The insurance sales agent acts as an intermediary between a client, an individual or a business, and an insurance company. The sales agent, also called a producer, works to find insurance products which offer the best coverage options for their clients at an acceptable price. Sales agents seek new business while servicing existing client accounts.
An insurance agent can represent many insurance companies as an independent agent on only one insurance company as a captive agent. Insurance is separated into two broad categories: Property and Casualty, and Life and Health. Many insurance agents are familiar and licensed in all lines of insurance. Many carry additional securities or financial planning licenses in order to serve as a single stop for all a client’s financial product needs.
Successful insurance sales agents strive to be perceived as insurance counselors rather than simply sales people. Personal involvement and availability of an agent to offer advice or answer questions can mean the difference between retaining an account, getting a referral, or not.
Insurance Sales Agents Job Responsibilities
The first responsibility of an insurance sales agent is to seek out and present insurance quotes to new clients. Insurance agents rely heavily on referrals to generate leads. To compete effectively with direct insurance quoting, an agent must respond to leads and obtain quotes promptly – clients expect fast service.
Cross selling and account rounding of existing clients is expected. The agent is expected to offer a quote for at least one other insurance product at renewal. Offering additional services offered by the agency in other lines of business is also beneficial to meet sales goals.
Usage of computer programs to maintain records, prepare reports, and quote new policies is necessary on a regular basis. Premium and commission records must be kept to reconcile revenues. Insurance premiums are often collected by insurance sales agents. It is the agent’s responsibility to see that accounts and policies are correctly credited for all premiums collected.
Insurance sales agents serve as the first point of contact in the event of a claim. The agent will contact the insurance company to give first notice of a loss and provide contact information to both the insurer and the client to expedite processing of the claim.
Insurance Sales Agents must be available to manage incoming phone calls to service existing client accounts or have staff available to do so. Service includes answering coverage or billing questions, making changes to policies in force, and preparing insurance documents as required.
Insurance Sales Agents Training and Education Requirements
Companies employing insurance sales agents frequently look for college educated employees, though it is not always a requirement. A bachelors’ degree in business or economics is preferred. Work experience can be substituted for college education, especially if that experience is in sales. Competency with computer database and internet technology is essential.
A producer license in the agent’s line of business is required in the home state if business. Separate licensees are necessary for property and casualty insurance and life and health insurance. If other financial services are offered such as financial planning, a securities license 6 or 7 will be required. Most agents maintain more than one license in order to take full advantage of cross selling opportunities for existing clients.
Most states require completion of a licensure preparation course. The length of the licensure preparation course will vary depending on the type of license being sought. Once licensed, a certain number of continuing education credits must be obtained for each license held within the licensure window.
Insurance Sales Agent Salary and Wages
Independent sales agents typically work solely on commissions while agents employed by larger agencies are compensated on either salary plus commissions or salary plus bonuses. According to the Department of Labor, top insurance agents can make more than $100,000; however, the median salary for insurance sales agents is around $40,000. The lowest income reported is slightly more than $20,000.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Insurance Sales Agent Certifications
Obtaining additional certifications beyond licensure can assist agents in demonstrating expertise in the insurance field. Some influential credentials that can be attained are:
CPCU – Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter designation demonstrates that the insurance professional has mastered a wide range of property and casualty insurance topics.
CIC – Certified Insurance Counselor designation represents completion of a series of five comprehensive courses on insurance and risk management consulting.
ARM – Associate in Risk Management designation is awarded to individuals who have completed courses on subject of risk management techniques.
CLU – Chartered Life Underwriter designation is awarded to students who have demonstrated a firm understanding of life insurance, underwriting, financing, and delivery.
Insurance Sales Agent Professional Associations
Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters (CPCU) Society is a professional association for those who have successfully completed the CPCU designation. It is committed to professional excellence, career development and continuing education.
The National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) is a trade association that focuses on the interests and educational requirements of small independent agents in all 50 dates, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisers (NAIFA) focuses on agents and financial consultants who sell life insurance products, employee benefits, provide financial advice, or investments.