Do you have an ability to connect with people and a desire to help others in your community? If so, keep reading! These qualities are among those most desired by companies appointing new insurance agents.
The truth about being an insurance agent—and about becoming one—is that while it takes tenacity and discipline, the work itself might not be as difficult as you think. Take it from someone who’s been there: “This business isn’t hard,” says Brianna Rowe, a trainer and growth strategist who began her 15-year career with Aflac as an agent.
“Take it from me—with the right training procedures and attention, you can be successful.”
The level of success an insurance agent achieves is often determined more by his or her determination and willingness to learn than by prior industry knowledge. Read on for more.
Qualities of a good insurance agent
- A willingness to learn. Many carriers have a formal training program. Aflac’s first-year training program, for example, equips prospects with the tools they need and informs them on how to become a successful insurance agent. “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.”
- Grit. Dedication, fortitude or persistence. Whatever you call it, when we asked five insurance industry recruiters what agents need to succeed, this was the first thing all five of them said. “It takes grittiness to develop a relationship that begins with a ‘no’ and turn it into a ‘yes,’” says Jennifer Ramos Nubie, a market recruiter for Aflac covering the Austin area.
- An ability to connect with people. A traditional salesperson might be able to charm anyone into buying anything … once. But insurance isn’t a one-time sale; it’s an ongoing relationship. That makes the ability to form connections and maintain relationships one of the top qualities of a good insurance agent. Connections aren’t one-sided, so dazzle alone won’t cut it. “When I walk into the room, it’s not about me—it’s about my audience,” says Meaghan Mutrie, a market recruiter for Aflac working in New England. “What’s important to them? Focusing on them and prioritizing their needs above my own leads to a better outcome. It helps to be a good listener and open to what other people have to say.”
- A desire to help. “You don’t have to be an extrovert to succeed in this business,” says Reese Golchin, an Aflac market recruiter in North Carolina. “Many of our sales leaders are quite introverted. 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.”
- Adaptability. Being able to switch gears quickly is an asset. “I might be in the boardroom talking to the business owner, and then in my next appointment I’m sitting on a milk crate in a break room talking with warehouse employees,” says Jason Naville, a recruiting growth consultant for Aflac. “Then I go get the tie out of my glove compartment and put it on before my next appointment. I’ve got to be a chameleon.”
- An ability to use what you’ve got. You don’t need a college degree to become an insurance agent. Nor do you need experience in insurance or in sales. But the life experience you bring into this job can be helpful. Qualities of a good insurance agent can be found in all walks of life, including:
- 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. “I’m looking for people who want to build something with the company, people who are eager to be part of a team environment,” Mutrie says. “The skills you develop as a part of an athletic team are an asset in this field—you know that if one person drops the ball, everybody is impacted by it.”
- Theater. As an agent, the ability to pull off a presentation with gusto goes a long way. You’ll also need to present in front of people you don’t know. Experience in overcoming nerves in order to give a stellar performance helps.
- Business. Broad interests and knowledge about how businesses succeed are very helpful in this field, both personally and with the clients agents serve. “Having small-business skills—marketing, basic accounting—helps,” Ramos says. “You’re wearing every single hat.”
Requirements to become an insurance agent
- A license. But don’t panic! Many carriers offer free or discounted pre-licensing study resources to help you succeed. Depending on what type of coverage you work with, you may need a license for life insurance, health insurance or both. Specifics vary by state; your local recruiter can advise you on the criteria for your area.
- A carrier that supports you. OK, this isn’t technically a requirement. But when you work with a carrier that devotes attention to developing its agents, you’ll learn how to channel all of the qualities listed above—your adaptability, your willingness to learn, your ability to connect with people—into a successful career.
One more question prospective agents often ask: How long does it take to become an insurance agent? If you’re with a carrier that provides training and licensing assistance, you can begin working as soon as you have your license and have been appointed with the carrier.
Whatever your background, if you’re interested in the industry, remember that it’s less about having prior industry or sales experience and more about desire to help others. “I’m interested in your soft skills,” Mutrie says.
“I’m looking for hungry individuals.”
That motivation pays off. Take it from Rowe: “If you’re ready to go to work, this is going to be a dream.”