Instead of buying Medicare leads from eight separate lead vendors, independent insurance agent Chris Apana went one place for all his leads: the Client Stream® Lead Exchange platform. Switching to the online, multi-vendor marketplace transformed lead buying from what he called a “Dumpster fire” to a “wonderful” experience and produced impressive numbers.
Comparing the 2022 Annual Election Period (AEP) to 2023’s AEP, his two-agent Boca Raton, Florida, agency:
- Tripled the number of new clients
- Increased its close ratio by 20% — up to 50%
- Decreased the cost per acquisition of each client by 20% — to $105
“When I worked with eight different vendors, I found that was really inefficient. It was a combination of working with multiple vendors and multiple platforms and multiple CRMs. I'd have different usernames and passwords for the portals and different bid amounts and different criteria and parameters to purchase the leads,” he said. “I had eight different account reps, which also was a little frustrating. And I also saw lots of quality issues. I didn't have one specific platform to work off of, like Lead Exchange. It wasn't as convenient as it is now. I'm very spoiled with Lead Exchange. I love and use it every day.”
A Streamlined Lead-Buying Process
Offered exclusively through Senior Market Sales®, the Client Stream Lead Exchange platform provides agents a one-stop-shop for high-quality leads at discounted wholesale prices while solving the lead-related headaches that cost agents valuable time during the short but critical AEP.
Because agents don’t have to find vendors, vet them, negotiate their own pricing, and jump between multiple lead platforms, they have more time to help more clients. The quality of leads and systems for tracking leads in the platform also mean agents spend less time correcting the problems that bad leads create.
“We can work really quickly, which is just speed that we haven't experienced before,” Apana said.
The combination of saved time and greater speed boosted several performance metrics for Apana, especially in his second year of using the platform, 2023. That’s when he saw the benefits of having used Client Stream Lead Exchange the prior year — namely, the stickiness of acquiring high-quality leads in 2022.
“Our renewal commissions were up 33% in AEP over 2022's AEP because clients we acquired through Lead Exchange in 2022 stayed on the books in 2023,” Apana said. “They're more satisfied clients. I realized a lot fewer chargebacks and cancellations with clients who are sincerely interested.”
High-Quality Medicare Leads
SMS vets all lead vendors rigorously before allowing them onto the online marketplace, routinely monitors and holds them accountable, and only offers the highest quality leads.
How does SMS ensure only the highest-quality leads?
- By organically sourcing only tier-one and tier-two leads
- By sourcing live-transfer leads only in the United States, which mitigates the risk of language barriers causing communication problems that might confuse clients and lead to regulatory fines by the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
- By requiring a compliance review of all marketing materials from vendors providing warm- and live-transfer leads to ensure they are compliant
- By using TrustedForm (for data leads and aged leads), a renowned lead certification product that provides unbiased, third-party documentation of consent, showing the form a consumer filled out on a specific website
Test Which Leads Work for You
As one of the platform’s first users in 2022, Apana tested different types of leads and vendors to see what worked best with his business model, a combination of online, in-person and over-the-phone sales.
After buying live-transfer, web and data leads in 2022, he decided to buy only live-transfer leads for the 2023 AEP and only through Client Stream Lead Exchange.
“The lead quality and the consistency wasn't always consistent with having eight different vendors,” Apana said. “One would have higher volume than the other. And then pricing was very different — it could be higher with one vendor as opposed to another. Now I've got access to my preferred vendors, all on one platform.”
Medicare Leads That Close More Sales
The consistency in volume, price and quality, along with better-vetted leads, contributed to more closed sales and lower client-acquisition costs in the 2023 AEP, Apana said.
“I used to take three calls to enroll one client. Now we take two calls and enroll one client,” he said. “Our close ratio has increased 20% to 50%. And still today, it's actually increasing. We're over 50% right now.”
Client Stream Lead Exchange’s fully vetted, warm transfers stand out because they’re not customary in the industry, Apana said, and the pricing has slashed his per-call rate in half.
Low-Cost Medicare Leads
“I can't get over that. These are pretty big savings and, and they're big enough to impact the bottom line and especially over the long term. For me, that's extremely important,” Apana said. “It's not pricing that I would've had access to on my own as a small business.”
SMS is able to offer leads at a lower (wholesale) cost because lead vendors have access to a large pool of agents in Client Stream Lead Exchange.
For the 2023 AEP, Apana paid $50 to $55 per live-transfer lead through Lead Exchange.
Considering all factors that go into calculating a per-client acquisition cost, he lowered his from $132 in 2022 to $105 in 2023, a 20% decrease.
Control All Aspects of Lead Buying
The Client Stream Lead Exchange platform lets agents control all facets of lead generation, including:
- How little or how much they want to spend
- How many leads they want
- What types of leads they want — leads generated from direct mail campaigns, internet form fills, or inbound or outbound calls transferred to the agent, etc.
- When they want to get them — an especially important consideration with transferred phone calls
More specifically, leads can be generated using state, zip code, supplier, or lead attributes such as age or income.
Live-Transfer Medicare Leads With Scheduling Flexibility
Apana especially is a fan of the scheduling features for warm- and live-transfer leads — features that give flexibility and freedom beyond anything available on the market. They allow agents to:
- Turn off calls when they’re not available so they aren’t charged for leads that transfer when they’re not there to take the call
- Set detailed available times — down to the days and hours the agent is available — so they aren’t charged for transferred calls and can manage their schedule even more
- Ask additional qualifying questions within roughly 90 to 100 seconds before the lead is billable, depending on the vendor
- Set a call cap per hour
Apana said he’s able to work more efficiently and achieve a better work-life balance because of those features.
“I'm able to work on my own terms and conditions,” Apana said. “The ability to pause and unpause the flow of phone calls with the push of a button is really important to hybrid agencies like myself. I might, you know, decide to take my daughter for her gymnastics class that day and maybe cut off the flow of phone calls at three o'clock. So, that's huge for me.”
Medicare Leads Outside of AEP
Client Stream Lead Exchange also provides Apana a consistent flow of Medicare leads outside of AEP, such as dual-eligible, turning-65, chronic-special-needs and Special-Election-Period-eligible prospects. Instead of struggling in the off-season to find leads, he has a more reliable income stream.
The platform in just its first two years on the market has become a staple in Apana’s business. While 10% of his sales come from his existing book of business in the form of referrals from clients, centers of influence or other relationships he’s developed, 90% of sales come from Client Stream Lead Exchange.
The IMO’s Role With Medicare Leads
While Apana praised Client Stream Lead Exchange for two successful AEPs in a row, he said the credit first and foremost goes to the insurance marketing organization (IMO) that provided the platform and has helped him grow his business.
“I've been with SMS for four years, and I hope to be, for as long as I'm alive and in the business,” he said.
Apana left his job as a client advisor at JP Morgan Chase and turned to insurance about 13 years ago after the loss of both parents to cancer prompted him to examine his career path and purpose. He started his own business so he could help other people better understand their insurance policies and navigate experiences like his with his parents’ illnesses. One of his clients sold Medicare insurance and left an impression that guided him to his new role.
“He didn't really get into the business for money,” Apana recalled. “He did it for the love of people. And I shared that with him.”
Client Stream Lead Exchange is one of the platforms that SMS has created out of its commitment to agents like Apana who are so deeply dedicated to their clients, said SMS Internal Marketing Consultant Bryan McBride. For more than 40 years, SMS has led the industry with problem-solving innovations, guided by its mission: to help agents leverage time, make more money and put their business in a position of distinction.
“When SMS can save agents valuable time, remove obstacles and streamline their work so that their businesses grow and they serve more clients, that’s fulfilling our mission,” McBride said. “But it’s even more rewarding when we see that we’re helping agents fulfill their life’s mission.”
Apana said his one piece of advice to other agents is to work closely with a marketing consultant at your field marketing organization (FMO), or IMO.
“I don’t know that you could necessarily put a price tag on that,” Apana said. “Have them take a deep dive and understanding of your business model, and they always come back with the solutions that fit and work seamlessly in your model. I can't stress that enough.”
The Secret for AEP Success: Your IMO
For Apana, that FMO is SMS.
“I've got the one secret sauce that has worked really well for me and is a significant portion of this agency's success — my partnership with SMS. I can't stress that enough,” Apana said. “I wouldn't have even had access to Lead Exchange if it weren't by virtue of my relationship with my SMS marketing consultant. The support that I got and still continue to get from SMS, it's instrumental in not only leveraging the platform, but also navigating the entirety of the Medicare space.”
SMS doesn’t charge for Client Stream Lead Exchange, which is only available through SMS. For additional convenience and efficiencies, Client Stream Lead Exchange also integrates seamlessly with SMS’ exclusive Lead Advantage Pro® quoting and enrollment platform.
Request access to Client Stream Lead Exchange, or call 1.800.785.5566 to speak with an SMS marketing consultant.
Request Access to Client Stream Lead Exchange