You don’t have a job. Hopefully you know that by now. People with jobs simply trade time for money and may be doing something they don’t particularly like to help them achieve some larger goal. Students working their way through college have jobs.

You, on the other hand, have a career. Your goals, we hope, are more long-term in nature, and you actually plan to be doing the same thing five years from now. Insurance, you see, is a profession, and you’re an insurance professional. With that being the case, it’s worth asking the question – what steps can you take to look more professional? Here are a few ideas.

1. Get a website. And an app.

This is no longer optional. For many clients, it’s a must. If you want to earn their business, you have to have an online presence, and possibly even a mobile presence. After all, a lot of people don’t even use a computer anymore; they only have a mobile device.

In the past, you may not have seen this as a necessity, but nowadays it really is. Prospective clients will look at your website to learn about your agency and the products you sell, read testimonials and reviews from current clients, and make sure you’re legitimate. Your clients will visit your website when they have a question or need to contact you. If they can’t find certain, basic info on your site, they’ll wonder why, and some may even search for another agent.

The good news is that websites are inexpensive and easy to build. Sure, you can hire someone and spend thousands of dollars on a custom site with lots of bells and whistles, but you can also spend a few bucks a month through a well-known website host and choose from dozens of do-it-yourself templates. If you need some help, you can probably hire a college student or freelancer for a few hours to set it up for you.

Most of today’s website templates are “responsive,” which means they work well on mobile devices. There are even some templates built specifically for cell phones and tablets that look a lot like a mobile app.

Long story short, if you don’t yet have an agency website, this should be high on your to-do list for 2017. And if you do have one, this may be a good time to review your site and update it if necessary.

2. Get a custom email address

Seriously, if you’re still using AOL or Gmail or some other free email service for your insurance business, it’s time to step up your game. Custom emails are inexpensive. Even if you don’t have a website, you can buy the domain (for less than $20 per year) and set up an email address for $10-15 per month. If you earn just one additional individual client from doing so, this investment will pay for itself.

3. Control the Conversation

With a new president in the White House and Republicans vowing to repeal and replace Obamacare, there will be a ton of interest in and articles about health insurance this year.

Not all of the information, though, will be entirely accurate. That doesn’t mean the news outlets are deliberately trying to post “fake news” or “alternative facts.” Instead, it could mean that they’re trying to explain a difficult concept that really requires more details than they have space to provide, or it could mean that they don’t truly understand the situation. Whatever the case, the end result is that our clients end up with bad information that we as agents then have to react to.

Instead, let your clients and prospects know that 1) the media can be a good source of information, but 2) much of the news can be incomplete or inaccurate and 3) you’ll help them by highlighting the facts and passing on the information that they really need. This is a great way to control the conversation and make sure your emails get opened.

We can’t overemphasize the point that you can and should be a resource not only for your clients but also for your prospects. If you’re providing better and more frequent information to your prospective clients than their current agent is, they’ll begin to look to you for guidance and advice and eventually will want to do business with you. If you seek first to provide value, you’ll be rewarded later with plenty of new clients.

If you do take our advice and either set up a website or update your current site, you might consider adding a news and/or blog section to keep your contacts up to speed.

Host an event

This is another great way to control the conversation and establish yourself as an expert. They say the best way to learn is to teach, so organizing an event to update people about the latest changes to the health reform law and answer any questions they may have is a great way to wrap your arms around the material. By necessity, you’ll do a lot of research and gain some valuable insight in the process, and that will make you a better agent.

If public speaking isn’t your favorite thing, though, that doesn’t mean you can’t host an event. You can also provide valuable information to attendees by bringing in some of your vendors to talk to the audience about the solutions they provide. They probably already have these presentations put together; they’re just waiting for you to ask them to participate.

There’s an added bonus: when you get your clients and prospects together in one room, you don’t have to tell people how great you are; your existing clients will do that for you. Over the past few years, a number of agents who work with AHCP have found employer and individual seminars to be a great way to recruit new clients while strengthening the relationship with their existing customers.

Be proactive

One final way to become a better insurance professional is to be proactive.

As an agent, you must be certain to answer your clients’ questions and do what you say you’re going to do. Obviously, this is critical; your clients expect you to be available and to respond to their concerns.

But it’s equally important not to wait for your clients to ask you for something. Instead, try to anticipate their questions and address their concerns before they even ask. Doing this requires some communication outside of renewal time. Perhaps it would be a good idea to do a mid-year review.

When you do receive the renewal offer from the insurance company—usually a few days before your clients get their copy—contact them right away. If the renewal rates bring bad news, don’t drag your feet and avoid their calls; reach out to your clients, rip off the band aid, and have the difficult conversation. Remind them that you’re just the messenger and that the high renewal isn’t your fault, but you’ll do your best to offer solutions.

And finally, when you do hear about a promising new solution, don’t wait to until your clients ask you about it. Instead, be the one to let your clients know that you’ve just heard about a new strategy that may benefit them at some point and that you’ll be in touch as you learn more. That way they can relax and trust you to tell them what they need to know when they need to know it. This practice, of course, requires regular communication with your clients.

Final Thoughts

We hope this article has given you a few ideas. Our intent wasn’t to imply that you’re not professional but rather to share some ways that you might be able to elevate your game. 2017 will be a time of massive change, and this creates opportunities for agents to win new business. The more you can do to reassure your clients and prospects that you’re on top of things and will let them know what they need to do, the more you’ll see your business grow.

At AHCP, we’ll continue to do everything we can to provide information and solutions to help you keep this promise. Let us know how we can help.