If you’re an agent looking for more stability and support, a field marketing organization (FMO) can do a lot for your business. But finding an FMO that can give you stability and support without stifling your success is a process.
There are specific things you should demand of potential FMOs to ensure you’re joining the right one and that the company you’ve chosen is dedicated to looking out for you. Below are 10 things you should consider when partnering with an FMO.
1. Know Your Contracts
There are two types of contracts when signing on to sell with a carrier: direct and assignment of commissions. It’s important to know the difference. A direct contract acknowledges that you own your business, and that your renewals stay with you even if you leave your upline. With an assignment of commissions contract, your upline can keep your renewals if you leave them. The latter of these contracts can put you in a bind when negotiating with your upline. Direct contracts are the way to go.
Why Ritter? Ritter offers direct contracts for three of the largest Medicare Advantage carriers in the nation. With some carriers, a direct contract isn’t available, but your contract with Ritter is an immediate vested contract, meaning that any money you make is yours.
2. Get a Release
Before you join an FMO, you must A) get a written release from all of your uplines, or B) not write any business for six months. Option B isn’t necessarily feasible for full-time agents, so getting a written release from every upline before joining an FMO is imperative.
Why Ritter? Ritter has an open release policy, with some stipulations, including:
- You still need a release from your immediate upline if that is not Ritter.
- Releases* are postponed around the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), from September 1 through December 31, since our contracting department is focused on incoming contracts.
- The release of recently contracted agents is postponed for six months, however, an agent can continue to conduct their business.
- Debit balances must be satisfied or the incumbent upline must guarantee any bad debt.
*Releases may be subject to more considerations than what we present in the Agent Survival Guide. Your release is dependent upon your contract with Ritter and the carrier.
3. Top of Hierarchy vs. FMO
When seeking release from your upline, it’s important to ask if they’re Top of Hierarchy rather than if they’re an FMO. Because, regardless of whether your upline is in fact an FMO, if they’re not Top of Hierarchy, they will need to get permission from their upline to release you.
Why Ritter? Ritter is one of only a few agencies in the United States that is Top of Hierarchy for all of the major insurance companies in the MA and PDP business.
4. Boost Business with Co-Ops
National and local market co-ops dictate how much marketing co-op is available, and which agents get leads. FMOs that are Top of Hierarchy can get both these co-ops, giving you a leg up in your business.
Why Ritter? We’re Top of Hierarchy for all major MA and PDP insurance companies, so we can do both national and local market co-ops.
5. Stay CMS Compliant
While it can be difficult, you’re required to stay on top of all Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regulations. Violating these compliance requirements can not only result in termination from the insurance company, but complete loss of income and renewals. Since your business is your livelihood, it’s important to have your renewals protected against compliance issues. An FMO will keep all of this in check.
Why Ritter? Ritter offers the advice and knowledge of a compliance officer with 25 years’ experience building compliance programs for one of the largest Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in the U.S.
6. Launch a CMS-Approved Site for Permission to Contact and Enrollment
Any website that collects Medicare beneficiary information for use in contacting that beneficiary about Medicare Advantage or Part D must be filed with CMS. This includes not only your website, but any site you use to collect purchased leads. Without a CMS-approved contact form, you can’t make calls to discuss MA or Part D.
Why Ritter? Medicareful.com, our site which can be branded and tied to an individual agent’s business for free, is filed with CMS. It stores all leads generated by the website exclusively in the agent’s CRM, keeping business compliant and productive. We’ve already seen how Medicareful streamlines the way our agents do business. Learn more about how it works and get your own free site in minutes .
7. Market Through Affinity Partnerships
Affinity relationships with trusted third-party referrals such as pharmacies, hospitals, grocery stores, and more are the fastest-growing lead source for Medicare products. A good FMO will give you the materials you need to market yourself effectively through such partnerships.
Why Ritter? Our marketing materials can be customized to any affinity relationship with a “call or click” call to action. Calls are directed to the agent’s phone or office, and clicks are directed to their Medicareful website. Agents can also leverage their affinity partner’s brand with co-branded direct mailers. Ritter has a dedicated specialist to help you both find and maximize affinity partners in your area. In the last few years, we’ve watched agents truly thrive through their partnerships with pharmacies and bank branches in their markets.
8. Secure Your Policyholder Data
Because FMOs store massive amounts of protected health information (PHI) and personally identifiable information (PII), you have to make sure your clients’ information is secure.
Why Ritter? Ritter has a team of network administrators who specialize in security, encryption, and backup. Our senior network administrator on staff is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) who sets and maintains security policy for the entire company. Ritter encrypts all stored data and controls access in such a way that each user/program only has access to the information and resources that are necessary for that user’s/program’s purpose. In simplest terms, that means that when you put your trust in our systems, you can count on us to keep your policyholder data secure.
9. Control Your Future
Allowing yourself the ability to advance in your career plays a big part in considering an FMO. Think about where you see your business heading, whether that’s being promoted or building an agency down the road with more agents. CMS regulates commissions, but insurance companies can pay overrides in addition to commissions to compensate for things like administrative services and marketing. If you’re working with an FMO that’s not Top of Hierarchy, you may not be getting the overrides you deserve.
Why Ritter? Ritter operates by clear and transparent guidelines on how agencies can advance for Medicare Supplement, MA, and Part D. Because we’re Top of Hierarchy, there’s no limit on how far an agency can advance, which can be advantageous to not only you, but future agents in your business.
10. Process Contracts Quickly
Since Medicare’s Annual Enrollment period (AEP) is short, it’s important that you can count on your FMO to review contracts for accuracy and process them fast so you’re ready to sell when you need to. Most insurance carriers will only speak with the Top of Hierarchy FMOs about licensing, which means you may be waiting weeks on your upline for lead times and the agent onboarding process.
Why Ritter? We have a full-time staff of highly experienced licensing representatives with quick turnaround year-round, especially in the contracting crunch before AEP. And because Ritter’s Top of Hierarchy, we work directly with major insurance carriers to escalate and resolve licensing issues so they aren’t drawn out.
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