What do you do when your client wants a plan that’s not in their best interest?
The worst thing you can say about an insurance agent is “She is very high-pressure.” We recoil from any association with the parody of agents we see on TV. Especially in Medicare sales, it is a very soft sale. We typically offer dozens of plan options and they each pay similar commissions. Many of my clients already have an idea of the plan they want. “I’ll take what Earl has, he’s been very happy with X.” Even when I think X is a terrible plan, I always honor the client’s request and present that plan. When my client fully understand Medicare, her options and the plan she requested, then I bring up another option. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the client agrees with my recommendation.
This is a problem only independent agents have. I’m contracted with over 100 insurance companies. Chances are very good I’m licensed to sell the plan my client requests. If you are not able to sell for that company, be sure to state that and not disparage the carrier.
I Know From Experience
A few years ago I had a client walk in during AEP. Every agent was busy and I was the only licensed agent able to help the man that was insisting to the receptionist that he needed to get enrolled immediately. When I walked in, he said this wouldn’t take very long. He had just retired from X insurance company and wanted to be enrolled into their plan. Right now. “They were a great employer for 30 years and I want to stay apart of their team.” If I had been a new agent, I would have written him up without hesitation. But after doing exactly that and later finding that my client cancelled, I’ve learned not to go for the quick sale. Go for the sale that will stick.
This is a Pro Tip
If you don’t fully explain all the available options, some other agent later will. Your client will feel betrayed that you never mentioned it.
When I started asking the man in the above scenario about his health, medications, budget, life style, travel plans, etc. it because very clear that he would not be well served by the plan he requested. I showed him why Z plan would be a better fit for his unique situation. As much as he wanted to reward his former employer with his business, I was gently able to steer him toward a plan that I felt would better serve his needs.
Proceed With Caution
It was a delicate situation that I had handled poorly in my early days as a younger agent. I learned not to be too honest about the company I didn’t want to sell. First, it’s a delicate balancing act with telling your client the truth and disparaging an insurance company (that can come with a state DOI penalty). If the client has a strong brand loyalty and you don’t present that plan, she will feel that you have a hidden agenda. I learned to say that I’m paid the same no matter which plan my client’s chose, because they were assuming my own self-interests were fueling my recommendation. For many years X Medicare Supplement paid agents the lowest commission. Eventually, I used that to my advantage. “All these plans pay me much more, but I feel this plan is better for your situation.” That built trust and credibility. As much as agents are not comfortable discussing their pay, I’ve always found that it was my level of transparency was a much-appreciated sales trait.
“But We Both Want to be on The Best Plan”
Prospects that want the plan their sister has in Oklahoma are confused when you do your assessment and recommend a different plan. “Should my sister change too?” Not necessarily, she might be on the best plan for her situation and based on what’s available in her state. “But we both want to be on the best plan.” That is a concept that is hard to explain. There is no best plan. Every person has different needs. Even married couples, who share the same budget, won’t share the same doctors and never have the same medical history. Sure, it is easier to both purchase the same plan, but are you going for the best plan for each person’s needs?
The Gordons are No Exception
My parents are unusual in that they are both licensed insurance agents who sold Medicare plans. When they aged into Medicare, one chose a Medicare Supplement and the other a Medicare Advantage PPO. Consequently they both feel they have the “best” plan and in many ways they each do. The one with the Medicare Supplement has had 6 surgeries, while the parent with the MAPD has had no surgeries. A $0 premium MAPD with little to no utilization for 15 years has saved thousands of dollars.
The other parent has also saved thousands of dollars by being on Medicare Supplement. Certainly there is no “best” plan, there is no way to know for sure what your client’s health has in store. My parents didn’t know how their health would hold up. All the men in my dad’s family died of heart issues by 62. The women in my mom’s family lived long, healthy lives. They each chose their plans based on their risk tolerance more than their perceived health needs.
The Myth of the Best Plan
One parent didn’t like the idea of paying monthly premiums of a Medicare Supplement. The other parent didn’t like the uncertainty of a Medicare Advantage plan. Both are very happy. Both have the best plan. Feel free to use this story when your clients ask you about the “best” plan. Evidently, the only way to know for sure what plan will fit their needs the best, is to have a crystal ball into the future. Without magic, we are left to trying to fit plans to their current needs, with a nod to their genetics, lifestyle and budget.
Sylvia Gordon and her sister, Rebecca, run Gordon Marketing, one of the nation’s largest Medicare FMO/NMA offices. They have a team of over 100 that train and support independent insurance agents in all 50 states. You can find Sylvia’s weekly posts on LinkedIn and the sisters' Youtube channel posts 2 training videos each week. Contact Sylvia at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-388-8342.
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