Brand­ing of Agents Pro­fes­sional Im­age

In­surance and taka­ful agents should carry pride in pro­fes­sion­al­ism. So, what sort of pro­fes­sional stan­dards are we talk­ing about?

Insurance - - AGENCY - by Raja Ah­mad Khirud­din

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.

Pro­fes­sional Im­age

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?

Strat­egy

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

Ref­er­ences

1. Fo­cus: PRO­FES­SIONAL IN­SURANCE AGENTS, MII IN­SURANCE mag­a­zine, Is­sue06/2010/Q4, Oc­tDec 2010; p. 29. 2. Michael Kok Fook On PKC, Pro­fes­sional In­surance Agents - ARE THEY THE NEW FI­NAN­CIAL SAVIOUR TO THE ECON­OMY?, MII IN­SURANCE mag­a­zine, Is­sue06/2010/Q4, Oc­tDec 2010; p. 30-39. 3. In­ter­view by Nur Fa­zliana Mohd Zuki & Com­piled by Seow Mei Ling, WHAT DO AGENTS REALLY THINK?, MII IN­SURANCE mag­a­zine, Is­sue06/2010/Q4, Oct-Dec 2010; p. 40-44. 4. Az­izi Ali, TWO QUES­TIONS TO ASK AN AGENT,

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 kuhir1969@hot­mail.com.

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