Senior market insurance is all about relationships and service. In fact, the type of selling we do in the senior insurance space is called relationship selling.
The other kind, transactional selling, is quick and unpersonalized. That makes sense for low-cost products that don't require any personalization, like kitchen towels or paperclips. (Random, I know.)
However, if you're selling something that's at a higher cost and it requires customized solutions – like insurance – you have to focus on relationships or you'll be devoured like a sea lion in a tank of sharks. (Also random, but stay with me.)
Luckily, we've been writing about mastering the senior market client relationship for years, and today, we're boiling all of that advice down in one place.
Jump ahead at any time:
- Relationships matter in insurance
- Learn small talk
- Offer complimentary Medicare services
- Service the policies
- Show you care during difficult times
- Keep an open line of communication with clients
- Remember: Agents matter
Relationships Matter In Insurance Sales
There's a fulfillment to be had in this business when you can really help someone – when you've made a sincere impact on their life. Chances are you'll be spending years, even decades, keeping in touch with many of your clients.
If you genuinely care about them, always have their best interest at heart, and you make an effort to show that, you'll be rewarded.
For Jeff Sams' father, Lloyd, it was a jar of homemade apply jelly. "He probably had less than $4 in the gifts he gave them, but it was priceless as far as the relationships he was building year in and year out," Jeff says.
Relationships matter, and they also act as a forcefield, helping to preserve your business and keep your company afloat.
Jeff explains, "Telemarketers and low prices that are advertised on TV or the internet will not affect you and your business if you have invested in building a relationship with your policyholders."
All of us here couldn't agree more.
[Read more: Relationships Rewarded with Renewals]
At the end of the day, relationships matter.
Relationships are the foundation of a successful career in insurance sales.
Learn Small Talk
To make meaningful relationships with your prospects, you can’t completely cut out the small talk. It’s the most natural way to bridge the gap between total stranger and new acquaintance.
It's also the best way you can improve your customer service virtually overnight.
In our world of insurance, we refer to small talk as the "warm-up." It's the 2nd step of the 8-step selling process.
It's your way of making your client feel comfortable. You're taking some time to establish that you're a good person – not some greedy salesman.
If it's the first time you're meeting a client, say from a referral, a cold call, or door knocking, you'll want to ask about their family, ask about what they do for a living, ask what they do for fun or on the weekends, and find out how they like to spend their money.
Part of that comes naturally, because being a salesman takes a special kind of personality. However, you don't have to be an extrovert to be a great independent agent.
Brent Kelly, insurance speaker, trainer, and coach with over 15 years of hands-on insurance experience says, "I know many successful agents that are introverted. Being a great communicator is about listening and asking the right questions. Extroverts can often have more trouble with communicating than introverts — they need to know when to be quiet."
So, whether filling the conversation comes naturally or you have to work a bit at it, you can always come prepared with some conversation starters, such as big news headlines or a few questions you always have prepared in case the conversation dies.
Our biggest advice to you is to never forget the power of that warm-up, especially with existing clients.
Every time you see your clients, you want to spend some time catching up. The longer those clients are with you, the more meaningful the conversations will become and the easier it will be.
Remember: we're building relationships, and before long, these clients will be your friends. That's part of the joy of this business!
Offer Complimentary Medicare Services
Your clients could go to any agent and get the same pricing, but they can't go to any agent and get superior service.
Stand out from the masses by offering complimentary Medicare services. Though we'd love to hear additional tips in the comment section at the end, we have three recommendations to get you going:
- Help clients with the Medicare Part B enrollment process.
- Offer complimentary Part D evaluations.
- Help retirees who receive employer-subsidized insurance.
Medicare Part B Enrollment Service
This tip originally comes from RD Roulston, who shared his process with us for helping his clients enroll in Medicare.
By offering this as a service to your clients, you can save them from wasting a day at the Social Security Office. You have two ways to go about it – you can guide them through the process online, or you can have the paper forms with you.
In both cases, you're saving your clients from a lot of frustration!
Complimentary Part D Evaluations
It's no secret that Part D commissions leave much to be desired, which is why a lot of agents don't even bother to get contracted.
However, even if you choose not to be paid for Part D signups, doing complimentary Part D evaluations is a great service that you can offer.
For our local agency, it's actually the No. 1 source of new business. Think about it: in 2018, over 43 million Medicare beneficiaries – that's 72% of all Medicare beneficiaries – are enrolled in a Part D plan.
That's a lot of people who need help finding the cheapest plan, and Medicare's online Plan Finder tool is not very user-friendly.
Yes, helping a client with her Part D plan requires some time and effort from you, but so does counting calories and going to that spin class at 6 in the morning.
When you offer a service that many agents don't, you're setting yourself apart in yet another way.
Servicing Retirees with Employer Stipends
Finally, there are a growing number of companies who are changing the way they handle retiree health benefits, including State Farm, Ameren, AT&T, Caterpillar, ADM, General Electric, and Tate & Lyle – just to name a few.
It's more likely than ever that you'll run across retirees who receive employer-subsidized insurance. This generally also comes with a Health Insurance Exchange like Aon, OneExchange, or Via Benefits.
The health exchange company says, "Hey, we'll handle all of the financial liabilities and admin for you if you require your retirees to purchase one of their Medicare products through our exchange."
In all cases (from our experience so far):
- You can still sell insurance to these individuals, and
- You can set yourself apart by providing services they won't get on their own.
You can learn all the nitty gritty details here – Retirees Who Get Employer-Subsidized Insurance Are Still an Opportunity – but there's a huge service component you can provide.
For these particular clients, you can:
- Save them a substantial amount of money on their Medicare Supplement.
- Help with the confusing and cumbersome claim forms.
- Help them utilize all of their reimbursement money.
- Clarify some of the confusing details, like the fact that they only need to buy ONE product from the exchange and also that they can claim their Medicare Part B premium.
These are just a few examples of ways you can provide outstanding service to your new and existing clients. Be sure to drop a comment in the comments section if you have additional suggestions!
Service Your Client's Policies
You'd probably be shocked to learn about how many agents out there sell an insurance policy and never follow-up with the client again.
Servicing your client's policies is a given, but how you go about it is also important.
Here are few tips about doing annual policy reviews:
- Do it on an annual basis
- Don't wait to do it during AEP
- Try to do it in person if possible
- Do a CNA every time
- Ask for referrals every time
It might sound a little weird to go through the CNA every time you see your client, but circumstances change.
You never know what your client has been through in the last year, and you'd be surprised how different their answers may be the next time you do that CNA.
Tim Bennett, an independent agent since 1986 says, "If you use the CNA, you're going to sell something. Even a bad salesmen will come up with something. You'd be amazed."
If you'd like to read more about policy reviews and using the CNA, here's some additional reading:
- The Complete Guide to Annual Policy Reviews for Independent Insurance Agents
- How to Do a Life Insurance Policy Review (A Shortcut and Real-Life Examples Included)
- The [New & Improved] Cross-Selling Roadmap: How to Build Your Business Using A Client Needs Assessment
- Why An Agent Started Using the CNA After 33 Years
Show You Care During Difficult Times
When you develop a relationship with your clients, you want to show them that you care, especially when they're going through trying times.
And part of that is realizing when your client has no one to lean on – it's more common than you think.
Clients who live alone
According to the Institute on Aging, nearly one third of older adults living outside of nursing homes are living alone. That’s about 11.3 million people ages 75+ that could be suffering from isolation.
There are a few little things you can do to support those lonely clients, including remembering the details about their life (a CRM can help), staying in constant communication (more on that shortly), sending handwritten mail, updating them on industry news, or even a digital system that checks on clients who are particularly close to you.
You can read more about these tips here: 5 Simple Ways to Support Isolated, Lonely Clients
Clients going through a tough time
Other tricky situations include when a client is going through a very tough time, such as being in the hospital. When my daughter was in the NICU, I witnessed firsthand how a small favor could be so humbling.
My advice is to allocate a special savings account for moments like these – say $5 or $10 per client per year – and use that money to show you care during difficult times.
Maybe it's sending flowers, stopping by with a meal, or even just picking up their mail while they're at the hospital.
Showing beats telling, and no matter how big or small your effort, it's a great way to give back to your clients who have been sending you checks for many years.
When clients pass away
Finally, if worse comes to worst and your client passes away, there are a few things you can do. First and foremost, you or one of your staff members (or interns) should consider checking the obituaries every morning.
If that's not possible or your clients aren't local, you'll likely be notified by a family member. No matter the scenario, you'll want to do a few things:
- Handle the death claims
- Help the beneficiaries handle the incoming money appropriately
- Consider giving condolences, but realize less is more during this time
For Michael Sams, he realizes that the family is dealing with a lot. They have to get something for the funeral home, they have to figure out what to do with the house, and they have to make this or that arrangement.
Simply doing a death claim for the family means a lot. He says he's gotten lots of feedback from clients that he's made their lives so much easier by taking care of that for them – even though a death claim is a pretty easy process.
Stay In Constant Communication With Your Clients
Whether you have clients who are widows or widowers, or you just want to show all of your clients that you care, staying in constant communication is a great idea.
This may feel easier said than done, but one really easy way to do this is to become Facebook friends with clients (if they have a Facebook, of course).
The major advantages to doing this are:
- You change the relationship from strictly business to business and friendship
- You can share what you're up to with clients without investing in expensive mailers
- You see what they're up to, which is great fodder for small talk later on
While it seems like an insignificant little thing to do, it has changed how agents work. It makes the job more personable, which makes meeting up with your clients… fun.
Beyond staying in touch over social media, there are definitely some things you can do to stay in front of your clients and build that relationship.
It's often the most fundamental practices that push us forward – reviewing your client’s file or past notes before a meeting, being on time for appointments, staying on top of industry trends, reaching out to clients with a thank you note for their business, sending birthday or holiday cards. The list is long, but the tasks themselves aren't wildly unrealistic.
Remember: Agents Matter!
When all is said and done, you matter.
A short while ago, we wrote an article titled Are Insurance Agents Really Necessary? which I think encapsulates all of this pretty simply.
Insurance is changing rapidly, but there’s still that human desire to have an interaction with another person, and the value you provide can’t be replicated by the digital world.
Every day, seniors are turning 65 and confused and frustrated by the world of Medicare. They need the help of an agent, and you can make a big impact on their lives.
Keep doing what you do, and good selling!