Are you an agent looking to switch insurance IMOs?
Or are you thinking about getting your insurance license, or are a new agent learning more about how independent marketing organizations work?
Perhaps you are unhappy with your current insurance FMO (field marketing organization) or IMO.
Maybe you are evaluating other opportunities to see if switching is beneficial to your career selling insurance.
If that’s the case, you’ve found the right article!
The purpose of this article is to help you understand how the best insurance IMOs and the top insurance FMOs work.
Specifically, I discuss how field marketing organizations have a direct impact on your insurance business.
NOTE: Are you an aspiring or new insurance agent looking for more insight on how the insurance sales industry works? Check out my free New Insurance Agent Resource Guide to help answer many of your questions (as well as ones you didn’t know you had!).
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If you’ve ever asked yourself, “What is an IMO?”, here’s the answer:
IMO is short for “independent marketing organization.”
You will see designations like FMO (field marketing organization) and NMO (national marketing organization) used interchangeably.
Regardless FMO, IMO, or NMO, insurance IMOs recruit agencies and agents to represent their insurance carriers to promote and sell insurance policies.
IMO vs. FMO: What’s The Difference?
So, what’s the difference between an IMO versus an FMO?
In short, nothing =).
Both recruit agents and agencies to sell their particular insurance products.
Independent marketing organizations are perceived as larger than field marketing organizations.
Either way, they’re pretty much the same thing.
Most marketing organizations specialize in one market or type of insurance product.
Take for example my national FMO.
I specialize in recruiting agents and agencies to the senior insurance market.
We offer products like:
The structure of an insurance FMO is hierarchical in a pyramid-like shape (but not necessarily a pyramid scheme).
For example, the insurance carrier rests at the top, a few large-producing top insurance IMOs and NMOs are located underneath.
Below, there are a multitude more field marketing organizations, IMOs, and agents work beneath near the bottom of the pyramid.
Working Direct To The Carrier
Many agents ask,
“Why not avoid joining a life insurance IMO entirely, and work directly with the carrier?”
This simply is not possible with most carriers.
Instead, you’re forced to do business with an insurance marketing organization, whether you like it or not.
Let me give you some historical context to better explain why carriers rarely recruit agents directly.
A Shift In Sales Force Recruiting Strategies
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, captive agent forces direct to the carriers created the vast majority of new insurance policy production.
As the insurance industry experienced competitive pressures, many carriers redesigned their business model.
And one of the big changes many carriers made was to switch from a direct agent recruiting strategy to a third-party recruiting strategy.
Thus the independent marketing organization model to recruit, train, and manage insurance agents was born.
Nowadays, the majority of new insurance sales flows through the insurance marketing organization channel.
Estimates put total insurance production through the insurance FMO channel between 80% to 90% of TOTAL production.
Direct-To-Company Opportunities Still Exist
With that said, you will find direct-to-carrier recruiting models still used successfully.
Recently, we have witnessed big companies eliminating their direct-to-carrier field force in favor of the independent model.
For example, American General fired its entire career force back in 2016 in one fell swoop.
Some 5,000 people were axed at the same time.
Why did they do that?
It costs a lot of money to maintain a sales force. A company must pay benefits like health insurance and pensions.
And the perception is that the insurance IMO model offers the ability to reduce costs without necessarily reducing the same level of production.
Expect To Work With An IMO
The bottom line in all this?
Odds are you won’t have a direct-to-carrier appointment, and must work with an insurance IMO.
And if that’s the case, you owe it to yourself to carefully discern how different insurance field marketing organizations and IMOs work, so you can pick the best for your business goals.
What exactly do the best insurance FMOs and IMOs do for its agents?
A lot. Or a little. =)
Ultimately, it depends on the value-proposition.
And part of your investigation depends on you knowing what is important in a relationship with an independent marketing organization.
So, ask yourself,
“What will the insurance FMO provide me to help me succeed in selling insurance?”
As an insurance agent, you are critical to the success of the marketing organization.
You need to question the IMO on the value they bring to you.
What value do life insurance marketing organizations bring?
Some offer nothing beyond an insurance carrier appointment. You get no product support, no sales training.
Basically, they treat you like you’re entirely on your own.
For some, that’s great! For many, it’s not.
Especially for newer agents and some experienced agents, having support and training available is vital.
It’s not enough for most to just have an insurance carrier affiliation to see success.
Instead, you may need sales training, product training, and lead/prospecting systems to achieve long-term career success.
Smart insurance marketing organizations provide these resources at no cost to their agents.
Why? Because well-trained agents sell more policies.
How My Insurance IMO Operates
In my insurance IMO, I recruit agents at great commission levels.
Also, I offer proven sales and marketing systems to help them become top producers.
New agents start slightly lower than experienced agents, but move to top levels after a few months’ worth of production.
All the while, they learn the craft of selling insurance.
Further, they gain access to systems that keep them busy with interested prospects.
My ideal agent is entrepreneurial and doesn’t want micromanagement. They are self-motivated, and don’t need to “drink the Kool-Aid.”
While they expect support and training when necessary, they appreciate being left alone to run their business the way they want to.
Beyond an obvious attempt to self-promote (I’m a salesman after all =), the point in describing how my insurance IMO works is to better define what my target market is, and by default, tell you who I am NOT interested in recruiting.
For example, their are insurance agents who’d be much-better suited to Lincoln Heritage.
They lead finance agents who don’t have the money to invest in a lead program.
Plus, there is higher micromanagement which more employee-minded agents need that you won’t find elsewhere.
Bottom line… figure out what matters to you, and finding the perfect insurance marketing organizations becomes much easier.
How To Rate An IMO
Joining an insurance IMO is vastly different than interviewing for a job in another industry.
As much as the life insurance IMO will interview you, you should interview them just as much.
Because insurance field marketing organizations play such an important role in your experience.
It’s vital to seek a mutually-beneficial relationship for the long-term.
Any sense of mismatch or attempt to compromise your values WILL result in long-term damage to your insurance sales career.
However, if you take the time to find an IMO more in tune with who you are and your values, you’ll profit immensely in the long-run.
Questions To Ask
In no particular order below, are the top questions to ask any top life insurance IMO you’re considering partnering with.
So, take notes, and let’s begin =)…
The first question to ask is whether or not the insurance IMO offers a release.
A release is the contractual agreement for your current insurance IMO to sign off on moving your carrier appointments to a new insurance FMO or IMO.
Why is this important?
A field marketing organization allowing releases gives you a “Plan B” option if your working relationship sours.
Here’s the thing…
Most Don’t Release
While you’d assume a release request is fair, the truth is most insurance IMOs do NOT allow it.
That’s right. They FORCE you to keep your carrier appointments with them, even if you don’t want to do business.
And the only way to get out is to STOP producing with those carriers for 6 months.
At that point you are a free agent, and can contract with any insurance marketing organizations you please.
When asking about releases, listen closely.
If the independent marketing organization representative acts disturbed, pissed off, and/or arrogant, hold them accountable!
Consider not working with them, even if the rest of their proposition sounds good.
100% Day 1 Vesting
Determining who actually OWNS the block of business you write is paramount.
I’ve talked to tons of agents who have significant insurance sales success but no income stream to show.
Each time they partnered with a life insurance IMO, they gave COMPLETE ownership of their clients to the organization.
Owning Your Book Of Business
“Vesting” means that you own your book of business. Ideally, you want complete ownership from Day 1.
And complete ownership means those clients are YOUR clients, not the IMO’s.
Added, if you leave the agency, you’ll continue to receive commission payments on first year and renewal payouts.
There are rare opportunities where you may forego immediate vesting.
For example, if you are cash-strapped and the insurance field marketing organization or IMO is financing your lead generation activity, then vesting may become a negotiable item.
Regardless, if you are footing the bill on your insurance leads, I believe first-day 100% vesting should NOT be negotiable.
Ask for clarification on initial commission percentage levels, and what it takes to increase those levels.
Ask to see any commission levels in writing, not just word-of-mouth.
For example, I provide my new agent recruits with commission grids detailing commission levels with each products.
I also provide an overview in writing on how new agents can elevate their commission levels higher.
Evidence Of Success
Lastly, the best insurance IMOs should have agents willing to provide positive testimonials on their experience.
In my early years of searching for insurance marketing organization partnership, I’d ask the recruiter:
“I like everything I’m hearing. I’d like to talk to three of your employees that have had good success with you. Feel free to just send me their contact information. I’d love to talk to them to see what they have to say about working for your company.”
Asking for 3 successful agent referrals is powerful.
Doing so provides insight on how the recruiter/insurance IMO owner acts in providing proof of his claims.
Plus, all good organizations have at least 3 people that are happy and successful.
Any push back on this request is a red flag!
Talking to agents who are employed by the company will give you a sober perspective on the life insurance IMO.
You’ll see the differences between the projected image the company provides in the interview versus what it’s really like in the trenches.
Long story short, the best insurance FMOs and IMOs are important partners in your career.
Your job is to find the best independent marketing organization that matches your business goals.
My value proposition as a life insurance marketing organization is very simple.
I recruit new and experienced agents and train them to become top producers.
I match them with a sales and marketing program that fits their budget, and provide on-going support and mentoring to help them grow.
My program is not for everybody.
It’s designed for the entrepreneurial, those who can operate without pats on the back or Kool-Aid drinking sessions.
My passion is on increasing an agent’s production, helping him master the craft of selling insurance, and supporting them into new ventures like cross-selling different products or building his own agency.
Trust Is Everything!
Most importantly, my goal as an insurance FMO is to recruit agents who want a relationship with someone they can trust.
Someone who is NOT going to steer them the wrong way, and won’t shortchange them on maximizing commission levels.
Having an IMO or insurance field marketing organization you can trust in your corner makes a tremendous difference.
Interested in selling insurance and learning more about my insurance FMO?
Learn more about the different sales and marketing programs I offer to agents such as final expense, Medicare Advantage, annuities, and mortgage protection here.
That’ll give you all sorts of information about how my insurance IMO works.
Thanks for reading!