Within the ever-evolving world of insurance, the Field Marketing Organization (FMO) you choose can have a significant impact on your success. The right upline serves as a catalyst for growth, and a source of knowledge, and is an important factor in the trajectory of an insurance agent’s career.
To help you navigate the complicated world of uplines, we talked to a series of insurance leaders and Medicare FMOs. This guide is the result.
So you might ask yourself “What is an FMO”?
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An FMO is normally in the health insurance industry. They provide independent agents with the resources, products, and services that insurance agents need to sell insurance and be successful. FMOs help insurance agents get contracted with carriers to sell plans and provide assistance along the way.
You might ask yourself, “Do I need an FMO?” The simple answer is yes and we’ll go over why.
Understanding business and market knowledge cannot be overstated. For insurance agents, aligning with an FMO that not only understands but excels in these areas will help you achieve long-term success.
Jeremy Tingler, whose strategies have proven influential in the field, underscores the significance of business acquisition and partnership. His approach focuses on growing individually as an agent and forming robust partnerships. Insurance agents need an FMO that is not just service providers but business partners, offering avenues for expansion and growth.
"In the realm of insurance, particularly Medicare, the synergy from acquiring businesses or teaming up with established groups can propel an agent's reach and capabilities exponentially" - Jeremy Tingler, Senior Market Advisors
Tingler highlights the importance of value-added services, suggesting that agents should look beyond contract offerings. An FMO that provides extensive support in areas like recruitment, marketing, and strategic planning is a must. It's about finding an upline that understands the needs of different agencies and tailors their support accordingly. This level of personalized attention can mean the difference between stagnation and growth.
As more and more customers shift online in their insurance research and shopping, geographic location matters less and less. Steve Trattner of AHCP encourages agents to consider the reach their FMO can have.
“At AHCP, we have over 500 products with almost 50 carriers in every state across the country, many of which offer multiple product lines in your area. That means we can serve as a one-stop shop for brokers who are trying to determine which solutions to offer to their clients. Our carrier partners entrust us to manage close relationships with thousands of hard-working agents in the field, to handle carrier appointments, license verifications, training, commission processing, & compliance.” - Steve Trattner, AHCP
Market knowledge is a foundational element that defines a successful upline-agent relationship. As agents navigate their choices, they should prioritize uplines that exhibit these qualities, ensuring that they are well-positioned to respond to market changes and client needs effectively. As Tingler and Trattner say, the right upline should be a beacon of knowledge, support, and growth along your insurance journey.
The role of an FMO extends far beyond commission structures. The essence of a beneficial upline-agent relationship lies in the support they provide. Jesse Slome and Kari Ware share their perspective and what to look for in an FMO.
“Commission levels are always important, but many other factors can be a significant differentiator. Find a FMO that actually cares about you.” — Jesse Slome, The American Association for Medicare Supplement Insurance
Slome's viewpoint looks to support agents throughout the entire process. This support encompasses a range of services, from providing up-to-date information on market trends and product developments to facilitating access to new product lines and cross-selling opportunities. For agents, this means looking for an FMO that pays well but also invests in overall growth and development.
Kari Ware of Rebel Rates reinforces this idea by highlighting the importance of genuine guidance and support. Ware believes that an FMO should be a source of steadfast support, especially when catering to the unique needs of each agent.
"True support and genuine guidance are what make a FMO stand out," — Kari Ware, Rebel Rates
Ware suggests that today’s FMOs must be proactive and check on their agents. Knowing their individual goals and challenges adds a personal approach and can make a significant impact on an agent’s career trajectory. Offering the right mix of encouragement and expert advice will help your insurance business grow.
This support includes providing educational resources, facilitating market access, offering personalized guidance, and maintaining transparency in financial dealings. As Slome and Ware mention, the ideal FMO empowers agents to succeed financially as well as grow and excel in their professional journey. Agents should seek FMOs that demonstrate a commitment to the agent’s overall success and provide comprehensive support that addresses their professional needs. It's about being a mentor, a source of knowledge, a facilitator of growth opportunities, and a reliable partner.
The best FMOs offer a broad spectrum of products coupled with training. This dual focus on product diversity and ongoing education is essential for insurance agents aiming to grow and adapt in a rapidly changing market.
Having access to a wide range of product options from numerous carriers is important when you want to do the right thing for your clients. This diversity in product offerings is helpful because the needs of your clients are as varied as they are specific.
Prioritizing and facilitating ongoing training ensures that agents are always at the forefront of industry knowledge and best practices. Todd Johnson mentions how training could take various forms, from in-person workshops and seminars to online courses and webinars. The objective is to maintain a high level of competence and confidence among agents, allowing them to grow.
“In an industry as complex and varied as insurance, particularly Medicare, agents need to be equipped with an arsenal of products to effectively meet the needs of their clients.” - Todd Johnson, Quotit
This means agents should align with FMOs that provide them with a comprehensive portfolio spanning multiple carriers and product types. Continuous learning and development are required to stay ahead of the latest industry trends, product updates, and regulatory changes.
Having access to an array of solution providers will give agents more opportunities. He points out that in our industry, the value added to the platforms of financial distributors has increased.
“Access to a diverse range of solution providers not only enhances an agent’s portfolio but also empowers them to tailor solutions according to their clients' unique needs. Whether it’s through formal education, virtual training, or collaborative learning, the aim is to continually elevate an agent's skill set.” - Mark Williams, Brokers International
This access can make all the difference, particularly for agents dealing with a clientele that requires specialized Medicare plans and services.
This approach to education reflects an understanding of the insurance field, where staying informed and skilled is required for retaining existing clients and attracting new leads.
The role of technology and back-office support cannot be understated. As the industry evolves, the reliance on advanced technological solutions and streamlined administrative processes become more important. Paul Rose and Chris Cline offer some of their valuable insight into how insurance agents can use these elements to be more efficient and effective.
Some of the tech that FMOs can provide include a business tracking portal, user-friendly electronic application systems, and tools for competitive product and carrier analysis. The right technology streamlines workflows, reduces the likelihood of errors, and saves valuable time so agents can focus on client interaction and business growth.
“In an era where digital transformation is key, having access to advanced technology not only simplifies processes but also enhances the agent’s ability to serve clients effectively. An enrollment platform should be intuitive, reliable, and compliant with industry standards, ensuring that agents can manage enrollments seamlessly,” - Paul Rose, Western Asset Protection
Some of the tech that FMO’s can provide include a business tracking portal, user-friendly electronic application systems, and tools for competitive product and carrier analysis. The right technology streamlines workflows, reduces the likelihood of errors, and saves valuable time that agents can instead dedicate to client interaction and business growth.
Enrollment platforms are essential for handling the complexities of Medicare insurance enrollment, making the process smoother for both agents and their clients.
The ability to handle enrollments efficiently not only improves the client experience but also reflects on the agent’s capability and professionalism.
Complementing these technological needs, Chris Cline from the IIABA (Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America) underscores the importance of streamlined access to carrier information. Having quick and easy access to up-to-date carrier information is an insurance necessity.
“The ability to access and understand carrier information efficiently is a significant advantage in today’s market. It enables agents to provide accurate, timely advice to clients, which is essential for building trust and credibility.” - Chris Cline, Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America
Efficient back-office support includes a range of administrative and operational tasks that provide insurance agents with the tools they need to run a business. This includes application processing, compliance management, and client communication systems. Back-office support also ensures that these tasks are handled, freeing agents to focus more on client-facing activities, like sales.
Kevin Johnson, representing Advisors Insurance Broker shared a few things that have helped them become one of the top agencies in New York. He mentions that a successful FMO should have lead programs, sales support, weekly training, & advanced market support.
This access is particularly crucial in navigating the complexities of Medicare insurance, where agents must be well-informed to help their clients make decisions.
"Agents should seek uplines that understand the value of technology, systems, efficient processes, and are committed to providing these resources. This type of commitment is a clear indicator of an upline’s dedication to the success and growth of their agents.” - Kevin Johnson, Advisors Insurance Broker
The combination of advanced technology and efficient back-office support forms the backbone of a successful insurance practice. It’s not just about having the latest tools, but integrating them effectively into the business workflow.
Recognizing the unique journey of each agent and agency is fundamental to fostering growth and success in this field. An FMO with experience in career development will know how you can see more success.
Individualized attention will drastically improve the way insurance agents grow, especially in an industry as nuanced as Medicare insurance. Agents at different stages of their career require varying levels of support and guidance. Kari Ware mentions how a beneficial upline is one that takes the time to understand individual needs and provide targeted support. It is about creating a nurturing environment where agents can thrive, develop their skills, and confidently grow their book of business.
"What differentiates an FMO is their ability to offer true support and genuine guidance that is tailored to the individual needs of each agent." - Kari Ware, Rebel Rates
A tailored approach for different agencies underscores the importance of recognizing the unique characteristics and goals of each agency. Jeremey Tingler suggests that a one-size-fits-all approach would be ineffective in the diverse landscape of insurance agencies.
"Each agency comes with its own set of challenges, strengths, and aspirations. Recognizing and catering to those unique aspects is what makes an upline truly effective." - Jeremy Tingler, Senior Market Advisors
This tailored approach is not just about providing the necessary tools and resources but also about offering strategic guidance that aligns with the specific goals and business models of different agencies.
J Scott Burke mentions that agents need to have ongoing open communication with their IMO/FMO.
“At our agency, we have a weekly call and a GroupMe Chat Group where every agent has open access to talk with the producers that are hitting $10,000 to $15,000 weekly production consistently. This is a huge help to agents that aren't at that level yet but are working to get there. Weekly communication keeps us heading in the right direction.” - J Scott Burke, FEXContracting
Agents can benefit from FMOs that provide individualized support and understand the distinct paths of career development. This personalized strategy fosters a deeper and more productive relationship between the agent and the FMO, leading to greater success and satisfaction in their professional endeavors.
In the Medicare world, having good values play a pivotal role in forging successful relationships between agents and their uplines. The emphasis on integrity, transparency, and value alignment is not just about adhering to industry standards but also about establishing a foundation of trust and mutual respect. Jason Levine and Todd Johnson provide a deeper understanding of why these elements are so important in the agent-upline dynamic.
Levine strongly advocates for the importance of an upline's integrity and transparency, especially in financial dealings. Trust is the bedrock of any agent-upline relationship.
“Agents must work with uplines that not only ensure comprehensive and timely commission payouts but also maintain complete transparency about potential chargebacks.” - Jason Levine, MyHealthAngel
This level of openness is critical when you want to be reliable. Agents need to know that their FMO will be honest and open, especially in matters that directly affect their earnings and financial planning.
Another dimension to this discussion is highlighted by Todd Johnson. He explains the importance of having integrity.
“An upline whose values resonate with your own can greatly enhance the quality and satisfaction of your professional relationship, that agents should consider how well their values align with those of their upline.” - Todd Johnson, Quotit
This alignment is vital for personal fulfillment as well as maintaining a consistent and ethical approach to business practices. When values are shared between agent and FMO, it creates a harmonious working environment and promotes ethical decision-making.
Agents are encouraged to find FMOs that not only exhibit high standards of integrity and transparency but also resonate with their personal and professional values. This alignment encourages a more meaningful and fulfilling professional journey, where ethical practices are not just observed but are a natural extension of shared principles and beliefs. These factors are key to building strong, trust-based relationships that stand the test of time and contribute to overall professional success.
Choosing the right upline is a critical decision for any insurance agent. This process requires a thorough evaluation of the potential FMO’s values, services, and the overall relationship they offer. Agents should consider a few key factors when making this decision.
Chris Cline emphasizes the need to fully grasp both the benefits and obligations that come with any agreement. Cline advises agents to delve into the specifics:
“What tools and resources does the organization offer beyond market access? What is the nature of the contractual relationship? What are the commission splits, and what are your rights regarding client renewals?” - Chris Cline, Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America
Agents have to make an informed decision that aligns with their professional goals and values. Additionally, Cline stresses the importance of considering the legal implications of these agreements, suggesting that agents should seek legal counsel to review terms and offer tailored guidance.
Paul Rose suggests that agents should test the responsiveness and effectiveness of the upline's customer service. This can involve making inquiries and evaluating the timeliness and quality of responses.
“An upline's service model, including their responsiveness to communications and the quality of their interactions, is a strong indicator of their commitment to their agents” - Paul Rose, Western Asset Protection
Assessing the user-friendliness and efficiency of their technology platforms, such as enrollment systems and business tracking tools, can provide insights into how well the upline supports its agents in day-to-day operations.
"The responsibility for success lies with the agent." - John Wetmore, Family First Life
As much as you look to your FMO for support, remember that as an independent agent ultimately you own your success. John Wetmore of Family First Life provides a different perspective, reminding us to not overlook the agent's active role in their professional success. Wetmore outlined a few key elements that agents must bring to be successful:
John ultimately encourages agents to take charge of their careers and seek growth through their initiative, rather than looking to their FMO.
Navigating the Medicare insurance landscape as an agent requires more than just industry knowledge and being able to talk to people; it demands a strong, supportive, and ethically grounded partnership with an FMO.
Choosing an FMO encompasses a range of factors including understanding business, access to products and continuous training, technological support, personalized guidance, and most importantly, shared ethical values.
The journey of an insurance agent is unique and filled with challenges. Your FMO plays a pivotal role, not just as a conduit for commissions and products, but as a mentor and guide. They should be a beacon of support, guiding you through the complexities of the market, and empowering you with the necessary knowledge and tools. It’s about finding a partnership that fosters growth, instills confidence, and supports you in your insurance journey.
Need help finding an FMO? This list is a great place to start!