Death is an uncertain aspect of life that more often than not, disrupts our lives and those we care about. We never know when, where, or how we will meet our demise, nor how our family will be affected by our absence.
The effect of death can be physical, emotional, and most importantly financially. After your death, your loved ones may be unable to cope financially especially if you were the sole breadwinner.
That is why you’re probably thinking about taking up a life insurance policy. Life insurance is one of the best ways to ensure the financial security of your loved ones long after your gone.
The benefits they receive from the policy, will not only be able to cover your final expenses but can also be used to replace your income. At least until they can adjust to not having your financial support. Aside from considering the right life insurance policy for you, you should also consider the right life insurance agent.
Finding the right life insurance agent is just as important as finding the right policy. They will be the ones to guide you through the complicated world of life insurance.
They will help you determine what policy best fits your needs and budget. Also, considering that a life insurance policy can last a lifetime, it’s important, that the agent is someone you can trust and are comfortable with.
So, how do you go about deciding who is the right life insurance agent for you? Like with any other important decision, you need to do your research and gather as much information as possible. Get referrals if possible.
Most importantly, you should understand who a life insurance agent is, what they do, and the different kinds there are. In this post, we will cover all of that in detail as well as other minor attributes, like the qualities of a good agent and how to spot a bad one.
What Life Insurance Agents Do
As a licensed professional, a life insurance agent is skilled and equipped to sell to you life insurance policies on behalf of the insurance company. Their main goal is to ensure that you find a policy that best fits your situation.
That is in terms of your budget/finances, health, family obligations, personal circumstances, and so on. Based on these factors, the agent should be able to present you with the right policies that meet your criteria.
To begin with, the agent will work with the personal details you provide him/her, like name, marital status, age, and income. He/she will also assess your financial situation in terms of your assets and biggest expenses, before developing personalized advice for you.
As a skilled agent, he/she will be able to explain to you the benefits and shortcomings of all your options in detail. If you do find a policy arrangement that you’re happy about the agent will still keep in touch. They may contact you on occasion to see how you’re fairing concerning your policy.
A good agent should never let you feel any pressure of buying into a policy you’re not entirely sure about. They should be able to answer all your questions correctly honestly and in detail. They should keep working with you until you’re able to find the perfect arrangement for you.
How Life Insurance Agents Operate
To find you the best fit policy, a life insurance agent will start by asking you to fill out a questionnaire. Through this questionnaire, they will be able to gather the necessary personal and financial information needed.
The questionnaire will often ask questions like your personal address, employment, financial status, and family medical history among others.
Using this information, the agent is in a better position to determine which options you have or are eligible for. They can then explain in detail what the options are, what you stand to gain from each, and the risks involved as well.
Once you’re settled on a suitable life insurance policy, they will also guide you through the requirements for a medical examination if required.
Another thing to keep in mind about their operation is that there are two main types of life insurance agents. Some work for a specific insurance company and others works independently. Both operate very differently. To understand this, here is a detailed explanation:
Independent insurance agents
As the name suggests such agents work independently from the insurance company. It means that they are selling policies from different companies.
This gives you a wider variety of options when it comes to which policy best suits you. The prices will also differ based on the insurance company.
Independent agents normally work by asking the different companies to appoint them, so they can sell policies on behalf of the company without being fully employed.
That way, independent agents have access and information to many insurance companies as well as their policies. This kind of information is ideal for individuals who have never taken up a policy before and would like to know all available choices.
If as a client you want specific information about a particular policy from a particular client, then an independent agency wouldn’t be of much help. That’s because they have to carry a lot of information about several policies.
The information they offer may be detailed, therefore, but not as in-depth as the captive agent. This is one of the downsides of independent agents. The following are a summary of other advantages and disadvantages:
- Offer a wider variety of options when it comes to both policies and insurance companies.
- They offer unbiased opinions concerning policies since they do not work for any company.
- You can’t get as detailed of information about a policy from a specific company, as you’d have gotten from a captive agent.
Captive insurance agents
This is a type of agent who is employed solely by one company. Such agents often have in-depth knowledge about the life insurance policies offered by the company they work for. T
hey normally do not have the same in-depth knowledge about other companies’ products.
Since captive agents are only concerned with the products of their company, they have more time to learn everything there is to know about the products. They also have more time to focus on building a relationship with existing and new clients.
This is because they have more time to check in with clients. For these reasons, as a client of a captive life insurance agent, you can be sure to receive exceptional services.
In the same way, working with captive agents has its benefits, there are also some downsides. For starters, the insurance company usually has certain sales quotas they encourage their agents to meet.
There is a possibility that the client may not be satisfied and/or eligible for the policies the company offers. In such cases, a captive agent may not be able to help you any further. The following is a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of working with a captive agent:
- Offers in-depth information and exceptional services when it comes to their company’s policies.
- You can be sure all their staff is licensed and trained professionals.
- Can only sell what is available for the client not what is suitable, if the company doesn’t offer it.
- Knowledge of policies is limited to the products of the insurance company they work for.
- There’s the question of loyalty since the agent may be biased towards their company and not truly your interest.
How to Find the Right Life Insurance Agent?
There are many insurance agents you can contact when you need a policy. Once you have settled or have an idea of the kind of policy and the companies, you can now find the right agent.
The following are some useful tips you can apply:
References are one of the best ways you can use to get the right insurance agent for you, as long as it’s from a trustworthy source. You could ask your family or close friends about their insurance agents.
You could also approach professionals like financial planners or accountants.
Even though the source is trustworthy, ensure you conduct your assessment before settling on the recommended agent.
Look for Experience and Expertise.
If your green when it comes to life insurance then you need an agent who is well experienced to help guide you. Their knowledge and skill garnered through the years can help you find the most suitable options.
Also, ensure that they are competent with baseline knowledge about insurance. They should also be up to date with the trend in life insurance.
Check the License.
Any active agent selling you a policy must be legally and professionally licensed to do so. You should check to see whether the license is real and in good standing.
You can check their license status online. You can also check in with your state’s insurance department.
Do Your Research.
Conduct an internet search by using the name of the agents. Look for things like complaints made against the agent. Ensure the complaints are credible before considering them. Normally, complaints are a good way of predicting how a person will be happy. You can also verify the credentials of the agent.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask.
While the information you need should be unbiased, the best place to get information about a person is from the person.
You should ask the agents all the questions you have, you could as their years of experience as an agent. You could also find out what areas he specializes in that.
How to Judge A Life Insurance Agent?
The best way to judge a life insurance agent is by questioning them. Find out about their level of experience and skill. Verify their credentials and licensing.
Using this information, you can figure out how competent the agent is. While some genuine agents have professional designations, some walk around with rouge designations so you also have to be careful to know the difference.
Professional designation involves undergoing the appropriate tests like CPA and CFP. It means their credentials are genuine. Rouge designation involves gaining credentials by buying the necessary papers and certificates.
Anyone can easily earn them by doing a short course or sitting through a seminar. An example is Certified Senior Specialists. Many of these types of regulations have been banned.
Questions to Ask to Vet a Life Insurance Agent.
To identify a genuinely experienced agent, you can ask them the following questions, before deciding to bring them on board:
What type of agent are they?
You can ask them if they are independent or captive agents. Depending on the kind of information you need both types are suitable.
A captive agent is ideal for when you’re looking for specific information and an independent agent is more suitable if you’re looking for a wider variety of options.
How would they handle a client with a medical issue?
Some life insurance policies have strict restrictions on applicants with medical conditions. As experienced agents, they should know this and be able to provide you with adequate information before taking up a policy.
How do they select the products they represent?
Agents who are only looking to make a sale, do not care for the client’s interests. A good agent understands that a good policy isn’t always the one with the lowest premium. Rather they focus on what the client will get out of it and whether that is what the client needs.
How do they stay informed?
Once you settle on a policy, it is the agent’s responsibility to constantly keep track of it. They should be updated about any changes made to your policy and the effects it. That way you are also informed about the same.
What code of ethics do they follow?
As with any profession, life insurance agents follow a code of ethics, at least those with professional designations. The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA) is the largest life insurance agent association that regulates these ethical codes.
Red Flags with Life Insurance Agents.
There are always tell-tale signs in every situation that alert you about something negative. Even with insurance agents, certain red flags help you identify a bad agent. The following are some of the red flags to watch out for:
Avoiding the question.
An experienced and knowledgeable agent should be able to answer all your questions directly and honestly. If the agent gives partial responses or tries to avoid your questions altogether, you should take it as a warning sign.
No written documentation.
When presenting a policy or making a proposal, an agent may do so orally in most cases. You should, however, be provided with written documentation of the policy or proposal.
If one is not provided, ensure you ask for it, especially because your money is involved in it. If anything happens, the written documentation will act as proof in court.
A good insurance agent is there for you. For them, it is not just about making a sale, but ensuring that you are satisfied with the policy you picked.
That is why they will take the time to help you find a proper policy suited for you. If an agent, therefore pressures you into signing a proposal, you should avoid them and look for a different agent.
Isolation during discussions.
It is always a good idea to have a third party present as a witness when it comes to negotiations or contracts.
An insurance policy is a contract between you and the insurer so when negotiations are being made there should be a witness present. If the agent insists on having private discussions, that should be a warning.
Offering limited options.
Normally a good agent first assesses your needs before recommending the best options for you. If the right option for you isn’t offered by the insurance company of a captive agent, then they should be able to tell you honestly. If an agent pushes a product on you without even understanding your needs, that should make you cautious.
Qualities That Make a Good Insurance Agent.
Other than identifying the red flags or characteristics to avoid in an agent, you can also consider the proper qualities of a good life insurance agent.
The following are some of the qualities you should look or for, they’ve been grouped into three main groups:
These skills entail how the agent relates to his/her clients. It’s about how they communicate with and respond or react to the client.
An agent with proper people skills has high emotional intelligence. They know how to empathize with the client as well as tactfully change a client’s mind without bruising their ego. They are also readily available for their clients and put their needs first.
Personality and Reliance
This entails the traits and characteristics of the agent. Like with all sales professions, one needs more than charisma. A life insurance agent also needs to be persistent, honest, have high energy, but above all be very patient.
To be able to sell, one must know what they are selling. In the same way, a good insurance agent must have vast and in-depth knowledge of life insurance products. That way they can explain everything to you clearly and also be able to answer your questions.
Aside from the factors mentioned above, the right fit for you will depend on you as an individual. Considering that you and the agent will be in constant communication, it needs to be someone you click with. It should also be someone you trust to act in your best interest.