Should Medicare Agents partner with FMOs?
Becoming an Independent Medicare Agent in the United States can represent an appealing prospect to motivated individuals ready to take their careers to the next level. And yet even the most ambitious aspiring agents will have questions and concerns.
How do you grow your business?
How can you add additional revenue streams?
How can you add more value to your clients?
If you are contemplating any of the above questions, then you are probably also weighing up whether partnering with an FMO might be a wise early move. But is it worth bringing in a middleman, and what might it mean for your bottom line?
This article offers a deep dive into the partnerships that exist between Field Marketing Agencies (FMO’s) and independent Medicare agents. Get a good understanding of how the relationship works, what is on offer in terms of advantages and benefits, and explore some guidelines designed to help you find, vet and select the right Medicare business partner.
What Is An Insurance FMO – And Why Should Medicare Agents Care?
The insurance industry loves an acronym. Scratch the surface of the sector and you’ll quickly find yourself in the company of FMO’s, IMO’s, NMO’s, and MGA’s. To create clarity around these acronyms, let’s look at each one independently.
FMO’s (Field Marketing Organizations) are typically top-level organizations that are licensed to sell health insurance products in most, if not all states. Due to their size, FMO’s generally work with hundreds, if not thousands, of agents, as well as both big-name and small-name carriers all across the US. From an agent’s perspective, FMO’s generally tend to offer higher than street-level commissions, and many perks that aren’t available elsewhere.
IMO stands for Independent Marketing Organization, and these generally tend to be slightly smaller than FMO’s, and life insurance is commonly included in their product offerings.
NMO’s or National Marketing Offices are no different to FMO’s or IMO’s in size of capability, but lean towards use the term NMO, as it is more neutral in its nature. Finally, MGA’s (Managing General Agents) usually exist downline to FMO’s, IMO’s, and MNO’s, and act as partners to these top-of-hierarchy organizations. For more help in detangling the industry’s acronyms, we recommend this helpful breakdown.
From the perspective of Medicare, FMO’s form an important link within the sales ecosystem, bridging the gap between insurance carrier and consumer in a way that ensures maximum value-exchange on both sides of the equation.
What Are The Key Benefits Of Working With An Insurance FMO?
Working with an FMO holds a number of benefits for independent Medicare agents, from access to contracts, to pathways to career progress. In this section, we will look at each of these key benefits in more detail.
Better Access To Contracts
Due to their size and position at the top of the hierarchy, FMO’s generally hold strong and established relationships with their partnered insurance carriers, and have the ability to leverage these connections to command access to contracts that would otherwise be inaccessible to individual agents.
Support And Experience
When it comes to working in a specialized field such as Medicare, FMO’s that are localized to this industry generally have comprehensive resource capabilities in place to provide support and expertise to agents that have partnered with them. These support and experience capabilities provide an advantage to the agents, from a client satisfaction perspective, and help to mitigate against numerous friction points within the sales process.
Access To CRM
Medicare FMO’s also generally provide their agents with access to CRM software. CRM or Customer Retention Marketing helps agents to be competitive in the marketplace by quantifying and validating sales leads. In other words, it helps agents to focus their efforts and energy on leads that are more likely to become sales.
The importance of compliance is cannot be overstated when it comes to the highly regulated field of medical insurance. FMO’s help to keep everything above board by providing access to CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) approved quoting tools. These tools are invaluable for their ability to ensure that the sales process runs as smoothly as possible.
Commission and Bonuses
For an agent, commissions and bonuses can be one of the most important and profitable aspects of their career. FMO’s do not take a cut of agents’ commission, meaning that the agent will receive their full commission on the plans that they sell, but they are often also rewarded with additional bonuses and added incentives for reaching specified sales targets.
Working with an FMO will often give agents access to specialized or exclusive products that are not openly available to independent agents. This increases the range of options available to agents, while simultaneously helping to plug any holes within their portfolio of offerings.
A Pathway For Progress
For agents looking to progress in their careers, FMO’s offer a dependable pathway forward. Through training, development, networking and mentoring, agents have the ability to take their skills and careers to the next level.
Independent Agents Vs Captive Agents
As an agent working in the insurance industry it is vital to know and understand the difference between becoming an independent agent or opting to be a captive agent. While relatively straight forward, there are pro’s and con’s to each pathway.
A captive agent is one that works primarily with one insurance carrier. They have extensive knowledge of the carrier’s product portfolio, including the discounts and coverage add-ons available.
An independent agent works across multiple carriers, and has comprehensive knowledge of the various product offerings relating to each of them.
From the perspective of the client, working with a captive agent offers first-time insurance buyers (or clients who aren’t sure how much coverage they need) a simpler route to getting what they need without the hassle of having to weigh up multiple options. However, because the agent does only work with one parent company, captive agents can be less competitive on price, due to the extra fees that the insurance company charges.
Working with an independent agent allows for more choice across the board, and additionally the potential for lower prices, as the agent is not tied into one parent company and can provide lower cost options that would work in a more constrained client budget.
Captive agents generally are paid a salary by their parent company, and also obtain the benefit of subsidized advertising and hiring costs. An independent agent works primarily on commissions and bonuses.
Medicare Agents And FMO Medicare Commission
One of the biggest concerns that agents have when contemplating whether to partner with an FMO or not, is in relation to how they will be paid. It is often thought that if an agent joins an FMO, that the organization would retain part of the agent’s commission as a fee for their value added services.
However, this is not the case. FMO’s make use of a hierarchy system that allows them to offer the same commission level to general agents that the agent would receive if they worked directly with the carrier. In other words, you would receive the same commission on a sale, whether you worked with an FMO or not.
And this is where the value of partnering with an FMO comes in – value added services. When choosing the right FMO to work with, we recommend that you look for one that makes use of software like Commissionly – a fully automated sales commission software that saves both time and money by eliminating errors and improving productivity.
In the world of Medicare, managing commissions can be a complex, time-consuming and costly exercise. They are generally influenced by and vary according to the product being sold, the institution purchasing, the doctor utilizing the product, and the relationship with the sales person or agency. With so many variables, it can become very easy to lose track of what you should be paid, and when it should be paid.
With software like Commissionly, you will always have full transparency over your earnings, how it relates to your targets, and where you are in the process.
How To Decide If You Should Work With A Medicare FMO
If you have made it this far, you probably are seriously thinking about whether or not you should partner with an FMO in order to take your career and client offering to the next level. In this section, we have created four simple questions that you can use as a checklist when evaluating your position. Your answers to these questions will give you a good idea as to what your next steps should be.
- Are you looking to specialize in a certain area of insurance?
Providing services in a specialized industry like Medicare, can be both rewarding and daunting due to the nature of the product type. Specialized FMO’s is these areas can give you access to tools, services and knowledge that can make entry, or even expansion in the market a much easier exercise.
- Do you feel hindered by a lack of access to specific carriers, plans or products?
Being independent might feel like you are preserving your options in the market, however by partnering with an FMO in the industry, you can actually increase the options available to you.
You can gain greater access to carriers, plans and products through the relationships held by the FMO.
- Are you motivated by additional perks and rewards?
Partnering with an FMO can also open up more opportunities to earn. Many of them have additional perks in place for their agents, such as added bonuses and incentives that are linked to sales targets.
- Are you looking for extra support and a more defined career pathway?
FMO’s offer exceptional career pathways that are linked to training, development, networking and mentoring programmes that can clear the way forward for you in a defined and structured format.
What To Look For In A Good Medicare Insurance FMO
Once you have decided that an FMO is the perfect partner for you and your career objectives, it becomes important to understand what to look for when vetting the various options open to you. In this section, we will unpack a few of the most important considerations when contemplating the perfect fit for your unique requirements and ambitions.
- Contract Type
There are two types of contracts available – Direct or Assignment of Commissions. From this perspective, direct is by far the most preferable, as with a direct contract you are in charge of your business and your renewals stay with you, even if you leave the FMO. With assignment of commissions contracts, they belong to the FMO when you leave, so be sure to be very clear on what contract is on offer.
- Look into their Release Policies
Understanding the release policy of the FMO is imperative, as in some cases you are not permitted to sign any new business for six-months from the time of leaving. So ensure that the FMO will give you a written release should you decide to leave at a point in the future.
- Assess available support
Be clear on the type and kind of support that you will require on a daily basis, and ensure that the FMO that you are in discussions with offers this to you.
- Where in the hierarchy does the FMO sit?
It is vital to understand whether the organization sits at the top of the hierarchy or not, as organizations lower down may require permission from organizations further up in order to release agents.
- Do they have access to national and local market co-ops?
Understanding the access available to the organization can make all the difference to your bottom line, as FMO’s with greater access have a better flow of leads into the organization and therefore give you a greater chance of increasing your revenue.
- What quote engine will you have access to?
Not all quote engines are created equally, and therefore having access to one that meets your desired criteria is imperative. Ask the FMO if you can do a trial run on their software before committing to a contract.
- What training is offered?
Training is the key aspect to moving your career to the next level. It is therefore important to understand what kind of training the organization offers to its agents, and ensure that this training matches with your ambitions for your career.
- What is the commission structure
Be sure to understand how the commission is structured, as well as what other perks, incentives and bonus structures are in place, as this will determine what your bottom line looks like. So be sure to find an FMO that matches with your expectations in this regard.
- Talk to other agents at the organization
This will give you a good idea about the culture of the organization. Understanding whether their agents are happy, feel supported and are satisfied with their service will help ease your mind around your decision.
Take Your Medicare Sales To The Next Level…
There is no doubt that partnering with an FMO holds the potential to give you an extra boost in your career as a Medicare Sales Agent in the United States. In this article we took you for a deep dive into the most relevant aspects of the relationship, and also what to look out for when considering your options. It is however vital to stress that not all FMO’s are created equally, and it is essential that you do your due diligence when selecting the right partner for you.
No matter what release policies are in place, or what commission structure is on offer, it’s best to save your time and resources by creating solid partnerships from the get go. This will help you to lay the foundations to develop and grow your Medicare sales business profitably and sustainably for the long-term.