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Kick-Starting the New Producer

Author: VU Faculty

Jeff is a 22 year old producer who has been in the insurance business for less than a year. He came from a finance industry company where he was involved in outside sales. He's having trouble launching his insurance sales career and is curious what can benefit him right now and what he can do to become better. What can a frustrated insurance sales newbie do?


Question..."My name is Jeff and I'm a 22 year old producer who has been in the insurance business for less than a year. I came from a finance industry company where I was involved in outside sales. I'm having trouble launching my insurance sales career and am curious what can benefit me right now and what I can do to become better. What can a frustrated insurance sales newbie do?"

Answer...This is a terrific question and one with potentially dozens of answers and avenues that you can take. Let's start by polling the VU faculty to see what suggestions they may have.


Faculty response....
Start with basic insurance courses. The INS Program would be a good start. CPCU would be a long-term goal but is a necessity if you work with commercial. For more information, go Online courses are available.

Faculty response....
Learn everything you can; take every course offered; go to all the local meetings and practice.

Faculty response....
Just some quick ideas for you.  First, insureds are only interested in purchasing once a year not when you are ready to sell. This means you have to make continual efforts to get in front of several prospects before you will close a few. Have you approached your agency about some insurance sales training? Insurance sales can be very different since we sell a "promise" rather than a tangible object. Determining the prospects per-loss and post-loss goals can be a balancing act.

Have you gotten any intensive coverage training? Sales success comes from a base of knowledge that gives you confiidence. Try to find a niche where you can concentrate your sales and get yourself known in a particular industry as an "expert." Have you joined the local chamber and attended any of their functions? There will be opportunities to meet business people from all industries if the chamber is active.

Attend any local networking events that are well attended in your area to get your name out. Finding networking events takes a little work but once you attend a few you will learn about others and your face and name will become known. Ask to see the files of any accounts the agency has tried to land in the past but were unsuccessful.The current economy has everyone shopping and this may be the year.

Faculty response....
It's a fantastic question. Knowing what you don't know, and being willing to learn, puts you light years ahead of a lot of folks in a lot of industries. Here's my take on it:
Narrow your focus. Learning everything there is to know about every possible insurance product is a life's work. I'd suggest that you pick one company and one industry that your company is eager to insure (small contractors, retail stores, etc.). Start by getting copies of your company's forms for this target market, put them in three-ring binders, and tab them. This is your library.
Ask your company for whatever training they have available for your target market. They may have some schools or be willing to let you work with their underwriting or claims people to learn the ropes.
Make a list of everything you can think of that can cause harm to an organization in your target group. This will include easy stuff like fire and wind and more complex stuff like identify theft, employment practices lawsuits, embezzlement, etc. (This is a living document and you'll probably add to it as long as you're in the business.)
Study the policies to determine whether the harmful stuff is covered by insurance. This will probably require some help, and you can find it at the insurance company and through industry programs available through your state and national associations. The capstone programs are things like CIC and CPCU, but there are tons of other programs that will help you learn how to read and understand the policies. It's essential to start with the bad stuff that can happen and work from that to the available insurance coverages. Your company may not insure everything that your target client needs. In some cases, there are needs that NO insurance company will insure. You will never be able to cover everything, but it's important to know where your ability stops so you can put your client on notice.
Find somebody to talk to. If you don't have anybody to mentor you in your own organization, find a friendly competitor. There's simply no substitute for being able to toss ideas back and forth, especially when you're starting out.
Most important, make full use of the resources available through IIABA. Programs like Bill Wilson's Virtual University provide an excellent foundation for a new person who's eager to learn how to do this business right.
Best wishes in your new profession. Keep on learning.

Faculty response....
There are a number of new producer schools out there. Don’t try to do this alone; do some research about what is available from IIABA & Best Practices and The Institutes, such as the Associate in Insurance Production, specifically designed for new producers. There are other great providers in the industry for sales training. Your state association can guide you as to what works well in your area. Also, talk to your manager about giving you a mentor from within the agency. It really helps to “carry the briefcase” of someone who already knows the ropes. And don’t lose heart; it takes two or three years to really get your foundation built!

Faculty response....
Insurance is more than an 8-month commitment, so the first step might be to assess your willingness to make the effort to expose yourself to the naturally and necessarily long process of developing skills, knowledge, and a customer base. It also helps tremendously to have a mentor who can guide you through the process of learning how to develop new business, how to service accounts, how to manage time, and how to build your professional profile that includes training, certifications, and membership in professional associations. Don’t discount that last point; building a network of contacts in the industry is beneficial in many ways.

I could probably describe the process of developing a career in insurance — at a cursory level — with about a four-hour presentation and several hundred PowerPoint slides. That is another way of saying, “There ain’t no shortcuts.” That shouldn’t be a disincentive for you. Think about it this way: if you need open heart surgery, would you want to have the surgery performed by someone who took a quickie course in surgery from an on-line school, or would you like to have someone who had years of training in medical school, residency programs, and advanced surgical programs?

To get the results you want, you need to be able to give your customers the services, knowledge, and professionalism they want, and that takes time and effort. It is fair to say that all of the people who might respond to this question in this forum have put in a lot of time and effort, and that much of their success comes from that effort.

Faculty response....
Assuming that the licensing process has already been completed, I would advise participation in some insurance classes, which would also be beneficial in terms of continuing education requirements. I don't know what your zip code is (or even your state for sure), but you can check for classes in AICPCU programs at You can also check with your state Big "I" association.
In addition to classes, the agent groups no doubt hold meetings and conferences, and I would get active in that context.

Faculty response....
Systematic education, x-dating and mentoring from a senior member of your firm.

Faculty response....
It's great to receive this kind of a question from a young producer. There are a number of good programs today for new producers. Some are company specific and require the agency to represent that carrier. Others, like the National Alliance's new producer program, the Texas IIABA's program, Polestar's program, and others are open to anyone. I strongly recommend you participate in one of these programs because in most, you'll learn sales and coverages.

Faculty response....
A good place to start is to read every article in the VU.


Just 15 minutes of study each weekday equates to 60 hours per year.

Faculty response....
Education, read all you can and then get involved in the CIC or CPCU programs, look for a mentor in your agency or in the producer community. See if any of the companies represented have producer training or schools, though not many do anymore. Many of us old timers are graduates of company producer schools.

Faculty response....
Well, this touches a responsive note with me. I was 22 when I started in the business (39 years ago) and the first couple of years were frustrating to say the least. Everyone should have mentors but finding them can be a challenge sometimes. A starting point might be your state association – see if they have a mentoring program.  (Iowa has one where member agents can talk with more experienced agents on a confidential basis about all sorts of issues.)

Beyond that, there are many possible answers depending on your specific circumstances. On a personal level, what kept me in the business was involvement in the CPCU chapter, CLU chapter and of most importance, involvement in the Big I. The friends I made over the years because of those activities were and are invaluable resources and inspirations to this day.

Faculty response....
Your agency owner should develop a training track for you and support your efforts toward professional education. Among the programs that should be included are seminars/webinars, etc. which are offered by your Big-I state association (and Virtual University), as well as some of the nationally-recognized designation programs, such as AAI (Accredited Advisor in Insurance), CIC (Certified Insurance Counselor), etc. One advantage of AAI is that it is specifically geared to producers. As your career progresses, more advanced designation programs should be on your long-term training track, such as CPCU (Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter), ARM (Associate in Risk Management), and CRM (Certified Risk Manager).
Another excellent source of information are the many articles appearing on the Virtual University, under specific coverage lines. Also, I hope your agency has a subscription to Sage/SilverPlume, which can include several excellent national resources such as IRMI (International Risk Management Institute). Alternatively, you can subscribe to IRMI online. In addition, IRMI's web page has many excellent articles for free (under "Expert Commentary").  P.S. As an insurance professional, your commitment to learning should continue throughout your career. Best of luck to you!

Faculty response....
The response would be too big and not address what you need. You should have an internal/external mentor that will help you understand and follow through with the sales process. My recommendation would be to email Rick Roberge: and tell him you need help and he can set up a sales training program for you. You then need to have an in-person classroom program set up with all the commercial lines type classes that will help you understand what you are selling. The reason for classroom verses online is there can be good interaction within the room with the facilitator and participants and you’re not being distracted at the office for the flow of information. Best of luck to you!

Faculty response....
You don’t indicate what you feel might be responsible for what you believe is inadequate success. Is it product knowledge? Lack of sales skills? Is your personality suited to sales? You can start with a personal inventory test from Caliper or Omnia Profile just to make sure that sales is what you are best suited for. If it’s product knowledge, consider CIC and courses from The Institutes and read articles from the VU. If it’s sales, there are a number of industry sales training programs.

Perhaps you’re biting off more than you can chew as a newbie. Does your agency pay commissions on new or renewal personal lines business? If so, search the VU for an article called “Doorknob Marketing.” If you want to develop some expertise in tenant and condo HO coverage, you can canvas a lot of territory hitting apartment complexes and condo associations. The accounts may not be large, buy you can quote HO and PAP coverage, along with umbrella. That might get you in the door to sell condo associations and landlord's commercial products.

Get involved in your state association’s Young Agents organization. The networking and mentoring from senior leadership in the association can be a big plus, along with the peer-to-peer networking within the Young Agents group. The possibilities are endless. Obviously you feel there is a gap between how you’re doing and how you could be doing. That puts you ahead of a lot of producers at your stage of experience. So figure out what you’re good at, what you need work on, and go for it.

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