Agent Sales News

Sales conversion techniques

It takes a lot of planning, execution and effort to drive traffic to your agency’s website. But as many businesses are learning, more traffic doesn’t always translate into higher sales volume. So it’s a good idea to pay attention to your conversion rate—the total number of website visitors compared to the number of visitors who take a desired action (purchase, sign up for a newsletter, request a quote or whatever you want visitors to do).

To beef up your conversion rate, to turn passive website viewers into engaged purchasers, consider these tips from conversion marketing experts:

  • Think like a site visitor: Experience what it’s like to visit your site for the first time.
    • Does your eye know where to land when the home page loads?
    • Do you see the most important graphic elements, or do you have to hunt for them?
    • Does the design do the heavy lifting, guiding your eye to the most important places on each page?
    • Are the navigation labels clear? Are they easy to read?
    • Is it easy to figure out what to expect when you click on them?
    • Are there unnecessary visual elements that can be removed?
    • Is the copy easy to see and read?
  • This kind of analysis helps you develop a site that gets results.

  • Communicate your unique selling proposition: There are plenty of insurance agencies competing for the same customers. What makes yours unique? Why should a prospect sign with you and not someone else? Do some research and craft a unique selling proposition that’s relevant and compelling, then make sure it comes across unmistakably on every page of your website.
  • Add something with perceived value: This is just basic selling. Offer a free consultation. Or a discount for new clients. It’ll give fence-sitters an added incentive to make the right decision.
  • Give something away: Rather than starting off trying to close a sale, establish your credibility by offering a freebie—something that your best customers will value. Offer relevant information like you’d find in a newsletter. Or updates on new regulations and trends. Or something else that reinforces your unique selling proposition and your expertise.
  • Supplement with social media: Your website may be interactive, it just sits there waiting to be looked at. Social media, like Facebook and Twitter, help you engage with your audience. They hit your prospects where they live and can bridge the gap between a prospect’s life and your service. Social media can also help you humanize your agency’s brand identity and add relevance that prospects will appreciate.
  • Make your pitch compelling: Strong copy compels action. Weak copy just confuses or annoys the reader. This is one area where it pays to invest in quality. Hire a professional—someone with a track record—to make your case in ways that resonate with your audience.
  • Call for action: It may seem obvious to you, but someone visiting your website needs to be told, explicitly and clearly, exactly what you want him or her to do. And how to do it. Your call to action is the online equivalent of closing an in-person sale or asking for the order. Always remember to include it. It should have urgency and be easy to accomplish. “Request your free quote today.”

You may not see an increase in traffic to your website, but when you follow these simple tips you’ll see a big jump in conversions and sales.

Source: business2community

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HHS report highlights Marketplace effectiveness

A new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) confirms that the federally facilitated health insurance exchange, known as the Marketplace, is doing a good job of providing consumers with more affordable health insurance choices.

The June 2014 report, uses data from the 36 states that didn’t set up their own exchanges, choosing instead to let residents purchase health insurance through the federal Marketplace. People who purchased coverage through the Marketplace “paid an average of $69 per month after tax credits for silver plans and had, on average, a choice of five health insurers and 47 plans.”

The study found that states, on average, had 10 “rating areas” (i.e., separate geographical markets). Some smaller states had only one rating area; Florida was identified as the state with the most rating areas: 67 (the same number of counties in the state).

The rating areas with the largest number of issuers (an indicator of consumer choice) were located in New York and Oregon; the rating areas with the most plans available (another choice indicator) were located in Wisconsin and Florida.

Among the other findings in the report:

  • Overall, consumers were able to choose from five health insurers and 47 Marketplace plans.
  • An increase of one issuer in a rating area is associated with four percent decline in the second-lowest cost silver plan premium, on average.
  • People who selected silver plans, the most popular plan type in the federal Marketplace, paid an average premium of $69 per month after accounting for tax credits available under the Affordable Care Act.
  • Sixty nine percent of enrollees who qualified for tax credits selected Marketplace plans with premiums of $100 a month or less; 46 percent of those who qualified for tax credits had premiums of $50 a month or less.
  • Nearly 70 percent of consumers who signed up for Marketplace coverage are paying $100 or less for that coverage, thanks to the availability of tax credits.
  • Overall, tax credits reduced the average monthly premium from $346 to $72–– accounting for a 76 percent decrease.

The report’s authors say the data demonstrates that tax credits are working as intended to make health insurance affordable for consumers and that the Marketplace has succeeded in spurring competition for health insurance.

Source: US Department of Health and Human Services

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Free fitness program at Florida Blue Centers

Color Me Fit is a new 6-week health program developed to give members added-value with their Florida Blue health plan.

During the program members:

  • Discover their unique color-coded fitness personality
  • Understand why they’re drawn to certain activities/environments and avoid others
  • Learn how to use their fitness color to make better choices for their personality
  • Add physical activity to their lifestyle to create an exercise program they’ll never quit

Color Me Fit will be offered at select Florida Blue Centers for 60 minutes, once a week beginning on the following dates:

Tampa, Sarasota, Pensacola and Winter Haven: Program starts July 21, 10 a.m.; Winter Park starts July 29, 11 a.m.

There is no cost to attend. Members must be 18 years or older to participate. Color Me Fit does not include physical activity as part of the sessions. No special clothing or shoes are required. Members can register online or by calling

1-877-FL-BLUE-O (1-877-352-5830). Registration is required.

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Voicemail as a sales tool

It happens to every insurance agent, no matter how successful, established or confident, when prospecting for new business: voicemail. And its companion, the unreturned call. It’s frustrating, difficult to manage logistically, and can shake your confidence.

There’s a way to mitigate it and convert more prospecting voicemails into actual conversations with actual prospects. In a nutshell, use voicemail to your advantage by building suspense. Here’s a three-step approach that’s designed to be implemented over the course of a five-day workweek:

Step 1—Monday: Leave a short first message that intrigues and asks nothing of the prospect. Introduce yourself and say you’re calling because so-and-so at such-and-such company asked you to call because you helped them achieve a successful outcome that’s relevant (a reduction in benefits costs, for example, or a way to increase employee satisfaction without increasing costs). Say you’ll call back on Wednesday at a specific time. Do not leave a callback number. This removes any follow up burden from the prospect and places it squarely on your own shoulders. All the prospect needs to do is anticipate your callback on Wednesday.

Step 2—Wednesday: If you get the prospect’s voicemail, leave a follow up message: Introduce yourself, remind the prospect you had committed on Monday to call back, and repeat about the success you achieved with so-and-so at such-and-such. This time, make it a little more compelling: It would be smart for us to connect so you can learn more about how we achieved the successful outcome [you described on Monday]. Again, don’t leave a callback number and don’t ask the prospect to do anything. Commit to calling back Friday at a specific time.

Step 3—Friday: If your call rolls to voicemail, leave a final message: Introduce yourself and remind that you’d promised to call back. It’s a shame you’ve been unable to connect. Maybe the prospect is busy achieving their next successful outcome, or maybe you’re calling at the wrong times. This time, leave your number. And end with another callback commitment: If you don’t hear back in a week, you’ll call again soon.

Sales prospecting requires persistence. If you haven’t heard in a little more than a week (and you may not), keep working on it. Keep calling and, if needed, leaving messages with incrementally more compelling outcomes you’ve been able to achieve with other clients. Keep intriguing, educating and re-stating the benefits of engaging with you.

Will every single prospect end up calling you back? Probably not. But over time, if you stick with the program, you’ll see a measurable lift in your on-base percentage.

Source: Globe and Mail

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Productivity tips from successful sales experts

Whether you’re just starting an insurance sales career or you’re a seasoned pro, you can always learn new ways to improve your technique, efficiency and productivity. Recently, a multidisciplinary panel of sales experts—from a wide range of fields—shared some of their best tips.

Three broad tactics emerged, presented below, along with some specific advice:

  • Prioritize important tasks and manage your time: Simply focus on spending selling hours on selling. Eliminate all other time-wasters. Focus on the things that have the biggest impact on making your number, and are the least complex. It’s not enough to get everything done, the key is to get the things that matter done. Set time aside to be on the phone that is separate from planning or research time. Start each day with an idea of what you’re doing––and be ready to go with it. Ask yourself two important questions: What does success look like to you? And do your actions support your success goals?
  • Invest in relationships: Get to know clients, empathize with them, and work toward a friendship as well as a business relationship. Send relevant hand-written thank-you notes instead of a perfunctory email. Avoid hype, and prove your credibility citing third-party endorsements, certifications and awards. Get crystal clear on where you add the most value to your company and customers, then structure your time around that activity. Focus your time on finding and nurturing your ideal clients who want and need what you have to offer. Keep your contacts, prospects, and customers organized. Focus on what’s in it for your buyer.
  • Relentlessly seek efficiency: Refine your sales process to weed out useless tasks. Avoid multi-tasking; instead, do one thing at a time—and focus in on it. Do a weekly review and put the most important tasks and outcomes on your calendar. Keep a running task list at all times. Practice habits that give you incremental growth in efficiency every day.

Remember: top sales performance is a marathon, not a sprint.

Source: Baseline CRM

 

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A.M. Best upgrades ratings for Florida Blue affiliates

Two Florida Blue affiliates, Capital Health Plan, Inc. (CHP) and Florida Health Care Plan, Inc. (FHCP) received upgraded ratings in two important areas from A.M. Best, a noted independent rating agency.

  • Financial Strength Rating: The agency upgraded CHP and FHCP from Excellent (A) to Superior (A+).
  • Issuer Credit Rating: The agency upgraded CHP and FHCP to “aa-“ from “a”.

The agency also reaffirmed existing marks for Florida Blue itself and another affiliate, Health Options, Inc. (HOI) as follows:

  • Financial Strength Rating: Superior (A+) ratings of Florida Blue and HOI
  • Issuer Credit Rating: “aa-“ ratings of Florida Blue and HOI

The agency also characterized the outlook of all ratings as stable.

Commenting on the upgrades, Best said they “reflect[s] the support Florida Blue offers to CHP and FHCP through reinsurance and guarantee agreements, as well as the increased role of a low-cost delivery model that is at the core of both CHP and FHCP.”

The affirmed ratings for Florida Blue and HOI reflect “their continuous profitable financial performance,” Best reported. “Florida Blue has posted positive operating results for the last 25 years. Pricing discipline combined with a controlled administrative expense structure, innovative provider contracting and enhanced medical management contributed to earnings over the last four years.”

In additional comments, the ratings agency also highlighted a favorable 2013 tax settlement and other factors that supported net income and future earnings. “Solid operating performance contributed to the company's very strong level of capitalization that provides a competitive advantage and significantly improves Florida Blue's flexibility to respond to market challenges related to the implementation of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act… Florida Blue's leadership in the individual market — with a wide range of products offered, retail presence and strategic repositioning of the Blue brand towards greater affordability and simplicity — puts it in a position to succeed in a post-reform environment. Florida Blue is likely to further enhance its strength in the individual segment through active participation in the Florida public exchange marketplace.”

The takeaway, from an agency perspective: in a competitive market and shifting landscape, Florida Blue remains well positioned for solid, reliable growth.

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Time management tips from prodigies

When a tech company recently held a talent search among teenagers for scientifically innovative ideas, the result was more than some brilliant ideas. Some of the young contestants shared their strategies for balancing the competing demands on their time.

While you might not expect the voice of experience to come from a 17-year-old, their strategies make sense—even for a busy health insurance agent. What gets them through a typical day of classes, homework, extracurricular activities, sports, family time and science projects? Here’s how they manage:

  • Scheduling: Before going to sleep, know what time you need to be awake and what you need to accomplish the next day. Book time blocks in your calendar for each activity. It actually helps you sleep better, knowing you won’t be relying on random events to shape your day.
  • Use technology that works for you: If pen and paper work best, don’t abandon them because a higher-tech solution seems cooler. If you like an older time management app, don’t switch to a shiny new one just because it’s shiny and new.
  • Plan time to let ideas percolate: You can’t—and shouldn't—spend every waking moment performing tasks on a checklist. For big projects that require insight (like a game-changing proposal or change in strategic direction for your agency), allow time on your calendar to ponder, consider, study and formulate. That’s where insight comes from.
  • Break boulders into stones: Sometimes, one large logistical challenge is easier to manage if you can break it down into a series of smaller steps. Individual benefit orientations for 50 new employees can be broken into 10 sessions of five employees each.
  • Take advantage of the lulls: If you’ve got 15 minutes before your next appointment, knock out a smaller chunk of a larger project. Or use it to percolate. Or do some stretches and get your circulation flowing.
  • Build rewards into your planning: When you’re not focused on things you need to accomplish, what do you enjoy doing? Whatever it is, with all you achieve in a day, you deserve to spend some of your time doing it.

It’s amazing what you can learn from young overachievers.

Source: Fast Company

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BluesEnroll HR Role gets a new look plus enhancements

Florida Blue recently unveiled a series of improvements to the HR Role in BluesEnroll, including a mobile-friendly view.

Here’s what’s new:

  • Ability to send notifications and reminders directly to employees
  • Administrator view-only access to employees’ self-service pages, benefit elections and personal information
  • Improved HR Task List to easily view and/or approve outstanding tasks
  • Automatic single-transaction cancellation of benefits of all Florida Blue product lines (health, ancillary) for deceased employees
  • New language preference option for groups that have employee self-service enabled

Existing BluesEnroll users will be able to view a tutorial on these changes as soon as they log in for the first time. For details, view the BluesEnroll training website to watch instructional videos. For navigational questions, contact BluesEnroll Support at 1-866-775-7022.

For more details, consult Agent Sales Bulletins # A14-136 and A14-097.

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Stay connected with Florida Blue eNews

Summer is the time to celebrate family, freedom and fun! Florida Blue eNews is bursting with ideas to help you celebrate in safe and meaningful ways. Check out this month’s Florida Blue eNews for fireworks around Florida, connecting with your inner patriot and a spectacular holiday dessert bowl.

Plus, check out these fun and interesting articles:

Let Florida Blue eNews help make your summer one to remember.

Note: ASO groups are excluded from the mailing but can be emailed a link to the newsletter upon the group’s request.

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Effective data mining: Go deep to expand client base

Selling is all about delivering more value than someone else. Go deep and you’ll uncover opportunities to do precisely that, more effectively than ever.

When it comes to client organizations, especially larger ones, it pays to go deep. Whether it’s a client you’ve done business with for years, or a prospect you’ve had your eye on, it’s a smart way to discover opportunities you didn’t know about and open more doors, faster.

The premise is simple: Instead of relying exclusively on a single point of contact, get to know others in your contact’s universe, including people at different levels of decision making.

For existing clients, you can obtain this data in at least two ways: Old-fashioned creative networking, which starts with the contacts you already have, and data mining via social media.

To network effectively, invest in more face time with those you know. Don’t be afraid to leverage those relationships to ask for introductions.

Like a member of a well-oiled basketball team, be open to handing off some leads to others who might be in a better position to score. If your networking turns up contact information for the client company’s CEO, for example, it might be more fruitful to hand it off to your own CEO.

Deep networking also helps you identify and pre-emptively neutralize potential sources of trouble. The deeper your contacts, the more likely you’ll be able to spot people whose agendas don’t include your company or your proposal. Approaching these thorny issues requires finesse, but it’s better than being blindsided by a torpedo you didn't see coming.

Whether you’re prospecting or cultivating an existing relationship, mine social media outlets, especially LinkedIn, for data you can act on. These networks can reveal connections deep inside an organization—and if you don’t have an updated company directory, you can often find contact information in a profile.

Source: Duct Tape Marketing

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Expanded diabetes screenings

Following the success of last year’s program, Florida Blue will reach out again to select diabetes patients with an invitation to attend a local health fair event. Invitations will be mailed to Medicare and (new this year) commercial members. Specific criteria for the invitations include:

  • diagnosed with diabetes
  • have not had a recent diabetic retinal eye exam or hemoglobin A1c test
  • live within a 30-mile radius of the Jacksonville, Tampa or Orlando Florida Blue Centers
  • ASO members who have chosen not to receive mailings are excluded

Services offered at the health fairs will include:

  • glucose – finger stick
  • cholesterol – finger stick
  • height, weight, BMI
  • blood pressure
  • diabetic retinal eye exam
  • diabetic education
  • hemoglobin A1c – Quest on-site lab draw (new this year)
  • LDL - Quest on-site lab draw (new this year)

Medication adherence education and flu shots (in the Jacksonville area only) are under consideration, too. Health fairs will be held on the following dates, with invitations going out three weeks prior to each event:

  • Tampa: June 26-28
  • Orlando: Aug. 7-9
  • Jacksonville: Sept. 25-27

This advance information helps you add value to existing client relationships, and it serves as a selling point for prospects. For more information please read Agent Sales Bulletin #A14-139.

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A new low: uninsured rate drops to 13.4 percent of U.S. adults

The rate of uninsured adults in the U.S. has reached its lowest level since Gallup and Healthways began tracking it in January 2008. The rate for April 2014, 13.4 percent, is down sharply from the previous month’s rate of 15 percent—and it’s even steeper when compared to the 18 percent level noted for the third quarter of 2013.

Survey authors noted that the decline began when health insurance marketplaces first opened in October 2013. As the original March 31 enrollment deadline approached, the decline accelerated, when the federal government extended the deadline until April 15.

A closer look at the data shows that the drop occurred across nearly all demographic groups, including those related to age, ethnicity and income.

The survey noted several highlights in the numbers, including these observations:

  • The sharpest declines in uninsured adults occurred among African and Hispanic Americans and those with lower incomes.
  • The surge in late health insurance sign-ups reflects the rush to meet the official March 31 deadline.
  • States that expanded Medicaid and those that chose to run their own insurance exchanges saw sharper reductions in uninsured than states that did not.

Looking ahead, the survey offered a series of insights on factors that might drive changes in the numbers going forward:

  • It’s likely that more Americans would get health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) if fines for noncompliance were higher.
  • The number of newly insured Americans who fail to pay their premiums will exert upward pressure on the number of uninsured.
  • The numbers could remain relatively unchanged until early 2015, when people without insurance sign up for policies during the next enrollment period.
  • Some ACA provisions have not taken effect, including the one that requires many employers to provide health insurance by 2015. When these provisions go live, they may influence the results.

Some additional technical notes on the study include:

  • The uninsured rates for the first quarter of 2014 and the month of March are averages for the entire quarter and month, and do not necessarily reflect the uninsured rate for the day of the March 31 deadline.
  • The April estimate better captures the impact of late sign-ups, since all interviewing occurred after that critical date.

The data are based on more than 14,700 interviews with Americans from April 1-30, 2014, as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

Source: Gallup

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Young agents: Age is an asset

Face it: A lot of prospects expect an insurance agent who projects the same persona as an insurance company itself. Stable. Permanent. Reliable. With centuries of experience. So if you happen to be on the younger end of the age spectrum—or just look younger than you are—you’ll encounter resistance from some people just based on assumptions about your age.

You may not always hear those objections articulated, but you’ll need to react to them. Consider these tips:

  • Neutralize the objection. Youth is not a flaw. Acknowledge it and get it out of the way. Tout your skills, training or track record and ask to be heard out. Develop some rapport. Chances are good your age is more of an issue for you than for the prospect anyway.
  • Soak up professional education. Get trained in new areas that interest you. Do webinars and seminars—not just for their informative value but also as networking opportunities. And participate actively. A major secondary benefit of ramping up your education is that it will boost your confidence.
  • Develop yourself. Learn, read, take courses on becoming a better person. Identify your own opportunities for improvement and work on them proactively. Become a better listener, speaker, teacher, parent, spouse.
  • Sell it as a strength. Younger agents are perceived as leaner, more eager to please, more energetic, less likely to develop bad habits. Be a little faster with basics like callbacks and follow-ups. The prospect will come to realize that your youth means you’ll outperform your older peers on client service.
  • Engage social media. They come more naturally to you than to people twice your age. So take advantage of their full capabilities to build your brand, establish and deepen connections, add to your credibility—and even pick up some useful knowledge.
  • Develop your own niche. Focus on industries where you have some knowledge, interest or experience. Burnish your credibility by doing speaking engagements for trade groups.
  • Be genuinely passionate. It’s contagious. That’s what people expect, so make the most of it. Your excitement will permeate interactions with the prospect.
  • Build your network. And your personal brand. Attend industry events—not just to sell, but to meet people. Make connections that may become useful. Be a resource for others. Establish yourself in the professional community.
  • Rely on available resources. Use your network—clients, colleagues, even competitors—for support, information and answers to questions.
  • Seek commonality. You’re in sales. Find something that serves as a basis of commonality between you and the prospect. It transcends the age gap and renders it irrelevant.

Source: Insurance Business America

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Death-defying fruits and veggies

A new 12-year study comes a step closer to confirming what mothers—and proponents of wellness programs—have been saying for years: Eating lots of fresh fruits and veggies is good for you. So good that the more of them you eat, the longer you might live.

To be fair, the study, which appeared in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, stops short of claiming that eating more produce actually causes longevity. But the statistical correlation is substantial.

Researchers examined the eating habits of 65,000 British subjects between 2001 and 2013. Those who ate seven or more servings daily were 42 percent less likely to die, regardless of the cause, than those who ate less than one serving. And it wasn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. Those who consumed five to seven servings were 36 percent less likely to die than those who consumed less than one serving; those who ate three to five servings were 29 percent less likely.

More detailed findings include:

  • Death specifically from heart disease fell by 31 percent when researchers compared the seven-servings-a-day crowd against less-than-ones; cancer-related death risk fell by 25 percent.
  • Veggies came out slightly ahead of fruits in their health benefits: For every daily serving of fresh vegetables alone, the overall risk of death declined by 16 percent; for salads, the benefit was 13 percent; for fresh fruits, just four percent.
  • The key word in the study was “fresh.” Fruit juices were not associated with any reduction in risk of death. Canned and frozen fruits actually correlated with a higher risk of death.

As more corporate clients turn to workplace wellness programs (a key component of which promotes healthy eating habits), these findings take on added relevance. Next time you visit a client or prospect, you might want to bring carrot sticks.

Source: HealthDay

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Tips on using Twitter

Introduced just eight years ago, Twitter has become a staple of social media, a cornerstone of content marketing. It’s even credited with facilitating political revolutions. But harnessing its power to bolster your marketing effort in just 140 characters may seem like a stretch. Consider these tactics for developing and executing the Twitter-based component in your marketing efforts:

  • Specify goals: Do you want to increase awareness? Publicize an offer? Introduce a new service? The more specifically you can define the goal, the better you can target your message.
  • Be relevant. Choose topics that your target audience finds important—things that fit with your own brand identity.
  • Leverage chats. Offer short, helpful and readable responses to other people’s questions. They’ll get you noticed, and even re-tweeted.
  • Choose a great hashtag. That’s the word(s) right after the #. Go with some combination of simple, memorable and descriptive.
  • Offer incentives for followers to participate and re-tweet
  • Spread the love to existing clients. Keep your agency top-of-mind with relevant content that existing clients will appreciate. Share a success story or a new strategy. It reminds your clients that you’re out there, working on their behalf, and, ideally, it’ll get re-tweeted to prospects.
  • Use alerts to help you find leads. Just set them for commonly used health insurance terms that a prospect might search for, like ACA.
  • Engage geolocation. Use it to find nearby prospects and reach out to them. If you can target power users—those with the greatest influence in the Twittersphere—you can piggyback on their popularity.
  • Name your lists creatively. Instead of “Prospects,” you could call it “Savvy Small Business Owners.” Instead of “Nonprofits,” try something like “Agencies Making a Difference.” Recipients see the name of the lists they’re on, and they’ll appreciate an acknowledgement of how they’d like to be viewed.
  • Save useful searches. If your search parameters yield a useful list of prospects, save them and tweet back as appropriate to build loyalty and business.
  • Save for the future. Save interesting incoming Twitter content to a spreadsheet for inspiration later. And give credit when possible. If you’re crediting an existing client, the nod is appreciated. If crediting someone else, it could lead to a sale.

Master the basics and some of these tactics, and you’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish in 140 characters. Try it and see.

Source: Business News Daily

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CDHPs correlate with health status, income and education

Consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs) are attracting buyers who differ from more traditional plan members in three important respects:

  • they’re healthier;
  • they earn more money; and
  • they’re better educated.

That’s according to research from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).

CDHPs, which are typically linked to tax-advantaged Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), have been gaining in popularity for the last 10 years. Today they represent about 15 percent of the private health insurance marketplace, covering more than 26 million Americans.

Some of EBRI’s more detailed findings: For most of the years studied, people covered by CDHPs (compared with those covered by traditional plans), were

  • more likely to behave in healthier ways (defined in terms of smoking, obesity and regular exercise)
  • more likely to fall into the $100,000 to $149,999 household income range
  • more likely to have a college or post-gradate education
  • equally likely to be male or female

The study sampled enrollee data going back to 2005. Although significant correlations were noted, it remains unclear whether plan design and health status influenced each other in a causal relationship.

Source: Benefits Pro

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New limits on health savings accounts for 2015

The IRS recently announced financial limits for 2015 that affect health savings accounts (HSAs) contributions as well as qualifying deductible amounts on High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) associated with them. HSAs are tax-exempt accounts that help people save money for eligible medical expenses.

To qualify for an HSA, the policyholder must be:

  • enrolled in an HSA-compatible HDHP;
  • cannot be covered by other non-HDHP health insurance or Medicare; and
  • cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return.

The new IRS limits for 2015 are:

Maximum HSA contribution:

  • Individuals (self-only coverage): $3,350
  • Family coverage: $6,650

Minimum annual HDHP deductible:

  • Individuals (self-only coverage): $1,300
  • Family coverage: $2,600

Maximum annual HDHP out-of-pocket:

  • Individuals (self-only coverage): $6,450
  • Family coverage: $12,900

All Florida Blue HSA-compatible plans for both BlueOptions and BlueCare platforms will be compliant with the 2015 HSA limits and there will be minimal changes to the existing product portfolio. A few items to be aware of:

  • The 2014 HDHP out-of-pocket limits remained the same as last year, even under the new ACA requirements. For 2015, the maximum out-of-pocket limits will be $6,600 for self-only coverage and $13,200 for family coverage.
  • HSA funds can only be used to purchase over-the-counter drugs if the policyholder has a prescription. Otherwise the tax penalty is 20 percent of the HSA distribution.

Please contact your Florida Blue Sales Representative with any other questions you may have.

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Improving productivity through better health

It seems intuitive and logical: worker health influences productivity. Now a pair of recent studies from Optum dig deeper into the relationship between health and productivity, identifying some possible action steps your clients can take to improve the status quo.

One of the studies quantifies net productivity loss at between $158 and $1,601 per worker per year for those workers identified as having a health condition or risk. The other suggests that workers who engage with a wellness professional are significantly more likely to make improvements in individual health and productivity on the job. More specific findings include:

  • Absenteeism and presenteeism: Compared to workers with low-risk health factors, absenteeism for high-risk employees rises an average of 77 percent. For medium-risk workers, it’s 40 higher. A similar pattern was observed when measuring presenteeism (people who come to work when they’re sick).
  • Engagement with health promotions: Employees who work with a health advocate, coach or nurse as part of a workplace wellness promotion save their employers money. Those who participated and made health or risk improvements achieved productivity savings that averaged $353 per year, compared with eligible employees who declined to participate.
  • Lifestyle risk factors: Smoking and high blood pressure were identified as the No. 1 and No. 2 lifestyle risk factors, respectively, for lost productivity. Annual net productivity loss from smokers averaged $326; from workers with high blood pressure, the average loss was $230. Workers with obesity ranked third, at $203; high cholesterol trailed with $15.
  • Health risks and conditions: Large companies (those with 10,000 employees) lose up to $3.8 million annually from reduced productivity of workers with one or more health conditions (like cancer, bronchitis or depression). Having two or more conditions increases productivity loss exponentially.

The takeaway is clear: Agents can provide a valuable service to prospects and existing clients by recommending proactive wellness programs that promote worker health. The evidence shows increases in productivity are achievable when workplace programs are introduced and promoted. Florida Blue can help with customizable turnkey programs geared for small, medium and large employer groups. Contact your Florida Blue Sales Representative for details.

Source: Employee Benefit News

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Florida Blue announces Sapphire Awards for 2014

A two-day event in St. Augustine served as the backdrop for excellence and innovation in nonprofit community health—the Florida Blue Foundation's sponsored

statewide Sapphire Awards and Symposium. The Sapphire Awards for 2014 recognized six Florida individuals, organizations and programs for their exceptional work. They were selected from more than 100 nominees.

The purpose of the Sapphire Awards and Symposium embodies the Florida Blue Foundation's desire to recognize and award excellence and innovation among not-for-profit organizations, programs and individuals that have made a significant, positive impact on health-related outcomes for Florida's at-risk people and communities.

“The Sapphire Awards recognize the outstanding people, organizations and programs that have proven success helping the most underserved members of our communities,” said Susan Towler, vice president, Florida Blue Foundation. Chairman and CEO Pat Geraghty noted that Sapphire Award recipients’ work aligns perfectly with Florida’s Blue’s commitment to the community: “We are unleashing the power of these organizations in meeting people where they are,” he said.

In addition to the award ceremony itself, the event featured national experts addressing rural health care in Florida, the Affordable Care Act, emerging trends and innovation in health care delivery systems, and other timely topics. 

The following organizations, categories and individuals were recognized and received monetary awards for their agencies:

Organization Category

  • Big Bend Cares, the only agency providing comprehensive HIV/AIDS services in the eight-county Big Bend region of Tallahassee, was awarded $100,000.
  • Chapman Partnership, operating two homeless assistance centers with 800 beds located in Miami and Homestead, offering health, dental and psychiatric care, was awarded $100,000.

Program Category

  • Green Family Foundation NeighborhoodHELPTM (Health Education Learning Program) at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, Florida International University, was awarded $60,000 for its work to reduce emergency department visits for routine health care.

Individual Category

  • Paul Ahr, Ph.D., M.P.A., president and CEO of Camillus House in Miami, was awarded $50,000 for providing humanitarian services to persons who are poor and/or homeless.
  • Estrellita “Lo” Berry, M.A., president and CEO, REACHUP, Inc., in the Tampa area, was cited with an honorable mention and awarded $25,000 for helping to reduce low preterm birth, low birth weight and infant mortality.
  • Susan Widmayer, Ph.D., founder and former executive director, Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center in Fort Lauderdale, earned an honorable mention and was awarded $25,000 for service to children with disabilities, developmental delays, and chronic and terminal illnesses and their families.

Florida Blue supports communities throughout Florida in a variety of ways, through a wide range of programs. For details on Florida Blue’s support in your community, check with your local sales rep.

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Boost referrals with perks

As an agent, you’ve probably made a career of growing your client base. Many of the newer strategies for accomplishing this never-ending task involve unusual skill sets—like media-savvy public speaking (required if you want to set yourself up as a local expert in your field), or they happen as a result of luck (a friend of a friend knows someone).

Both are great ways to create and seize opportunities. But most agents have found the best way for growing their portfolios is through old-fashioned referrals. Simply asking your existing clients to refer you to others sometimes produces results. A more effective strategy is to offer perks. Sound hokey? Maybe. But offering a reward has been proven to work. Because, in the end, everybody likes a freebie—especially if it’s relevant.

Perks are fundamentally different from tchotchkes. A coffee mug or key ring with your logo on it won’t motivate many people to call you. But a well-thought-through perk confers privileges and sends the kind of message that generates results. Consider these examples:

  • Subscriptions: Choose a publication your clients are likely to read. You can buy them in bulk and lower your unit cost. The recipients get a gift card telling them to expect publications to start arriving soon, courtesy of your firm. The mailing label on each issue usually lists your name too, so it acts as a reminder. For added oomph, send out periodic emails that point out articles of special relevance to the recipient.
  • ID protection: It’s topical, useful and highly appreciated. It sends the right “we-care” message, and it’s the kind of impactful strategy the recipient is likely to mention to others. ID theft protection is inexpensive, too, and you can negotiate a package that includes your whole client base.
  • Local reward cards: Pick a local entertainment venue that offers rewards to frequent users such as hotel and restaurant chains, amusement parks and concert halls. Usually the card itself is free, with rewards based on the individual user’s purchase history—so it costs you nothing.
  • Stock shares: Many offer perks to shareholders, so the recipient enjoys benefits that go beyond capital appreciation and dividends. For example, give one share of Berkshire Hathaway (the more moderately priced B shares!) and the recipient gets consumer discounts at many of the companies owned by the conglomerate.

Remember, it never ever hurts to make a positive impact, especially when you can do it so inexpensively. Try it and see if you don’t agree.

Source: LifeHealthPro

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Make friends with your inbox

Email has a way of monopolizing your time—and, in the process, keeping you from focusing on other tasks. You could be selling more. Organizing your next benefit presentation. Booking your next vacation. But no, you’re working your way down a huge list of unopened emails, deciding what to do about each and every one. If you’re like an estimated 75% of email users, you dread it.

No wonder many business professionals, including insurance agents, say they don’t even like glancing at their inboxes.

It doesn’t have to be that way now. You and your inbox can shake hands and be friends again. You just have to take control of the relationship. If you can shrink your inbox to include just the emails that require your immediate attention, you can reconnect with your inbox.

Start by investing a few minutes setting up a system of filters, folders and alternate inboxes. If you’re not familiar with these capabilities, use a search engine to look up instructions for creating filters in your email system. While you’re at it, search for alternate email applications and email productivity tools. They’re inexpensive and often easy to use.

Next, set up filters and folders that make sense for you. Consider these possibilities:

  • Meeting requests: Filter all emails with attachments that link to your calendar into a separate folder. Because some meetings get organized on short notice, you should review meeting requests frequently. The trick is to look at your calendar first, not the new meeting request folder. Requests you haven’t responded to will show on your calendar as tentative. That way you can see which meetings you want to attend and which one’s you’re too busy for.
  • CCs and BCCs: How many emails addressed to others do you really need to see right this minute? Relatively few. Put these in a separate folder and review them periodically.
  • Newsletters, deal alerts and other subscriptions: Set a filter or rule that puts non-critical reading material into its own place. You can return to it and do your reading later. When you do, keep what’s relevant and trash the rest.
  • Set up your own follow up notes: Especially useful for long-term projects that have multiple intermediate steps. Put your reminders in their own folder.

These are just a starting point. Observe your own email patterns and set up filters and folders that respond to your own particular needs. The technology is there. Use it effectively and you’ll get back a resource anyone can use more of: time.

Source: Fast Company

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Keys to more effective meetings

One of the best ways to make yourself more productive as an agent is to make your meetings more effective. Because when you do, you’re not just using your own time more efficiently. You’re also respecting the time and attention your clients, prospects and employees give you—so they, in turn, can get more done.

Tips for making client and prospect meetings more effective:

  • Take time to appreciate them. Make a human connection so they know you appreciate their business or willingness to meet with you.
  • Spell out what makes you different. For prospects, this means clarity about your unique selling proposition. For existing clients, a reminder of why they’ve chosen to stay with you.
  • Use simple visuals to support and reinforce your key messages.
  • Add something unexpected, so the person can see it’s more than a standard or obligatory meeting. Bring a small gift, share a success story, or anything else that’s out of the ordinary.

Tips for better staff meetings:

  • Specify a distinct purpose for every session, even weekly staff meetings. If you’re only meeting because you always meet at the same time every week, people won’t want to attend. And they won’t be engaged if they do attend.
  • Set a time limit and honor it. As a general rule, keep daily meetings to 15 minutes, weekly meetings to an hour.
  • Give everyone an opportunity to speak if they have something to contribute.
  • Distribute an agenda beforehand, using a format everyone is accustomed to.
  • Be clear about all agreements made during the meeting: Who will take which responsibilities by what deadline.
  • Follow up promptly with minutes that are task-oriented and distributed to everyone concerned.

Get into these habits, and you’ll notice results: people will be better focused, and when the meeting is over, they’ll get more work accomplished. So will you.

Source: Financial Planning

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Use branding in social media to market your business

Does your agency have an identity? Of course it does, even if you’ve been letting it develop organically. Today, most entities in the health care insurance industry create and grow their identities by paying careful attention to consistent branding.

And while branding encompasses all forms of communication, one of the most effective ways to reinforce your brand is through Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Consider these important reasons to incorporate social media into your brand-building strategy:

  • Efficiency: If you’re already making the effort to create and strengthen your company’s brand, applying it to social media reinforces the message. Speak in the same “voice” and use visual cues across all your communication platforms, so clients and prospects know what to expect.
  • Reduce confusion: In any competitive market like the health insurance industry, lots of agencies vie for the prospect’s attention. The resulting confusion and noise annoy the people you need to reach. By integrating your brand identity through social media channels, you can separate and distinguish yourself from the pack and place yourself in the fast lane toward capturing the prospect’s attention.
  • Relationships: As you move away from disjointed one-off transactions with customers toward building relationships with clients, you build trust. And trust builds business. Targeting your branded message to prospects through social media helps you boost relevance to your prospects and existing client base.
  • Smart content distribution: If you’re generating leads by putting out whitepapers and blogs and holding webinars, it makes sense to integrate social media into the mix. That way, they can point to—and leverage—each other.
  • Triangulation: A coherent online presence is like a three-legged stool, represented by public relations, search engine optimization (SEO) and social media. By integrating your brand strategy through all three channels consistently, you create a solid, stable and powerful combination that leverages your message. And your results.

Source: Business2Community

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8 tips to help business owners squeeze in a vacation

Taking a vacation away from your small business can seem like a risky move if you’re constantly busy. But taking a break can help you to clear your head and bring a fresh perspective to your business as well.

With summer being a popular time for Americans to set off to their favorite vacation destinations, for small business owners, taking time off can lead to missed opportunities and missed income.

For example, less than half of small business owners, about 49 percent, plan to take even a week-long summer vacation this year, according to the American Express OPEN Spring 2013 Small Business Monitor. That’s down from a high of 67 percent who planned to take a week off in 2006 and 54 percent who said they were planning to take at least a week off last year.

One of the biggest reasons for this, ironically, is the slowly improving economy, said Alice Bredin of Bredin Market Research, small business advisor for American Express.

Over the last few years, Bredin said, many business owners felt they couldn’t afford to spend any time away from their businesses in a tough economy. Today, with the economy improving, there is a desire not to miss out on a single potential customer.

If you’re planning on getting away at all this summer, below are some tips to help you enjoy your time off and keep your business running smoothly.

Schedule wisely

Each industry and business has a few points in the year where things get really busy. You should know pretty well in advance when you have major deadlines or big projects to launch.

Schedule your time off around these big events so they don’t interfere.

Plan ahead

Don’t leave all the preparation for the last minute or you’ll end up trying to cover a week’s worth of work in a day. Keep a reminder of the dates on your desk so that you don’t schedule important meetings or events for that time.

Do a little bit of extra work over the few weeks leading up to your vacation so that you don’t get overwhelmed directly before or after.

Let people know you’re on vacation

Set an automatic email response telling people that you’re out of town and when you’ll return. Call the clients and colleagues you talk to most before you leave to tell them when you’ll be gone and how they can contact you in case of emergency.

Only bring what’s most important
You’ll likely want to bring a few work items with you in case something comes up that you absolutely need to take care of. Only bring the most important items and leave the rest behind.

Go mobile

Deciding what to bring with you can be a lot easier if you convert as much work data as possible to your smartphone, tablet or other mobile device.

Set a designated work time

If you absolutely need to work while you’re on vacation, set designated time for you to do tasks like checking email and making phone calls.

You don’t want your work to completely takeover what is supposed to be a vacation.

Ask for help

If you have employees or business partners, ask them for help with little tasks that need to be done while you’re away.

Be prepared to do the same for them whenever they decide to take a vacation.

Relax

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in your business that it’s difficult to enjoy your vacation. But taking a break from your business and clearing your head can be just as important as checking those items off your to-do list.

Make relaxation a priority and have your family members or friends you’re traveling with keep you in check.

Source: smallbiztrends.com

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Improve the quality of your email list

Email is a great way to reach out to prospects and clients cost-effectively. But it’s a medium that values quality and quantity. What good is a huge list if it’s filled with dead-end addresses and people who have no need for your service?

Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and other social media can help you target the right people and capture their email data. Consider these techniques:

  • Host a Q&A chat using Facebook or Twitter: Alert clients and prospects in advance and offer subscriptions, which require their email addresses. Q&As are a great way to build a following and leverage your subject matter expertise.
  • Promotions and contests: When you offer something that’s important to your prospects and existing clients, they’ll be more likely to provide a verifiable email address. Though it might seem counterintuitive, you can also improve list quality by including a checkbox allowing responders to opt-out of future messaging.
  • Offer premium content: Develop a stream of more in-depth blog entries and articles, and make it available by email subscription.
  • Join online topic forums: By sharing your expertise with other interested members, you can develop a contact list. And by linking to your own subscriber-based content streams (like blogs), you can capture email addresses from high-quality prospects.
  • Paid advertising: Don’t be afraid to invest in the occasional “sponsored content” social media ad. It can build your credibility, especially when shared by large numbers of readers.  

Follow these helpful tips and you can reach out to them knowing your message is relevant.

Source: thenextweb

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