Last April, the American Association for Medicare Supplement Insurance presented the ninth national Medicare Insurance Industry Summit, an industry conference focused on catching (and keeping) the attention of talented agents. It was called "Issues and Trends in Medicare Supplement Insurance," and it featured a panel of four national distributors (including WAP) who shared what they've learned from recruiting and developing thousands of agents throughout their careers.
In case you didn't get a chance to attend this event, we thought we'd share the highlights.
Getting into the zone
Mari Rose Tautimes, Co-CEO of Western Asset Protection, kicked off the hour by saying that every business, in every industry, follows the same stages of growth: infant, toddler, teenager, young adult, the zone of maximization, and all the way back down from there.
But unlike a typical life cycle, businesses don't progress from one stage to the next on a set timeline. You could reach the zone of “maximation” within six months. Or, you could get stuck in the toddler years for decades. So how do you optimize your business potential? By recruiting, developing, and holding onto talented agents. Here's how.
Six ways to recruit more agents
“We all have agents we wish we could duplicate,” Tautimes said. “So how do you do that? The answer is: you don't. Let them be, and go find more.”
- The phone (plus LinkedIn). Use LinkedIn to identify those who would be a good fit for your products, and then start making calls.
- Internet search. Look for targeted areas in specific markets to find agents that focus on the business you want to market to.
- Events. Invite people in to events of all kinds, from market entry meetings to locally-hosted talks on non-products like social security – then bring them into your agency.
- Email (plus video). Embedding video in your outreach emails can create a more personalized connection with your audience.
- Agents bringing other agents aboard. Encourage your agents to see themselves as managers, not superstar loners.
- Teaching. Educate newbies from the ground up by offering a class to help them attain their insurance license. "Selling is an art; we have to teach them the art of selling," said Albert Robledo, CEO of PTT Financial.
What strategy didn't work? Direct mail. “We all get them,” said Bill Pellegrini, president of Pellegrini & Associates. "I personally have never responded to one."
Six tools to develop your talent
How can you maximize the productivity of the agents you have? "It comes down to training," said Pellegrini, and that's a process. Here are a few strategies mentioned during the talk.
- Training. Make sure your agents have the right information.
- Marketing. Teach an agent how to fish; then provide marketing support with free materials like fliers and business cards.
- Goal-setting. First, set a specific target. Next, articulate its purpose. Finally, make a plan of action.
- Mentorship. "Accountability is the key to success as well," said Paul Rose, Co-CEO of Western Asset Protection. “We've got to do a better job at assigning mentorship and mentoring this potential so it can grow."
- Self-improvement. “The only way our agencies will get any better, is we have to get better," Tautimes said.
- Inspiration. Independent agents want a leader who can get them excited about what they do for a living.
Six strategies for agent-retention
"You've spent time and money and resources on an agent, and then he or she asks you for a release,” said Tautimes. “It's excruciating. So how do you make sure that doesn't happen?"
- Education. Offer to sit down with them and look at the contract. Sometimes what's offered is not in their best interest, and you can help them avoid a bad engagement.
- Partnership. Make yourself available to your agents day-to-day and get their buy-in.
- Celebration. Recognize your top-performing 20 percent with rewards and ceremonies. “They appreciate it,” Pellegrini said. “It creates a buzz among all our partners.”
- Value. Make it your obsession to create more value than anyone else in your space; for example, by helping agents get onto a CRM.
- Community. If you operate locally, help your agents feel more connected to you by meeting up for happy hour or going on picnics.
- Culture. Paul Rose asked, “When you walk by your staff while they’re talking to clients, what do you hear?” “Are they having fun? If they are, they're going to embrace our clients in the same way. They're going to create that experience for our clients."
Bottom line: It comes down to finding the new agents, developing new talent, and creating as much value as possible. Then you don't have to worry about the clients you lose – and why? Because you’ll be doing such a good job that the clear majority will stay.