How to Plan for AEP like a PowerhousePosted on June 18th, 2020 by Cameron Schulz
Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) doesn’t begin until the fall and only lasts a few short months, but—if you’re a professional in the healthcare industry—you know that the planning for this much-anticipated season never really ends. Whether you’re a marketing manager or a sales agent, there is much to do before the gates open, and then back-to-back meetings flood in. As soon as AEP is over, the groundwork for the next AEP season begins immediately. In this post we’ll explain why planning for AEP is so important, how to prepare for this hurricane of a sales season, and a few extra tips for planning to sell in a post-COVID AEP season.
Why is Planning for AEP so Important?
Annual Enrollment Period is a crucial season for both consumers and healthcare organizations. The season is brief, and the decisions are final.
For many of your consumers, AEP is the only time that they have the opportunity to adjust their health insurance plans—enrolling, changing, or (for those with employer provided insurance) disenrolling. Apart from this period, adjusting a healthcare plan can be very difficult or even impossible with very strict requirements to qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. With this knowledge, it’s easy to see how AEP can make or break your organization’s bottom line. If sales representatives aren’t meeting quotas during AEP it’s likely they won’t be making them at all. For reps to make quotas, they need to spend their time presenting their tailored pitches.
This is what makes the months and months of preparation before AEP so important. Complete any and all work that can be, ahead of time, so that this period is dedicated to powering through from one great pitch to the next.
How to Plan for AEP like a Powerhouse
Get Organized. Making the most out of your time will require attention to the details. Have your priorities on paper (or in a Microsoft document) to keep them top of mind and on schedule the beginning of AEP.
- Identify important dates: mark important dates on your calendar. Include the beginning and end of AEP (Oct. 15- Dec. 7). Also note open and close dates for certifications, contracts, and training. Once you know these dates, schedule and mark dates for you to renew your credentials.
- Organize your current client list: a detailed list including all active clients, their current plans, addresses, emails, etc.
- Gather a list of prospects: potential clients and contact information will make contact quicker once you can begin reaching out.
- Collect prospects from referrals, marketing, and industry events.
- Collect prospects from referrals, marketing, and industry events.
Renew Certifications, Contracts, and trainings—You can’t sell if you don’t have the proper permissions. Review required accreditation at the beginning of planning to spread out the renewal process. Complete them in a timely manner, rather than rushing to get them at the last minute.
- Certifications: several certifications will need to be renewed each year. Most carriers expect their agents to earn an AHIP certification to prove understanding of compliance. AHIP Certification for AEP 2021 begins June 22nd, 2020.
- Contracts: each carrier will require that you sign a contract before selling any of their products. Identify contracts that you didn't qualify for in the past to improve your services ahead of time.
- Training: Review the list of specified training for each carrier. Carriers may include Special Needs Plan (SNP), Prescription Drug Plan (PDP), and other product training.
Client Retention—Collecting a list of prospects during preparation for AEP is essential for success, but according to Senior Market Advisors, “It’s almost MORE about retention because AEP is the 54-day period where your clients can FINALLY make changes to the plan they’ve been annoyed with all year.” This is where having a detailed and up-to-date list of your clients will be very helpful.
- Review current client policies: review your current clients’ policies to find any changes that could make the plan a bad fit for them. Notifying your clients of changes, concerning or not, will make you a sincere and reliable resource.
- Reach out: best practice is to reach out to clients on a regular basis to reinforce your role as their consultant. Consistent inquiries about satisfaction will provide peace of mind. They want you to hear their issues and address them as soon as AEP begins. The plan may seem like the perfect fit on paper, but you should always allow the client to make the final decision.
- Cordial contact: send out personal notes to check in on your current clients without any selling motives. It's a simple way to further develop your relationship and convey your authenticity. Hand written notes will show your humanity, an important aspect to selling as we discussed in our previous blog Relationships amid Regulations: Being Human Creates Connections.
Study Up on benefits and competitors—being a smart salesperson means reading up on all the plans that you’re contracted to sell. It also means knowing the plans that you’ll most likely be competing with. Showing your prospects that you’re truly there to help them, means knowing why another plan wouldn’t fit as well as the one you’re pitching.
- Review competitor policies: a basic understanding of competitor plans will come in handy once you begin meetings. It will allow you to ask questions and gain a full sense of their current concerns or frustrations.
- Identifying differentiators: once you’ve gained an understanding of your competitors' offering, you know the gaps. Now decide which of your products and features may fill those gaps and set your plans apart during a pitch.
- Commit to memory: commit key facts and explanations to memory. Memorized facts are ready to deliver effortlessly, to show you're knowledgeable and personable. It’s impossible to remember everything off the top of your head. Create a cheat sheet for other important facts to remain helpful and conversational.
Confer with Marketing—If you are a part of a distributed sales team, you may have limited contact with marketing. Take time to connect with marketing. Realign yourself to brand messaging and gather materials you need for the upcoming selling season.
- Share feedback: were there materials in your repository during the previous AEP that just weren’t cutting it? Well, now is the time to share that feedback with your marketing departments. Reach out and ask to discuss materials for the upcoming season. Marketing needs your input. Share what has been working well and what prospects and clients haven’t shown much interest in. Input will help when creating their next campaign and during your next season of pitching.
- Revisit brand mission and messaging: you may think you’re an expert on the plans you’ve sold, but it’s always best to revisit the brand’s core values and messaging. You want to ensure you're properly conveying them to your prospects. Inconsistencies are cause for concern, and they don't express honesty. Neither of which is beneficial to the brand.
- Gather informational materials: This is also the time to collect materials you need to give the best pitch to each of your prospects and clients. Having all the right materials on hand will be imperative to your success.
Reorganize—Once you’ve done all the legwork, things may seem a little chaotic. Take some time leading up to opening day to regroup. Organize your materials and practice your pitches. You should be set to weather the storm once AEP begins.
3 Tips for Preparing for Post-COVID AEP Selling
Preparing for this year’s AEP might look a little different than it has in the past. COVID-19 has made changes to the landscape of selling. Here are a few extra steps to consider during preparations to ensure that, even in a virtual space, your sales pitch goes off without a hitch.
- Test your video chat software and internet connection: nothing could be more harmful to your pitch than cutting out or losing the call. Your prospects can’t weigh your organization as an option if they only catch bits and pieces of your offer. Find a fellow sales rep or a patient friend to do a run through of your pitch. Make sure that your connection remains strong throughout the entire pitch.
- Informational videos for follow up: You may want to consider creating informational videos for each of your plans. Voice over presentations to summarize the benefits of each plan will be handy for follow up. An emailed summary of your meeting will keep benefits top of mind. A summary in your voice will add a touch of personality.
- Assess your surroundings: Set up for virtual meetings, in an environment that isn't distracting. You need your face on screen—they would have called a hotline just to hear your voice—but you don’t want to draw their attention away from the meeting. Also, be sure to choose a space where you have enough lighting. You don’t want to look like you’re about to tell horror stories in the dark when sharing information about someone’s health insurance.
Start preparing for AEP Today
Everyone has, or should have, a preparation plan that works best for them. If you already have one, use this to check if there is more you could do to make your processes even more productive. If you are new to AEP and not sure how-to begin preparations, use this as a foundation to build your plan. Always make changes to best fit your personal preferences. Being a powerhouse seller during AEP means preparing like a powerhouse before AEP.
Looking for more ways to grow your list of prospects this season? Check out our eBook for Hosting Compliant Sales Events!