So you have decided to become an insurance agent. You passed all of your licensing tests and started working for an insurance company. Now what? Before you start taking advice from anybody and everybody do your own research about what it takes to be a successful agent. There is going to be a number of people, including fellow agents, who will give you advice. You must remember one thing. Everyone is different and something that might have worked for one person might not work for you. Bad advice can kill a career before it begins.
Once you are officially on your career path as an insurance agent you will most undoubtedly start prospecting for new business. Marketing yourself and bringing in new leads is crucial to the success of your practice. This is the area where a majority of the bad advice is given. There are a lot of people out there who think they know the answer when it comes to lead generation. My goal is to provide you the types of bad advice to look out for and the sources of that bad advice.
Possible source of bad advice - Fellow insurance agents & managers
Many of these people giving unwise advice are fellow agents who have had success at generating leads. For example, if you are a captive agent, your manager will guide you on marketing tactics. There is an unfortunate thing happening with new agents. They are receiving poor advice from their senior managers. It goes without saying that not all managers are giving poor advice and most of them are truly trying to help, but they are blinded by their own success. They think "if it worked for them" it can work for you. This is not always the case.
Bad advice - Canvassing
For many new agents entering their first year of business it is important to get your name out in the community. A good way to do this is by canvassing. Canvassing is basically going door-to-door handing out business cards and informational packets to businesses that could be potential clients. Canvassing for the purpose of brand or name recognition is good advice no matter who you are. The bad advice comes when an agent or manager tries to persuade you that this is a immediate lead generation source.
It is not wise to walk into a business and try to sell them insurance. In fact you should not even place a follow up call to a business you visit. It is a waste of time. If the business is in need of something they will contact you. A business card or pamphlet can go a long way. When a need arises the business owner will call you because you are convenient. They have your information and know what you do (hopefully). You will come off as desperate and annoying if you call them every month asking to meet with them to "show them how you can help with their insurance and financial needs."
A fellow insurance agent who started in the business the same time as me failed within the first three months because his manager told him to do nothing but canvass businesses, send them a pre-approach letter, and then place follow up calls. I was given the same advice but after the first attempt did not work I switched approaches. My friend kept implementing the same plan and was not successful. You must have a constant source of warm leads and canvassing does not provide immediate results.
Possible source of bad advice - Family
You've got to love family, but they might not be able to give the best advice about insurance prospecting. Your family wants to see you succeed, but if their opinion could steer you in the wrong direction. I have heard of people who have burned bridges with family friends by taking their parents advice about selling insurance to them. Always know this. If there is ever any dispute about the insurance policy it falls back on you. Ask yourself, would you want to lose a friendship over business?
Also, do not bug your family or friends about buying insurance. They sometimes are your toughest sell and it might take some time to gain their trust, financially, before they commit to doing business with you.
Bad advice - Make a list of everyone you know and solicit their business
Once again, this is a no no. Before I became an agent I had this happen to me a couple of times from some friends and I remember thinking how desperate they sounded when they called me. Friends and family are the hardest people to sell to because they know you are not an experienced agent. To them you are just "one of the guys" or "part of the family". It is important to be proud of what you do so you should definitely share with all of them what you are doing for a living. In time you will probably end up getting most of their insurance business, but you have to prove that you are serious about the career.
It is even more difficult for new agents who have previously bounced around from job to job. Your friends and family are going to be skeptical that you will not stick with your new career.
It is better to try other methods of marketing and lead generation before calling on your family and friends.
Possible source of bad advice - Forums and discussion boards
This is a new one for me, but I have found that certain insurance forums on the web are full of bad and narcissistic advice. This is the worst place for new agents to look for advice about gaining prospects. For instance, lets say you start a discussion on one of these forums asking the other members of the forum to give you advice about best marketing practices for new insurance agents. You can expect to get lots of responses with a majority being unhelpful and some being derogatory. There are agents out there who have extra time on their hands and troll these boards looking for the chance to demean uninformed/new members. They will most likely answer your question in a derogatory way or flag your post as a scam. Other responses will come from lead generation companies trying to find agents to sell leads. Some lead companies do this in a non-aggressive, positive way, but others will scrape your email and other personal information so they can send you spam.
Bottom line, stay away from the online insurance forums and discussion boards especially if you are a new agent. Their is not a lot of good advice to be obtained at these sources. Most of the good agents are not going to give away their great ideas. It is up to you to figure out what works and perfect your own skills.
Bad advice - Joint appointments
I am referring to two agents going on an appointment together. This is OK if you are a new hire and your agency requires you to do some initial appointments with the help of a senior advisor. However, I know for a fact there are agencies out there who believe in never going on a appointment alone. If you are into this kind of thing that is fine, but why would you want to split a commission that you earned yourself. For instance, you have worked a prospect for several months, calling and emailing them. You have finally got the lead to buy into your product or service and they are ready to do business. You set the appointment and low and behold there is a colleague that wants to help you with the appointment. They might claim they are a better closer. Watch out for these agents. They will try to ride everyone's coat tails because they cannot cut it on their own.
Possible source of bad advice - Yourself
You can be your own worst enemy. Do not talk yourself into spending money on a lead generation technique that is untested. Even if you come up with the idea on your own, do not invest a lot of money until you know it works. When you first start out in the industry you are going to have lots of ideas rolling thru your head. Try to stay focused on what you need to do. You can overwhelm yourself trying different marketing plans. It is important to test different ones, but try them one at a time so you can calculate the success of each campaign.
Bad advice - A float in the parade
This was actual advice given to me by my first manager. He suggested I do two things, put my ad in a newspaper and enter a float into all the small town fall festival parades. I am not joking.
Life as an insurance agent can be extremely rewarding. Stay positive no matter what happens. There will be highs and lows just like anything in life. Try not to get too high during the good times or too low during the rough times. Be selective in the advice you accept and realize that people might mean well, but their advice could be leading you down the path to failure. If you feel you are on this path make a change. Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. If something isn't working stop doing it.
"Image courtesy of [Stuart Miles] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net".
"Image courtesy of [kibsri] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net".