5 Things I’ve Learned in My First Year as an Independent Agent

When I first decided to embark upon a new career in insurance, I was all in.

I dove headfirst into my new career, confident that I would succeed. I expected an adjustment period and some initial growing pains, but to be honest, I really had no clue what the daily grind of an independent agent would be like.

Insurance was supposed to be easy. At least, that’s what I convinced myself when I decided to change careers.

It turns out there’s a big difference between what I thought insurance was and what it actually is.

I’m still a newcomer to the world of insurance, but here are five lessons I’ve learned since embarking on this journey:

1) The sales process takes time. Don’t get me wrong—I anticipated the need to devote myself to building relationships and my book of business. Cold calling and networking don’t faze me. But I never expected the sales process to take so long.

Getting the go-ahead to start sourcing quotes for prospects and clients is the painless part. What’s not as painless is the back work involved.

At my agency, we pride ourselves on finding our clients the best product at the best value. This means we often find ourselves negotiating with multiple carriers at any given time. And unlike I initially believed, that requires much more than just sending out an email request. It requires hours of coordination, inspections, consideration and cooperation.

It’s all worth it when you present your client with a solution that you truly stand behind.

2) Stay flexible. You will never succeed in insurance if you aren’t willing to jump through unexpected hoops. A flexible mindset is key for both success and maintaining your sanity.

Since every client is different, you need to understand that the sales process will never be the same twice. It is important to consistently alter your approach and focus on uncovering the unique needs of your client. You also need to be prepared to negotiate with underwriters and insurers on a regular basis to meet those needs.

3) Understand your client. Always strive to minimize your clients’ risk as much as possible. This means understanding how they work, who they are, what they do and what inherent risk is present in their industry.

In addition, when you approach carriers to solicit quotes, having all the necessary information about the insured helps eliminate unnecessary back and forth between the client and carrier, especially in commercial lines.

4) Clients are people, too. In sales, it can be easy to get caught up in quotas or commissions. But working at an independent insurance agency gives you the best of both worlds. You still get to be in sales, but you also serve as an advocate for your clients on a regular basis. Instead of being tied to one carrier, you may often find yourself lobbying with multiple carriers to get your clients the best value and best coverage.

I’ve also found that clients are far more open to listening than I initially assumed they would be. Transparency and solid explanations can be gamechangers in the insurance world.

5) Culture is critical. While it’s important to enjoy what you do, it’s far more important to love where you work. Look for a collaborative agency that will go to bat for you.

Michael Crowell is an account associate at Georgetown Insurance Service, Inc.