Peter Labella is a New Yorker who moved to Florida to attend college, where he studied criminal justice. He didn't pursue a career in the field but instead got a job working for a company that offered prescription assistance. In his role as a sales agent, Labella worked with pharmaceutical companies and insurance carriers. He was eventually promoted to sales manager and ran the company's lead campaigns.
"I also worked in sales for a behavioral health and substance abuse organization," Labella says. "My job was to convince people to get help."
Along the way, Labella reconsidered his career options based on his sales experience. He knew someone who was doing well selling insurance so he decided to do the same. He opened Sicuro Health with two partners and a focus on health insurance.
"For now, we only sell health plans. We plan to expand our product line once we are profitable with our health insurance accounts," he says. "To sell new products we have to invest money. We've only been in business for a year but selling other lines is in our future."
Labella had used leads in his previous jobs, but he was new to health insurance leads when he opened Sicuro Health. He got the hang of it quickly. Currently, he buys data leads from his carrier for 75 cents per lead. He also buys live transfer calls from five different vendors, which include SmartFinancial. Using leads and live calls, Sicuro Health has expanded into 45 states.
"We have 10 licensed agents and 10 customer service representatives at Sicuro Health," Labella says. "We search each lead's options with the carriers we're appointed and we quote the lead. We try to make a sale, but if it doesn't happen, we follow up for a few weeks."
Labella's goal is to make $400 to $700 a plan for the life of the plan. But it's a hard market to sell in, with so many heavily subsidized and free health plans available. "We have to spend more on leads to make sales," he says. "It's hard to compete with people advertising plans for $40."
Labella's conversion rate with leads and calls ranges anywhere from 16 to 20% but he has to be careful not to bid too high to get the volume he wants. Otherwise, his CPA will not be what it needs to be.
"If I have to pay $100 a call, it's not good," he says. "If the lead has a preexisting condition, we sell them Obamacare because the private plans won't cover their issues. But if all we sold were Obamacare plans, our agency wouldn't stay open."
Labella regularly consults with his SmartFinancial account manager to make sure he remains in the right ballpark with his CPA and gets the right kind of calls. "My account manager always answers the phone and hears my suggestions," he says. "He also encourages me to submit returns when I'm eligible."
When asked what the toughest part of selling health insurance is, Labella cites the government subsidized plans. Usually, Labella's agency gets about 10 or 12 calls a day from SmartFinancial. "If we get 60 calls a week, we sell about 10 and two or three of those are Obamacare plans."
Despite the challenges, Sicuro Health is on the fast-track to becoming a profitable agency. Check out Labella's tips for new and struggling health insurance agents below.
3 Golden Tips from Peter Labella
1. Following up is important and so is managing money. You have to spend money but you need to manage how you spend it by determining which sources and publishers are making you money. You then need to allocate your budget there, not where it's not working.
2. Have qualified sales agents on the phone. Remember that leads are giving you very personal information. It's not easy to do business when they don't know who you are. You need qualified salespeople to do it right.
3. Make sure you're selling a good product. I work with eight or nine carriers and I feel good about what I'm selling. That's important.