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October 7, 2019

Becoming a True Professional Agent

Summary:

Technology is going to reduce the compensation of amateur agents severely because, frankly, who needs an amateur insurance agent?

Photo Courtesy of Pexels

I have had the opportunity to ask many former Division I college athletes and a few professional athletes how much time they spent practicing. Plenty of articles exist that detail the many hours professional athletes endure practicing, studying film, lifting weights and doing stretches. Professional actors are similar in how they go through hours and hours of practice, readings, run throughs and vocal exercises. An interesting measure is how many hours of practice go into each hour of actual game time. Depending on the sport, the ratios I have calculated and seen range between five and 15 hours of practice and preparation for each hour of actual game time.

Professionals spend a tremendous amount of time practicing and preparing. When I ask producers how much time they spend practicing and preparing per hour of actual sales and client meetings, the answer is usually the opposite. They spend maybe one hour preparing and practicing for every 20 hours of sales and client meetings.

Some producers tell me they do not have time to practice, and, besides, professional athletes are paid much, much more, and the compensation delta is even higher between professional athletes and amateur athletes. Professionals make time to practice so they can earn more. I have found the same effect to be true with producers. True professional producers spend much more time practicing, even reading forms (preparing), than amateur producers.

See also: Do Consumers Trust Their Agents?  

A good example of this practice that is always amazing to me is how so many really good professional agents with big books find the time to use coverage checklists with their clients. Yet, in the same agency, other producers do not use checklists; their excuse is always, always the same: Their clients will not give them the time, or they do not have the time. How is it that a producer whose book is three times or even 10 times larger has the time and finds clients who give him or her the time to go through coverage checklists, while those producers with small books never have the time to act professionally? What a weird phenomenon!

Professionals in any occupation always find the time or make the time to practice and study and prepare. People who want to be seen as professionals, but are really just pretenders, never seem to find the time or make the full effort required to attain the skills necessary for success. These people want the recognition and the compensation, without the effort. Nice work if one can get it, and many insurance agents have succeeded doing just that for a long time because consumers do not know what they are buying until they incur an uncovered claim.

The industry is changing, though, and technology is going to reduce the compensation of amateur agents severely because, frankly, who needs an amateur insurance agent? Do companies need to pay full commission to amateurs when they can achieve the same transactional sales results at actual amateurs’ wages? That math is pretty easy to figure.

Why should a consumer pay the same price for an amateur agent as they pay a professional agent? In fact, why should a consumer pay an amateur agent anything?

A professional agent, a truly professional agent, is someone who puts in the hours to learn and know the coverages in depth. A professional agent is someone who takes the time to work with clients to identify their needs, and actually does this every year for every renewal. At the very least, the agent makes a genuine effort to meet with clients at least annually to go over their needs, changes in coverages, changes in exposures and changes in their lives and businesses.

Professional agents do not just “BOP” every account. They actually understand what coverages in a BOP need enhancement to provide their clients with the coverages they truly need. An excellent example of an amateur agent is when a producer tells a client that he has automatic cyber coverage in the BOP. At best, such an agent might qualify for flag football.

See also: Changing Point of Sale for Insurance  

Is this a harsh statement? Not really, because it is reality, and that agent can change reality by actually practicing and preparing and learning the coverages. These situations are fantastic examples of people being in charge of their own destinies. They can be a pedantic peddler of insurance, be lazy really, or they can endeavor to practice, to study, to prepare and to become a true professional who serves a vital purpose and protects their clients’ true well-being. The choice is completely yours, but the idea of actually being a professional while hardly ever practicing and preparing is dead. No more pretending.

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About the Author

Chris Burand is president and owner of Burand & Associates, a management consulting firm specializing in the property-casualty insurance industry. He is recognized as a leading consultant for agency valuations and is one of very few consultants with a certification in business appraisal.

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