Having your own business is a lot of work. For you to do well as a health insurance agent, marketing, training and technology are critical. Because it can be challenging for agents to manage everything on their own, good agencies provide their field teams with tools to maximize opportunities for success.
Of course, you see news stories every day about problems in some parts of the insurance industry, including the health insurance market. Some companies are pulling back from some product lines. But insurance companies still need experienced, energetic people like you to distribute important, related products, such as dental insurance and other supplemental health insurance products.
Here are a few items to look for when you’re choosing an insurance agency to work with.
1. Compensation to keep you motivated
It’s important to look at the total compensation and support package when choosing which agency or brokerage to go with. Certainly most agencies offer commissions, but that’s kind of like a hotel that offers four walls, a roof and a bed: the minimum. The best hotels offer perks to their best guests like room upgrades, global concierge services and invitations to special events and experiences. Likewise, a world-class agency should offer to its best brokers things like cash bonuses, trips, and even stock equity in the company.
2. National and local marketing support
An agent’s ultimate objective is to sell, sell, sell. But to be able to focus on clients and the coverage they need, it helps if the agency has your back through national and local marketing efforts across a range of channels. When interviewing, ask about TV, radio and online advertising campaigns; social media; email and direct mail; local search listings with outlets like Yellow Pages, Google, Yahoo, Bing, Facebook and Yelp; signage and print collateral for client meetings.
A professional agent web page that can be personalized and used to gain leads through both agency and individual marketing efforts is a big plus, too.
3. Lead-generation program
Ever seen Glengarry Glen Ross? Even tenured agents can hit a roadblock when it comes to finding new clients. A supportive agency will help take you to the finish line by generating leads through national and local advertising campaigns and – unlike the fictional real estate agency in the movie – sharing the best of them while arranging preset appointments and live call transfers.
For a health insurance agent, access to the right technology is critical. (Image: Thinkstock)
4. Work online or at a storefront location
Agents don’t work on a 9-to-5 schedule, nor do they work in just one place. Obviously the flexibility to work online in a virtual office is appealing for these and other reasons. But there’s value in local brick-and-mortar offices as well. Ask ten agents and all ten will tell tales of client meetings in crowded, noisy coffee shops and speaking in hushed tones to avoid eavesdropping from neighboring patrons. The availability of local storefront office makes sharing sensitive health information that much more confidential and clients that much more comfortable in sharing it.
5. Technology tools: There’s an app for that!
We’re living in a digital age and it’s imperative that agencies keep with the times. For example, an easy-to-use mobile app that functions as a digital assistant to keep track of your appointments could be just what you need to stay organized. This kind of app also offers real time notification for new leads, policy information for your customers, appointment setting capabilities and much more.
Additionally, a mobile-friendly online quoting tool with an intuitive interface featuring a multi-carrier and multi-line selling platform makes it easy to compare policies across carriers and get your clients enrolled in the plan that suits them best.
6. Strong social media presence to support your business
Are you Twitter famous? Have your YouTube videos gone viral? While I can’t guarantee A-list celebrity status, social media is a great tool to market your business. Agency social media content can be shared by agents via their own professional social media accounts. Social media content can inform the public about an array of products — including life insurance, individual and group health insurance, Medicare and supplemental coverage like vision and dental — across platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, just to name a few.
Related: How to get out of a sales slump
A robust social media presence allows the agent to quickly and easily share credibility-building videos, graphics and articles with clients without having to spend time creating their own.
To maximize sales, you’ll need good products, and, in most cases, advice about how to sell those products. (Photo: Thinkstock)
7. Products from recognized companies
Just like any retail category, there are benefits to offering both brand-name and off-brand products. But selling insurance is hard enough without having to convince clients their carrier will be there when it’s needed. Working with a comprehensive collection of recognized brands enables agents to sell with confidence knowing they can enroll their customers in a quality health or life insurance plan.
Also, an expansive line of insurance products gives agents the latitude to sell supplemental and life insurance products as well as the small group and Medicare markets beyond the open enrollment period.
8. Agent development and training
Customer service techniques and product information is always evolving. It’s important that agents evolve, too. Agencies that offer development and training programs and free online classes will always have agents best prepared to handle customer relations and expand their business. Appointment setting and effective client presentations are vital tools you’ll need to be an effective agent for your clients.
Some agencies even have personal field training and mentoring available until you are confident enough in your training to engage with customers on your own. From role playing with an experienced agent to observing the sales process in person, training will have you covered when it comes to phone techniques and overcoming customer objections. What if you need some guidance in the middle of a client meeting? An agency with a dedicated agent hotline can help to answer your questions right away.
9. A resource center, for when you need a refresher
When considering an agency to work with, ask if it has a dedicated agent resource center.
Resource centers may provide policy information, carrier news, industry news, contests and events, marketing tools and tips, and additional training opportunities. Some offer video tutorials, featuring advice from top-selling agents on topics such as how to approach unsure customers.
The tools are out there. It’s up to you to be aware of what’s available and be sure the one on your business card is providing everything you need to be successful.
Michael Z. Stahl is senior vice president and chief marketing officer at HealthMarkets, an independent health insurance agency based in North Richland Hills, Texas.