On Friday, October 23rd (a week into the 2021 AEP) our entire office joined a Zoom meeting for an update on the company among other things that you would not find interesting. The meeting started as usual, but during our President’s rousing Friday morning speech he stopped talking…then again, was he frozen…Oh! Everyone is frozen!
Was it me?
Was it my iPad?
Not this time! Everyone’s Zoom meeting crashed.
Apparently at shortly after 9AM there was an internet outage in our area. One might say we were “off the grid.” Now, I know that’s an exaggeration, but I started to think: We’ve been so dependent on the internet, even encouraging agents to communicate with their clients online, invest in an online CRM(link), submit eApplications, etc. …what do agents do if they lose internet access at the office?
While staring at my spinning Zoom call, I thought of two alternatives:
1.) Keep important information on your computer server
2.) Have an alternative internet connection
Let’s dive into the details!
Typically, an existing client calls into the office because they need something. That could be:
- Policy numbers
- More competitive Medicare Supplement options
- Alternative products (Life, Critical Illness, DVH)
- Questions on filing a claim
The backup information you should store on your computer is information that the client might need. I decided that there are 3 main sections that you should look at when storing information on your server:
1.) Client Contact Information
Our Marketing Department has always recommended an online CRM to safely store your client’s information. An alternative is to save your client’s applications and policy numbers to a secure server so if they call in you have all their information from their previous or current carrier application. Regularly exporting a copy of the data in your online CRM is a way to have a “best of both worlds” type solution.
2.) Carrier Contact Information
This is something that can be stored in a CRM as well, but it never hurts to have this information on your desktop saved in an excel sheet. You will want to save important information such as:
- Phone number (Agent Support, Policyholder Support, Underwriting, New Business, etc)
- Fax number (New Business and Underwriting)
- Mailing address (New Business)
Carrier information stored on your computer might not be the fastest to find information, but you will have what you need to submit business or help a client while there’s no internet access.
3.) Carrier Supplies
Most carrier supplies can be downloaded to your computer, with the exception being some Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug applications that are individually barcoded. While you still have access to your carrier’s websites, we suggest that you download forms to store on your computer or laptop to have right at your fingertips. If you are having trouble downloading forms, feel free to give our Marketing Department a call and we can email you the PDFs you need. Forms that you should always have on hand are:
- Outline of coverage
- Replacement form
- HIPAA form
Be sure to set a reminder in your calendar to keep your “offline” copies up to date. Many cloud storage apps like Dropbox, and OneDrive have a desktop application that allows you to sync your files to your desktop automatically giving you can always current and offline accessible copy of your stored carrier forms.
If you are the type of agent that needs the internet to submit business, then we suggest that you have an alternative to your internet connection. A couple of ideas that we suggest are:
1.) Switch to Cellular Networks
Typically, if your wired internet connection goes out, your wireless connections are still operating. Switch to a device that uses a cellular network to access the internet like your smart phone. Or use your cell phone to tether your tablet, iPad, or laptop to your cellular service. This will allow you to have internet access thru your data carrier. Keep in mind the internet speed will be slower, and if you have limited data using the internet through your cellular network could increase your monthly bill. Using a cellular network is a good and often quickly accessed alternative if you need to be on the internet for brief amount of time but not for the long hull.
2.) Mobile broadband
Using mobile broadband is like using your cellular network, but instead of tethering through your mobile device, your using cellular data through a separate device that provides a mobile internet connection. This creates what most people call a WIFI “hotspot” allowing you to work from anywhere. The connection is better than running through your mobile device, but the cost of an extra line can be pricey. However, if you are an agent that has a traveling office this might be a good investment for your business since it allows you to access the internet on any of your devices, even those without cellular connections.
3.) Go To Where There’s Free Wifi
If you need WIFI in a pinch and your office is “off the grid,” we suggest you go where there’s free WIFI. College students, millennials, and bloggers do it, and so should you! Drive to the nearest Starbucks, grab a cup of coffee and connect your laptop to the free WIFI. If you are not in the mood for coffee, typically the local library will have free WIFI to help you out, or use a site (or app) like WifiMap which will allow you to search for Free WIFI hotspots near you. If you lost internet in your home office this is great alternative if you have business to submit the same day. One word of caution when using a public and open access network: these networks are not always 100% secure. It’s a best to avoid entering, sharing, or accessing any of your own or your client’s personal information. But these WIFI hotspots are great for downloading forms or looking up rates.
If you are curious to know, our internet connection came back in roughly 90 minutes and our business survived! And, if anything, hopefully you can learn from our internet outage so now you can have a backup plan to keep your business running smoothly.
Have any tips to share about alternative internet access or what you do when you lose internet? Leave a comment below!
Summer of 2020 Might Be Looking a Little Different
Most agents tell us that summer is the “slow” time of the year because people are on vacation or attending summer events; basically not really interested in discussing insurance policies. Every year we hear this and remind our agents that there is “no such thing as a summer slump,” however, the summer of 2020 will more than likely look a bit different.
The Summer Slump Already Happened?!
Well, sort of. Many agents would agree that a “slump” has already happened due to the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. The threat of the virus, state shutdowns, and local stay at home orders has left agents to adjust to a new way of conducting business, ultimately affecting their year-end sales goal. With many agents already feeling the impact of these unexpected changes, the worst thing for their business right now would be another slow down due to the “summer slump” setting in. To keep you moving through the next couple of months we want to give you a few ideas on how you can stay on track with your sales goals and make this the BEST SUMMER YET!
Set a Goal for the Summer Months
Setting annual goals are always a great idea when you want your business to grow, but setting smaller goals can be more digestible. Reflect on your past sales from the previous year to compare how much you wrote (while not living through a pandemic-filled environment) and compare that to what you’ve done this year. Add the amount of missing policies from April and May to your sales goals for June through August to make up for time being at home or not actively making sales. Focus on these newly established short term goals. Staring at the annual goal you set for yourself at the end of 2019 may feel incredibly overwhelming having had “a slump” over the last two months. Focus in on short term monthly or even weekly goals to stay on track and avoid getting discouraged. Ultimately the amount of money you want to make is up to you and your sales. But don’t fall short of your personal goals due to misconceptions of the summer months along with dealing with after effects of businesses being shut down.
Look at What Carriers You’re Writing
Take a look at what carriers are in your portfolio to see what benefits these carriers have for you as the agent. Carriers offering senior supplemental products are feeling the punch of COVID-19 too and as a result many have rapidly improved their eApplication (eApp) process by doing things like making it easier to collect a voice or email signature from your client. Some clients still might not be comfortable being face to face so offer an alternative option over the phone, or use a video chat feature such as Zoom or Facetime to process applications.
In addition to improving their eApps, some carriers are now offering even bigger cash bonuses for underwritten applications, which can help boost your income for the summer. Make sure to check out what’s available through the agent portal of the carriers you’re contracted with to see if there are any cash bonuses for the summer.
Reach Out To Your Existing Clients
This is always something we recommend with every agent. COVID-19 aside, you should always reach out to your clients at least once a year for a policy review to offer new or additional coverage that will benefit them. Considering there is still a pandemic that is affecting mostly everyone, it’s always a good idea to reach out to your clients to let them know how you will continue your business operations safely. Send a letter, email, or a newsletter (or email newsletter) stating that you are available through the summer months and include how you will safely conduct business. Helping to find your existing clients a better rate may be a way to quickly shake off the dust and build up some momentum to get you back on track. You might find that more clients are available this summer due to most summer activities being cancelled. But if you find that people are still enjoying the summer, then offer to schedule a meeting in September and get a jumpstart on your sales and your competition!
Start Marketing Your Business
Let your clients and prospective clients know you’re open for business this summer! The easiest (and most inexpensive) way to do this is through social media. To stay engaged online post content daily on your Facebook business page such as an interesting blog, quote, or daily greeting to get a conversation started with others. Another popular feature are Stories – available on Facebook and Instagram. Here you can post something about your business that will be available to view for 24 hours. Some agents like to post their business hours, links to new posts or status updates, or even poll questions where your clients can cast their vote, anything to get a dialogue started with current or potential clients.
Other ways you can reach out to new people is through emails, email newsletters (as previously mentioned), blog posts, or even a simple letter or postcard out to new prospective agents asking them if they would like a FREE policy review. This is a great way to let your potential clients know you are available, local, and “reopened” for business. While other agents might be continuing their summer traditions as if nothing has changed, allow yourself to stand out and be available for those who might need your insurance services.
We’re Here to Help!
Don’t forget that we’re here to help! Our offices have re-opened and resumed our normal business hours. Feel free to contact our Marketing Department for more information on what carriers we offer or CLICK HERE to see what we offer our Producing Partners.
As a member of the Marketing Department here at Senior Benefit Services the number one question we hear from new agents calling in is, “do you have any leads?” Well, the honest answer is “no, I don’t have any leads in my back pocket.” However, we do have suggestions on how to obtain leads. Our Marketers always strongly encourage creating a Social Media presence (preferably Facebook, but more on that later), creating a website, sending direct mailers, or obtaining a mailing list for your area for door knocking. Perhaps you like cold calling? …that’s true for almost no one.
The point is there are ways to obtain leads, but the best way to continue your success with new business is to always ask for …referrals! But many agents simply don’t ask for referrals leaving potential business on the table. You worked so hard to get the leads in front of you that are now your clients, so you might as well ask if they know others that could use your help. A lot of agents get caught up because they don’t know HOW to ask for referrals. If this is a problem for you below are a few pointers to keep in mind when asking for referrals.
Maybe you know to ask for referrals but trying to figure out an appropriate time can be difficult. Getting a compliment from your client is a good clue that they are willing to share your business information with friends and family. If you receive a compliment for your service quickly respond with a “thank you” followed by a referral request. For example, “I’m so pleased you’re happy with my work. Do you know anyone else who can benefit from my services?” Take notice of the question here… “Anyone else who can benefit from my services” …this makes the lead much more approachable since you’re not demanding for new people but instead asking how you can help. If your client can think of someone that can benefit then make sure to hand them 3 business cards, 1 for them and 2 for friends or family members. It’s important to not pressure them into handing over names and phone numbers on the spot. By having them contact the referral first, it gives them a chance to share their positive experience, rather than you cold calling your client’s friend. If they’re not comfortable with referring someone then how about asking for a testimonial for the service you provided. And it never hurts to leave behind the extra business cards if they change their mind.
You won’t receive a bunch of referrals by asking one client. You need to ask every client that you meet and that are happy with the service you provided. Make it a habit to “ask” and incorporate it into your talking points with your client. Before you let your client walk out the door make a point to say something along the lines of “I appreciate you taking the time to see me today. Here’s my card and 2 more for anyone that you think might benefit from meeting with me as well.” This simple referral conversation will eventually become second nature to you at the end of every appointment.
Incorporate a Web Presence
There’s more to referrals than just asking for them face to face. More seniors, especially the Baby Boomers, are using technology to contact a business or service. If you’re an agent that does most of your sales over the phone or you forget to ask your client directly for referrals during the appointment, you can always follow up in an email to make sure they are satisfied with the service you provided and in the process, ask if they would refer your business to others. Again, have them consider writing a testimonial for you to post on your website. Or they could write a review at their leisure on Facebook, Google, or even Yelp.
I previously mentioned that Facebook is a great place to connect with clients. Turns out it’s the most popular social network among seniors and consistently growing every year since 2012. So it might be an advantage to create a Facebook business profile for clients to easily contact you and make connections instantly with client referrals online. Think of your Facebook page as a digital business card that you can instantly send out to potential new clients. If your clients have Facebook as well, why not ask for a photo? Snap a quick shot of you with your happy clients, and then share it on your business Facebook page. Tell them to be on the lookout for their post and to “like it” or “comment” on their photo. When they do this they’ll be referring you to all their Facebook friends because the photo you posted will now show up in their friends’ news feeds as well.
Recognize and THANK Your Referral Sources
This should seem obvious to do, but many agents forget about this crucial step. If you have a referral, and especially if you receive business from this referral, make sure to write a “thank you” to your client. You could also send them a small gift of appreciation, such as a $5 gift card to Starbucks for a cup of coffee. This small gesture will show how much you appreciate your client and the business they provided. Plus it will give your client the incentive to give you additional referrals in the future. Be sure to include some extra business cards attached to the note and gift card as well!
From what we’ve seen time and time again in the field referrals are the BEST ways to obtain more leads and increase your business. Give these suggestions a try and let us know how it’s worked out for you. If you have your own advice on how to obtain more quality leads feel free to share in the comments below!
If you found this article helpful, please share a link and our contact information with any of your colleagues! (See what we did there?)
- Katie, Sehl. “27 Facebook Demographics That Matter to Marketers in 2020.” Hootsuite Social Media Management, 20 Dec. 2019, blog.hootsuite.com/facebook-demographics/.
- Inc.com Staff. “How to Get Customer Referrals.” Inc.com N.p.,27 Aug. 2010. Web
- Silverstein, Ray. “Get More Referrals by Asking.” Entrepreneur. N.p., n.d. Web.