebook, your blog, your website and any other place prospects might come across your name, get ready to follow up on some very high-quality leads.

A good investment
These two steps are the best investment you can make in the next 30 days to ensure that your health insurance practice not only survives, but prospers. Look for more survival plan steps in September – you’ll learn how to break out of the pack and become the obvious expert to a hungry crowd looking for solutions to their health insurance needs.

Fred Adams is a speaker and sales trainer, and serves as National Sales Manager for HSA for America. To get more information and resources for building your health insurance practice, visit www.HealthInsuranceMentor.com.

For more exclusive health insurance coverage, visit ASJ’s Health Insurance Resource Center.

Past health insurance stories from ASJ:

Health Care Reform: The Agent’s Evolving Role

Texas Employers Skimp on Health Care Coverage

The Brave New World of Health Insurance

Health Agents: Your Recipe for Success

Obama Administration Puts an End to Health Care Waivers