When You Can't Meet Face-to-Face With Clients: How Insurance and Financial Planning Professionals Can Survive in the Coronavirus Era

  • Originally published March 26, 2020 , last updated April 7, 2020
When You Can't Meet Face-to-Face With Clients: How Insurance and Financial Planning Professionals Can Survive in the Coronavirus Era

If your business is based on in-person workshops, walk-ins and face-to-face appointments, the novel coronavirus has forced you to reconsider how you do business.

With human interaction discouraged and even banned in some places to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), today’s insurance and financial planning professionals are left wondering: how do I keep my practice operating?

The answer, as some successful advisors already know, is to go virtual or adopt selling by phone.

Whether your lifeblood is the educational workshop, the in-person meeting or a combination of both, your practice can survive the current coronavirus crisis – and even come out stronger and better positioned to thrive moving forward.  

Senior Market Sales® (SMS) has the support to help you quickly pivot to taking all aspects of your practice online, so you can service clients and even reach new prospects. Just as your clients rely on you for support during the crisis, you can rely on SMS to carry you through. Now is not the time to capitalize on client fears; rather it’s a time to be there for them ­– despite the physical barriers and bans on interaction. It’s time to show your value.

How to Meet With Clients Online or By Phone

While you may prefer in-person meetings, there are many options today to help you connect with clients so you can maintain your relationship and serve them. You can call them and use some of the carrier or SMS enrollment tools, and you also can use video conferencing technology with only your smartphone, laptop, tablet or desktop computer.

If both you and your client have iPhones, for example, video conferencing can be as easy as a tap – just use FaceTime to see each other. 

Most video conference vendors offer the service for free, but some offer paid plans. And features generally include audio-only or full-video chat, screen sharing and mobile apps.

Vendors include:  

You don’t have to be a videographer to do video conferencing, but it is smart to be aware of such things as proper framing, lighting and etiquette, such as wearing appropriate business attire, being on time and looking into the camera without distractions. It’s also smart to test your technology well before you start. And also before you start, turn off your notifications, so you are not distracted but also so if you’re screen sharing your clients don’t see them.

You may find that virtual meetings are so effective that you can use them even after the coronavirus crisis, as they can save time and money, such as travel costs.

What to Do If You Have Educational Workshops Scheduled

Video conferencing can be a quick and easy solution for already-scheduled educational workshops that can no longer happen in-person because of COVID-19 concerns and restrictions. SMS understands that for some advisors, workshops often drive the majority of new client acquisition and revenue, so we’ve worked quickly to develop options to keep those workshops going.

Choose the online video conferencing platform service you feel most comfortable using, such as GoToMeeting or Zoom. You can present your workshop as you normally would at the scheduled time, but you’ll first need to communicate the change in plans to registrants, sending them a link to join the workshop as a live webinar. Or, you can record your presentation and send a link in an email so recipients can watch the webinar on demand, when it’s convenient for them.

You also can offer to do the educational workshop in a one-on-one appointment for a video meeting in which you walk through your presentation.

Whether you’re doing educational workshops all on your own or utilizing different levels of support available from SMS, a marketing consultant can help you transition your workshop online. SMS will continue working on additional solutions and will communicate those as soon as they are ready.

Even if you’ve never done educational workshops before, now is a great time to consider adding virtual workshops to your marketing plan, since in-person meetings likely are not to resume for a while.

Reaching Out to Clients

Because the coronavirus crisis is impacting the world in unprecedented ways, you, like many professionals, may be struggling to find best practices. You don’t want to look opportunistic, but you also don’t want to appear aloof to a major world event.

In a relationship business in which clients turn to you for advice, however, remaining silent could send the wrong message. Reaching out shows you understand the gravity of the situation with coronavirus and that you care. But what will your message be?

The answer depends, of course, on how you can help. Don’t just send an email informing clients that you are aware of and reacting to the pandemic – everyone is, points out research and advisory company Gartner. So messages like those waste clients’ time and might even irritate them. Make sure your message is essential and useful. Also, due to the nature of insurance and financial planning advice, it’s important that whatever you say over the phone or in an email is free of scare tactics. 

Your clients are probably already scared. They may need to talk through their concerns, whether that’s health-related or market-related. If you haven’t already reached out to clients, do so, whether by phone, video chat or email. It may be as simple as asking how they are doing and what they’re concerned about. Then offer your services to help.

Immediate Ways You Can Help Clients

Because people age 65 and older are at a greater risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19, your older clients’ health is likely at the forefront of their concerns. Understand what Medicare covers and costs related to COVID-19 testing and treatment, and make sure they know about telemedicine options that allow them to see doctors without having to leave their homes. If you’re a licensed agent specializing in Medicare, read coronavirus-related bulletins issued by carriers so you’re informed. Stay current on developments in the news. For state data, including current cases, deaths, health coverage and provider capacity, visit the Kaiser Family Foundation state data coronavirus page

Financial Advisor reports that clients have rushed to financial advisors to draft wills and estate plans, and Forbes reported in mid-March that online life insurance company Fabric had seen a 50% increase in life insurance applications since mid-February. Do you want your clients to turn to the internet to find life insurance? Clients may not contact you because they don’t want you to come to their house or they don’t want a paramed exam. But SMS has easy solutions to these issues: electronic submissions and carriers who will do accelerated underwriting with no exams. Even if you are not contracted currently or don’t feel like a life insurance expert, SMS marketing consultants can assist you in finding the right life insurance solution for all your clients.

For many clients, the fear of losing their retirement investments is a top and immediate concern. Touching base with those clients is critical. While a diversified portfolio before a market downturn is more important than any one-product solution, reviewing a plan and talking through client fears now can help them address those feelings and perhaps prevent irrational, damaging decisions. Depending on your client’s time horizon and objections, the volatility may present a buying opportunity. For some clients who may be seeking safety, the opportunity may include fixed-indexed annuities or multi-year guaranteed annuities. Again, an SMS marketing consultant can help you find that right solution, whatever your clients’ needs.

Another way you can show your value to clients immediately is to remind them that scammers are expected to be out in full force. As government officials iron out details of possible checks to be mailed or direct deposits to Americans, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reminds the public that only scammers will ask you to pay anything up front or to provide your Social Security number to get the money. Tell your clients that they can stay up to date with the latest coronavirus-related scams at www.ftc.gov/coronavirus or by signing up to get these consumer alerts.

How to Conduct Routine Business Virtually

In addition to addressing immediate, coronavirus-related concerns with your clients, you can still conduct your routine business as usual, because SMS has tools that assist your virtual work.

Insurance carriers offer a variety of enrollment methods, and SMS has its own propriety enrollment methods that are approved by carriers and allow the agent to sell to the consumer in the way that the consumer wants.

SMS’ proprietary Lead Advantage Pro® all-in-one sales management tool can help you with everything from obtaining the required Medicare Advantage and Part D Scope of Appointment (SOA) permission online or over the phone to submitting and completing applications online, which is faster, more accurate and easy to use. You can manage leads, retrieve online forms, generate online quotes and more using Lead Advantage Pro. (If you have clients who never or rarely use the internet or computers, you can help them by setting up a no-cost email account such as Gmail.)

Lead Advantage Pro is not just for Medicare sales. You can use the platform for life insurance sales, specifically final expense – to run quotes, assist in your clients’ health class assessment and access applications and marketing materials. SMS has an entire library of video tutorials that demonstrate how to use Lead Advantage Pro, so you can get up and running quickly.

These charts detail which Med Supp and MA-PD carriers and SMS technology allow for different enrollment options.

For virtual annuity sales, SMS offers an e-App platform powered by FireLight’s e-App process. With it, you can avoid the hassles and cost of doing business with paper applications. It’s easy to use and gives you one place to submit all your annuity business, eliminating the need to navigate different carrier websites. You also can get up-to-speed quickly with FireLight video tutorials.

If you are appointed with SMS and Annexus – Athene, Nationwide, Transamerica and AIG – you can access their marketing materials and illustrations on myannexus.com, or you can call an SMS marketing consultant. If you’re appointed with other annuity carriers, contact an SMS marketing consultant to run illustrations or for any assistance you need.

Taking your long-term care (LTC) insurance sales virtual is easy – simply contact an SMS marketing consultant. With so many different types of LTC insurance and so many factors that go into finding the right solution for a particular client’s needs, starting with a call to an SMS marketing consultant who specializes in LTC insurance will save you time and  ensure that you find a customized solution for your client. The combined expertise of the SMS LTC team will help identify the right LTC insurance solution, so you don’t have to spend the time researching products and finding the online marketing materials and applications. You can use Lead Advantage Pro to access electronic forms and for submitting e-Apps, but start by calling an LTC marketing consultant for the best experience for both you and your client.

Self-Enrollment Options Can Fuel Online Sales

SMS also offers self-enrollment options such as the agent initiated consumer online enrollment  (AICOE®) platform and Medicare Insurance Direct (MID).

AICOE is an easy and compliant way to help your Medicare Advantage with Part D (MA-PD) clients enroll online. It integrates with the carriers so your clients' information carries over with no hassles – and you avoid repetitive input of client info on multiple carrier sites.

MID is a sales solution that allows MA-PD clients the ability to quote and enroll themselves in a plan online, while at the same time, ensuring that you still receive credit for the sale.

With MID, agents still show their value by using their knowledge to match beneficiaries with available plans based on individual healthcare, prescription drug needs and estimated out-of-pocket expenses, while making it convenient for the client to enroll online, at their convenience. You send your client a Personalized Universal Resource Locator (PURL) – a unique web address – that takes them to a micro-site displaying the states and carriers that the agent is properly credentialed to sell, including MA-PD, PDP and Medicare Supplement. The PURL links the sale to your agent writing number so you get the credit. The site sells for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

With face-to-face meetings restricted for the time being, MID is an easy-to-implement work-around that can help increase sales.

Some dental carriers also offer PURLs through SMS. Contact a marketing consultant to get started.

Go Virtual With the SMS Tool Suite

If you are worried that fewer face-to-face meetings will inevitably lead to decreased sales, consider broadening your services. SMS has an entire suite of web-based technology that allows you to work from home and take those value-added services to clients in virtual meetings.

Total Social Security® is a turnkey SMS program that gives you everything you need to help clients decide when to claim Social Security – one of the most important decisions they will make in retirement. You get software that calculates different decision options and shows where Social Security income may fall short, so you can present various solutions to fill those gaps. Plus, you get marketing resources and live support from experts in both Social Security claiming advice and the software, so you’re never stranded.

You also can help clients make retirement income decisions in the most tax-efficient way, without having to be a tax expert. SMS can provide access to Tax Clarity® software, which does the complicated calculations for you and produces an easy-to-read report that can guide clients about which income streams to use at which points in retirement. As with Total Social Security, you receive live support and marketing resources.

Income ArchiTech™ is SMS’ all-in-one planning tool that combines everything that goes into creating a retirement income plan: income, cash flow analysis, harvest patterns, Social Security, taxes, risk mitigation and stress tests. As the coronavirus’ impact on the economy has shown, a single unexpected event can cause ripple effects that can have devastating impacts on a retirement plan. Income ArchiTech was designed so that any insurance or financial planning professional can easily use it to stress-test multiple scenarios – from extended-care events to market downturns – so you can better prepare clients for whatever life throws at them. With Income ArchiTech, you can answer a lot of questions that clients may ask, such as “when can I afford to retire?

In the coming weeks and months, Income ArchiTech can be a useful tool in keeping your clients focused on the big-picture view of their retirement plan and long-term goals, so that fear and anxiety don’t lead to irrational decisions.

How Workshops With Technology Work Together

If you broaden your services by adopting one of these easy-to-use technologies, you can use SMS’ Client Stream educational workshops to attract prospects. Just because in-person workshops are on hold for the time being doesn’t mean this effective lead-generating tactic is also on hold. As mentioned earlier in this blog article, SMS offers solutions to help you pivot from in-person meetings and workshops to virtual ones. And because SMS’ Client Stream program offers everything – the script, presentation, marketing materials and an extensive guide – starting workshops is easier than you imagine.

The powerful combination of educational workshops and technology is unique to SMS, and with nearly four decades in the industry, SMS has the expert knowledge on the workshop topics known to resonate with pre-retirees and retirees:

  • Social Security planning
  • Long-term care planning
  • Understanding Medicare
  • Taxes in retirement
  • Understanding annuities
  • Core retirement decisions

Call an SMS marketing consultant to discuss how you can start using virtual educational workshops for a steady stream of clients and how to pair them with the respective technology.

Email, Direct Mail and Social Media Campaigns

How else can you stay top-of-mind at a time when human interaction is restricted? Consider increasing or starting email, direct mail or social media campaigns. SMS partners with vendors who specialize in these areas and can help you.

They can do everything from providing the content to emailing it to your client and prospect lists. If you’d like to reach prospects, one vendor with a winning Facebook ad formula can deliver results. Or perhaps if you’re anticipating a lull in business in the coming weeks due to the slowed economy, consider starting a direct mail campaign now, because direct mail campaigns can take four to six weeks to turn around. With people stuck at home, they just might be reading their mail more closely.

Is It Time for a Beneficiary Review?

While some consumers may be panic-buying life insurance, others may not be thinking of it all. Beneficiary reviews can open the conversation to this important maintenance step as well as other topics that are essential to a client’s well-being – and that can increase your sales.

Whether you call clients or create an email campaign, beneficiary reviews can help you fill some down time due to the decrease in face-to-face meetings, and they also can be an easy message to frame to clients: now that you’ve cleaned all your closets and the garage, it’s time to get your financial house in order.

Think creatively with your messaging. People will be at home more than ever – what can you do to help them make it productive?

Cross-Sell Your Existing Book of Business

And likewise, what can you do to make your time more productive?

“For those agents that utilize workshops, walk-ins and face-to-face appointments, this may be the perfect time to focus on something that perhaps they do not do as well as they would like, and that is cross-sell their existing book of business,” said Dwane McFerrin, Vice President of Medicare Solutions at SMS. “I believe consumers are more likely to open and read their mail now than they have for decades. Catchy email subject lines will also produce a better result.”

For agents specializing in Medicare, McFerrin suggests cross-selling dental insurance and hospital indemnity insurance.

“Advisors looking for additional opportunities outside of annuity solutions really need to look no further than life insurance,” said Bill Kauffman, Vice President of Financial Solutions at SMS. “In times of trouble, we all think about what would happen to our families and our legacy if something should happen to us sooner rather than later.”

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act, known as the SECURE Act, has opened up opportunities for advisors since being signed into law in December 2019. Perhaps the most significant change to come out of the act is the requirement that most nonspouse beneficiaries must withdraw taxable, inherited IRA assets within 10 years, rather than stretching them over their lifetime.

“Any trust that was drafted with the idea of using the ‘stretch IRA’ concept to leave our qualified dollars to someone other than our spouse, needs to be structured differently,” Kauffman said. “Using required minimum withdrawals (RMDs) or some of our qualified dollars to purchase life insurance will solve the elimination of the stretch and allow the beneficiary to receive the proceeds tax-free.”

If you’re an annuity agent who wants to help clients with their Medicare needs but doesn’t want to sell Medicare, you can still earn referral fees by referring clients to Medicare BackOffice®, when the client purchases a plan.

Don’t Let The Crisis Slow You Down

Whatever your specific challenges are in this unprecedented time, you can rely on SMS to help you face them. Your clients need your guidance and reassurance now more than ever, and to help you provide that, SMS will be here for you. SMS’ No. 1 priority is to maintain business operations with minimal interruptions while also keeping employees safe.

For more information on any of the programs or tools mentioned here or to talk through your challenges, call an SMS marketing consultant at 1.800.786.5566.

Key Takeaways

  • While you may prefer in-person meetings, there are many options today to help you connect with clients so you can maintain your relationship and serve them.
  • Video conferencing can be a quick and easy solution for already-scheduled educational workshops that can no longer happen in-person because of COVID-19 concerns and restrictions.
  • You can still conduct your routine business as usual, because SMS has tools that assist your virtual work -- everything from online enrollment methods to e-Applications.