No doubt, there’s plenty to know to be an effective producer in life insurance — an industry chock full of changes.
“The rate of change is so rapid; it’s foolish to think you can keep up with it by yourself,” says Jack Dewald, who’s been in the insurance industry for nearly 30 years and is president of Agency Services, a full-service life and health brokerage agency in Memphis, Tenn. “Keeping up in the industry is critical to success.”
Dewald and other industry insiders say one of the biggest mistakes producers make when it comes to continuing education is procrastinating, waiting until just before their state licensing renewal applications are due and then taking crash courses to cram for the exam, just like a disorganized college student.
Gary Henkel, CEO of WebCE, a company that offers insurance continuing education, agrees and says dragging your feet hurts, which can cause undue stress and depress the actual learning experience.
Dewald says what’s even more unfortunate is agents often rely on crash courses as their only form of continuing education.
“Don’t get me wrong, crash courses serve a purpose, but you shouldn’t rely on them as your only source of training,” Dewald says. “In our industry, there are no shortcuts to becoming successful.”
Another mistake, Henkel says, is taking continuing education just to fulfill requirements. “Some advisors simply look for CE providers that tout how fast a producer can complete a course and receive credits,” he says. “I believe individual producers benefit more from spending time in the course and improving their professional knowledge.”
And he warns to be wary of taking more continuing education than may be needed. “Those who hold both a state insurance license and a professional designation, such as CFP, can save time by finding CE providers that offer courses approved for multiple licenses or designations.”
Fundamental sales training
Dewald recommends Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF) classes.
“They’re the best,” Dewald says. “And for more advanced training, The American College offers a large menu of practical courses. Some are more academic than others, so if you don’t know which direction to go, ask.”
Dewald adds that while home offices provide updates, they’re from the carrier’s perspective.
“Consider tapping a good local brokerage shop if you can use one,” Dewald says. “Brokerage agencies are typically on the cutting edge of what’s going on in the market, especially those that are members of NAILBA [National Association of Independent Life Brokerage Agencies].”
Dewald advises getting involved in local chapters of National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.
“When you do that, you get access to top minds in the industry every month at local meetings,” he says. “We’re fortunate. Not many other industries have a situation where direct competitors are so willing to help each other succeed.”