This article is Part 2 of a 4-part interview series with our very-own Steven Smith. Part 1 focuses on retention strategies. Part 2 focuses on planning. Part 3 is about how to run a consistent, successful meeting and Part 4 delves into compliance.
Q: How do you segment your book for outreach?
Steven: When I owned my agency, I used a CRM to help me keep things organized. I knew who had Humana, who had United, who had Cigna, and why they had those plans. Then in September, I would literally print a spreadsheet and call those folks one carrier at a time. That way, I'm not talking to one person one minute about Humana, and five minutes later about United, and getting the carriers and the benefits confused.
I would also try to schedule my appointments in the same ZIP code on the same day, as opposed to running all over town. It would make me more effective and efficient.
If somebody cancelled an appointment, I would make effective use of my time, rather than sitting around waiting for the next appointment. I would dive into a strip mall and look for a P&C broker or somebody that I could try to build a relationship with. I’d ask who does their Medicare or their dental or vision.
Q: Do you prefer in-person meetings or virtual meetings?
I realize many agents are mixing both in-person and online meetings with clients. But, for me, I am a huge proponent of face to face. That's 99.9% of my business. A couple of years ago, during COVID, I would call my clients and ask how they would like to meet, and every one of them said they wanted me to come to their home. We would sit out on the back patio, and we wore masks, but it was in person. It was a phenomenal way to do business, even through the pandemic.
An exception might be if you are contracted in multiple states. I did a couple of enrollments last AEP that were over the internet. I would do them through the platform that that Western Asset Protection offers.
If you aren’t meeting face-to-face, it’s important to remember the new call recording requirements in effect this year.
Q: How to you manage the practical aspects of in-home meetings?
Steven: People don't realize how important their cars are during AEP. Get your oil changed. Make sure your tires are good and make sure that your trunk is built out with all of your supplies. Not just the booklets, but make sure you've got pens and highlighters and everything you need to be successful on a daily basis.
Also, bring an extra change of clothes. If you go into an appointment, and they smoke like crazy, you're going to smell for the rest of the day. I once left an appointment loaded with cat hair.
One of the next most important things is an emergency kit. There have been many times when I was so far out my GPS wasn't even working. If I had broken down back there, I would have been there for a while because I had no service. People need to have an emergency kit, tools to fix a flat, some food, water, a blanket and a phone charger as well.
Q: First Looks are coming. How should agents use them?
Steven: First Looks are great because they give you a 30,000-foot overview of the changes coming. They’re not going to give you specifics until later – at the end of September or even into October – but the First Looks are really good because they give you a snapshot of what those plans are doing. It gives you enough information to really help you make a decision whether or not you’re going to end up moving people to a plan this year. This preliminary information can also help you decide your ANOC meeting mix. If you have First Looks from all the major carriers, you have enough to start formulating your game plan.
I recommend that agents carefully review the Benefits-at-a-Glance for each carrier to see what's going on. Look carefully at the list of the co-pays and the maximum out of pocket and how they compare between carriers. When you review First Looks, you start laying the groundwork for your AEP.
Q: How much contact is too much contact?
Steven: In all the years, I’ve only had one guy out of hundreds of people who didn’t want to be contacted. He told me, “Steven, just send me something once a year and let me know what my plan is doing. That's all.” He was nice enough to tell me that, which was great.
Most people in my book of business would never even dream of telling me that because they love the interaction. When I call them up and say, “Hey, I want to come out and see you,” they're like, “Oh, yeah, that'd be great.”
They want the interaction. So, when I go out and see them, I'm there for a while because they want to talk.
Want to Know More?
Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series, PRO Meeting Tips, coming tomorrow.