Are you an educator or a policy peddler? I remember being asked that question many years ago when I entered the insurance world. The senior agent who asked me that question really helped me much more than he ever realized. That one question has stayed with me and is a huge part of how I still involve myself in the business today. Back when he asked the question, I was a new agent, desperate for a sale, and barely hanging on. In all honesty, if you were breathing, I would try to sell you something.

After hearing the question, I started to change my practice and truly it made all the difference. I became much less concerned with the sale, and much more concerned with the education. What happened was the client soon realized that I was more concerned with them than making a sale. This obviously made them feel at ease and this translated into dollars in my pocket. The other thing that happened was they became extremely loyal. They were willing to refer me to others and would pose all financial questions to me. I guess it is much like when you find the teacher that you trust and are willing to listen to what they tell you. A good teacher doesn’t lecture, but rather instills a desire in the student to learn more and ask questions. This is similar to what we do with our clients. If I sit and lecture a client on all of the details of the insurance I am presenting, they may purchase but chances are that someone else can walk in after me and the client will go with them. On the other hand, if I do a good job of educating, it is very unlikely they will leave just because of price. Right now, in health insurance, education is the one thing you as a producer can do to separate yourself from your competitors. Are you out there lecturing your client on how to save a dollar or two on the premium? There are carriers today that think price is the only driver of health insurance purchases. They are under the belief that consultants will look at price as the final determinant in client’s purchases. I tend to believe that when you work with a client, and educate them on the features and benefits of a plan, that client will take your recommendations and price will be a secondary factor in the purchase.

I will give an example of how that can work. Let’s say you sit with a client and ask questions with the intent of learning exactly what is most important to them. Initially, the client mentions that they are only concerned with the cost of providing health insurance to their employees. Does that mean you should find the lowest cost plan and sell that? If so, you are a policy peddler and I will predict that you will not survive the next three years. On the other hand, if you start by asking the client what they mean with their statement, and get dialogue started, you will learn at what level their “insurance IQ” is at and can tailor your education from there. Do they understand the basics of insurance, the cost of administration, the management of risk, and the value of health incentives? Have they considered a long term approach to controlling costs or are they merely putting a “band-aid” on the problem? By understanding the basis of their knowledge, you can start educating them on solutions. Very few business people base their purchases on cheapest. Most purchase on value. If you provide them a solid education on health insurance, they not only become a better purchaser, but they become much more loyal to the one providing the education.

My question to producers, are you yourself qualified to teach?