Sunday, January 20, 2008

Happy New Year

I'm sitting here on Sunday night getting my work schedule ready for the week when it dawns on me, "I need to update my blog." Where to start??

For starters, I have recently moved up to Stamford, Connecticut due to personal and business reasons. Although I do love Maryland, I needed a change and an opportunity presented itself so I took it. The interesting thing about moving is that you quickly realize how much crap you have that you don't need. Needless to say, some of my friends were very happy about the stuff I was giving away. So now I'm living up in Connecticut and I'll be here for the next 6-12 months to test out some new ideas and strategies.

After being up here for a few weeks I've been thinking to myself that I really need to move some place where's it's warmer. Yes, I could always move back to California, but I only enjoyed the San Francisco and San Diego areas and I don't have $500,000 yet to buy a house. If I could find something for about half that I might be open to moving back. Then there is South Carolina, Georgia, Texas and Arizona. All great states with a lot to offer people. I'll be checking out some areas throughout the next year and decide where I want to plunk down and live for the next 10-30 years.

I have recently revamped my business approach this year and look forward to picking up new insurance products. Although I'm still selling individual and family health insurance, I've decided to take a break on that while I'm up here in CT and focus on the senior market. Specifically, I'm currently in the process of learning about Medicare/Medicaid/Supplements, etc. etc. That's all I plan on focusing on this year. Of course, I'll continue to sell health insurance if the opportunity presents itself, but I'm not going to pursue that niche full time this year.

I'm starting to see how some seniors could be taken advantage of depending upon the agent's knowledge and ethics. Although Medicare itself is not that difficult to understand and articulate to other people, the options and numerous and many insurance companies have the hand in the cookie jar all trying to get a piece of the action. I can see many seniors saying, "huh" if the agent isn't precise in his words and recommendations.

Here are some observations I have noticed after talking with insurance companies, agents, current clients and such about the Medicare world and working with seniors.

Some companies allow direct appointments via the Independent Career Agent (ICA) contract. Essentially, once an agent signs that contract they become exclusive to that company, but, and here's the kicker, they get leads furnished by somebody being paid minimum wage PLUS a reduction in commission. Hmmm....Where do I sign up? EVERY company I contacted was adamant about having me sign up through that avenue. I requested that each one send me their contract to read over and got to read over them.

After speaking with the local manager and recruiter of one of the main carriers in the area it became quickly apparent that I knew more about the market and their own product then they did. I don't say this to boast about my knowledge of passion when it come to learning, but to illuminate the fact that their are issues that amaze me. IMHO, a local manager should know everything about their product, as well as how it stacks up against their competitors. Call me crazy, but that is business 101 stuff.

All companies I contacted in CT and MD (in the double digits) work through FMO's who may or may not offer a GA contract. I generally like to get my own contract direct as I don't like to have more hands in my cookie jar taking money out that they haven't earned. Having said that, I've found a few that I'll be working with in the near future once we come to written agreement.

I found out something very interesting recently. Some insurance companies will negotiate contracts directly. By the time I reached the end of my list I had reached my boiling point about hearing about the captive arrangement or FMO route and not being able to get my own GA contract directly. Needless to say, the final company I really wanted a GA contract with first offered me their ICA, and when that didn't work out they tried to get me to sign up with an FMO out of New Jersey. Homey don't play that anymore!

After bickering back and forth I was able to get in touch with the National Sales Director and we talked for about an hour or so about working together. He's apparently pissed off about the fact that many agents care more about quantity vs. quality. Imagine that!

It was a great conversation and I'm happy to report that I''ll soon be offering a lucrative contract for agents who sell a particular company once I've had a chance to work out the details with him and the COO and we can come to an agreement. I've received much feedback about this company and I'm looking forward to the relationship. Although I don't plan on recruiting agents in the traditional sense, this is another step in the right direction for what I have planned.