How to Be a Successful Insurance Agent

Fran Majidi
April 22, 2021
How to Be a Successful Insurance Agent

Despite what you may think, the insurance industry is an exciting one with financial success within your grasp. If you’re thinking of becoming an insurance agent, you may wonder what it is that you need to do to make the sort of income they create reality shows about. Success in the insurance business requires hard work and resiliency; the great pay will come with some sweat.

Which Insurance Agents Succeed?

The good news is that there is no one type of insurance agent who finds success in the industry. In fact, successful insurance agents have different approaches in the way they generate leads, where they buy leads, how they quote customers and how they convince them to buy their insurance products over a competing business. With that said, there is one thing all successful insurance agents have in common: they are fully engaged with the customers they meet.

Insurance Agents Must Call Clients To Check In

When insurance agents are scouring the consumer market in hopes of selling insurance (whether it’s auto, health or life insurance) they are following up consistently, either on their own or by hiring focused producers and customer service representatives who are barely coming up for air between phone calls. The key is to maintain existing client relationships in between finding new customers.

As you can see, it's easy to be a successful insurance agent if you're comfortable with all types of people and if you like making phone calls. For many agents, work is about having dozens of best friends!

Even when prospects are shopping for insurance online, you’ll likely close a sale over the phone. Half the time, you’re trying to just get people on the line and you’ll have to deal with rejections, rudeness and tough questions. You can’t give up if a sale doesn’t happen right away, and not giving up after hearing a no is also part of the job.

Here are some important questions and tips about how to be a successful insurance agent and run your business like a pro!

Do Insurance Agents Meet Face-to-Face with Customers?

While face-to-face interactions with customers once played the most important role for a successful insurance agency, it is now a less important strategy than snapping up shoppers while they are in the middle of their digital shopping journey. Yes, customers are buying insurance online more than ever, and for you that can be a goldmine. Meetings take place on Zoom or Google Chat.

How Do Insurance Agents Find Clients Starting Out?

First, let’s make sure you have a working agent website, so people can find you. Next, you’ll want to first scour your warm market. A warm market is made up of people you already know, even if you’ve only met once. You must approach everyone you’ve ever said hello to, with the insurance products you’re trying to sell. This is how you start a base of clients, before exploring the Internet.

You can meet with these people face-to-face if they prefer it, but much of your work can be done over the phone and via email, even text. If the prospects of insuring everyone you’ve ever met sounds appealing, you are on your way to becoming a successful insurance agent. Shy people need not apply!

When you begin to buy insurance leads and generate your own through marketing efforts (more on marketing, if you scroll), you will also probably do much of your work over the phone, especially as you slowly grow the territories you want to cover. In time, you may even expand into other states!

Why You’ll Need to Buy Insurance Leads and Calls

Only after you’ve depleted your warm market, you should begin to buy insurance leads and transfer calls. Depending on which insurance company or companies you work with, you may have gotten recommendations on which vendors to test out.

Testing out vendors will mean committing to more than a couple of months. For instance, with SmartFinancial, the fastest-growing insurance comparison site, the lead program for insurance agents improves in a steady incline, so if the insurance agent bails after the first two or three months, they’ve wasted money.

The second most important thing to remember is that you are making an investment, which means that over time you will see a profit. Selling insurance is not a get-rich quick scheme. There are some dazzling talents out there that go against the grain and close sales with 80% of the people they contact but you should be thrilled if your close ratio is 25%. The average insurance company closes at 20%! So put your expectations into perspective.

Another thing to keep in mind when buying leads is that the marketing is done for you. Marketing takes hard work and a considerable budget, for internet ads, print ads, postcards and the like. When you buy internet leads and calls, you get people on the phone without much effort. You’ve essentially paid the vendor to do your marketing for you.

Doing a hybrid strategy of doing your own marketing and buying leads is how to be the most successful insurance agent. The trick is to have multiple prospects in the pipeline at all times. Always assume that you’ll lose 80% of the business that you want, but strive to get past 20%. Once you hone your sales skills, you may even be one of those talented agents who can close 90% of sales. The trick is to evaluate your approach at every turn and tweak it based on how you’re received.

Can Insurance Agents Improve Their Close Ratio?

The great thing about SmartFinancial’s lead program is that all calls are recorded. Going over your past conversations, especially the ones that don’t pan out, will teach you a thing or two about how to approach customers. Selling insurance is all about earning trust in people. The bottom line may be how much you can earn in premiums, but first things first: get your prospects to believe in you first. Be self critical as you analyze your insurance sales strategies, and you’ll be further along much more quickly.

Focus on the Value of Relationships with Customers

You can’t just focus on pay; Caring about what you do, the advice you give when you answer a question, will earn you success. This means that you have to know your stuff. You carry a heavy responsibility if you’re just telling them what you think is good advice. If it means cracking open your notes or researching insurance topics online, be sure that your advice will secure the financial well-being of your clients, not the opposite.

If you’re taking advantage of the trust you’ve earned and are selling a client with a jalopy full coverage car insurance, they’re bound to find out that they’ve been swindled. If you’re selling universal life insurance to an old man who has no one to leave the savings to, you won’t feel good about the kind of business you conduct, and if word gets out, your reputation won’t be worth the sale.

Explaining the most basic insurance concepts to people is a must; most prospects don’t know how insurance works. Giving an example of unfortunate clients who did not heed your advice may also help.

Don’t try to rush the customer to the cash register with your advice without setting their mind at ease and making sure they understand what each coverage means. In the end, the more support you give each client, the more likely it is that that person won’t leave you for a cheap rate. This is how you build a good book of business: earning customer loyalty.

How Can the Internet Help an Insurance Agent Succeed?

One advantage of being connected on the internet is that you have more ways to connect with a customer and, if they are active on social media, you can learn many things about them, which helps on many different levels. Not only does familiarity about a prospect help you engage them in a casual conversation, you’ll be better able to advise clients on what types of insurance they need. For instance, an unmarried woman with no children will be a hard close for life insurance, unless you’re looking to sell a death benefit only. For car insurance, however, the same profile may be just right.

Are You Quick Tempered?

It’s important to always be cordial and never leave a phone call on a sour note. A client will talk about you with their family and friends, who may also become customers. You also have to put in some hard work to find prospects outside of your own close circles. In the competitive insurance market, you'll need to keep prospects in the pipeline and that often means generating and buying insurance leads. If you work hard at protecting a family and their financial interests, you will succeed through word-of-mouth.

Doing Your Own Marketing

If you have an insurance agency and are selling for a company that gives its agents marketing materials and tips on how to succeed in the industry, great. But you can sell insurance for several carriers as an independent agent and achieve success too. You’ll just have to market your insurance agency on your own.

Many agents, independent or captive, sustain themselves by either buying a book of business or buying lots of leads instead of putting a big push towards marketing. However, agents who do both are the most successful.

The bottom line is that every day you need to speak to new people in the market to buy insurance. Whether you’re spending money on advertising and printed materials or buying leads or both you need to sell your insurance agency above price to retain clients.

Retaining clients by creating a newsletter is important too: call it retention marketing because it puts you top of mind with clients and keeps you connected. You don’t have to send an email every week, but touching base at least once a month is a great way to promote other products you are selling, like life insurance, if you primarily sell auto insurance. Teaching your clients about various products with tips on how to use them will help you cross-sell other insurance products.

Life Insurance: Possibly the Hardest Product To Sell

If you’re a life insurance agent primarily, you know how life insurance is the stepchild of the insurance industry, through no fault of its own. Life insurance is an important product for people who want to ensure the financial well-being of their families if the unexpected happens. Not all people who buy life insurance are seniors either and there is a large market to be tapped, even to insure infants! Remember that unlike term life insurance, there are products that can support a customer’s goal of saving towards college or opening a business one day. Your knowledge about the various life insurance products and the savings component of some types of life insurance your insurance company offers is important because each call you make is an opportunity to educate a client about a product many Americans put off until it’s too late.

Your success in closing life insurance sales depends on how successful you are about broaching a subject some agents find difficult to talk about. However, there should be no awkwardness in trying to sell a life insurance product designed to protect loved ones. Talking about death and life insurance is only as awkward as you make it! SmartFinancial partners with many successful life insurance agents, and we can support your goals of selling life products as well.

Skills and Knowledge You Need To Be Successful

Many agents come from a sales background and immediately find success in an insurance career. Others have a hard time with insurance sales because they underestimate the importance of successful customer service strategies. A good agent will go the extra mile, maybe even call the DMV on a client’s behalf. Insurance sales skills include customer service skills.

If you run an agency with several insurance agents and no customer service representative, each insurance agent must service each one of their clients, or you will lose customers at renewal. You must work throughout the life of the account to check in to see how they are doing and what’s new in their life. You can easily up-sell and cross-sell insurance along the way if your clients believe in you.

Insurance agents who have expertise beyond what they learned during the licensing process are more successful than those who only know the bare minimum. For example, if you sell business insurance, you must understand which products a certain type of business needs even when the owners have no idea. Your number one job is to safeguard your client’s financial security. If you fail at doing that and your client loses money because their business did not have, say cybersecurity, your agency will lose value in their eyes, and you could lose their business altogether.

The bottom line is that there is intense competition amongst agents, and your insurance agency must offer the best service to clients to achieve success.

Selling Insurance: Why Should a Prospect Pick Your Insurance Agency?

You always want to create value in your insurance business and avoid selling on price alone. Know your stuff and have as many accreditations as possible. If you have a college degree, hang your diploma where prospects will see it. Not all insurance agents have a higher education and it’s not a requirement for a successful career, but whatever edge you have on your competition, the better. You are selling yourself first and foremost.

Giving a client tips on how much insurance they would need to avoid financial ruin without being pushy is a sales skill that can bring you more success than aggressing a prospect and rushing them to buy. Sometimes an example will go much further than an insurance concept alone.

The Financial Value of a Knowledgeable Insurance Agent

Let’s face it, if you don’t know what you’re doing and your client is uninsured or underinsured and his/her financial house comes crashing down, you’ll have earned a terrible reputation as a crappy insurance agent, which will impede your success. Word travels fast in communities.

Insurance agents who brand themselves well will make sure to tell the client hard facts about what an accident will cost. Your value as an agent is to mitigate the risk of having to reach into their pockets. Some insurance agents will even print out an agreement if clients refuse to buy more insurance than the state minimum liability car insurance. Your clients will think twice before trying to save a few dollars when they read that your agent is waiving responsibility for your personal losses if you’re in an accident.

The successful agent is firm but not pushy when it comes to establishing a reputable business. The value of any company rests in what people are saying about it. If prospects are deterred from sales because they want cheap insurance, maybe your carrier is not the right company for them. More often than not, explaining how buying too little insurance is almost as good as buying no insurance at all, they will stop and heed your advice. Your job, afterall, is to make the client’s life easier, not more expensive in the long-run.

How Do I Expand into Other States?

Visit your state’s department of insurance website. Here you’ll find out what the requirements and fees are for getting a non-resident insurance license in the state(s) you’re interested in selling insurance. In some states, you’ll need to pass the state licensing exam, but in others you do not if you already are licensed in your resident state. Even if you don’t have to take an exam, you still have to apply for a non-resident insurance license.

If you work for a big agency or are growing one, you’ll need to apply for a license in all the states you’re required to sell in. You also have to have an insurance license in your resident state at all times. That may add up to be many licenses but there’s simply no way around it.

What’s a Reciprocal Agreement?

A reciprocal license agreement is an agreement that makes issuing a non-resident insurance license much simpler and with fewer requirements. For instance, there are pre-licensing courses, fingerprinting and exams that will be waived. All you have to do is pay an application fee and have your resident insurance license to be eligible. Most states have a reciprocal agreement when it comes to licensing agents who already are licensed in their home state.

Some states, like Florida and California, have more requirements, including fingerprinting. Some states require pre-licensing courses.

Reasons Why You’d Need Multiple Insurance Licenses

  • Your business operates a call center in multiple states
  • You write a national program
  • You market insurance across the U.S.
  • Your staff provides quote or policy benefits information to people in several states.

Insurance Leads for Multiple States

When you buy the best leads from SmartFinancial, you determine where you want the leads to come from by choosing area codes for the regions you want to cover. The more area codes, the higher the yield.

Buying insurance leads is a necessary component of any healthy insurance agency budget. In light of coronavirus and the necessary social distancing, more agents are using leads to grow their businesses. The freedom that comes with being able to do business just about anywhere also creates potential sales you may have never had otherwise.

The best lead providers, like SmartFinancial, will pair you with an Account Manager for the life of your account. This point-person will be on top of your account at all times, making the appropriate adjustments that will help you gain more sales. Have faith that your Account Manager knows how to be a successful insurance agent.

In fact, your Account Manager will be there to help you target the best areas in the states you decide to get licensed in.

If you decide to do business in another state, it doesn’t mean you need to travel either. The technology available allows you to hold meetings from just about anywhere and even get documents signed online after you sell a policy. Using Zoom or FaceTime is highly encouraged. Sometimes a prospect is more open to doing business with someone if they just see the person on the other end of a conversation. There’s a lot to be said for body language and facial expressions, hand gestures. Much more is communicated when two people sit face-to-face and discuss important matters, like buying insurance for one’s health, life, business or property. Start expanding today, without ever leaving home!