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How to Start a Career in Insurance Sales

by Mark Applegate

Insurance sales jobs can be quite lucrative for a self-starter with a fearless personality and a relentless drive to succeed. Successful agents often have an extroverted personality since these positions are typically commission-based and require prospecting for customers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of insurance sales professionals will grow by 22 percent to over 500,000 by 2020, and averaged $46,770 in compensation annually as of 2010. If you would like to join their ranks, there are a few steps in the process.

College Education

While insurance sales agents are not always required to have a college degree, if you earn one you have a competitive advantage over less educated peers. Consider a degree program in finance or business, but take as many electives in marketing and public speaking as you can to enhance your chance of success once you are employed. Get socially involved with your peers in college and develop a contact list from which you can draw for sales prospects.

Licensure

You must be licensed in any state in which you plan to sell insurance products. There are mandatory licenses for all insurance product categories including property and casualty, health and life coverage, among others. While you can study for and take these licensing exams before you are hired, some find it easier and more cost-effective to apply for an insurance position without being licensed. Often insurance firms will hire good candidates and train them for the license exams in exchange for being contracted to work for them for a predetermined number of years. If you decide to get your license before you apply for your first insurance job, consider the "boot camp" approach to examination preparation that provides several days of intensive instruction and a money-back guaranteed testing result. While these training sessions can be expensive, they provide you with a solid education on the topic and offer the best chance of passing your exam the first time taking it.

Sales and Customer Service Training

Sales and customer service training is critical for being successful in insurance sales. College experience, while useful, does not provide the necessary hands-on experience dealing with varying needs of customers. Before embarking in the costly and time-consuming process of starting a career in insurance, find an entry-level position in sales or customer service to see if you have the necessary intangible skills to succeed and whether you will enjoy the career once you are hired. Learn the basics of sales including topics such as product presentation, building rapport, overcoming objections and closing the sale.

Product Considerations

Insurance products vary by the company to which you choose to apply. Some companies focus on specific genres of insurance such as property and casualty or auto insurance while others provide more of an umbrella of insurance coverage that allows you to meet all of your customer's risk management needs. While some prefer to offer a large variety of products, others prefer to specialize on one or two categories. Remember that you will be required to maintain a working understanding of all of the products you carry and may also have required continuing education in each of them to remain licensed. Consider your market when making this decision as it may be easier to specialize in one niche of the business if your practice is in a large metropolitan than in a rural area.

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