Back in 2005, as a 24-year-old insurance agent, I thought I’d step on the scene and teach the “Old-timers” how business got done.
Boy, was I wrong.
I knew nothing about insurance and even less about selling.
Looking back, it’s easy to see how arrogance, hardheadedness and a lack of patience destroyed any chance I had at early results.
The difference between mediocre insurance agents and the most successful can often be traced back to the early years of their career.
Not whether or not they entered the industry well, but how open that person was to learning, adapting and riding out the inevitable lows that come in the early years of a sales career.
While some agents take a myopic view, focusing only on their next commission check, others spend time developing the skills that will ultimately set them apart in the insurance industry.
As important as it is to have a thorough understanding of policy details and other technical insurance knowledge – there is much more to thriving in our competitive industry.
The following are 13 skills every 24-year old insurance agent should learn before bad habits set in and it’s too late:
1) Develop Sales Skills
You aren’t born with sales skills.
Sales is learned skill, developed through intentional effort.
An insurance agent’s ability to sell is their most valuable asset.
Sales never ends, whether you’re selling prospects on your agency, your policies, or yourself – you’re always selling and the quicker you develop your ability to build relationships and systematically turn those relationships into sales, the faster your career is going to take off.
Easier said than done, (Trust me, I know).
The key to developing sales skills is the word, “Intentional.” You must be make a concious effort to get better through a mix of trial and error, mentorship and formal education.
2) How to Communicate on the Phone
As much as you might prefer email and text messaging, insurance business still gets done over the phone.
This means you have to be an effective communicator on the phone.
Unlike email (and similar “written” forms of communication like text message or Facebook message), you can’t take your time to craft the perfect response to tough questions.
The prospect is listening to every word you say and in most cases still trying to determine whether or not you are the right option as their insurance provider.
Your tone, pace, inflection are being judged. The prospect is asking themselves, “Does this person know what they are talking about?”
As much as digital marketing and automation are allowing insurance agents to capture the attention of a wider set of prospects, in the end, we are still “Selling our phone number.”
You will find, with enough practice, even in the digital marketplace, that phone calls are still the easiest way to close sales.
3) Time Management
Insurance is a hectic business.
Your success is largely determined by how much you can get done each day.
Some people spend decades trying to nail time management, but the best insurance agents develop this skill very early in their career.
Whether you’re trying to squeeze in more sales calls or you’re chasing the work-life balance unicorn – time management is key.
The tough part about time management, is there is no one size fits all solution. Everyone, who’s ever reached some level of success, has developed a strategy that fits best into how they operate.
This could mean using an Outlook calendar to schedule time, carrying around a date book and tracking time the “Old-school” way, or downloading one of a hundred time management apps.
The method is less important than the execution of blocking time for the most important tasks in your day, (sales calls, networking, blogging, etc).
If you do not block time, you will not do these things and your entire day will become busy work and you will struggle.
As an insurance agent, you are the CEO of your career. Sounds corny, but 100% true.
It’s not just a matter of making quick decisions, but making the right decisions in a timely manner.
There is a difference between patience and prudence versus what is more often the case procrastination and fear.
You are going to make the wrong decision.
Deal with that reality however you need to.
You are going to do thing and say things that are going to cost you accounts. Make a decision, the best decision you can in that moment with your given experience and knowledge and live with the consequences.
Here’s the deal, learn from your decisions.
You decided where to spend your time, how to develop your skills, and what to say in sales meetings.
Enjoy your good decisions and learn from your bad decisions.
This is the life of an insurance agent.
Early in your career, energy and enthusiasm will come in buckets.
You’ll take on every task, plowing through one right after the next.
You will be busy.
Busy does not necessarily lead to success.
Learning to set priorities early in your career will pay dividends (and renewal commissions) for the rest of your career.
Attack new business and relationship retention activities early in the day when you have the most energy.
Save soul sucking paperwork and service related tasks for later in the day (if possible).
Prioritization is really about focus, one of the 7 habits of highly effective insurance agents.
6) How to Solve Problems (on your own)
Mom and dad can’t help you sell insurance.
Nor should you have to (or want to) lean on your agency principle or sales veteran to close deals.
Don’t run to closest CPCU or CIC every time you have a policy question.
By their very nature, insurance agents are problem solvers.
You, 24-year-old insurance agent, have to figure out how to solve problems.
You have to own (intellectually) every bit of the insurance business:
- Policy forms,
- Marketing, and
- Everything else thrown at you during a day in the life of an insurance agent.
Your clients are counting on YOU to solve their problems.
It doesn’t matter if they just got into a fender-bender, a tornado just ripped apart their home, or they want to make a payment on their policy with a new credit card. You’re often going to be the first person they call for help.
If you always have to ask someone else for help… really… what use are you?
Solve problems. Period.
7) Emotional Intelligence
You’ve heard of Intelligence Quotient (IQ), the standardized score for human intelligence?
When it comes to selling insurance, your level of intelligence is far less important than your Emotional Quotient or EQ.
“EQ is the capability of individuals to recognize their own, and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and to manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt environments or achieve one’s goal(s).” ~ Wikipedia
Your ability to read, relate and respond to human beings will win more new business than any other skill or personal attribute.
Unfortunately, this is a skill that’s rarely taught to young insurance agents.
Emotional intelligence will help you better understand the true “Why” a prospect is saying “No.”
People buy from people they like, not who they think are smart.
Develop your EQ and you’ll win new business away from those with a higher IQ every day of the week.
8) How to Build a Referral Network
Referrals are and will always be a primary source of new business for independent insurance agents.
In many cases, the quality of an agent referral network will make or break their career.
This is why, at TrustedChoice.com, we focus on driving referrals not leads to our subscribers (meaning one-to-one consumer to agent connections). We want agents to think of us as a referral partner.
The good think is, building your network is easier than you think.
You don’t have to be extremely outgoing, but you do need to make an intentional effort to reach out to others on a regular basis.
Here are a few simple, but effective methods for beginning referral partnerships:
- Buy potential referral partners a cup of coffee
- Attend a charity event they are putting on
- Send a potential partner a referral without expectation of reciprocation
What are three of these show is that you are a giver.
LinkedIn makes it easy to find new potential referral partners in your area.
9) Customer Experience Trumps Customer Service
If you focus on customer service over customer experience then you’re already a commodity.
Every interaction prospects and clients have with you and your agency is part of the customer experience:
- The look of your agency’s building.
- The way you are dressed.
- The way you speak.
- Your business card.
- The way you answer the phone.
- The timeliness of response.
- The quality of response.
- Your marketing message (or lack thereof).
The list goes on and on and on…
Everything we do as an insurance agent adds to the customer experience. Don’t take anything for granted. Have pride is the customer experience you provide.
More importantly, take ownership in the customer experience you provide to prospects and clients.
10) How to Stay Organized
Organization is a skill that enhances your other skills, such as sales, customer experience, and time management.
Could there be a worse response to prospect call then, “Let me find your quote and I’ll get back to you.”
That prospect wanted to talk to you now (and potentially buy insurance from you).
Yet, I’ve heard this response tens, if not hundreds of times on phone calls made through TrustedChoice.com.
Organization isn’t a nice-to-have. You want to write tons of new business? You want to be successful as an insurance agent?
On any given day you are going to interact with dozens of potential new clients.
If you’re not organized and/or give off the impression of not being organized, (especially considering your age), prospects are going to lose faith in your ability to handle their insurance needs.
Do not neglect organization.
Organization is part of being an effective insurance agent.
Get organized. No excuses.
11) How (and When) to Ask the Right Questions
Insurance agents are problem solvers.
To solve problems we have to ask questions.
Knowing how to ask the right questions will save you time and drastically improve success as an insurance agent.
The right question, as the right time, establishes credibility, builds trust and develops rapport with prospects and clients.
Asking the “right” questions does not mean plowing through a quote sheet.
The “right” questions go beyond basic facts, to the deeper level of who the person is and what they’re trying to achieve by working with you.
Hubspot has a good introductory guide for asking the “right” questions.
By asking targeted questions, you can not only better understand your prospects, but you also establish your expertise in understanding their challenges – both of which will lead to increased sales.
12) Always Be Learning
The best insurance agents are always learning and always improving.
Even if I’m no longer a practicing insurance agent (though I do still carry my licenses), if I was forced to pin my success on only one thing, it would be my constant thirst for knowledge.
Marketing knowledge. Insurance knowledge. Sales knowledge. Operational knowledge. Efficiency knowledge. The list goes on and on.
If there was a skill or practice that I thought could give me an edge over my competition I wanted to learn it and master it.
You cannot count on your agency leadership to teach you to be a successful agent. If you have great leadership that engages with you in mentorship and training… amazing.
But assume, if you want to be a great insurance agent, you’re going to be self-taught.
That mean you need to read a lot of books.
Find quality conferences to attend (like Agency Nation Elevate 2017).
Surround yourself with quality professionals inside and outside the insurance industry.
Learn from your mistakes.
You and you alone have ownership of insurance education.
Resiliency, defined as, the ability to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.
As an insurance agent, you’re going to hear “no” a lot.
Would you like to get a cup of coffee? No.
Would you like a quote for your insurance? No.
Would you like to purchase this policy? No.
No. No. No.
This can be very discouraging at first, and frankly, some agents just can’t handle it.
“No” can destroy your insurance career.
You must embrace “No.” You must plow through “No.” You must be resilient.
Your insurance career depends on it.
I’d like to leave you with two quotes which have guided my career through success and failure:
“Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise” ~ Ted Turner
“Screw it, let’s do it.” ~ Richard Branson
Your youth is a blessing and a curse.
Have patience, but don’t settle.
Now get to work.
P.S. Don’t miss the most gangster insurance marketing event in history, Agency Nation Elevate 2017. Click here and be the first to receive announcements.