Branding of Agents Professional Image
Insurance and takaful agents should carry pride in professionalism. So, what sort of professional standards are we talking about?
Azizi Ali in his article, ‘Two Questions To Ask An Agent’, advises us to hire top scorers and experienced agents to get the best advice. According to him, if an agent approaches you about a financial product, ask him these two questions, “When did you take the (relevant) exam?” and, “Did you score or did you just pass?” The reasons behind these questions are that the better agents who score high marks in their (relevant) exams are most likely to continue improving themselves by reading books and attending seminars. In other words, the agents’ upbringing and professional education mirror their character, habit, attitude and perception of life.
An insurance or takaful agent’s job is no longer just a mere side income option or a part-time job. It has become a full-time committed job, like all other professional fields. Unfortunately, there are continuing misconceptions about the roles of agents but these misconceptions are quickly being corrected through quality training conducted by a professional body, The Malaysian Insurance Institute (MII).
In other words, as a professional, an insurance or takaful agent must be well-trained, posseses relevant qualifications and be a member of the MII. There needs to be more awareness of MII professional insurance qualifications such as AMII, DMII, CMII towards producing qualified insurance or takaful agents, not to mention CEILLI, PCEIA and TBE, respectively. We also need to let the public know of other ways in which we, the agents, are raising professional standards. “If you want to stay abreast of the new innovations and ideas in your industry, then you have to view your education as an ongoing lifelong pursuit,” says Karen McCreadie in her book, 'Frank Bettger’s How I Raised Myself From Failure To Success In Selling'. She also adds that training and learning must be tempered with activity, otherwise it is pointless. In this regards, the 'activity' should turn an idea (know-what) i.e. the facts gained from the training and learning into action (know-how) i.e the practical knowledge of how to get something done. For instance, from the training and learning, you know that prospecting for a potential buyer (knowwhat) is one thing but how to prospect (know-how) is another thing. The latter needs the activity of really practising the knowledge gained in a real life situation. It's practical in nature. It's a practical knowledge that helps us read situations correctly and get what we want. The best way to know how to use the knowledge gained is to apply it as many times as possible. Whatever we are trying to master, we must dedicate time and effort to practise. We've got to drill and drill and drill! It is this relentless practise that make someone an expert in anything. In other words, whatever knowledge is gained must be turned into action. Only then, the time and money you spend will be the best investment you have ever made. Awareness and education will have to go a long way to change the public’s perception about insurance or takaful agents. They must be technically trained for their profession, just like a doctor or as an engineer. Gone are the days when insurance or takaful was a refuge for people who were unsuccessful elsewhere. Today, it calls for agents who can measure up to standards and ethics as high as those of any established
An insurance or takaful agent’s job is no longer just a mere side income option or a part-time job. It has become a full-time committed job, like all other professional fields.
profession, not to mention branding themselves as professional insurance or takaful agents. “This is crucial because insurance should be a profession that insurance practitioners must take pride in and where they provide sound professional advice to clients in order to manage their risks both technically and commercially,” says Thomas Hoong in What do Agents Really Think?
Why is a professional insurance or takaful agent’s service different from other typical agents? One obvious element is meeting customer expectations. However, it is of no use if the agent has no sales record and if no one wants to buy from him because in the public perception, his service is not of the quality they expect. The agent, on the other hand, must understand that the quality of his service is not what he anticipate, foresee, judge or perceive. What is important is the anticipation, foresight, judgement and perception of his customers that will determine the true quality of his professional service.
Keeping Existing Clients
Keeping Clients is Your Choice – This is an idea by Craig W. Pergerson CLU, ChFC in MDRT Sales Ideas That Work. Insurance or takaful agents’ competition is generally not from other advisors, but from the media. Many of the agents’ existing clients spend more time getting information about financial topics from television programmes and the internet than they do from their agents.
Craig believes that the secret to maintaining excellent client relationships is staying in close touch with them. The objective is to eliminate or neutralise competition as much as possible, not to invite it.
Keep One Step Ahead Of The Pack
So, how do you break away from the group of ordinary, average and new agents, and be one step ahead of the rest of the pack? According to Dr Joseph Eby Ruin in his Keeping One Step Ahead of the Pack, he advocated that we need to have our strategy that may have to be different from others. The strategy could be to revisit our SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis. Play to our strengths and capitalise on our opportunities, while we make sure our weaknesses will not overshadow us, and all threats are warded off and carefully managed.
A Mentor-Mentee Relationship
He further advises to seek the support and influence of those in power, whom you know or are acquainted with. They will be more than happy to help if they know it is for your own good and improvement in your career, profession or business, and they will more readily do so if they also know that by lifting you up they will also benefit from your success. For instance, a mentormentee relationship between a life insurance or family takaful agent and his leader or agency manager. This fact is supported by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers: The Story of Success. According to him, no one – not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses – ever makes it alone.
Know Your Profession
In his book Personal Power through Creative Selling, Elmer G. Leterman stresses that we need to know our profession well. The beginning of any journey is deciding where you want to go. The beginning of making the life you want is deciding what you want to be. This is the first step in making a success out of our job as an insurance or takaful agent. In other words, we need to decide what we want to do, learn all we can about the job we have chosen, practise what we learn and reappraise what we practise continually so as to correct faults. “There are also advantages in specialising, as it allows the planner to go deeper into a particular area before providing a solution for the client,” says Paul Khoo, CEO of Standard Financial Planner Sdn Bhd. “Always be willing to refer to other experts if you are not competent in one particular area,” adds Celine Tan in her “What makes a good financial planner?” Don’t lead the blind just for the sake of meeting your production goals and targets. This could tarnish the image and reputation of every insurance or takaful agent in the industry in the eyes of the public if your clients later find out that the advice given by you earlier was totally false. In order to be successful insurance or takaful agents, we need to take pride in what we do because this is a noble profession. Danny Yap CLU, ChFC in Everyone Needs A Plan says that each of us should nurture this belief in order to be of true value to all our clients.
Sending The Right Signals
According to Chris Hanks in A Passion for Professionalism, the need to regain public trust and confidence has never been more important as the economy struggles to get going and individuals and families grapple with reduced spending power. There is now a common agreement that regaining public trust is best achieved by raising the standards of our professionalism. Talking about professional insurance or takaful agents, the agents themselves definitely need to raise their professional standards. Changes in technology mean that computers now execute the paper-pushing tasks, which used to occupy many agents’ time. However, computers remain computers. Policyholders still need the ‘personal touch’ when dealing with insurance companies or takaful operators especially with regards to professional technical advice on underwriting and claims matters. Definitely, computers could not replace this. In addition, with changes that are taking place at an alarming pace in the insurance and takaful markets, the need for highly qualified professionals, especially the agents, has never
Awareness and education will have to go a long way to change the public’s perception about insurance or takaful agents.
been greater. There is a crucial need for professionalism at the agency level in the insurance and takaful industries. MII, being a leading insurance professional body for people engaging in the Malaysian insurance and takaful fields, can surely enhance the quality of the insurance and takaful agents. In the end, is having professional related qualifications really relevant in order to be a professional insurance or takaful agent? Would you even consider going to a doctor who did not have the proper credentials or the expertise, or any other professionals if they did not have the right qualifications and the experience? I don’t think so. The same holds true for insurance or takaful agents. If the insurance or takaful agent does not have the proper qualification, knowledge, skill, expertise and experience, any advice he gives to his clients could be the wrong advice. Therefore, insurance or takaful agents must make sure that they are qualified and experienced enough to chart their customers’ financial future. So, once again I am asking you (if you are really serious about your profession), is having professional qualifications relevant? Well, the answer is in your hands. i
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PERSONAL MONEY, July 2011, p. 93. 5. Sunthara Segar, RAHSIA MENGURUS INSURANS HAYAT – Panduan Mengurus Risiko Peribadi dengan Insurans Hayat, PTS Professional Publishing Sdn Bhd, Cetakan Pertama 2008, ms. 176-179. 6. Registered Financial Planner (RFP) Course: MODULE 1 – FUNDAMENTALS OF FINANCIAL PLANNING, 4th Edition 2005, Malaysian Financial Planning Council (MFPC), p. 4-1 to 4-35 (Chapter 4. Professionalism & Ethics in Financial Planning Practices). 7. Stephen Womack, PROUD TO FOLLOW THIS CHARTERED COURSE, The Times – Thursday, September 26, 1996. 8. Dr Joseph Eby Ruin, KEEPING ONE STEP AHEAD OF THE PACK, Leeds Publications, Second Edition 2009, p. 11-12, 95-96. 9. Elmer G. Leterman, PERSONAL POWER THROUGH CREATIVE SELLING, Collier Books, Eleventh Printing 1980, p. 10, 23-31. 10. Danny Yap CLU, ChFC, EVERYONE NEEDS A PLAN – Making it to the Million Dollar Round Table and Beyond, A Springfield Consultancy Publication, 2004, p.8. 11. MDRT SALES IDEAS THAT WORK, MDRT, 2009, p.
/ 20. 12. Malcolm Gladwell, OUTLIERS –The Story of
Success, Back Bay Books, 2008, p. 132. 13. Chris Hanks, A PASSION FOR PROFESSIONALISM, CII: The Journal, June/July 2011, p. 4. 14. Celine Tan, WHAT MAKES A GOOD FINANCIAL PLANNER?, Personal Money magazine, Issue #118 June 2011, p. 31-33. 15. Karen McCreadie, FRANK BETTGER’S HOW I RAISED MYSELF FROM FAILURE TO SUCCESS IN SELLING, MPH Bookstores, 2010, p. 32-33. Raja Ahmad Khiruddin bin Raja Hizadin is an Associate of the Malaysian Insurance Institute (AMII) and also an Affiliate Registered Financial Planner (Affiliate RFP). A Takaful Agent by choice, Freelance Writer by chance and he can be contacted at email@example.com.