3 things every new agent needs to know
First of all let me congratulate and thank you for joining our proud ranks. Like the estimated ½ million of us nationwide, there are many things which may have drawn you into this profession, such as:
1. Being your own boss
2. Working on commission
3. Requiring no higher education or deep resume, and
4. Taking deep satisfaction in helping others avoid calamity
To help you become successful in your new profession, I would focus on three paramount needs: choosing your specialty, receiving training in it, and securing leads. Let’s look at these more closely.
While there will obviously be pro’s and con’s to each “line” (from P&C to life, annuity and health, etc.) the field with which I have the most familiarity is long-term care. Whether this market appeals to you will depend in part on whether or not you have any first-hand experience with caregiving. We’ve found that most LTC insurance producers have a “calling”—they are drawn to this field on a sort of mission. (Belief in the product is necessary; enthusiasm alone launches many early careers.)
While this nobility is unassailable, two practical matters must be faced. First, you must be able to carry yourself financially for several months. Some types of insurance have very short “cycles” and pay quickly — not so with LTC! From application submission to underwriting to issue to payment can take six to eight weeks to four months or more. We counsel new agents not to start this career unless they can bankroll themselves for at least 90 days. Second, one must decide whether LTCI is a market on the decline, or a market with unlimited upside. A case can be made for either point of view.
Next — and this is true no matter which line of insurance you go into — you’ll need training. Naturally, you’ll take your requisite pre-licensing classes (and additional hours of LTC-specific or annuity-specific training) but what then? Who teaches you to sell? You have options. Today’s carriers offer frequent webinars; you can seek out and join industry trade groups (eg NAHU, NAIFA); support the Center for LTC Reform to receive a package of services (I recommend their Graduate level course); seek out “designations” (advanced training such as CLTC); join any number of LinkedIn Groups dedicated to your specialty; take this excellent Boot Camp dedicated just to LTCI sales; read a book on the topic (this one is considered something of an industry bible); or lastly, contract through a Field Marketing Organization (aka Managing General Agent) who offers to train you.
Which brings us to our last point: Where are you gonna find customers to see? For consumers, claims are where the rubber meets the road. For agents, it’s leads. If you can’t find people to see, your career will be over before it starts. So, you’ve essentially got two paths to choose from. You can secure your own (e.g. buy them, develop relationships with Centers of Influence, generate referrals, advertise) or set-up shop with an organization who offers to provide leads to you for a cut of your commission. (In the latter case, such shops may also provide training to new agents.) The advantages to a new agent of letting someone else provide you with leads are obvious: it can get you on your feet much faster, their office will handle the backroom support and overhead which comes with it… but there may be strings attached and a lower commission. On the other hand, generating your own leads requires capital, patience, and savvy. Both models have produced happy and successful agents.
In either event, good luck, and good selling!
Stephen D. Forman is co-author of “The Advisor’s Guide to Long-Term Care” (2nd Ed.) published September 2014 by National Underwriter, a division of Summit Media, and the author of over 50 articles on the topic of LTC and LTCI. He is also senior vice president of Long Term Care Associates, Inc. of Bellevue, WA, home to the nation’s elite LTCI Specialists.