Tag Archives: professional

Becoming a True Professional Agent

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.

The One Thing to Do to Innovate on Claims

If you love football, then you know how frustrating it is to be a football fan. Every offseason, you get excited about the potential for the coming season. Before the season begins, you read all of the articles and watch the analysts.

They all say, “This is the year.” Your team added some of the top defensive players in the league. You’re convinced the team has solved its offensive woes, too. Your team added a star wide receiver, and the running back is looking great in training camp.

Then the season starts, and your team suffers loss after loss. You question how professionals can spend so much time and money on the sport yet fail to improve. As the season continues to sputter, more and more people call for the team to fire the coach. At the end of the season, they fire the coach and hire a new star coach from a great team.

“Next year,” you and the rest of the fan base tell each other.

The next season begins and your team still loses. Year after year, the cycle repeats itself.

When it comes to innovation, insurance company claims departments have a lot in common with your favorite underachieving football team. Top talent in every department. Great recruits from top companies. Lots of talk about the newest technology. But each year you get the same results.

How can you solve this problem?

The One Thing

In “The One Thing,” Gary Keller shares several lessons we should apply to the insurance claims industry. He does so by simplifying the decision-making process. Whether you’re the general manager of a football team or an insurance claims executive, you can apply Keller’s lessons to your situation.

The Six Lies Between You and Success:

  1. The idea that everything matters equally;
  2. Multitasking;
  3. Lack of discipline;
  4. The belief that willpower is always on will-call;
  5. A balanced life;
  6. The idea that big is bad.

These “Six Lies” insurance claims departments. Claims professionals will get what they put in each day. If that’s emailing about hundreds of claims, then claims professionals will get routine claim maintenance. They will not achieve innovation. By making routine claim maintenance the priority, claims departments are falling victim to the six lies standing between the claims department and innovation.

The Four Thieves of Productivity:

  1. Inability to say “No”;
  2. Fear of chaos;
  3. Poor health habits;
  4. An environment that doesn’t support your goals.

While I can’t make any assumptions about whether there are poor health habits in your claims departments (unless your claims professionals are gorging on the vendor-sponsored food!), I can assume that the four thieves should resonate with you.

Insurance claims professionals do what they do because that’s what everybody has always done. No one has ever been terminated for saying “yes” to a responsibility. People who follow the status quo feel safer than people who hinge their success on a business transformation. As a result, claims departments are productive at claims maintenance, but they often leave much to be desired when it comes to innovation.

The Focusing Question

Keller condenses the entire book into what he calls “The Focusing Question.”

What’s the one thing you can do now such that by doing it everything else will become easier or unnecessary?

Good questions are the path to great answers. By combining a small focus with a big goal, the “Focusing Question” provides you with the ideal starting point to achieve something great.

Claims innovation requires starting with “The One Thing” today: giving your best claims manager responsibility for transforming the claims department. While this may sound drastic, it truly is “The One Thing” that will transform an insurance company. I’ve seen it. With a strong leader dedicated to this project, executives will breeze through the process of selecting vendors, identifying key requirements, troubleshooting workflows and handling anything that stands in the way of true innovation.

Once “The One Thing” is addressed, many tasks will follow: assigning a good leader from the IT department, engaging an outside consultant and supporting the department with future-focused software. But until executives dedicate their best claims manager to “The One Thing,” claims departments will suffer from unnecessary obstacles.

Claims departments and football teams will keep underachieving until they get their franchise quarterbacks. You can hire all the star free agents and coach your teams to change, but if your quarterback spends his time focusing on the same old plays, get ready for another year with the same results.

Who will be your company’s Tom Brady?