The insurance industry is a highly competitive field. Some factors that affect sales, like pricing, will be out of your control—a quote is a quote. But there are also other dynamics at play. As a new agent, your ability to explain coverages and meet your clients’ needs can be key factors in determining whether or not you make a sale.

Here are three common pitfalls to avoid when establishing your credibility and reliability as a new agent:

Pitfall #1: A Lack of Training or Education

One of the enticing reasons to become an insurance agent is that your job will constantly change over time. New products or features regularly appear that need coverage (i.e., solar shingles for homes or self-driving cars), and new insurance rules and regulations are created that will affect you and your clients. This means you’ll have lots of opportunities for growth.

While it would be nearly impossible to stay constantly aware of all of the latest information, nothing says “I’m a newbie!” like not being able to answer questions. It is incumbent on you to learn as much as you can at the start of your career and to continue seeking out education and training as you go. You not only need to know about the products you are selling, you should also understand the issues your clients are facing at various times in their lives. And you should stay abreast of technology, making it as easy as possible for your customers to get questions answered, file claims, add coverages, etc. Your clients are going to get younger and younger, and new technology will be as variant as the policies you write.

Pitfall #2: Focusing on Money Instead of People

Selling insurance is about understanding what makes people tick. Is your client more concerned with making sure she is covered for any eventuality, or would she prefer to have less lower coverage if that meant a lower premium?

If you try to push every sale to make a larger commission, you’re going to alienate some clients who will take their business elsewhere. That’s not in their or your own long-term interests. The whole idea of building a book is to reap the benefits of customers who renew their policies every year. In the long run, a lower commission that multiplies over time will add up to more than a one-time higher commission. If you put your focus on understanding and meeting your customer’s needs, you’ll build a roster of renewing clients, and the money will follow.

Pitfall #3: Setting Unrealistic Growth Expectations

As a new agent, you may find quick success by selling to friends and family. But what happens when that prospect pool is tapped? Insurance sales is not typically a get-rich-quick business. Building a book and creating long-term relationships with clients happens over time.

If you’re not sure what type of growth is realistic to expect, reach out and ask. Is there an association of insurance agents in your area? Is there a particular agent that you know has been in the business for a while who might mentor you? Learning about the career trajectory of someone who has been in your shoes is a great way to develop realistic growth expectations. You may also find good information by seeking out online forums or social-media groups for insurance agents; or are two great places to start.

If you keep your eye on the long game, it’s possible to have an interesting and fulfilling career as an insurance agent. By setting yourself up for success early in your career with the right education, focus and expectations, you can help people while earning a steady income—a pretty good way of life!

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