Expand Your Knowledge

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EP 57 Continuing Education for Insurance Professionals.

I know, it’s a boring topic, but I hope to get you thinking outside the box today. Many of you listening might already be doing this, but let’s get more people heading this direction.

Welcome to another episode of the Business of insurance podcast

My name is Debbie DeChambeau, I’m the host of this podcast, I’m an entrepreneurer, business advisor, insurance professional and content creator. I want to inspire you to think differently and explore ideas that disrupt the status quo.

Todays episode is for everyone in the insurance industry, but if you are dealing with clients or helping to train insurance agents, this episode is especially for you.

You see, getting into the insurance industry is fairly easy. You take a test, get licensed with a carrier or broker and start selling or working. Most people say the license test doesn’t really cover what is needed for the types of policies you will offer as an agent. In my opinion, that statement is 100% correct. It just covers the basics and even covers some things that many of us will never use in our insurance career. But we need to know them for the test.

Once you get licensed in the insurance industry, you need to update your license every year or two or three, depending on the state you are in. For many people, they just go online, find a course that they can get the proper number of hours and are done with it until next time. It’s an afterthought for many, just doing what they have to do to get by.

We are all busy, I get it.

In addition to barely getting annual CE’s in, there are many licensed agents that don’t have a dual license, they only have the original license. For example ….. someone that started with a life and health license never gets the property and casualty license. Do they need to???? NO!

But here’s why I think it’s important to have both. You need to position yourself as an advisor to your clients, not think of yourself as a sales person. The insurance industry has a bad reputation, and in some ways well deserved. It’s too easy to get in to the business….but if you are in the business to do the right thing for your clients and not just make a sale, then you will position yourself as an advisor, a risk manager. Someone that is looking at all aspects of insurance protection so that your clients understand their options.

If you only have one license, it can make it hard to expand your conversation.

It’s hard to position yourself as an advisor because you don’t know what you don’t know. Just like your clients don’t know what they don’t know. With the internet, people have the opportunity to learn more, but there’s also a lot of misinformation on the internet and it’s our job to help our clients understand. That’s what we get paid for!

A lot of people get their licenses and then consider themselves an independent agent and open their business doors. The licensing class is what they have to run their business! Minimal product training…., minimal industry training...minimal business training.

There’s a big learning curve in the industry and most people don’t realize that until they are in the middle of it.

While it sounds so great to be on your own, working alone adds additional challenges to learning the technical components of the industry in addition to learning how to be a business owner. It becomes a ‘hope and pray strategy’ that they are doing things correctly. In the back of their mind they know they have E&O and think they are good.

For this reason, I think it’s important that you expand your education and think about getting some additional certifications such as CIC, CPCU or CRM on the property and casualty side to a CLU, CHFC or even a CFP for those with a life and health license.

BREAKDOWN OF DESIGNATIONS:

  • CIC - Certified Insurance Counselor - geared towards the property and casualty independent side - takes a dive into policy forms and provides a lot of real life examples
  • CPCU - Certified Property and Casualty Underwriter - like the name says, it’s geared towards the property and casualty side - has historically been pushed on the carrier sde, particularly for underwriters
  • CRM - Certified Risk Manager - there’s a version for commercial and a version for personal lines. I think we could all benefit from understanding risk management.
  • CLU - Chartered Life Underwriter - it’s the life/health equivalent of the CPCU
  • CHFC Chartered Financial Consultant - geared towards financial consultants who are more on the life and health side -
  • CFP - Certified Financial Planner - also geared towards financial planners but more on the investment side - encouraging them to take a risk management approach for helping their clients, not just focusing on investments. My husband obtained his CFP shortly after 9/11. It was a time when the market was down and a lot of people didn’t want to talk about investments, so I actually encouraged him to pursue it because I knew the value long term of how it could help him. While I didn’t get the Cruts and Crats portion, I did review the property and casualty portion and could see it was in-depth and valuable. This is showing my geeky side, but I really enjoyed doing some of the reviews with him as I learned a lot for my own practice.

This is a high level overview of some of the designations. Do some research to see what makes the most sense for your career.

There are many other designations, and new ones are popping up all the time - for example, the CPIA which is the Certified Professional Insurance Agent which is for all agents, and focuses on sales processes, ethics and marketing using insurance as the platform.

I earned the CPIA designation about 4 years ago and CiC designation more than 25 years ago…. With the CIC designation, I have to complete a minimum of 16 hours a year doing an approved update so that I can keep using the designation. Yes, every year I have to update my designation by taking 16 hours through programs with the The National Alliance which is the organization that manages the CIC, CRM and many other designations. For this particular designation, you have to do the update before your birthday each year.

I always try to take the sessions that are new, trendy, innovative, because a lot of them are the same and are repeated frequently.. For example, I was fascinated by cyber liability sessions back in the mid 2000’s. Not enough businesses have cyber liability today and in light of recent hackings, they are probably more aware of it now than ever. So those people that paid attention to cyber liability years ago should be crushing it now! That combined with a good risk management strategy can open a lot of doors and set agents apart from the pack.

In a recent CIC update, I took the medicare and medicaid session. Now,I’ve done that many times. I admire the instructor a lot. I took a session with him back in 2012 or 2013 and he blew me away. It was right after the Affordable Care Act had been passed and he read the 2000 plus pages of the document and taught us what we needed to know. We were talking about aspects of the ACT before anyone.

I digress…..The recent sessions I took were around medicare/medicaid and long term care and different uses of life insurance. I’ve taken several of this type of session many times over the years and I always learn something new. For example, this time I learned about the new hybrid life and long term care policies. Yes, insurance companies have finally figured it out!

What I always find interesting in these sessions is how many property and casualty agents know very little about life and health. These are agents that have been around for awhile. Many of them do this particular session because they are thinking about retiring in a few years and feel like it’s time to start learning.

Think of all the missed risk management opportunities with their clients because they didn’t know what they needed to know. Now, I would guess the same would apply to a life and health person sitting in on a property and casualty class but it’s like the hands are in front of their face saying, no, I don’t want to know about this. It’s too overwhelming and my brain can’t handle it!

I’m not saying you need to be an expert...because I do believe in focusing on one area. But you need to know a little bit...you need to know enough to ask a few questions that could lead to an introduction to someone on your team. Imagine writing car insurance for someone for 10 years and in year 11 they passed away. They left behind a wife and 3 children under 10…..and no life insurance. You talked to them every year updating their car information but because you focused on car insurance, you never asked them about life insurance. You were their trusted advisor…….

In this scenario, you probably wouldn’t get sued for not asking about life insurance, but there are circumstances that if you don’t address certain issues, and then there is a loss, you could get sued.

As an insurance professional, it is to your benefit to position yourself as a trusted advisor. To take the sales notion out of it and make sure your client is aware of what insurance products are available to protect them. It’s important for them to know what is not covered, just as much as it is important for them to know what is covered.

Don't make any assumptions.

I also offer this from first hand experience. You see my sister passed away at the young age of 36. She wasn’t sick, she just didn’t wake up one morning. She left behind 4 children. One under 5, one under 10 and 2 teenagers. She stayed home and did daycare. Her husband worked but they counted on her income as well. Plus, her staying home meant they didn’t have any daycare expenses.

When she passed, there was no life insurance. Financially, he was devastated. He lost her in come and had to pay for daycare, so it was almost a double whammy from the financial perspective. I was / am an insurance agent. I never talked to them about life insurance because I focused on commercial insurance. Losing a sibling is hard. Knowing that I never asked an important question is harder! Had I had the conversation, how different might their lives have been if there was some insurance to help them out?

A lot of times people don’t want to talk about other lines of insurance because they feel like it’s sales, but the more you know the more you realize that asking the questions builds trust, it positions you as more of a professional than an order taker and someone selling insurance. We need to work on that mindset.

There are some people who have so many designations, you have to wonder if they ever work. While it is impressive, without a doubt and in my opinion they are probably 10 times more knowledgeable than I am, it’s hard to be away from the office doing all of these classes to earn the designations!!

But having one or two designations, particularly the right ones, can make you so much more valuable to your clients and set you apart from other agents.

I’m not a big fan of actually touting the fact that you have a designation but the knowledge that it provides you will definitely pay off. The insurance designation organizations haven't done a great job educating the public to look for professionals with these designations. The CFP designation is advertised regularly and most people who are looking for a financial advisor are aware to look for someone with that designation.

There are other ways to get an education in this industry. Self study, on the job training, having a mentor and through networking. I don’t think that enough organizations have what I like to call focused networking and that’s part of the piece that’s missing.

I few years ago I attended a conference for IAIP. I interviewed several attendees for the podcast and you can hear the conversations in earlier episodes. This is an organization that has been around for awhile but recently rebranded to be more inclusive. It’s the International Association for Insurance Professionals, formerly known as NAIW, National Association for Insurance Women. Now, I’ll be honest, I'm not a member and when I went to an NAIW meeting many years ago, I felt like the youngest person in the room and I know I wasn’t the youngest at the recent event I attended. But, I could see how people might feel that way.

Yet because of the age difference, it might keep people away if there isn’t an ongoing effort to bring in young people into the organization and make them feel welcome. But getting involved in an organization like this is a great way to meet people with experience, people that can answer questions and help you build your career. I would encourage you to be a part of at least one insurance organization to meet your peers. Those friendships will be invaluable.

So to recap, consider advancing your career by obtaining a designation or two, instead of just doing CE’s to get them out of the way!

Position yourself as an advisor, ask questions like a risk manager and talk about what isn’t covered so that people understand their risks.

Get involved in an insurance organization. Not with the intent of getting business, although that could happen, but this industry needs professionals and that’s what is promoted in insurance focused organizations.

That wraps up the conversation about continuing education but I want to spend a minute to talk about marketing. What are you doing to stay in front of your clients and prospects? If you haven’t done so already, check out insurancemailboxpower.com. You see, being top of mind is essential. Yes, you can send an email which is probably more cost effective, but you have to deal with spam, being part of 100’s of emails that people receive each week and staying compliant with the Can Spam Act. You can stand out today by sending things to the mail box. A post card, a birthday card or even a be different and send a half birthday card. Not many people are doing that today! Check out insurancemailboxpower.com. And see how you can make a difference in your marketing! Tell them Debbie DeChambeau sent you!

Thank you for listening to this episode of the business of insurance podcast.

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This episode of the Business of Insurance Podcast is sponsored by Insurancemailboxpower.com

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ABOUT THE HOST

This episode of the Business of Insurance podcast is produced and hosted by Debbie DeChambeau, CIC, AAI, CPIA - an entrepreneurer, business advisor, insurance professional and content creator. Her goal is to inspire you to think differently and explore ideas that disrupt the status quo.

Debbie has an extensive business and marketing background with a focus of helping insurance professionals be more successful.

She is the co-author of Renewable Referrals and produces three other podcasts, Business In Real Life and Divorce Exposed and Seniors We Love.

Connect with Debbie on LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram.

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