After 15 years as an insurance agent, Sharon Campbell no longer needs to cold call on clients – and she’s glad. “Cold calling is tough. You have some people who will be nice to you and other people who will hang up. I once even had someone yell at me. You need to be able to handle rejection, that’s for sure.”
As an MassMutual agent and financial service advisor who sells insurance and investment products, Sharon Campbell now makes contacts through networking and her connections with other professionals, such as CPAs, attorneys, and affiliated insurance brokers. A former sales manager at a women’s department store, she was working “crazy hours for very little money” when she saw a newspaper ad seeking representatives for the New England-based financial services group. With a little so-called sweat equity, a handful of licenses, and a series of training and support classes, Campbell hit the road selling life, disability and long-term care insurance, as well as annuities and retirement plans.
Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) has recruited more than 470 financial services professionals like Campbell in the first quarter of 2009, with candidates from backgrounds as diverse as teaching, athletes, lawyers, and coaches. Employment of insurance sales agents is expected to increase by 13 percent by 2016, as sales of health and long-term care insurance rises sharply as the population declines. “It’s job for someone with an entrepreneurial spirit,” says Campbell, who says that beginning agents can earn from $40,000-$60,000 a year and up.
While talking to clients and potential clients, Campbell fields questions such as, “Do I have enough money if I retire? How can I make sure if my family is protected if I die? How much insurance should I have?” Her answers are based on analysis of an individual’s income statement and a balance sheet, with the final summary presented as a sort of financial blueprint. The biggest challenge, says Campbell, who is based in Wilmington, Mass., is selling such intangible products. “It’s not like they’ll end up with a nice shiny car in the driveway or some other new toy. They’re buying peace of mind, which can be a tough commodity to sell.”
Q: Give us a snapshot of a day-in-the-life of an insurance agent.
A: I might start the day with some follow-up paperwork, and then prepare for a client meeting by putting together a package of proposals. There are applications to review, and of course, phone calls and a myriad of other details.
Q: What are the different licenses that are required to be an agent?
A: In order to sell stocks and bonds, mutual funds, and different insurance-related products, you need to pass national exams administered by FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Agency.) These typically require 40-60 hours of study, and then some online or class review. You take the exam, and if you don’t pass – well, you take it again.
Q: What’s the strangest question you’ve ever received as a life insurance agent?
A: Maybe I’ve been doing this too long – questions don’t seem strange anymore. It’s usually along the joking line, like “If my wife dies, do I really get that much money?”
Q: How many business suits do you have?
A: In sales, appearances are everything. You have to look professional and presentable. I probably have a dozen business suits, with lots of accessories and shirts to dress them up. My favorite is a black jacket and pants with a teal blouse.
Q: Do I need life insurance?
A: If you need to ask, you’ve definitely come to the right person.