There are a lot of perks to being an insurance agent. Flexible hours, independence, remote work, and the ability to talk and connect with a variety of people make it a very appealing industry to get started in.
But, how do you become a successful insurance agent? It all starts with understanding what skills are most important to develop.
What Skills Do Successful Insurance Agents Need?
We know that becoming a successful insurance agent is an enormous challenge. Selling insurance takes a lot of hard work.
Bottom line, to be successful in this fast-paced industry, you have to know the insurance products you’re selling. But, there are also some helpful and desirable soft skills that you should develop.
Persistence and Honesty
Let’s be honest: salespeople have a bad rep. To offset suspicions that you’re trying to sell your insureds more than they need, make honesty and transparency part of your insurance business. Telling the truth upfront will help you build a successful career and boost your retention rate.
Insurance agents who deceive their insureds likely won’t build a successful business. People talk to each other and dishonest agents aren’t going to get referrals (and may get criminal charges instead).
Likewise, persistence is key to being a great insurance agent. You have to be able to deal with rejection and accept that it takes time to land an account.
Availability and Communicativeness
Good insurance agents position themselves to be readily accessible online so that people can find them and their services quickly. What comes up when people Google your name? Digital tools like websites and social profiles are key to being available to help customers.
Before hiring you, people will probably peruse your social media pages. Social media is one of the best ways for new clients to get an idea of what products you offer, your personality, and how you’ve helped others. Even if they aren’t actively looking to purchase insurance at that time, they’ll think of you when they do.
That doesn’t mean you have to be online 24/7. You can set up chatbots on Facebook Messenger or text message to handle communications when you’re out of the office. You've probably interacted with a chatbot already without even realizing it (think any virtual assistant). A chatbot is essentially a computer application programed to respond to users based on predictable scenarios or with the support of artificial intelligence. Companies often create these virtual assistants, and then connect them to messenger apps to make sure customers get their easier questions answered quickly.
Here are a few ways to be successful online:
- Set up a website with contact information and services
- Take time weekly to learn and implement online marketing strategies like blogging, paid advertising, or email marketing
- Set up a professional profile on platforms like LinkedIn
Humility and a Willingness to Learn
The best insurance agents are always learning more. Building an understanding of new products, industry techniques, and knowledge outside the insurance industry will help you provide tailored suggestions to your insureds.
If you’re working with an agency, don’t be afraid to look for training and educational tools outside of it. If you’re working to build your own agency, don’t be afraid to ask for help. All insurance agents could benefit from more knowledge in one area of expertise or another, whether that’s technology or selling skills.
6 Tips to Become a Successful Insurance Agent
Now that you know what traits you should have, let’s talk about what you can do. Here are a few tactics to help you get your name out there and build a reputation as a successful and trustworthy insurance agent.
1. Provide High-Quality Customer Service
People are looking for credibility and trustworthiness in their insurance agents, as they’ll pick up on any agents who aren’t acting with their needs in mind and solely driven to get a commission. Listen and empathize with your insureds and put them first.
You also need to know that good customer service doesn’t stop at a sale. Many insureds will have questions about their insurance policy after buying it.
One strong relationship can lead to another in the future. If you leave your insureds with a great experience, they’re more likely to refer their friends to you.
2. Be Proactive
What’s one major trait that differentiates great agents from good agents? Great agents are proactive. And it may surprise you what we mean by this. Yes, checking in on your insureds and keeping them updated on policy changes is important, but truly proactive agents also help their insureds prevent accidents.
Great agents invest in in-house risk management professionals and strategies, so they can spot problems for their insureds and address them before they turn into big issues. Not only does this save your insureds money, but it makes you a trusted and indispensable partner to them. And when something does happen, great agents have a claims liaison to make sure claims are closed out in a reasonable timeframe.
At the end of the day, the proactive agent takes as much off their insured’s plate as they possibly can.
3. Participate in Your Community
You never know where you will find your next account. Participating in your local community allows people to connect with you on a personal level that may lead them to hire you later. Look for local groups that need volunteers or board members, or even connect with other business owners in networking groups. Networking within your community and asking friends and family members for referrals will increase your book of business.
A few places to look in your community for opportunities:
- Chamber of Commerce
- School board and sport teams
- Local library
- Business networking groups
- Local charities and nonprofits
Even if people you meet in your community don’t hire you, they might refer you to people they know. More referrals equal a more successful business.
4. Network with Other Insurance Agents
Connecting with other agents is a surefire way to learn about this fast-paced industry, keep your skills up to date, and find a community of professionals dealing with similar issues. The easiest way to connect with other agents is to join a professional networking group or attend industry conferences.
A few of the most popular insurance associations include:
- The National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA)
- The Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (IIABA)
- The National African American Insurance Association (NAAIA)
- The Latin American Association of Insurance Agencies (LAAIA)
If your local community doesn’t have many (or any) networking groups or opportunities, look online. Search LinkedIn for other insurance agents (local and otherwise) and groups to connect with.
You should also set measurable networking goals and continue the relationship-building after initially connecting with other professionals. This means:
- Giving away business cards
- Connecting on LinkedIn with new contacts
- Sending follow-up emails to say thank you to new contacts
5. Sell Multiple Products
Many successful insurance agents have multiple insurance products in their portfolio. Being able to offer a selection of products (like life insurance, health insurance, and more), makes it easy to serve your insured’s needs —and keep them for the long haul instead of referring them to another insurance agent.
New agents should learn more than selling insurance. Adding financial services like tax preparation, budgeting, or financial planning will help diversify your income while providing another service for your insureds to take advantage of.
If you offer workers’ compensation insurance to your clients, consider adding Hourly to your toolkit. Hourly connects real-time payroll data to workers’ comp, so premiums are based on actual wages—and not estimates. You’ll save yourself and your insureds headaches (and maybe some money too).
6. Generate Insurance Leads with Marketing Tactics
To create a successful insurance career, you have to learn how to market yourself. While cold calling might seem like an outdated method for landing new clients, it is a free insurance marketing tactic that produces results. You could try calling local businesses to see if they have any insurance needs. Don’t forget to return phone calls quickly.
But if cold calling doesn’t appeal to you, you could also go with the non-verbal method of text messaging. That’s right—you can generate leads just with text message marketing that you can set up with a chatbot.
Why Do Insurance Agents Fail?
Unfortunately, insurance agents can and do fail. Knowing a few of the more common obstacles new and established insurance agents run into can help you avoid making the same mistakes.
They Lack Knowledge and Experience
There’re a lot of components that go into selling insurance. You have to develop marketing strategies, get an insurance license, and analyze insurance rates—all while competing with other insurance agents. New insurance agents trying to go it alone and acquire knowledge without support are more likely to fail because they may make mistakes and burn out.
Thankfully, this is an easy problem to solve. Agents can get this experience through mentoring from a more experienced insurance agent. All insurance agents, no matter how experienced, could benefit from support and advice sometimes.
They Set Unattainable Goals
It’s easy for newer insurance agents to compare themselves to more established agents and expect to make a high income with a lucrative client list. When they compare themselves to other agents who are seemingly more successful, they get discouraged and even quit.
But like any business, it takes time to build a name for yourself! Setting realistic goals with the SMART goal framework (meaning, goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) can help you slowly and successfully sell insurance.
SMART goal example: Set up a professional Instagram account and post about insurance products twice a week.
They Focus on Commissions over Service
Trying to land new accounts is a job in and of itself. But if you don’t give your existing and new insureds great service, they may choose to stop working with you.
The only effective method for keeping your insureds is to give them great service every time.
Can You Make Good Money as an Insurance Agent?
Being an insurance agent can be a lucrative career. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, insurance agents make an average of $52,180 per year (or about $25 an hour) as of 2020. And the top ten percent of earners made more than $125,500 annually. The bureau also estimates that the field is growing rapidly compared to other industries.
Depending on where you work as an insurance agent, you may have health insurance paid for through your employer or small business. Many insurance agents go on to become agency owners or small business owners—and therefore increase their earnings! ZipRecruiter reports that insurance agency owners make $72,499 per year (or $35 an hour).
As an insurance agent, you can succeed by applying just a few of these ideas to your business, but remember it will take time to build credibility and a strong base of insureds