Insurance sales agents help insurance companies generate new business by contacting potential customers and selling one or more types of insurance. An agent explains various insurance policies and helps clients choose plans that suit them.
Insurance sales agents typically do the following:
Insurance sales agents commonly sell one or more types of insurance, such as property and casualty, life, and health and long-term care.
Property and casualty insurance agents sell policies that protect people and businesses from financial loss resulting from automobile accidents, fire, theft, and other events that can damage property. For businesses, property and casualty insurance also covers injured workers' compensation, product liability claims, or medical malpractice claims.
Life insurance agents specialize in selling policies that pay beneficiaries when a policyholder dies. Life insurance agents also sell annuities that promise a retirement income.
Health and long-term care insurance agents sell policies that cover the costs of medical care and assisted living services in old age. They may also sell dental insurance and short-term and long-term disability insurance.
Agents may specialize in any one of these products or function as generalists providing multiple products.
An increasing number of insurance sales agents offer their clients comprehensive financial planning services, especially for clients approaching retirement. These services include retirement planning, estate planning, and help in setting up pension plans for businesses. In addition to offering insurance, these agents may become licensed to sell mutual funds, variable annuities, and other securities. This practice is most common with life insurance agents who already sell annuities, but many property and casualty agents also sell financial products. For more information, see the profile on securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents.
Many agents spend a lot of time marketing their services and creating their own base of clients. They do this in a variety of ways, including by making “cold” sales calls to people who are not current clients.
Clients often learn about policies themselves on their own, by doing comparison shopping online and getting information from the insurance companies. Then they contact the company directly to buy a policy, so the client comes to the agent ready to buy.
Insurance agents also find new clients through referrals by current clients. Keeping clients happy so they recommend the agent to others is a key to success for insurance sales agents.
The following are types of insurance sales agents:
Captive agents are insurance sales agents who work exclusively for one insurance company. They can only sell policies provided by the company that employs them.
Independent insurance agents work for insurance brokerages, selling the policies of several companies. They match insurance policies for their clients with the company that offers the best rate and coverage.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition