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  • Chris Burand

Do you really need to read the policy you are selling?

Obviously, this is an article so it does not include music. If it could include music, playing in the background would be the song, "Wouldn't it be Nice" by the Beach Boys. It is a lovely, peaceful song about young love. "Wouldn't it be nice if... Every kiss was never ending." Before reading the rest of the article, listen to the song so you have it ringing in your head as you read. It'll be more fun that way.

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Wouldn't it be nice if agents could be clueless? Wouldn't it be nice if agents never needed to read insurance policies? Wouldn't it be nice to be paid as professionals when one is a rank amateur? The last one is out of place because historically many agents were paid as professionals when they were rank amateurs. These order takers and peddlers were paid the same commission rate as true professionals. No wonder the industry has a reputational problem.


Wouldn't it be nice if true professionals had it easier selling coverages and overcoming client objections borne out of their prior experience working with peddlers? That would be a dream come true for me.


Several people have asked me recently why it is necessary to read insurance policies. They advised me they take classes so the instructor can tell them what is in the policy so they don't have to read the policy! That is a shortcut I'd never developed! It is pretty cool. It saves a lot of time. It saves brain cells.


Moreover, it would be practical if all forms were identical. Wouldn't it be nice if all insurance forms were the same... However, insurance would then be a true commodity, and no one needs agents to sell a commodity. When someone wished out loud that all forms should be the same so they would not have to learn the complexity of the content, I advised that neither insureds nor carriers need agents if all forms are the same, they were quite surprised.


I am surprised, even after all my years in this industry, how many agents have never read a single policy all the way through. I am surprised how many agents have no idea how to read a policy. I am surprised how some do not even know how to look up a clause if the section number is given to them. I do not know where not realizing it is important to read the forms crosses into laziness, but some aspect of this is a laziness factor for sure because I hear all the time, "Do you know how much time it takes to read a policy?"


Absolutely no one needs an agent who does not know the coverages and exclusions they are selling. Absolutely no one needs an agent who advises it is the insured's responsibility to read the policy, especially if the agent has never read a policy. Agents of this ilk are, frankly, dinosaurs and the asteroid is coming. The asteroid will be technology that provides quotes and applies ill fitting policies generically to every insured regardless of their needs. And, that technology can operate at around 7% commission. Even amateurs usually can’t survive on 7%.


Wouldn't it be nice if reading policies was an easier chore? Reading policies and enjoying the process is mostly for nerds. Otherwise, it is a struggle for all involved. I will always remember reading my first policy and falling asleep, face down on my desk. There are still some policies that bore me to tears to read. If you need to learn to read policies, I strongly recommend Chris Boggs' book on How to Read Policies.


Another factor that may be in play here are learning disabilities. I suspect that some agents don't read policies because they have some form of learning disability. It might be minor. It could simply be an inability to concentrate long enough. Some people just generally dislike reading. These factors should not be discounted, nor is the approach that agents should just tough it out correct. If a factor along these lines applies, the only practical solution is to employ a team member who is excellent at reading and understanding coverages who can play this role with clients and do that part of the job for you. Your inability to do this is not an excuse for it not to be done.


Wouldn't it be nice if clients understood what coverages they needed? Absolutely. I say that all the time about agency owners knowing what they need to do to be more successful. But I'd be out of business if my clients already knew all the answers and you’d be out of business too. Clients need advice and they need you to convince them to buy the coverages they do not know they needed to buy.


The value proposition is pretty simply stated: Your value is about providing the insurance coverages your clients need, not more and not less. This means tailoring the suit to fit the client. This means understanding the different forms to identify which form best fits a client rather than selling BOPs to everyone. Absolutely no one needs a tailor if every suit fits everyone the same. How many tailors exist for sweat suits?


Wouldn't it be nice if you were so good at your job that you knew your clients were fitted extremely well with the coverages they really needed? That they were so happy with how they were protected and understood and appreciated it based on the education you provided, that they tell others to buy from you? Wouldn't it be nice to be the good guy in the insurance world? Learn your coverages and learn to read forms or partner with someone who can do it for you if you have a learning difficulty, and you can be that good guy.

NOTE: The information provided herein is intended for educational and informational purposes only and it represents only the views of the authors. It is not a recommendation that a particular course of action be followed. Burand Insurance Education, Burand & Associates, LLC and Chris Burand assume, and will have, no responsibility for liability or damage which may result from the use of any of this information.


None of the materials in this article should be construed as offering legal advice, and the specific advice of legal counsel is recommended before acting on any matter discussed in this article. Regulated individuals/entities should also ensure that they comply with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations.

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