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Product Updates
Expanding the Spark Platform: How Agents Help our Tech Come to Life
Alex Zhang
July 5, 2023
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The Spark platform is the industry-leading system for top Medicare agents to grow their business, save time, and deepen client relationships, and we recently launched a major update. 

As the co-founder who oversees the development of our tech, I’m excited to share more about this platform expansion. We released  two major features, both designed to help agents manage and automate their sales pipeline:

  • The first is called pipeline manager. This enables agents to track their entire pipeline and sales activity in one place. They can easily set reminders, track T65s, quote and enroll, and report on the growth of their business.
  • The second is what we’re calling our prospecting program.  Similar to our client retention program, we now send pre-designed automatic email campaigns to prospects and lost contacts to help agents win new business. Email campaigns are white labeled to reflect an agent's personal brand. 

Our entire platform was (and still is) created based on agent feedback. These updates address two major pain points that we continued to hear about. One, that agents want to manage their entire pipeline activity from one simplified dashboard, and two, that agents want an easier way to generate leads without spending hours putting together email campaigns themselves. 

At Spark, one of our core values is “take nothing for granted”, and we acknowledge that it would not be possible to achieve our level of success if we adopted a mindset of “if we build it, they will come.” The only way to develop impactful products is through a deep partnership with our target users: agents themselves.

Start by listening

Product development at Spark never starts with a solution in mind. The most important starting point is through open dialogue with our best agent partners. This feedback can come via a number of channels: we’ve sent out surveys, jumped on Zoom calls, and even shadowed our agents directly in the field. The purpose of these conversations is to ensure we have a deep understanding of what it takes to succeed as a Medicare agent, what their goals are, what’s working well, and what needs to be improved.

For these latest features, Michael (our lead product designer) and I had a number of video calls with top agents to focus specifically on how they were managing their sales processes. Some agents had developed external systems that could send automated emails to prospects based on a specific disposition being set by the agent. For example, they would manually mark any client that was unhappy with their plan, and schedule a tailored email message to go out to that specified group. In that case, they really liked that they didn’t have to draft an email each time but acknowledged that due to being out in the field, sometimes they would forget to schedule the next email in the sequence.. Other agents talked about having difficulty tracking prospects that were only going to be Medicare eligible many months, if not over a year, in the future. 

Once we understood these challenges, Michael and I set out to define the value we wanted to deliver with the new product features. In this case, it was a continuation of a core value of saving agents time by automating key workflows and enabling them to be more efficient as they scaled the number of prospects and clients they were supporting. With that objective in mind, we started to design mocks and then eventually kicked off development with our engineering team.

Then show, don’t just tell

When developing major updates, no matter how much initial scoping and communication has been done during the development process, the real test is when an agent attempts to use the new functionality. In order for us to really validate that we’ve invested in the right solution, we soft launch any major feature with a small set of pilot agents.

In this case, one month before our official launch, we worked with five of our most active agents and turned on the new features as they were completed by our engineers. Through that pilot, we learned a ton:

  • Validated that our new way of tracking contacts in a pipeline was intuitive to those agents
  • Added more specific “lost” reasons based on how agents think about losing a prospect or client
  • Fixed a few bugs, minimizing their potential impact if they had been released to all of our agents
  • Updated a year over year visualization of our agents production to make it more actionable

On the Spark product development team, we talk about how developing great products is a collaborative process. But it’s not just a collaboration between product, design and engineering – it’s also a collaboration with our agents. Listening closely to agents allows us to  understand their needs and build valuable solutions to address them. We’re excited to continue that commitment to our agents with this latest release and are looking forward to collaborating on future improvements with the many new agents who have recently partnered with Spark!

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