So you started an insurance agency. You have furniture, office plants and your office is in an area that’s ideal for marketing to new clients. But here comes the big catch: Did you jump the gun by opening a shop? You can’t really do much or sell any line of insurance without a relationship with at least one insurance company or an insurance network. In fact, many agents prefer appointments with more than one carrier so they can compare insurance policies and rates for prospective insurance shoppers. Rarely do people settle on just one brand anymore: Everyone wants to shop and compare insurance before making a purchase.
How can you show that you can really sell to get a direct appointment with a top insurance carrier? How realistic a goal is it for you to become an independent agent right away? Do agents always start off as exclusive agents? These are all good questions. Whether you’re a new agent trying to land your first carrier or a seasoned agent looking for more appointments, possibly in a new market, we have some advice for you on how to take the next step.
How to Get Appointed with Insurance Carriers
Getting insurance carrier appointments takes some effort and it may not happen right away. That’s why, sometimes, working for a bigger agency or working directly for a carrier helps. Insurance companies want to know that the appointments they give will be to agents who can not only sell to clients but maintain them for the long haul. Any kind of proof of a track record of selling and marketing helps. If you don’t have this kind of experience, you’ll want to get started on that first.
Ideally, you want to a direct appointment with an established insurance carrier. Their products are easier to sell and they offer the most competitive products and rates to clients and the most competitive commissions to agents. It’s a win-win situation for you and your clients if you can land a direct appointment like this. You may have thought you wanted to be an independent agent with many carriers you work with, you may even consider becoming a captive agent if it seems more within reach. Do whatever you have to do to gain a few years of experience. Even more importantly, build a book of business to show them!
Also, don’t underestimate your location. While the Internet is changing things and the 5-mile radius rule is slowly being put to rest, insurance still operates based on territory. You need to show a prospective carrier that you can market their insurance products in desirable territories.
A Business Plan
You’ll also need a good business plan and proposal. Carriers prefer to see that you have a strategy in place, not just the experience of selling with lots of guidance from a manager. They want to see that you’re thinking long-term. Remember that nothing written in an insurance business plan is set in stone. This is a constantly shifting and changing document that you will be revisiting to check in on your progress with aims and goals. See more details on how to draft a business proposal and a link to a free template you can use to get started.
Indirect Markets vs Direct Appointments
Indirect markets include wholesalers and managing general agencies (MFAs). If you work with wholesalers and MGAs, they have very low if any volume commitments. You will get paid per transaction (this comes from fees that are paid by the client’s policy). This is a great way to hone your selling skills and build up some experience. If you’re having a hard time getting direct appointments from insurance carriers, this may be a great way to start.
What’s an Insurance Network?
Insurance networks are organizations that often give new agents selling opportunities and even advancement to direct appointments. They work similarly to a co-op. Even though members get paid there is a membership fee and you contribute a percentage of your commissions to the organization. Contractual agreements vary from one insurance network to the next. These networks are also called insurance alliances, insurance aggregators and insurance clusters.
Show Growth and Profitability
Most insurance carriers will want to see three to four years worth of reports that point to growth and profits. Save your production and claims reports. Add anything that shows underwriting profit for a period of time.
No matter where your new career takes you, you will always live and breathe insurance leads in order to meet your sales goals. Generating leads is part of the job of being any type of agent and so is understanding that not all leads will convert to sales. Some carriers are more helpful than others in feeding their representatives insurance leads, but you can also do some of the footwork on your own. If the idea of growing an Internet presence or advertising to market yourself doesn’t appeal to you, you can get as good (if not better) a return on investment from buying insurance leads from a trusted source like SmartFinancial. Not only do they offer leads for auto insurance, home/renters insurance and commercial insurance, but they generate the best organic leads for health and life insurance too. This may save you money versus hiring an agency to promote you.