4 min read

Stop selling, start educating: A health insurance agent's guide to grassroots marketing events

Stop selling, start educating: A health insurance agent's guide to grassroots marketing events

It’s a tale as old as time: You let your hunger for sales drive your strategy and schedule Medicare (or other product) seminars at the local library and the nearest senior center. No one shows up at the library. Then you get canceled at the senior center because they mistakenly double-booked you—with another agent. So frustrating! Want to know why you’re getting the cold shoulder?

It’s because you’re an insurance agent.

In terms of trustworthiness, the general public ranks us somewhere between “used car salesman” and “lawyers.” You can’t blame them for not sharing their time; in their eyes, they’ve heard and seen it all before. You’re just one more huckster out there trying to make a quick buck.

But because you are a friendly, my-face-is-my-brand type of agent, you still think this could work with some tweaking. And you are so right! Here is your tweak: Stop selling. Start educating.

Leave insurance out of it

For a hungry agent whose next commission check makes the mortgage or not, this is going to sound extremely counterintuitive. You’ve got to lead with anything but insurance. Insurance comes later. We promise.

Instead, think about your hobbies, passions, or pursuits. Consider technology skills you may have that seniors or other community members might not. Or, think about friends or colleagues who could help fill a skill gap.

Whatever you decide, you can design – and pitch – an educational session on that topic. And, we’ve got a framework to follow.

Start with the end goal in mind

What will your attendees know how to do when they leave your session? Whether it’s adding apps to their iPad, whittling wacky wood shapes, or playing Picasso with a painting kit – have a tangible, observable end goal in mind. That gives you a powerful promise to use in pitching your session to gatekeepers, gathering attendees, and hooking attention from the beginning. How neat would it be to say “At the end of this hour, you’ll have a self-portrait to share with your grandkids?”

Make a plan

If you’ve got an observable end goal in mind, it’s much easier to think about what it will take to get your attendees across the finish line. If, for example, you know that you’ll want them to paint a portrait, consider each step they’ll need to take in the process. From mixing colors, to painting the background, to finer brush strokes in the foreground – you’ll want an idea of how it will work. And, you’ll want to write it down.

Writing out your step-by-step instructions is a huge asset for three reasons. One, it helps keep your thoughts straight when you’re in the moment, which is especially helpful if teaching and/or public speaking aren’t typically in your wheelhouse. Two, it provides the basis of a handout your attendees can follow if they work at a different pace than your demo, which you will of course run at the pace of the group. Three, turning your steps into a handout gives you a good reason to put your name, face, and contact information in front of these folks. Bonus points if your step-by-step instructions also include images of what each step should look like.

But even now, insurance must wait. Don’t give away the game on the handout by plastering your agency’s logo all over. You’re building know/like/trust right now, not selling. Instead, just present yourself as “John Q. Agent: Underwater Basket Weaver Extraordinaire.”

Put it into action

Gather any materials you may need for your course, and then you’re off to the races. Hook people’s attention with that powerful promise of what they’ll be able to do after your time together. And then, walk them through each step of the process.

In the moment, you can refer to your handout to keep things on track for both you and your attendees. When someone asks you what to do next, you can simply refer them to the appropriate numbered step. If you did include pictures, you can also use the tool to answer questions like “Did I do this step correctly?”

And all throughout, you’ve got real opportunities to connect with people. Whether you’re providing 1:1 assistance with a troublesome skill, sharing your appreciation for someone’s painting, or helping them clean up after the mess is made – you’re spending quality time. Quality time that goes a long way with anyone – not just seniors.

But when do I talk insurance?

At the end. At the last possible moment. Until you’ve waited so long, that it’s just going to burst out of you.

The focus of the session, for your audience, was developing whatever skill you were there to teach. Once that goal is accomplished, you can say things like “Hey, knitting doilies is just a side hobby of mine. In my day job, I’m an insurance agent. If you’ve got any questions, I’d be glad to answer those, too.” And now, you’ve earned the right to offer business cards. Much more trustworthy vibes are coming off of you than the guy last week who came in just to shove a bunch of pamphlets into their hands and leave.

When in doubt, use a tactic you probably already use all the time: put yourself in the shoes of the customer. They didn’t come here to learn about health insurance, but they could see this opportunity to talk to you about their plans as a really cool bonus at the end. Don’t bait and switch, and don’t force anything. Just use your people skills and go with the flow.

And when do you suppose I find the time to do this?

This is not something you would do during enrollment season, probably. This is something you do in the off-season. Think spring through early fall. That way, by the time those pesky Medicare Advantage commercials start playing between old game show reruns, you will pop into their mind again before the “call this number” even makes it to the screen. They will head over to your “John Q. Agent: Underwater Basket Weaver Extraordinaire” sheet and give that nice young man a call about their Medicare plan.

Why does this work?

It’s simple. It builds your know/like/trust factor outside of anything related to insurance. And if someone knows, likes, and trusts you, they’ll be more willing to listen to anything else you have to say. And according to some of you, that is the hardest part of the Medicare world.

Need help designing a knock-out session? Take advantage of the adult learning expertise on our Customer Engagement Team. Reach out directly, or have your account manager put you in touch.

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