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WHAT IS A FIELD MARKETING ORGANIZATION (FMO)?
There are numerous benefits provided by Field Marketing Organization (FMO) to independent agents and agencies. IMO (Independent Marketing Organizations) and NMOs (National Marketing Organizations) are the two common terms which are used for FMOs, the difference between them lies with the insurance industry, but one thing is common to all of them which are: the market they sell, and distribution of insurance products.
Majority of the FMOs offer a wide range of services and opportunities to the agents and brokers they serve. Some of the services are listed below:
1. Dedicated Support: A lot of ease has been associated with doing business when you have a dedicated product/sales consultant. The duty of product and sales consultants is to assist you in cutting out the market research and carried out detailed analytics of what products to provide to your clients and the reason behind it. In addition to this, having access to support team which offers speedy contract, taking care of issues that arise for example commission audits and licensing/appointment issues is really helpful; assisting you to do what you love best.
2. Premium Products: There are many products offered by FMOs, which are the best for your portfolio; the purpose of this is to make you relevant and maintain your stand in a competitive market pace. In general, FMOs provides both agents and brokers with regional and national health plan and insurer options, while brand names and highly ranked plans are not excluded.
3. Market at your own pace: FMOs typically have a secure online purchasing system that allows you to contract with multiple operators in one click. The added advantage is that you can contract on your time and avoid the paper contracting process.
4. Quoting and Enrollment Tools: FMOs typically provide free access to agents and brokers for quoting tools approved by CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services). This will allow you to quote Medicare Advantage Insurance Plans (Medicare Part C), Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans (Medigap Policies), and Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans. In the event that you partner with a leading FMO, additional product line can be provided by them within their quoting tools and portals, which can also include access to supplemental products such as dental, vision, and hearing, hospital indemnity, accidental policies, cancer policies, final expense, and ACA health plans.
5. Competitive Commissions: There are numerous benefits when you partner with an FMO that offers top or full commissions on your sales. Some FMOs does not pay commission unless the carrier or insurer requires payment from the FMO. In many occasions, the carriers pay commissions directly to the agent or broker.
6. Open Release Policies: The fact is that your partnership with an independent agent is the beauty of "independence." The most important thing is to make enquiries if the FMO has a release policy. A lot of FMOs can offer you a contract, and you become somewhat trapped. The most important thing to consider when choosing an FMO is to choose an organization that provides an open release policy.
The question you should ask yourself is that; do you need an FMO to Get Contracted through a Carrier?
While there are a small number of carriers that will assign agents directly, the vast majority of name-brand, competitive insurance carriers will require you to have an FMO to get their products.
Generally, it is challenging to work directly with a carrier if it is available; this is because they prefer to contract with agents or agencies that can achieve specific profitability goals.
FMOs can decide to give a contract to agents that they might not be able to acquire individually. This can be done due to the volume and relationship that have been developed with the carriers. This place an FMO in a unique position to have a quality selection of products to offer to agents;
A good FMO will work steadily to get the best deals with the best companies and deliver them to agents and agencies of all sizes. They need to be a support pillar that will help you maximize effort and allow you to focus on supercharging your business.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF WORKING WITH AN INSURANCE FMO/IMO?
Below are some of the benefits you derive when you partner with an insurance FMO/IMO:
1. Top Commissions with Additional Support
A large number of the FMOs will offer full and vested commissions on your sales. You would not be paid if you had a contract directly with the carrier, even if it was available. Beside vested commissions, there are many other benefits with an FMO over direct access.
2. Independent Agent and Captive Agent
It is essential to get this clear, do not confuse an independent agent with an employee of another agency. They have the freedom to contract with any company they feel is a good fit for their business. In short, they are their own boss meaning that they are independent; they are in control of their time, and also have full control over the product they want to market. In addition to this, they are at liberty to choose how they do their business together with enjoying a higher commission on their contracts.
Unlike an independent agent, a captive agent works for a company or agency. They are required to take the products selected by the company they work with. Usually, captive agents earn less commission than independent agents, but they are giving enough support. However, the additional support and training they receive will be at lower commission prices.
Whether you end up with a contract as a captive or independent agent, the important thing is to understand the Release Policy of the FMO you choose.
3. Open Release policy
A lot of FMOs have been found to offer an Open Release Policy; this means that:
On the off chance that at any time you are considering parting ways with the FMO, you can request for a release, stop working with the company and keep your book of business.
There are good FMOs that can give you a straight-up release policy without attaching any condition to it. This type of relationship will provide the most flexibility with your business. Also, this relationship allows agents to act as a business and not be locked in something that may not be in their interest.
Other FMO’s have limited release options, which may not permit the agent to be released quickly, or will not allow the agent to retain their book of business. This means that the job that the agent created while working with the company, if they choose to leave, may belong to the FMO and NOT to the agent.
It is therefore vital to make this point clear before selecting an FMO! Some FMOs will have terms regarding their release policy which might not favor the agent.
Ensure that you ask questions about their release policy and make sure you have comprehensive knowledge about it before contracting with any FMO.
4. Quoting Tools
In general, it is the duty of FMOs to provide agents and brokers with access to a CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) approved quoting tool.
The benefit of this is that it will allow you to quote Medicare Advantage Insurance Plans (Medicare Part C), Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans (Medigap Policies), and Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans.
Enquire from the FMO if their quoting tool offers complete disclosure and is not filtered or hiding carriers from your view. This is important if you want to get a comprehensive view of the market.
5. CRM tools
FMOs that want to assist you to be more competitive will usually offer Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools.
With this software, you will be able to keep track of your client starting from the first contact through enrollment, and it will also provide a calendar and reminder system in order to ensure that you know what you need to do - daily, weekly and monthly - to help you grow your business.
6. High-End products
FMOs offer a range of products to help you build the perfect portfolio; this is to ensure that you remain relevant in a competition in your market.
Powerful FMOs will typically offer agents and brokers a wide range of product options, including regional and national health plans offered by brand name carriers with highly ranked plans.
7. Product and Marketplace Certification
Listed below are two of the most valuable benefits provided by an FMO:
It assists you in getting your required annual sales certification (or re-certification) from AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans) and Product training for your contracted carriers.
Although certification for a particular product will be required no matter which FMO you partner with, but some of them will provide lesser rates for required AHIP training. It is the duty of the FMO to notify you when new certifications are available every year.
8. Dedicated support
It is a must for an insurance agent to provide experienced support. It is the duty of a good FMO to have an experienced team with broad industry and product knowledge as well as an understanding of being an agent in the current market.
Many could have been or were agents themselves. The company should assign you to a retailer who will treat you as a business owner and a partner and ensure that your success is very important. A good FMOs bear in mind that they only succeed when the agents they work with succeed.
9. Room for Growth
Be sure to work with an FMO, which will give you credit where credit is needed. Make sure the company provides a level of commitment that will increase as your production increases.
It is now your duty to work hard to grow your business, and an FMO should recognize your efforts with “upper level” contracts for you to grow into.
Are you ready to join an FMO? Here are ten things you should consider before joining one:
Are you an agent seeking for more stability and support, then a field marketing organization (FMO) can do a lot for your business? But where the issue lies is in finding an FMO that can bring you stability and support without compromising your success.
There are certain things that you should require from potential FMOs to make sure that you have joined the right one and that the company you have chosen is dedicated to watching over you. Below are ten things to consider when joining an FMO.
1. You should understand your contracts
When signing a contract with a carrier, there are two types of contracts: direct contracts and assignment of commissions. Knowing the difference between the two is very important. The direct contract recognizes that you own your business and that your renewal stays with you, even if you leave your upline. But with the second type, which is the assignment of commission contract, your upline can keep your contract even if you leave them. The benefit of the later of this contract is that it can put you in a bind when holding discussion with your upline. The best of the duo is the direct contract.
2. Get a release
Prior to joining an FMO, you must do the following: (A) obtain a written release from all of your uplines, or (B) Initiate a delayed-release by emailing your intentions to be released to your current upline and the insurance company from which you are trying to get a release. Most carriers will issue you a release after 3-6 months of receiving your release request.
3. Top of Hierarchy vs FMO
When looking for release from your upline, it is vital for you to ask if they are Top of Hierarchy rather than if they’re an FMO. This is because whether or not your upline is an FMO, in the event that they are not Top of Hierarchy, they will need to get permission from their upline before you can be released.
4. Boost Business with Co-Ops
National and local market cooperatives determine the number of marketing cooperatives available and the agents that get the leads. This is why it is important to get FMOs that are Top of Hierarchy because they can get these two cooperatives and give you a boost in your business.
5. Stay CMS Compliant
Though it can be difficult, but it is required of you to stay on top of all Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regulations. Violations of these compliance requirements can not only result in termination by the insurance company but also a complete loss of revenue and renewal. Since your business is your life's path, it's important to protect renewal from compliance issues. The FMO will control it all.
6. Start a CMS-approved site for Permission to Contact and Enrollment
Any website that collects Medicare beneficiary information for use in getting in touch with the beneficiary about Medicare Advantage or Part D should be filed with CMS. This is not only limited to your websites but also any site you use in order to collect purchased leads. Without a CMS-approved contact form, you cannot call the MA or Part D to hold discussion with them.
7. Market through Affinity Partnerships
Affinity relationships with trusted third-party referrals, for example, pharmacies, hospitals, and grocery stores, among others are considered to be the fastest-growing lead source for Medicare products. When you have an excellent FMO, you will be provided with the materials you need to market yourself effectively through such partnerships.
8. Secure Your Policyholder Data
Because FMOs store vast amounts of protected Health Information (PHI) and Personal Identifiable Information (PII), you need to make sure your customers' information is secure.
9. Control your future
Giving yourself the opportunities for advancement in your career plays a vital role in considering an FMO. Think about the future of your business, whether it's being promoted or building an agency down the road with more agents. CMS regulates commissions, but insurance companies can pay waivers, except for reimbursement fees such as administrative services and marketing. In the event that you are working with an FMO that is not Top of Hierarchy, this may deny you of the overrides you deserve.
10. Deal quickly with contracts
Given that Medicare's annual enrollment period (APR) is short, it's important that you can rely on your FMO to check the accuracy of contracts and process them quickly, so you're ready to sell when the need arises. Most insurance companies will only discuss with the Top of Hierarchy FMOs about licensing, meaning you can wait for weeks on your upline for lead times and the agent onboarding process.
What questions should I ask before choosing an FMO?
Below are some important questions you need to ask before choosing an FMO:
How long has the FMO or IMO been in the insurance sector?
Is there any of your associates that do business with this FMO?
Do you have a representative dedicated to this FMO?
Does this FMO or IMO offer an open release policy?
Does this FMO or IMO have a compliance department?
Does this FMO or IMO have an expedited contract?
Does this FMO or IMO provide all the product lines (i.e. Medicare, ACA Health, Group Health, Life Insurance,
Supplemental, Voluntary Workplace, etc.) you work?
Does this FMO or IMO, assist in providing reminders for licensing and appointments?
Does this FMO or IMO communicate openly by email and phone?
Does this FMO or IMO help with commission and production audits?
On the off chance that your potential FMO offers most or all of the above, make enquiries to know if any of your associates are already in business with them. You can get the best reviews from people who are currently working with an FMO because they will be able to share their experience and quickly help you determine if they are the best one for you.
It is also a good idea to speak with an FMO representative to get an idea of the type of support you will receive and to get an idea of the employee attitude.
Also, you should try to get an idea of the business turnover rate. A good FMO will usually have a core of experienced marketers who have been there for years.
Choosing an FMO is a very serious business because it is similar to choosing a business partner: It is important to have outside support from the insurance company while building a block of business. In addition to this, it is vital to make sure that the FMO will be offering the best products and services for your business.
You need support from your FMO from time to time. A good FMO should always be there to provide substantial support you need as at when due. All you need to do is to tidy your end and make sure your best interest is paramount to them. The best thing is getting the right partner that will help you accelerate your business!
We at Healthnest assist leading insurance agents in growing from ordinary to extraordinary. We have been in this business for years, and we take pride in giving our agents high-quality insurance products and services that will contribute to the growth of their businesses.
WHAT OTHER IMPORTANT THINGS DO YOU NEED TO DO?
With your partnership with an FMO, below are some other important things you will need to do to get started:
1. Learn Basic Medicare – having a good knowledge of Medicare is very important prior to diving into the sale of Medicare Advantage and Medicare supplements. Clients will be delighted interacting with an agent who has in-depth knowledge about insurance rather than an agent whose primary aim is making sales. By learning about Medicare, a lot of money will enter into your pocket, and at the same time, many people will drink from your pool of knowledge.
2. Obtaining an Insurance License - If you have the right license, you will have the confidence to sell health insurance products. For details on license requirements, see the National Insurance Producer Registry for assistance.
3. Purchase an Errors and Omissions (E and O) Insurance – E and O insurance is similar to malpractice insurance. The purpose of securing this is to protect you from claims and lawsuits in case of any mistakes you made while in the field.
4. Obtain the America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) Medicare certification – this certificate will allow you to sell Medicare Advantage plans legally; because of the benefits ensure that you get it every year