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BinaBuzz: aBuzz about Sales


“GOOD MORNING SALES PEOPLE:  Good news for The Sales Team today!

Product Development, Compliance and Marketing have announced their new line for ‘09.  It’s HUGE:  Priced right, packaged properly, the market’s ready.  (Never mind the Commission.)   Marketing says it sells by itself so, let’s go out there and sell some!”

Welcome to Sales:  Where The Rubber meets The Road!

Medical Tourism Plans may become the greatest insurance product to roll off of the industry’s well-developed R&D machine since, well… since whatever came out last week.  The industry has a great reputation for crankin’ out products that capture any excess premium floating around out there. There’s not a problem in the world that can’t be solved with an insurance policy!

Years ago, I met a Vulture Capitalist at a well-to-do wedding.  “I work at a health insurance company,” I said.  He smiled knowingly.  “Great little money making machines.  Is it for sale?”

My former boss, the CEO of two successful insurance companies, put his plan design strategy in perspective for me one day.  He said, “We’ll pay for broken hearts and hurt feelings if we can just figure out a rate.”

Define the need, design a plan, figure a rate, chase some customers and roll in the dough…how hard can this be?

Unfortunately, for all you insurance neophytes and prospective entrepreneurs out there, Most customers, prospects and probably ALL management NEVER recognizes any insurance product as a great idea until someone SELLS it to them!  (So, please, stop the Medical Tourism hype right now!  No more pretty pictures of nurses on beaches.  Show me how to sell this, and I guarantee my client will be on the next flight to Singapore.)

Medical Tourism is not a new idea.  It’s not original, and not particularly creative.  It’s just another variation on the “broken, lonely hearts” theme.  However, it is an interesting twist on the current thinking in U.S. healthcare!  (Twist, Hell…it’s a 180 degree turn and there must be millions of prospects out there!)  The challenge is to turn them into customers.

“In the good old days Medical Tourism was primarily a search for quality or specialized knowledge,” a world-famous doctor friend told me.  (Sorry, I can’t disclose doctor or clinic.)  “Today, it’s a search for affordability – at times, anonymity.”  As has been pointed out in articles I’ve seen, the only issue is one of quality control and recourse when things go wrong.

The ‘Good Old Days’ were when healthcare seekers came to the US for care and specialized knowledge.  The Mayo clinics of the world were on top and Mohammed, so to speak, came to the Mountain.  They flew in from afar for the best care in the world.

Today, the world is upside down.  The Mountain is coming to Mohammed.

Medical Tourism is becoming a formalized procedure.  Insurance Plans are being designed, prices are being set, a global healthcare system is developing.  Demand for quality is still very high, but what’s really driving development appears to be the opportunity of affordability (dare I say very “cheap”?).  With costs so high, with so much griping by business owners and employees, and with so many people opting out of insurance, I believe we’re at a tipping point.

You still have to sell it, however!

For 40 years, Marv Schuster designed and sold polices for Life Insurance Companies, P&C Companies, and Health Companies.  Not only did he create plans, Marv developed creative ways to sell them to insurance agents who in turn would sell them to management, employees and families.

“Great idea, but it won’t mean diddley-squat if you can’t sell it,” he said.  “You’ll have a much better chance if you first, convince people that medical quality does exist over there.  Insurance agents will jump – but only if they’re convinced it’s a good plan to sell, that the quality is there – and if they can make money, of course.”

How does an insurance agent convince clients that the care in Timbuktu is as good as Temecula?  “One or two people featured on 60 Minutes won’t do it,” Marv said.  “Would you put your best clients on an airplane to Timbuktu because 60 Minutes said so?”

The best insurance agents will hesitate.  “Until I see an actual plan, meaning, a filed insurance program, there is nothing exciting about Medical Tourism,” said Mitchell Bodden, president of Good Health Associates – a highly successful insurance sales operation based in Tampa, Florida USA.

Medical Tourism may work well for procedures not covered by an insurance plan but, Bodden went on, “I haven’t heard the pitch:  The Overview, The Definition, The Cost, The Protection…It’s so intangible.  If we’re going to sell this, first thing we have to do is frame it.  How will it help my clients?  I’m more excited right now about the new wellness plans and choices coming into the market.  I can see how those programs help my clients.”

Any plan that brings in members will be a huge attraction for Insurance Companies, but Bodden hasn’t heard a pitch, and isn’t sure one’s coming.  If the agents and brokers aren’t hearing it, how the hell will it sell in a competitive market?

Individuals, especially those without insurance, will be easier to sell than anyone tied in to traditional health insurance programs.  “We need to persuade them that traveling abroad for care is safer, easier and less costly than arranging care on their own,” said Robin Elsham, Managing Director of Patients With Passports, Minneapolis, Minnesota USA.

People seeking elective surgeries, or anonymity, are prime prospects for Patients with Passports since they are probably already familiar with the global marketplace.  Uninsureds, The Elderly, Thrill Seekers and other Early Adopters are “low hanging fruit” for Elsham.

Selling it in the employee benefit world is more complex because there are more moving parts – primarily, PEOPLE!  Set your sights high to find the Management person responsible for containing healthcare spending and/or instigating bold change.

“C-level executives are under great pressure to rein in healthcare spending,” Elsham said, “but agents of change could also emerge from human resources or strategic planning. These people will become zealous agents of change when convinced that a global option is a compelling solution to the affordability crisis.”

Then, moving CEO interest-to-commitment-to-introducing a plan, “turns on presenting evidence that there are hospitals and facilities abroad that provide care of world-class quality at prices below domestic rates.”

Then, “the next stage is the most difficult,” Elsham said, “…devising entirely new plans for companies to offer employees.  It’s difficult because almost by definition, the work is performed by mid-level employees who are not imaginative, or bold. They thrive on routine.  Globalcare will throw them for a loop, and is another manifestation of globalization that will arouse resistance among workers who feel threatened by global forces.”

Other than what he called, “Institutional Inertia,” there are no impediments to selling this.  However, Sandy Mathy, president of the Insurance Consultancy, Inc in Wisconsin USA, was right when she said few companies want to lead this parade.  “They don’t want arrows in the chest; they’d rather have them in their back.  You want to be two years late to market with this kind of innovation.”

Especially if you’re on the Sales Team!

About the Author

In his role as the Managing Director of IntellectualMarketing, LLC, Michael Bina fancies himself a Salesman:  Out there riding a smile and a shoeshine, Sales will be the death of him yet!

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