Choosing a Life Insurance IMO/BGA – Comp Isn’t Everything

In this article I’ll cover what questions to ask a prospective BGA.  (FYI – IMO/BGA/MGA/FMO/GA are used interchangeably by agents, for the sake of this article we’ll use BGA).

More importantly, I’ll discuss why comp isn’t everything.

For full disclosure, on top of being a producing agent, I’m also co-owner of a niche Life Insurance BGA (Brokerage General Agent) but I only work with a specific group of agents – those who market online and sell over the phone.  That’s it.  I serve a small niche in the life insurance agent marketplace.

With that disclosure out of the way, let me talk about the phone calls, e-mails and just general inquires I receive about life insurance commissions that I receive on a daily basis.

“What Kind Of Commissions Do You Offer?”

That’s the #1 question I’m asked.  And I’m convinced agents are going about looking for term life insurance contracts the wrong way.

Let me tell you about my story and why I needed a specialized upline.  Then I’ll tell you what you SHOULD be asking your prospective IMO’s.

I went independent after spending 2 years at a life insurance call center.  At that call center, all I had to do was make the sale and then my processors would set everything else up – the medical exam, signature collection, underwriting requirements, etc.  Myself and other agents were placing $30k-$50k+ every month because everything was so streamlined.  After I got off the phone with a new client, I was making more phone calls.  No processing whatsoever.  My commission percentage there was 20% across the board.  I was ok with 20% because I had my marketing taken care of.  I consistently made $6k-$12k per month with a 20% commission level.  Most agents would love that sort of net income, but won’t give it a chance because of the 20% commissions.  If you’re interested in that setup, check out this opportunity.

When I saved up enough money to leave the call center and go independent, I was securing very high contracts due to my experience, production and being licensed in all 50 states.  I ended up going with a BGA that had the highest comp…BUT I had to do all my own processing and case management.  After 6 weeks of working leads and submitting applications, uploading them to the exam company, chasing down medical exam reschedules, going after requirements in UW – I was spending half my day on just admin work.  I either needed to hire an assistant and train them and hope they stick with me OR I need to take less comp and let someone else do this stuff.  I looked for the latter.

I ended up working with a BGA for 6 years because of their drop ticket platform and it worked out well.  BGA drop tickets are where an agent submits a 1 page online application and the BGA’s application team calls the client, gets the application signatures and schedules an exam.  We do this over at DigitalBGA better than anyone else now.

I basically recreated my call center experience, but I had to pay for or generate my own leads.

I tell you this story so you can see the evolution of submitting business and trust that I have experience when giving you the following advice.

Things To Consider When Choosing a BGA or IMO

High Risk Life Insurance Resources

Many agents want an underwriter on staff to send their “I got a guy with xyz” cases.  Our experience has show that agents are better served hearing from the carrier directly.

As eApps have evolved at the carrier level (like we mentioned above), so have underwriting resources.

We firmly believe that the BGA level field underwriter is obsolete.

Not only that, but their assessments are often “ballparked” when you can easily get a response directly from the carrier.  Here’s how the top 1% of agents are getting their high risk life insurance cases placed:

1) Prequalify and use a detailed questionnaire to collect all information (which you should do anyway)
2) If it’s not clear in a carrier field underwriting guide, email or call an underwriter at a carrier directly.

So your BGA/IMO should provide all the questionnaires, for all risks for you to easily grab when on the phone with a client.  They should also provide you with all the field underwriting guides and the contact information of underwriters.

By getting the answers yourself, you’re exposing yourself to valuable learning experiences.  If you’re consistently relying on someone for answers to questions, you become dependent on that person and don’t grow as an agent.

Nothing beats doing an in depth pre-qualifying job and then hearing from the carriers directly.

Sales Tools

This is where an IMO or BGA needs to shine.

This is the 21st century.  There is no reason for an BGA not to invest in technology to streamline the process for their agents.  If they’re not continually investing in technology, then they aren’t investing in you.

What can you offer me to help me sell more life insurance?

Is it easy to submit and track applications through underwriting?


Do you provide any help on the back end for case management?  If so, what does that involve?

I can tell you that having a processing team, case manager and someone going after my delivery requirements leaves me a lot more time for selling.  This is how agents are able to put up ridiculous sales numbers.

Agents should be focused on marketing and selling only.  All the backend processing should be handled by the BGA.

Marketing Help

How can you help me with marketing my business?

It’s a huge plus if your upline helps with marketing or lead programs.

I’m not talking about discounts to Netquote, InsureMe or AllWebLeads.  I’m talking about real marketing advice specific to generating life insurance leads for your business at a high ROI.

My marketing value?

If you want to buy leads – I’ll tell you where agents are getting the best ROI.  If you want to build a website and generate your own leads, I’m an open book (I have multiple websites that will place over $100k this year).  If you want to develop referral relationships – I’ll tell you what’s working and what to target.  E-mail marketing?  Great – I’ll tell you what I know.


Is there any kind of training?

My niche is helping agents sell more life insurance online and over the phone using my personal experiences as a guide.  We have on-demand training resources we update daily.

Release Policy

Will your BGA hold your contracts hostage if you decide to leave them?  Make sure there’s an open release policy.

My release policy is:  if you don’t want to work with me – don’t let the door hit you on the way out.  I’ll sign anything to release you.

Bottom Line

The majority of agents I speak with are looking for the highest commissions because they think that equals the most income.  WRONG.

I would say most agents, even the most experienced ones would be better off with better service, than the highest comp available.  Generally speaking, if a BGA is offering higher comp without proving production – they are expecting you to do more work.

There are plenty of BGAs that are hard up for agents and “buy” them with high commissions with little support.  They may promise you support, but with a smaller override on your production, they can’t.  It’s just not profitable to hand out high contracts and provide great support.

It’s a tough choice every agent has to make, but you need to realize you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

My advice: Find a BGA that can provide the most value to the way YOU do business.

For agents that want to market online and/or sell over the phone, check us out at