Do you have an ability to connect with people and a desire to help those in your community? If so, you’re in the right place – especially if you live on the west coast. These qualities are highly sought after by companies looking to appoint new insurance agents in California.
To become an insurance agent in California – or anywhere – you’ll of course need an insurance license. But you’ll need something else that’s just as important: tenacity and discipline. If you have those qualities, the actual work might not be as much of a challenge as you anticipate. “Take it from me,” says Brianna Rowe, a trainer and growth strategist who started her 15-year sales career with Aflac as an agent, “with the right training procedures and attention, you can be successful.”
In other words: An insurance agent’s success can be just as much about determination and willingness to learn as it is about prior industry knowledge.
What are the qualities of a good insurance agent
- An eagerness to learn. Depending on which insurance carrier you work with, you may have an official training as part of the job. At Aflac, training in the first year gives aspiring insurance sales agents the resources and tools they need to thrive. “We provide state-of-the-art training,” Rowe says. “This can be overwhelming at first – it’s a new language, a new industry. So we support new recruits with tools and resources. But just like learning a new sport, it’s about commitment.”
- A knack for connecting with others. Selling insurance is different than selling something you buy only once. A charismatic salesperson can talk someone into a one-off purchase – but charm alone doesn’t make for the kind of ongoing relationship that insurance agents have with their clients. Agents work closely with their clients to establish a connection and nurture their relationships over time. An ability to understand what other people need can go a long way toward maintaining relationships, as can strong listening skills.
- Perseverance. Or dedication, grit, fortitude, persistence – take your pick. When we asked five insurance industry recruiters what agents need to succeed, this was the first thing all of them said. Agents may be told “no” a lot, and it takes tenacity to develop a relationship that turns that “no” into a “yes.”
- Adaptability. Can you switch gears quickly? That’s an asset in this business. As an insurance agent, you may be meeting with business owners of all sizes, employees of warehouses and small town stores, and everyone in-between. Being able to transition into each environment, like a chameleon, is invaluable.
- A desire to be of service. Introverts can succeed just as much as extroverts at selling insurance. “Many of our sales leaders are quite introverted.” says Reese Golchin, an Aflac market recruiter. “But I find that introverts – and extroverts, but this can be even more of a driver for introverts – like the idea of helping people. That gets them past the barrier of getting in front of people.”
- An ability to use what you’ve got. A college degree may help, as can having experience in sales. But neither is essential. Instead, turn to your own life experience. Qualities of a good insurance agent are often nurtured in experiences that have nothing to do with insurance, including:
- Theater. As an insurance agent, you’ll need to be able to stand and present in front of people you don’t know. Pulling off an engaging, memorable presentation goes a long way, and experience in overcoming nerves only helps.
- Education. “Education majors can be great at this,” Rowe says. “They’re used to relating to all types of people; they’re used to educating and teaching.”
- Sports. The discipline, drive and perseverance you cultivate as an athlete can make for a seamless transition into this industry. And if you played a team sport, the transition may be even easier. “The skills you develop as a part of an athletic team are an asset in this field,” says Meaghan Mutrie, a market recruiter for Aflac. “You know that if one person drops the ball, everybody is impacted by it.”
- Business. Having broad interests and knowledge about how businesses operate is extremely beneficial, both personally and with the clients agents serve. “Having small business skills – marketing, basic accounting – helps,” says Jennifer Ramos Nubie, a market recruiter for Aflac. “You’re wearing every single hat.”
- Military. Remember that part about discipline being an important asset? If you’ve been in the military, you’ve had world-class training in discipline. And many veterans who work with Aflac report that they see their Aflac sales career as an extension of what they did in the military – helping people.
Insurance licensing requirements in California
- Hours of study: In California, the Life and Accident and Health license is the highest line of authority you can test for, and its 52 hours of required prelicense study is the highest of all insurance licenses.2 If you’re applying for more than one license and have already taken the required 12 hours of Ethics and California Insurance Code, that 52 hours drops down to 40.3
- Take the exam: After you’ve passed your prelicensing course(s), you must pass the state’s licensing exam for each insurance line you’re seeking a license in. Visit the California test administrator to schedule an appointment. You’ll answer between 75 and 150 questions, depending on the type of insurance license.
- Get fingerprinted: You can have your fingerprints taken before or after the examination.
- Apply for the license: Visit the California insurance licensing site to learn more.
So you’ve got the qualities and are ready to take the first step toward getting your insurance license. After that, how long does it take to become an insurance agent in California? If you’ve been working with a carrier that provides training and licensing assistance, you can start the instant you have your license and have been appointed with the carrier.
Regardless of your background, if you’re interested in the insurance industry, remember that it’s less about having prior experience and more about your desire to help others. “I’m interested in your soft skills,” Mutrie says. “I’m looking for hungry individuals.”
That motivation pays off. And it pays off well. As Rowe puts it, “If you’re ready to go to work, this is going to be a dream.”