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So, what exactly does an insurance agent do?1

If you ask someone, “What does an insurance agent do?” you’ll probably hear something along the lines of “they sell insurance.” And yes, insurance agents and producers do sell plans to their clients. So it’s accurate, sure – but it’s not the complete truth about being an insurance agent.

The qualities of a good insurance agent go far beyond selling. Insurance agents provide consultative services and work with clients including business owners and benefits decision-makers to develop the right coverage plans for each client’s needs. They educate, helping owners and employees wade through the sometimes intimidating world of insurance. They may be independent business owners themselves, but they know how to partner with businesses to maximize everyone’s time and investment. Selling? Yes, of course. But there’s more to it than that.

What does an insurance agent do?

Insurance agents (sometimes referred to as producers) do a number of tasks, all of which revolve around building relationships with clients. Some types of insurance, like the supplemental insurance that Aflac offers, involve sales at workplaces across the country. For these agents, in addition to preparing their business to be able to service clients, their primary activities include:

  • Meeting with business owners and benefits decision-makers to introduce themselves and explain the benefits of the carrier they represent.
  • Developing coverage packages that are tailored to each client.
  • Meeting with employees to educate them on available benefits packages and helping them with enrollment.
  • Consulting with existing clients to ensure packages are up to date with clients’ evolving business needs.
  • Marketing and advertising to promote awareness to new policies or changes in coverage.
  • Performing administrative duties, both to ensure that clients’ enrollments and claims go smoothly and for their own recordkeeping.
  • Leveraging leading technology to optimize their insurance practice.

First things first: How do insurance agents get clients? Most use conventional sales techniques such as cold-calling business owners, showing up at places of business to introduce themselves and following up on leads about newly launched or expanding businesses that might be looking for insurance plans. But increasingly, they rely on social and digital marketing while leveraging customer relationship management (CRM) and automation tools to manage their book of business.

When working with carriers that offer renewal commissions, such as Aflac, this level of active selling can last as little as 12 months – after that, insurance agent income can include policy renewals, not just commissions on new policies that an agent sells. Agents or producers who enjoy pursuing new relationships can continue selling as many new policies as they can handle throughout their sales careers. But many producers who have sold policies during their early years prefer to focus on nurturing the relationships they’ve built during that time instead of constantly finding new clients.

Once a client or benefits decision-maker has agreed to offer the type of products an agent sells, an agent uses his or her knowledge of the specific business, industry and benefits landscape to recommend packages that are right for the client’s business. Agents might also be tasked with explaining those benefits to client’s employees directly.

Agents are constantly developing relationships. They’re listening to what existing and potential clients say, then stepping in as a benefits advisor to share their knowledge and consult with clients on how to address their business needs with different types of coverage.

Insurance agents also handle marketing and administrative duties – after all, they’re business owners themselves. And while a background in marketing or business isn’t necessary, knowing how to promote yourself and how to develop a business plan can be helpful. Agents and producers might eventually hire staff to handle marketing and administrative work so they can focus on building and maintaining client relationships.

The truth about being an insurance agent

Your career path as an insurance agent is completely customizable. Working as an insurance agent can be a great way to start or continue a sales career, but some choose to seek out leadership opportunities among the field sales organization instead. Some agents decide to stay agents or producers for their entire sales careers, operating as small-business owners in their own right. Some agents work part time – parents, military veterans, retirees and people looking to supplement other part-time work can use the flexibility of this job to help them achieve the life balance they are after.

Others use the experience gained from a few years of the agent life to launch into a different arm of the industry, such as recruitment, management or brokerage services. Just ask Jason Naville, a recruiting growth consultant for Aflac who began as an agent.

“When I joined Aflac, I knew I wanted to accelerate my sales career,” he says. “I also wanted to see what else I was capable of, so I asked my district manager about management opportunities.” It worked: He has held eight positions during his 22-year tenure with Aflac.

The #1 responsibility of an insurance agent (you might be surprised)

Yes, insurance agents sell products, write policies and swiftly become experts in their industry. But there’s another unexpected truth about being an insurance agent: It’s not about selling. It’s about helping.

Insurance agents support business decision-makers in getting them the services their businesses need. That’s why you don’t need a background in sales or even in insurance to succeed. If you want to help people, you can thrive as an agent. You’ll be helping them navigate an area that can be confusing and intimidating, and you’ll ultimately be helping people protect themselves from the high costs of health care not covered by health insurance.

“I’m not just here to sell you insurance,” Naville says. “I need the business owner and the workers to know that I care about them and their best interests.”

Day to day, that translates to agents learning about the benefits landscape so they can inform their clients and become valued experts and partners. Not just the landscape of the carrier the agent represents, but the big picture. It’s a part of the real responsibilities of being an insurance agent – connecting with people, cultivating relationships and finding solutions.

“Even with all the producers and agents we have out there, [businesses] aren’t necessarily saying yes to Aflac,” says Meaghan Mutrie, an Aflac market recruiter in New England. “They’re saying yes to the person who is educating them.”

Ready to find out for yourself what insurance agents do?