You're thinking of starting your own insurance agency but are not interested in becoming a captive agent that works with one insurance company. You want the freedom of being an independent insurance agent and selling insurance policies to various insurance companies. You may have picked out furniture, office plants and an office in an an ideal area with lots of foot traffic, but here comes the big catch: 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 insurance carrier so they can compare insurance policies and rates for prospective insurance shoppers. Rarely do consumers settle on just one brand anymore: Everyone wants to shop and compare insurance quotes before making a purchase.
How can you show that you can write business through 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.
Getting Direct Carrier Appointments
Getting insurance carrier appointments takes some effort and it may not happen right away so hold off on renting that office. That’s why, sometimes, working for a bigger agency or working directly for one insurance carrier is easier. 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. The insurance agent appointment process can be grueling if you're not prepared. Any kind of proof of a track record of selling and marketing helps, even if you were doing customer service work for an insurance company or agency. If you don’t have this kind of experience, you’ll want to get started on that first. Get your feet wet by working as a producer at another insurance agency.
Tips for Aspiring Independent Agents
Ideally, you want a direct appointment with established insurance carriers. 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 carrier appointments with some clout.
You may have thought you wanted to be an independent agent with many insurance carriers to work with, but you may consider becoming a captive agent to start writing business right away. Set attainable goals if you don't have much of a budget. A great company will even offer bonuses if you meet quotas and you'll have a built-in agent support network. Captive insurance agents have more direct access to a carrier and you may even have a portion of your marketing budget reimbursed through cost-share programs.
Don't give up your aspiration to sell to multiple carriers but do whatever is feasible to gain a few years of experience writing business.
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 and write new business 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 on getting an appointment.
Keep in mind that the insurance companies you're interested in may also have additional requirements after you apply.
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.