Aug 24, 2020
The topic in this episode is a suggestion from one of the apple podcast reviews (iTunes). I’ve also heard from people that are just studying for their test, so I thought I’d create an episode to give you some ideas for your next steps.
Even if you have been in the industry for a while, you might listen as a refresher or share with someone you are mentoring.
If you are in sales or thinking about going into sales, I’ve included a few extra nuggets for you towards the end.
Since the core of this podcast is why the insurance industry is a great place for a career, I thought I’d take the question and offer some ideas. If you are listening to this and have other ideas, let me know and if I get enough of them, I’ll put together another episode on the topic.
Did you get your license before you were hired?
Congratulations, a lot of people don’t do this, they get their license once they’ve been hired. I know some investment firms hire you and give you the first 90 days to get your license completed. That will put you behind the 8 ball because those 90 days could have been used for prospecting, and a good sales person will understand this.
If you are someone that has chosen a career in insurance, getting licensed is the first step. No matter what direction you go with your career, it’s a big learning curve. The licensing portion is only the basics. A lot of what you learn in the licensing process is not what you will be dealing with in the real world.
If you are headed into sales, you need to focus on the sales process first, but I would recommend that you take some other classes about 3-6 months into your career to expand your knowledge. Work towards a certification. It will set you apart from those that haven’t furthered their education, many but more importantly, it definitely expands your knowledge base. It’s often a way to fast track the OJT.
Over the years I’ve seen many agents trust their employer with handling their license, from making sure they renewed it to making sure their CE’s were completed. The agents just went about their day to day duties until one day they realized their license had expired or they didn’t do their CE’s and then chaos sets in.
My suggestion is that you stay on top of when you need you do your CE’s and your renewal and that you process your license renewal, don’t let your agency or employer be responsible for this.. You worked hard to get your license and you don’t want to take any chances.
Over the years I’ve had a few friends lose their license because they thought their employer had taken care of things, and they didn’t! Nobody wants to go through the licensing process twice!
Now that you are licensed, let’s talk about working in the property / casualty side of the house.
For today, we'll focus on the agency side of things, not the insurance company side. Most insurance company personnel don’t have to have their license because they aren’t selling anything. At least that is what I think.
I’ve never worked on the carrier side, so if I’m wrong, I know someone will correct me and I’ll update the show notes!
On the agency side you work for a Direct Writer or an Independent Agency
Personal lines - protecting cars, homes, trucks, motorcycles, campers, boats, You might provide insurance for special art pieces or airplanes, you might need to protect their household staff or international travel needs.
Depending on the market you live and work, some of these accounts can be over $10,000 and I’ve seen them over $100k. Some agencies have high net worth divisions that focus on the individuals that have a lot of assets that need protecting.
Commercial lines - this is primarily business insurance. Look around you at where you eat, your gym, office buildings, amusement parks and contractors. Special events, franchises and medical facilities all fall into this category.
In my opinion, it’s good to specialize in something. If you’ve listened to other episodes, you’ve heard me say that I specialized in construction contractors when I was selling. At one time I knew every electrical contractor in town because of a special program we had.
Here's how unique the business can be: I heard a really cool story recently and it's how you can make insurance as interesting or as boring as you want. A friend of mine, also an insurance agent, has a client that does a big convention every year. All I know is that it is really big and it makes the client almost 90% of their annual revenue.
Each year, they purchase event insurance.
This year, as the agent was negotiating the coverage and premium, he kept asking for more coverages. The premium got up to close to $200k for this event. Since the premium was so high, the agent started asking for everything to be thrown in to be covered. Even pandemic insurance! Not having any clue that we’d be having a pandemic. The policy was written last fall so the pandemic wasn’t even on the radar.
The client is going to receive close to $40 million dollars because of what the agent negotiated. While this is an abbreviated version of the story, it’s an example of a few things in the industry that you’ll learn over time.
Whether you are dealing with a special event or insuring a doctors office, you’l have different insurance protections that you’ll want to discuss and that in my opinion is what makes this a great business.
Personally, I'm a fan of the commercial side because it’s what I’ve always known and where I’ve always worked. There’s a need for people in both sides of the house and you just need to find a place that you feel comfortable and enjoy.
Let’s talk about the types of places you can work. We have Direct Writers and Independent Agencies
Next I want to talk about some of the positions that you’d find on the agency side. The direct writer has a few of these but the independent agent has more of them. The direct writers often received these services from the home office.
Sales: There’s inside sales and outside sales; Inside you might be responsible for selling to anyone who calls in or you might be responsible for making cold calls. Some of the bigger agencies might even have a call center, but I’m not a fan of those. I realize it’s a way of running a business, but there’s no personalization there. If you want to build a book of clients that you’ll have with you throughout your career, a call center isn’t the place to be looking!
Most of the time, but not always, personal lines is more of an inside sales position and commercial or business insurance sales is out of the office.
CSR / Account Manager: Someone that manages the paperwork or client requests, policy changes, reviewing the policies when issued by the carrier. Some sales might be expected but in many agencies, not required. Many agency principals wish their CSR’s would sell more, but the CSR doens’t usually think of themselves as a salesperson, so this is often a challenge for agency owners. Listen to episode 21 titled Steady Sales with Sheldon Snodgrass. We talk about the concept of helping CSR’s mindset.
There's underwriting i.e. looking at a risk and pricing it. Not done too much on the smaller agency side but larger agencies often have this capacity. There’s pricing policies using rating tools which are mostly online today but larger accounts also have pricing flexibility that smaller accounts don’t have, so larger agencies will often have some underwriters on staff for this purpose.
Marketing: two types on the agency side - and many direct writers don’t have this, it’s mostly on the independent side -
Claims: Some agencies have a separate claims department. They want to manage the claim process and have the information flow through the agency before reaching the insurance company. Some agencies have the ability to pay small checks on their own rather than having to wait for the insurance company to investigate which makes it easier for the insured to get back o their feet. This varies from agency to agency, city to city and carrier to carrier.
Loss control or risk management: Often times larger agencies will have one or two loss control people on staff. This is a little more of a specialty position but one that is very valuable for agents to provide their clients. For example, a restaurant might need a loss control person to help them with purchasing the proper equipment for safety, for training staff on safety measures or to implement proper protections in the restaurant.
Life & Health: Some property and casualty agencies will also have a life and health division. I’ll talk more about that in another episode, but it’s an option.
As you can see, there are a lot of choices to consider if you want to work in the property/casualty side of the industry.
Insurance companies have similar types of positions. When you work for the insurance company your client is usually the agents, not the consumer. This isn’t the case 100% of the time because if you work for someone like GEICO or USAA, you are selling to the consumer
What I really want to leave you with here is that there are many options. If you are in a position that you don’t like, it shouldn’t be the end of your insurance career. Look for other opportunities like I’ve described here to consider. This industry needs young blood…...don’t give up too fast!
There’s one other area I want to cover before I end today's episode and I alluded to it earlier in the episode.
Since many people are attracted to the industry because of sales, I’m going to add some ideas for you to think about while you are still studying for your exam.
If your end game plan is to have your own agency, I would recommend that you work for someone for at least 2 years first.
Over the years, I’ve taught classes on starting a business and that alone is a big learning curve, plus learning about the industry. Get some experience then think about going out on your own. It’s a lot easier to get carrier contracts today than it was 20 years ago, but there’s nothing better than having a track record when you make the leap!
Once you decide you want to work in the sales side of the insurance industry, start your marketing that day. Here's two books to get you started:
There are a lot of good books out there but these are two of my favorites.
If you are going solo and opening your own business, I would also suggest you read the E-Myth Revisited. It will get your business mindset off to the right start! Just substitute insurance when they say baker and it will make a lot of sense!
That wraps it up for this episode. I hope you’ve taken away a few ideas that you can implement. If you like what you’ve heard, please subscribe but more importantly, please tell a friend a colleague about the podcast.
This episode of The Business of Insurance podcast is brought to you by Lynn Michel Insurance. Do you know someone who is turning 65? They need to consider their Medicare options and Lynn Michel focuses on helping them navigate the complexities of Medicare. If you aren’t focused on this area, let Lynn Michel be your resource. Check them out at lynnmichel.com or connect with them on social.
Until next time, keep creating opportunities.
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ABOUT THE HOST
This episode of the Business of Insurance podcast is produced and hosted by Debbie DeChambeau, CIC, AAI, CPIA - an entrepreneur, business advisor, insurance professional and content creator. Her goal is to inspire you to think differently and explore ideas that disrupt the status quo.
Debbie has an extensive business and marketing background with a focus of helping insurance professionals be more successful.