The life insurance business can be highly lucrative for anyone looking at building a career in the industry. Life insurance is one the highest commission products sold – not because it isn’t a good value, but because it’s also one of the most difficult products to sell. These products offer intangible benefits and it’s challenging to get most people to face the possibility of diminished mobility and their own mortality. Anyone with the right skill set and motivation can become a success in this industry as a life insurance agent. The tips below will help you learn how to be successful.
- Choose your future job. The beginning steps of learning how to become a successful life insurance broker are critical as these decisions pave the way for your future success in your business. Keep in mind that there is a lot of competition in the industry.
First off, you have to decide if you want to become an independent life insurance broker or a captive agent.
Independent brokers sell policies from several different companies, while captive agents sell only one company’s particular product. If you plan to start your career as a captive agent, find out the features and benefits of the company you have chosen. Feedback from existing agents in the insurance industry is the best information; you can often find this kind of information on forums, user groups such as Yahoo Groups and perhaps even the occasional blog.
You can get more information on projected salary, job outlook and job requirements on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website.
- Get licensing and education. As insurance agent or broker requirements differ from country to country, it’s important to do research before getting started in the business. Your local department of commerce or searching on Google is good place to get started. In virtually all countries and in every U.S. state, you’ll need a license to sell insurance. Licensing requirements are different from state to state, but it usually involves taking a relatively short course and one or more examinations. You must have separate licenses to sell life and health insurance and property and casualty insurance. Some states require agents to get more education every two years in order to stay in the business.
If you choose to work for a single insurance company, you may want to start your career as a customer service representative to become familiar with the business in general and specific policy types. Once you have been in the field for a while, you may be promoted to the position of sales agent.
You may wish to pursue some college training; insurance companies often prefer college graduates, and some colleges offer courses or bachelor’s degrees in selling insurance. There are also professional organizations in the field that offer certification and continuing education in selling various types.
- Analyze the costs. Along with education costs and fees from proper licensing, there are many hidden expenses in the business that you will need to consider, including:
- Membership dues for professional industry associations
- Office supplies and equipment, including computers, stationary and postage
- Internet access and website hosting, as a great deal of insurance sales today are done online
- Errors and omissions insurance (This protects you from lawsuits due to an error or omission made by you that causes financial harm to another person or business.) You will also need to pay fees for licensing and education.
You may also have a wait before you begin seeing your new income. There is often a lag time of two to three months until you begin to see commissions from new policies. So give yourself a good cushion for the first six months in the business before the dollars start rolling in.
- Set up an office. Once you learn about the business, you'll want to set up an office. There isn’t much required in the way of start-up costs. If you begin your career as an independent insurance broker and you're on a tight budget, you can start with a small home office with work space, desk, comfortable chair, computer, printer, legal office software and business stationery such as business cards, letterheads and an invoice template. You might also consider downloading Open Office instead of buying Microsoft Office as your software suite; either of these software suites work well for insurance jobs. As your business grows and depending on the number clients who come to visit you, you may want to invest in outside office space.
- Work on your skills. To be successful, you’ll need excellent sales skills, as most of your working day will be spent consulting with clients and making sales. It’s very important that you have a tough outer shell – those in this business see a lot of rejection, especially in the beginning. You must also be very well organized, as persistent follow-up is a must. But this must be done in a relaxed manner. You do not want to make prospective clients feel pushed or uncomfortable.
Other skills that benefit people entering the sales field include basic reading, writing and math skills and excellent problem-solving and communications skills. Successful insurance brokers are focused on goals, are persuasive, have a pleasant personality and maintain a professional appearance. You will need to have patience and perseverance, and be willing to work varying hours.
- Choose your focus. One of the hidden secrets in this highly competitive industry is in specialization. Your practice could focus on group benefit plans, critical illness insurance, long-term care insurance or providing solutions for key employees -- the options are virtually endless. Some agents also offer financial planning services to their clients, and may be licensed to offer products such as mutual funds to insurance clients.
Businesses rarely fail from being too focused. Remember: Just because insurance agents can offer many different policies and services doesn’t mean they have to offer them. Don’t be afraid to focus on a very small niche in the industry and create alliances with other professionals to protect your client base from other agents and increase the number of incoming referrals.
- Do some marketing. Word of mouth will account for a large part of your new business. But there are numerous strategies to build your prospect pool. You can advertise your services in local classifieds, community publications or on billboards. You can also build your business online by developing a website with useful content. Cold calling can also be used to generate new clients, but the recent advent of do not call lists in Canada and the United States make this more challenging.
Web marketing is one way to generate sales with a very small monetary and time investment. You may want to consider getting yourself listed on online insurance broker directories, or advertising your services on websites that relate to the topic. Many Web marketing companies offer email lists that you can direct market to, and setting up your own website or insurance blog is easy using templates available on web hosting sites.