How to Choose Which Insurance Company to Work For

choosing an insurance company to work forChoosing which companies to approach during your job search, and which offers to accept, are vital decisions for your career. You want to choose a company which is aligned with your own approach to insurance, is honest and sincere, and has a good reputation. You don’t want to join a company with PR problems, or one which customers do not trust. In addition, if you plan to make insurance sales your life career, you want a company you can stay with.

Here are a few ideas to help you find a company that is right for you:

1) Check their reputation online and in the “real world.” The most important thing about a company is that it is trustworthy and respected by the public. There will always be issues that a company couldn’t resolve with a customer, and it is not even uncommon to find a company that has been sued. Because of the nature of the business of insurance, some customers feel they were done wrong because they were not paid for a claim, even if they were dishonest, or did not understand their policy. Regardless, make sure you choose an insurance company that has integrity, puts the customer first and tries to help them any way they can. This helps YOU too.

2) Talk to customers who own policies from the company. This is a good way to find out how the company does business. If customers say the company is fair, listens to them, and tries to help, that is a good sign of a company of integrity that you would want to be associated with. Avoid companies whose customers say they sell them the highest premium possible, cancel premiums without warning, or fail to pay on claims.

3) Go to the company’s website. You can find out a lot about a company from the website. And, while this often shows the company in the best light possible, it also has contact information, client testimonials, and other information. Use this information to get a feel for the company’s business practices and procedures. Compare the websites of different companies you’re considering. Whose site is the most helpful? What tone does each website set? Also check out their “Careers” link and see what their policies are for employees.

It’s a good idea to look at a company “from both sides.” Look into how they treat their customers, as well as their employees, to get a sense of how they do business. Then contact the company and ask any questions you might have, or go in to a local office and talk to them in person. With time, you’ll find the company that’s right for you!

Strategies for Passing Your CE Exams

passing insurance ce examsDo you often find yourself having to retake your CE exams? Here are some practical tips on how to pass these assessments the first time:

1) Look for generalities. When reviewing your materials in preparation for the test, pay attention to large headings and focus on those first. Most tests emphasize the general first, specific second. In other words, if the course is on Ethics, look at the key points in the course and highlight these. There may be subheadings, such as Honesty in Transactions, Errors and Omissions, or the like. Focus on these general areas and know what they mean, and how they apply in a practical sense.

2) Focus on important details. Most of the CE exams focus on specifics that have to do with the process, law, or ethics of insurance sales careers. Don’t try to memorize everything, only those things which are of great significance. There is a lot of other information in the courses to add meat to the material. But the tests tend to include only the most important points.

3) Apply it to the real world. The purpose of insurance CE is, after all, to teach agents to use what they learn in the real world. There are always some questions which have you apply your knowledge to specific situations. So, know how to use the information in your own practice and this will help you pass the tests.

4) Apply test-taking strategies. Just like in school, it helps to know a few test strategies. For example, most test items are multiple choice. Cross out choices which don’t make sense so you can forget about them, and look for specific words which make a statement false. In addition, if you don’t know a question, skip it and come back to it later. Often, answering the other questions helps you remember the answer for the one you had trouble with, and you can go back to it before you complete the test.

5) Relax and don’t stress. This is easier said than done. But test anxiety can play a role here. Though CE tests are not usually timed, people feel some stress because they know their license depends on their passing. However, just remind yourself that you can take the test over as many times as you need to in order to pass. So it’s not the end of the world if you have to retake it.

In addition to these basic tips and strategies, also try to keep up with the latest laws and trends in the field of insurance. The more you know about what’s happening in your field, the better general and specific knowledge you will have. This will not only help you pass the CE exams, but also help you be a better agent and apply the information to your own insurance career.

Good luck on your next CE exams! You’ll do great!

 

Record-Keeping Tips and Tricks

record keeping for insurance agentsRecord-keeping is an important task in an insurance sales career. Most agents are independent contractors and therefore are responsible for all of their tax information and paperwork. And even those who work for an employer must file required paperwork each time a sale is made. So it is important to make sure that your processes are efficient. Below are some ideas.

1) Choose a day to do all your paperwork and stick to it. Many agents use Monday through Thursday as their selling days, then reserve Friday to catch up on paperwork, do follow ups, and call current customers to see if they need anything. Sticking to a particular day of the week to turn in paperwork will keep you on a set schedule.

2) Keep your office organized. Knowing where everything is and how to find it is a challenge. Have a specific file cabinet or filing system you use for the most important paperwork. Sort files according to the type of action they involve, such as SALES, DOCUMENTATION, CLIENT INFORMATION, REQUIRED PAPERWORK, and others. Using different color folders also sometimes works to separate types of tasks and documentation.

3) Use software such as QuickBooks to organize financial statements and transactions.

4) Use a handheld scanner (such as The Magic Wand) to scan important documents at your client’s location, at your office, or any time. The portability of this neat tool and others like it allows you to scan whatever and whenever you need to without having to remove the documents from the original location. Tools like this will save much time and keep you organized in the long run.

5) Use TurboTax or other tax reporting software at tax time. This will save valuable time and energy when you are trying to keep up with your earnings. As long as you keep your 1099 forms and other important documents, you can enter this information into the software and send it to the IRS and to the state with minimal fuss.

Having some handy tools at your disposal will save time and money in the long run by allowing you to input information or do what you need to do “on the go.” There is a world of technology that is designed specifically to help busy insurance agents as well. Do a search on the internet for insurance sales tools and you are likely to find a number of items to help you make the day-to-day tasks of your job easier.

Using the above tips on getting and staying organized will help you focus less on the organizational tasks and more on making sales and serving your customers.

Major Medical Insurance Vs. Supplemental Health

explain to insurance customers the difference between major medical and supplemental healthOne big misunderstanding health insurance clients have is the difference between major health insurance and supplemental policies. While there are some similarities, it is of great importance that agents stress to their customers or prospects the differences, so that there will be no confusion about what you are selling them.

If you work for a major health insurance company, such as Blue Cross/Blue Shield, it will be pretty simple to explain. As long as you know what your policies cover, you can just go over the coverage and then answer any questions prospects may have.

But if your company only sells supplemental policies, one of the most important points to stress is the fact that supplemental policies only cover specific illnesses, such as a heart attack, stroke, or cancer. Supplemental policies were meant to fill in the gaps left by major medical, and were not meant to be the only policy a person has.

Some people get confused and think their critical illness plan covers all hospital stays, doctors’ bills, and surgeries, when really all it is intended to cover is a specific illness and the complications that arise from that illness.

Here are a few points to keep in mind in an effort to keep the two types of insurance separate in the minds of clients:

1) Remind them that “major medical” refers to a comprehensive plan which includes doctor visits, tests, medications, and hospital stays and is meant to be a major plan to cover almost any condition. It also may pay up to 80% of costs, while supplemental plans may only pay in specific circumstances, or only pay a set lump sum.

2) Show clients the specific illnesses or benefits covered by supplemental insurance, and remind them these specific plans cover only related illnesses, situations, or conditions. The plan does NOT include tests, procedures, or anything else related to any OTHER illness. These are instead covered by major medical.

3) Advise clients to consider the likelihood of the specific illnesses before deciding whether to invest in a supplemental plan. Remind them that the best scenario is to have a major medical plan for most things that come up, and a supplemental one for specific illnesses that will pick up where their major plan leaves off.

4) Read the exemption clauses and know what illnesses either type of policy will NOT cover.

Finally, remind clients that, while there are some similarities between the major medical health insurance plans and supplemental policies, the best situation is to make sure there is a major plan in place first, then weigh the risks of a particular illness and purchase an additional plan to cover extra expenses.

One of the best aspects of having both major medical and supplemental health is that most supplemental plans will cover the specific illness in addition to what the major medical plan covers. Sometimes the supplemental plan will even pay benefits directly to the customer. Always read and explain the exact coverage to each client and remember that this will vary. But in general, both insurance plans will pay if the illness is covered under the supplemental plan.

Taking the extra time to explain these differences will save a lot of confusion and potential misunderstandings in the long run.

Making the Most of Leads

how to make insurance sales leads work for youOne of the challenges facing insurance agents is to make the best use of leads. It’s difficult to find a company that can consistently provide effective leads for your business. If your leads program is not working the way it should for you, here are a few tips to make sure it will pay off better in the future:.

1) Check to see if your leads company is focused on the demographic group you are trying to reach, and not other groups that won’t be interested in what you’re selling. For example, if you sell final expense plans, make sure your leads company is not sending you leads from 25-year-olds or people who already have insurance plans. While you might sell to a few people who have previous insurance, you will not have as much success as you would if your leads company targeted older senior citizens without insurance. See if your company can help bring you leads that will work better for you.

2) Try more than one leads company at the same time and track the earnings from each. By using two leads programs simultaneously, you will be able to see which one works the best and tweak as needed for the greatest benefit.

3) Ask other agents if they have a leads company that works for them. By comparing what you do to others’ strategies, you will be able to see how what they are doing might also benefit you.

4) Read articles in trade journals about insurance leads issues. Agents are always concerned about making their leads pay off for them. Some insurance publications focus primarily on this area and offer tips on how to effectively budget your leads to pay off the most, as well as maximize the benefits of different leads programs.

5) Track your sales. Just like in any field, the most effective tool you have as an agent to judge how your leads program is doing is to track your sales on a regular basis. There is software which can track sales online, or you can choose to keep track of your earnings yourself. This will go a long way toward helping fine-tune your sales strategies, including your leads program.

As a general rule, you should only spend about 25% of your income on new leads. Otherwise, you are just putting most of your earnings back into your leads program.

Finding a good leads program takes time, but a little effort will go a long way toward making your investment pay off for you in your insurance career.

 

Trade Publications and Magazines for Insurance Agents

magazines for insurance agentsAs an insurance agent, it is your duty to stay abreast with the latest changes and upcoming events in the business. While it can be difficult to keep up with agents and brokers outside of your own program or agency, there are several ways you can remain in the know. Read the newest editions of magazines and trade journals that are produced for insurance agents. Browse online for newsletters and digital editions of publications so you can learn about the newest marketing tools and the most up-to-date technology. Here are some of the trade publications and periodicals that will provide you with this valuable information.

Rough Notes

The Rough Notes Company, Inc. is the oldest insurance magazine in the US. Founded in 1878 by Dr. Henry C. Martin, Rough Notes continues to report the latest news for insurance agents and brokers. Look for the regularly chosen agency of the month or upcoming products. Subscribe to this publication for free.

Psychology Today

Better understand your clients, and how to get ahead, with information published in Psychology Today. Topics that are frequently addressed in this magazine include behavioral finance, self-empowerment, and recent psychological surveys.

Best’s Review

Established in 1899, Best’s Review is a premiere publication for insurance agents. It is available in print and digital formats. Discover highlights in the insurance industry with articles on topics including critical illness protection; cargo transport coverage in Latin America; and the key to successful, large IT initiatives for agencies. Find new topics to further your education in insurance protocol.

Business Insurance

Stay informed with the latest news regarding self-insurance and corporate insurance programs. In addition to the monthly print publication, BI subscribers also have access to white papers, newsletters, and Businessinsurance.com articles. Check out the webinars and lists of current events, such as the Risk Management Summit or Women to Watch, on the BI website.

Insurance and Technology

Find the most recent statistics about salary outlook, or research the many types of innovations on the insurance technology front. This newsletter provides insurance professionals with videos on everything from insurance opportunities in China to cloud computing. Read up on the opinions of those in the insurance and technology industries regarding issues pertaining to data security, health insurance kiosks, or information technology (IT) departments.

Insurance and Financial Advisor

Keep up with current events as they relate to the insurance industry with Insurance and Financial Advisor. This web portal posts daily news in the categories of health, life, property-casual, and national news. Learn about up-to-the-minute topics, such as the debate on insuring medical marijuana or financial planning for same-sex couples. While you are on the IFA site, click on the Career Center to find job search resources.

 

Making Insurance CE More Meaningful

how to make insurance ce more meaningfulContinuing Education is a requirement in order to keep up-to-date on the latest insurance laws and trends, as well as some of the changes in products available to customers. You know it’s important, but how can you find a way to enjoy it? Here are a few tips to get more out of your continuing education requirements while still learning what you need to know.

1) Think about the law and the requirements and what they mean to you. It is important not only to know the law but to know how it applies to the particular kind of insurance you sell in your career. So choose CE courses in Ethics which address this area. Take courses which sound interesting but still address the more important aspects of the law.

2) Think about your future career. What do you hope to do with your insurance career in the future? Take courses that are not only necessary but also highly beneficial to your career as an insurance agent. For example, if you are specializing in property insurance or special lines, make sure to take a course dealing with these topics. The more you are exposed to information and knowledge about your chosen area, the more you will improve the career skills that will propel you forward.

3) Take courses you don’t want to. While this seems contradictory to the title of this post, it actually is more fun sometimes because you are challenging yourself to learn a new area of insurance you didn’t know about before or didn’t like. While it is fine to take courses just on what you want to do in your career, taking courses that stretch your thinking are often the most beneficial in the long run.

4) Think about what your clients want or need. As with any business, in the insurance field you want to try to get information that will help your clients. CE courses are an excellent way to do this. Simply think about the types of questions your clients or prospects usually have about insurance and take courses that will help you answer these questions. If a client wonders about the security of their health insurance information or how they can lower their costs, take courses dealing with HIPAA and health plan information. If they want to add life insurance to their current policy, take courses that deal with insurance riders and add-ons. When you realize how you’re applying what you’re learning to real-world situations, CE course requirements become more interesting.

5) Look for ways to improve your knowledge. After you have taken what is essential, take something you are really interested in that will improve your knowledge base. There is a variety of courses to choose from in Insurance CE. Just browse through the course offerings and think about what you’d like to become an expert in, or simply know more about.

To get more out of your continuing education, reflect on your clients’ concerns as well as your personal goals and take courses that will enhance your learning in these areas. With a little effort you may find yourself enjoying this annual requirement. One note: many states allow you to “roll over” your coursework to the next year if you go over the amount of course hours you need. So, if you feel really ambitious this year, take extra credits. Remember, it’s your career. Be the best you can be and have fun!

What Makes the Insurance Field Great?

The insurance field offers abundant opportunity for successWhy choose insurance as a career, or why do agents who’ve worked in the field keep going? There are many other ways to make a living. Most insurance agents are good sales people, so they could work in another sales area if they chose to do so. But insurance people know that there are some very positive reasons to stay in insurance sales. It is a rewarding field, which builds a residual income over time. It provides a sense of self-actualization in providing a product or service people need. And it is a flexible field. We explain more below:

1) Residual Income/Lucrative Career. One of the most attractive reasons people go into and stay in insurance is the potential income. Not only can you make a substantial commission, but over time, your income tends to increase. Residual income builds over time and keeps compounding Some of the best agents make six figures, and these are typically agents who have stayed in the field a few years.

2) Self-Actualization. Insurance is a helping profession. While it is a sales job, you are offering people something they can benefit from over time. The sense of knowing that you are offering people something that removes the worry they have over their financial future offers a sense of accomplishment to agents. It also adds to customers’ estate value, making their children’s future more secure. Many agents feel good about the fact they are helping others.

3) Flexibility. Unlike many other careers, insurance sales offers agents flexibility in working hours, as well as the freedom to determine when or how they will work. Agents have to be very self-disciplined, but this type of career is attractive to many due to its working conditions. Many agents work from their home office. Many work in an insurance office half the time, and in the field the rest of the time. This is usually left up to the agent, as long as he or she is bringing consistent business into the company.

There are many reasons to go into or to stay in the field of insurance sales: the potentially high pay, the flexible hours, and the sense of fulfillment of offering people something that enhances their lives and eases worry. The agents who traditionally make the most money are the ones who stay in the field over the long-haul, to the point where they have had the time to build up their business and make it pay off with residual income, and income from annual renewals. Being an insurance agent is something to be proud of, as you are offering people a sense of financial security, while building your own.

How to Compare Policies Without “Twisting”

Be honest to avoid being accused of twisting.Insurance agents must always be careful not to engage in “twisting.” Twisting is a felony and in most states, punishable by a large fine, revocation of your license, and possibly a prison sentence. Often the level of punishment will depend upon the intent of the insurance agent. If it can be shown that the agent intended to mislead, the sentence can be severe.

Twisting is when an insurance agent tricks the customer into replacing their current life insurance policy with one sold by the agent. For example, let’s imagine an agent trying to convince a leery prospect to change policies. The agent tells the prospect that the agent’s policy is a better policy or pays out more in benefits than her current company, even if the agent knows it doesn’t. The result though is that the customer believes the agent and changes policies, dropping her original policy, and possibly losing valuable benefits. The main reason twisting is wrong is due to the potential financial loss to the consumer.

So the question for insurance agents is: “How can I compare policies without engaging in twisting?” This is actually simpler than you might think. Here are three tips:

1) Be honest always. If you follow this rule all the time, you will never have to worry about a potential “twisting” charge. Remember that twisting got its name because it is the financial equivalent of “twisting someone’s arm” to get them to change their mind on one insurance company and go with yours instead. And it is done under questionable circumstances, whereby you are comparing one policy or company to another, and “stretching the truth.” If you are always straight with your clients, and are honest with all customers at all times, you’ll be much less likely to run into legal problems.

2) Compare policies very carefully. Comparison is not wrong, but the danger of “twisting” or distorting the facts may become easier in this situation. For this reason, some agents are so scared of twisting that they don’t compare at all. While this is definitely the safest method, it doesn’t help your customer if they really want to know how the two policies stack up. So compare the policies side-by-side, allowing your customer to do the comparing, deciding whether their current policy is best, or the one you’re offering. Remember that you’re more likely to be accused of twisting if you got the person to drop their current policy and take yours instead. This opens up a customer to vulnerability due to the fact that they may not be covered during the time between their purchase of your policy and the time the policy is actually issued. So if you must compare, do it carefully, and answer any questions the client has with caution. Advise them to call their current insurance company to get their perspective.

3) Forward questions to other authorities. It is better to not answer at all than to give what could later be interpreted as a misleading answer. This is where agents can get into a lot of trouble. Twisting is a crime because it is the deliberate misleading of a client in order to get the sale, at the expense of the client’s well-being. So be careful and care about your customer. If you don’t know an answer, forward them to someone who does.

Remember twisting is intentional misleading and in court, the prosecutor or plaintiff would have the burden of proof. But you don’t want to have that risk. So decide now to always do the right thing, even if it means losing a sale. Put the customer’s needs first, as though they were a friend or family member, and you should never be accused of twisting.

 

 

Work for Yourself or Someone Else? That Is the Question

employee vs. independent contractorWhen it comes to deciding whether to work as an employee or as an independent contractor in the insurance field, there are several points to keep in mind. The most important thing to ask yourself is whether you want your role to be full-time sales agent, who will move up to managerial positions later on, or if you want your role to be consultant/sales person who is in the field working with clients.

If you work as an employee, this usually means you are working with one major insurance company only, and focusing on the products they have, rather than products from a variety of companies. If you are full-time employee, you may be entitled to a number of benefits including a 401(k) retirement plan, health insurance or life insurance at a reduced rate, and other perks. You may also get a “base salary,” as opposed to working on commission only. You do not have to worry about taxes and other deductions, as most of the payroll and paperwork is done for you by your employer.

The downside to working as an employee is that you are tied to just that one company and cannot work for others. So, make sure you like who you’re working for and are willing to make a dedicated commitment to them.

If your status is an independent contractor, you are not limited to just one company. Your role is more like a consultant to your potential clients, since you are able to show them different rates and policies, and attempt to find them the best deal among all of the options. In addition, you may leave your current company at any time and go to another one. As a free agent, you can represent many companies at once.

The downside to being an independent contractor is that you have to keep up with all the accounting yourself, and be responsible for all of your earnings. You will have to pay your taxes on your own, since none will be taken out automatically. This means you will either have to be an efficient bookkeeper, or hire someone you trust to do this for you.

In addition, it can sometimes be confusing if you represent more than one company at once so it is important to be very careful. People may not know where your allegiance lies. One option is, as an independent contractor, you may represent only one company, making you an expert with that company and their policies, if you so choose.

Also, your own personal retirement plan, insurance plans, or other benefits have to be handled by you as these are not offered to independent contractors.

The choice to be an employee or an independent contractor is not an easy one. While there are advantages to both, you have to consider whether you want to work for one company as a full-time employee and dedicate all your time to them, or work as an agent for one or more companies, and be in business for yourself. The most important question to ask is how important it is for you to have the freedom of being an independent contractor. If you choose this option, you will have to make all your own money, and this is usually commission-based only. Employees usually make a base rate plus commission, based on performance. Think carefully about this choice. Either way, an insurance career can be rewarding and lucrative if you are dedicated and driven to succeed.