Not all sales jobs require the same skills, and in the insurance business an agent is a tricky one to navigate. Selling insurance is a very challenging yet rewarding job, and for an insurance agent to succeed in insurance sales they must also have customer service skills. While insurance has become a commodity, it really is not a tangible product so a successful insurance agent must have great communication skills and positive qualities, like trustworthiness.
Skills that Are Useful for an Insurance Agent Career
Selling insurance and cross selling insurance are insurance agent skills that are learned on the job. Some insurance companies train their captive insurance agents, but for the most part, you have to pave your own career path as you meet the insurance needs of each customer. Of course, an insurance company may offer some assistance if you're a captive insurance agent, but it's really up to you to attract and retain customers.
It helps to have faith in the insurance policies you sell, because it comes through to a wary insurance customer. An insurance agent that chooses an insurance company they are proud of will be more successful.
To be a successful insurance agent, you will have a great work ethic, which can sometimes mean strengthening some core people skills, which we've outlined below for you.
Believe it or not, earning trust is probably the most important priority you can set for yourself. When people buy insurance, they are counting on the insurance agent to make sure they do not suddenly get hit with a huge cost that cannot be offset. Financial disaster is a crisis no one wants to have to deal with, so show that you are loyal, dedicated and thorough. If the idea of a trustworthy insurance agent does not fit the stereotype you've been aping of a fast-talking salesman, you should know that millennials, even more than their predecessors, expect honesty and candor from people they do business with. Focus less on being slick and more on putting your clients' best interests in a safe zone. If you do it well, you have a client for life.
Not only is being friendly important, you need to show you care. In some ways, having emotional wisdom is more important for insurance agents than book knowledge. Empathy is a very underrated and wonderful characteristic which the best insurance agents possess. Showing a client that you get where they are coming from and that you have the same concerns is very important. Sometimes, giving personal examples shows a client that you know what they want and need. This trait also enables you to convince a hesitant client to buy a product you're certain will be beneficial to them in the long-run. Ironically, life insurance agents are famous for disappearing after a policy is sold, not a very positive scenario, which probably contributes to the high number of people who do not buy life insurance.
Honesty is more of a trait than a skill, but it can be learned. If you've promised more than you can truly give in the past, you'll know better now about being less than upfront, which doesn't serve you well in the long-run. A good insurance salesperson knows that in order to win over clients and gain referrals, he or she needs to be honest and deliver on what they promise. There's no reason to lie, and if you want repeat business, you won't do it either.
A good insurance agent is easy to get a hold of. A customer should not have to call you more than once before you call back. Make yourself accessible and respond ASAP. If your agency has a separate customer service department, stay on top of the point person calling your clients to make sure responses are timely. Also, keep abreast of the important stuff, like angry clients and messy claims, which will require some hand holding and perhaps even some advocacy on your part. Usually, you're hearing from clients because something bad has happened, so learn how to solve problems without looking to others to figure it out for you.
Yes, positivity is a skill to be learned if you get let down easily. It's not easy to get rejected but that's what constantly happens to any insurance agent, otherwise they'd all be millionaires. Insurance is also not the most emotive product on the market. There's certainly nothing warm or fuzzy about it. Despite its flatness, you still need to seem excited about insurance in order to sell it, so get your energy level up!
In order to sell anything, you need to know as much about that product as possible. This type of knowledge does not require a college degree. However, a broad education always helps develop a person's character so that they are better able to relate to a more diverse group of people. A bachelor's degree is never wasted on an insurance agent, especially when you consider the writing and math skills necessary to become a financial planner or to prepare clients' taxes, are jobs that many insurance agents do in addition to insuring their clients. By no means do you have to be become a financial adviser, but life insurance agents often sell insurance and retirement products (annuities, Roth IRAs, etc.). Both undergraduate and graduate level courses in finance are always helpful. Most insurance agents also have to do their own marketing, billing and various other tasks that also require some traditional education.
Sales skills are learned, despite what you may believe. While it's true that some people are more gifted than others, even the most innate salesperson needs proper training in order to produce optimally. That's why business colleges offer this sort of training in a classroom setting. You can also learn from trial and error but you must be very honest with yourself as you try to close as many leads as possible. Internships and mentorships with seasoned salespeople are always best. You get to hear how the pros do it by listening in on calls and possibly attending meetings. No matter how many experts you shadow, however, you will say and do the wrong things at first. It's just inevitable. But you will learn from those negative experiences, which will happen far less frequently once you analyze the mistakes that cost you.
While some people are amazing over the phone and are all nerves in person, sometimes it works the other way around. Don't get in the habit of using texts and emails as your primary means of communication with consumers, no matter what. Only use those channels to schedule a phone call if you're repeatedly met with no response. Most deals in insurance are closed over the phone and will continue to be, at least until the majority of underwriters make it possible for consumers to bind online. Yes, it can be rattling trying to make the perfect call. You are being judged by the person on the other end, who wants to know if you know your stuff and if you're capable of taking good care of their needs. They are also trying to see if you're honest and competitively priced too. Keep your cool, stay well-paced and friendly, and you'll be fine.
Regardless of which time management tool you use, make sure to find a system that keeps you organized with phone calls and meetings. Selling insurance can be a hectic career, and you'll occasionally neglect clients without meaning to. With that said, you must learn how to manage your time efficiently so that your most important clients don't get lost in the shuffle. Use most of your energy on generating new business and retaining relationships. Make those calls during your best hours. You are not only generating new leads, but you're also following up on leads, checking in on existing clients and giving quotes to referrals. You're one busy bee, and you even leave some time for paperwork at the end of the day -- as long as you prioritize and stay organized.
Building up a referral network will dramatically improve your sales. It's always easier to sell to someone who is a friend, family or associate of an existing client than it is to make a cold call. Entice your current clients to refer you. Believe it or not, a $15 or $20 gift card will go a really long way. If you've treated your client well, it should be a really easy sell, too. If you fall flat with growing your base through referrals you may want to evaluate your existing relationships and whether or not you're keeping your clients happy. This matters because you don't want them to jump ship with other offers.
At SmartFinancial, it's our job to make sure every insurance agent we work with succeeds. For more advice for insurance agents, visit us here.