Selling Your Medicare Book of Business: An Interview with Steve Cooke
December 4, 2023

We're excited to continue our Succession Planning video series with Steve Cooke, an agent from South Bend, Indiana who sold his book of business to us in just 18 days.

Hear about the challenges that prompted Steve to sell his book of business to us, from compliance changes to the frustrations of advancing technology.

Video Transcript

John Hockaday: Steve and I just met each other at the very beginning of August of '23, didn't we? I just went back and looked in the system, and August the 3rd is when it got opened up. And this is a world record for us, but we closed your deal on August 22nd. So, really, from the beginning until we really started talking about it until we were done, it was 18 days. That's never happened before.

Steve Cooke: Good book of business!

John: It was. It is a really good book of business. So hey, why don't you give a little Reader's Digest version of who you are and what your insurance career has looked like?

Steve: Over the last 17 years, I only did Medicare – didn't do any Life, Health, Accident, nothing else. I just did Medicare for 17 years.

John: What did you do before that?

Steve: I was a Canadian sales manager for a company. And I had 29 reps scattered from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland. And fortunately, they let me work from home most of the time.

John: So what kind of led you up to really start getting serious about this and think about selling?

Steve: A couple of things, number one, over the last three years, I have been unable to write enough new business to replace the business and clients that I was losing.

Of course, starting 17 years ago, when the Advantage programs first came to Indiana, my clients were already up there in age. And that was an older book of business from 17 years ago, so I was losing more people to moving out of the state of Indiana and, of course, passing away. Just couldn't replace them. And the other big thing was a lot of business with just Medicare were people turning 65.

Well, the baby boomer generation passed that mark, and the numbers just fell off the cliff as far as those people turning 65. And then the other was the advancement of the internet and Facebook and everybody else trying to jump into the market now. That hit pretty hard.

And I think the younger people coming in are more tech-savvy, so they're more open to using the computer rather than the old face-to-face. They're more comfortable with people not coming to their home anymore. And almost all of my sales.. I've sat at over a thousand kitchen tables by now. 

John: Yeah, man, I hear you. You are right on the money. I think that is so true, you know. Well, just like this, though, you jumped right on this Zoom call. Do you feel really comfortable with technology or you just manage? Are you faking it?

Steve: When I first got on the computer, the kids had to show me how to turn it on. Yeah, so no, I'm still not tech-savvy.

John: I'm not either, man. No doubt.

Steve: I count on the kids or grandkids for help.

John: So we just did this two months ago, we closed. We're right in the middle of AEP now, and our team is working and communicating with your customers. Have you had any feedback from your customers or what's that looked like?

Steve: I was surprised by the number of retirement cards I've received. Got a lot of that, got a few individual phone calls wishing me luck in my retirement; they are sorry to see me go. And I had a couple of people, they wish they had somebody more local, sure, because they just still like the personal and face-to-face. But other than that, there hasn't been much feedback as far as interacting with the new team.

John: Well, like way we look at it, and it varies, but we feel like no news is good news. Our team's doing the job and people are feeling comfortable. And that initial transaction and communication out to all your people – that Steve's going to back away and we're going to be the new guys that are going to take care of you – we really try to do a good job with that so people feel comfortable.

Steve: That meant a lot – very valuable.

John: Anything else before we wrap it up?

Steve: I'd say two more things have come along that I didn't appreciate in the business. In a way, I call it little government intervention.

Number one, anytime we're discussing an Advantage problem, you're supposed to record the calls. Yeah, that's not going to sit well with the age group that I worked with, no.

And secondly, the state of Indiana decided to get into the market and make a little money. And in order to offer a dual policy, they wanted us to take a course from the state for three hours, and for $175, you can take this course.

I didn't like that, and I didn't like the idea of my clients giving me permission to record them. Some of them are going to say "take a hike!"

John: I know the compliance has just escalated between the technology and the compliance. Those are probably the two main things that cause people to want to retire in the next few years. It's just making them accelerate and say, "You know what, I don't want to do this anymore."

Steve: That was me. I said, hey, I've had enough now.

John: Well, we appreciate you. You've been really great to work with. And, you know, when your customers really care about you and you really care about your customers, you have a great relationship. It's a real friendship.

When you pass that baton off to us, that makes a really easy, smooth transition. When you recommend us to your customers, it goes a long way for us, because we need help getting that business to stick. That first 90 to days to six months is really critical so that we can build a friendship with them where they feel good about this.

Well, don't be a stranger, man.

Steve: Nothing else to do now, right?

John: You bet. Hey, thanks a bunch, Steve, for your time, we really appreciate it.

Steve: Hey, you're welcome, and you guys continue to do a good job.

John: We will, we will.

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