Most insurance sales agents are based in small offices, from which they contact clients and provide information on the policies they sell. However, much of their time may be spent outside their offices, travelling locally to meet with clients, close sales, or investigate claims. Agents usually determine their own hours of work and often schedule evening and weekend appointments for the convenience of clients. Although most agents work a 40-hour week, some work 60 hours a week or longer. Commercial sales agents, in particular, may meet with clients during business hours and then spend evenings doing paperwork and preparing presentations to prospective clients.
Insurance sales agents held about 11,00,000 jobs in 2005. Although most insurance agents specialize in life or general insurance, a growing number of “multi-line” agents sell all lines of insurance.
For insurance sales agent jobs, most companies and independent agencies prefer to hire college graduates—especially those who have majored in business or economics. High school graduates are occasionally hired if they have proven sales ability or have been successful in other types of work. In fact, many entrants to insurance sales agent jobs transfer from other occupations. In selling commercial insurance, technical experience in a particular field can help sell policies to those in the same profession.
As a result, new agents tend to be older than entrants in many other occupations. College training may help agents grasp the technical aspects of insurance policies and the fundamentals and procedures of selling insurance. Many colleges and universities offer courses in insurance, and a few schools offer a bachelor’s degree in the field. College courses in finance, mathematics, accounting, economics, business law, marketing, and business administration enable insurance sales agents to understand how social and economic conditions relate to the insurance industry. Courses in psychology, sociology, and public speaking can prove useful in improving sales techniques. In addition, because computers provide instantaneous information on a wide variety of financial products and greatly improve agents’ efficiency, familiarity with computers and popular software packages has become very important.
Insurance sales agents must obtain a license in from IRDA. Separate licenses are required for agents to sell life and general insurance. Licenses are issued only to applicants who complete specified pre-licensing courses and who pass IRDA examinations covering insurance fundamentals and insurance laws.
A number of organizations offer professional designation programs that certify one’s expertise in specialties such as life, health, and general insurance, as well as financial consulting. Although voluntary, such programs assure clients and employers that an agent has a thorough understanding of the relevant specialty. Agents are usually required to complete a specified number of hours of continuing education to retain their designation.
Employers also are placing greater emphasis on continuing professional education as the diversity of financial products sold by insurance agents increases. It is important for insurance agents to keep up to date on issues concerning clients. Changes in tax laws, government benefits programs, and other State and Central Government regulations can affect the insurance needs of clients and the way in which agents conduct business. Agents can enhance their selling skills and broaden their knowledge of insurance and other financial services by taking courses at colleges and universities and by attending institutes, conferences, and seminars sponsored by insurance organizations. IRDA also has mandatory continuing education requirements focusing on insurance laws, consumer protection, and the technical details of various insurance policies. Insurance sales agents should be flexible, enthusiastic, confident, disciplined, hard working, and willing to solve problems. They should communicate effectively and inspire customer confidence. Because they usually work without supervision, sales agents must be able to plan their time well and have the initiative to locate new clients.
An insurance sales agent who shows ability and leadership may become a Development Officer in a Branch Office. A few advance Assistant Branch Manager (Sales) and higher marketing positions. However, many who have built up a good clientele prefer to remain in sales work.
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