Salespeople who want to edge out their competition need some sort of hook, something they do differently than everyone else. In health insurance, that can be difficult to do since agents neither design nor price the products that they sell; the plans are the plans and the rates are the rates.
What that means, of course, is that we have to find something else to differentiate ourselves. In this post, we share a few ideas to help you do that. Our recommendations fall into three categories: 1) what you sell, 2) when you sell it, and 3) how you sell it.
One quick point before we begin: the more you can surprise people, the more unexpected your differentiation strategy, the more likely it is to get a prospect’s attention and make a lasting impact.
What you sell
It is true that the available plan designs do not vary from one broker to the next. That said, it’s also true that not every agent markets every available option. If you approach your prospects with a solution that their existing agents haven’t even mentioned, that could certainly get their attention. If your solution proves to be more comprehensive or less costly than their current coverage, that could help you win the sale. For example:
- You could offer a level-funded quote to a small group that has been renewing its transitional plan since 2013.
- You could recommend that a company increase the deductible on its group health plan and use the savings to pay for an accident and/or critical illness policy for the employees to help offset the increased exposure. Usually these products are offered on a voluntary basis, but there’s nothing that says the employer can’t pay the premium.
- You could recommend that a small employer with fewer than 20 employees set up a Medicare Premium Reimbursement Plan to help the employees pay for their Medicare Part B and Medicare supplement premiums. The group will save money when the older employees drop off the plan, and the employees will end up with better coverage.
When you sell
Most brokers do not take control of their calendar; instead, they let the annual open enrollment periods dictate when they are busy and when they are slow:
If you change up the timing of when you market, you’ll definitely stand out from the herd. Believe it or not, it’s actually possible to do that. Here are some ideas:
- Instead of focusing on Medicare Advantage plans, which can only be sold during the open enrollment period, you could focus on selling Medicare supplements, which can be sold all year long. In the process, you’ll find a lot of Medicare Advantage prospects that you can visit with in the fall.
- Instead of leading with individual major medical plans, you could instead lead with less expensive short-term plans, which can be sold all year long. Those who don’t qualify can purchase individual coverage during the open enrollment period.
- Remember that small group plans can be sold all year long. Instead of waiting until a group renews, encourage prospects to change plans right away if you have a lower priced option. There’s no reason for employers to overpay until renewal time.
If you make your sales pitch outside of the normal enrollment periods, there’s a good chance you’ll be the only one talking with the prospects, and that increases your chance of getting their attention and ultimately closing the deal.
How you sell
As we said at the beginning of this article, if you want to stand out you need to do something different. And perhaps there’s no easier way to differentiate yourself than in your client communications.
Just think about how most people communicate these days—by email. That’s not a bad thing; email can be a very efficient means of communication. But maybe you could get in the habit of emailing and calling. As more and more salespeople use email services that allow them to contact multiple clients with maximum efficiency, a good old-fashioned phone call can help you stand out to the prospect.
Another thing that’s fallen out of practice is sending thank-you cards after a meeting. It’s a lot rarer than you might think. If you would just get in the habit of sending a short, hand-written and hand-addressed thank you note following a phone call or in-person meeting, your clients will appreciate the gesture and it will influence their opinion of you.
Demonstrating that you have the client’s best interest in mind is another way to stand out during the sales process. Instead of simply pitching the solutions you offer, whether they are a fit or not, consider recommending whatever solution is appropriate for the client, regardless of whether you will personally benefit from that solution. You might also consider referring business to them when appropriate. That’s certainly a twist on the normal practice of asking your clients for referrals.
There’s no one strategy that’s going to work for every broker or every prospect, but if you get in the habit of doing things a little differently than your competitors, those little things that you do will get your prospects’ attention and help you close more business. The most important thing is to develop excellent communication skills, sell all year long instead of just during the busy fourth quarter, and recommend the right solution for every client without worrying about how much commission you’ll earn. In short, do the right thing and the money will take care of itself.