Why You Shouldn't Become an Independent Agent in the Senior Market
March 9, 2020

Being an independent agent in the senior insurance market can be quite an attractive career path. You're your own boss, you get to set your own schedule, it's not uncommon to earn six figures after a couple years, and there's an endless supply of clientele.

Roughly 10,000 people turn 65 each day, and they all need help figuring out Medicare. And most of them will want to buy a Medicare Supplement, a Medicare Advantage plan, or a Medicare MSA.

Prior to reading up on licensing and FMOs, you should evaluate if this career path is really for you. There's such a high failure rate for independent agents... we've estimated from our own experience that for every 10 agents who enters the business, only 1 sticks.

Here are 6 reasons you shouldn't become an independent agent in the senior insurance market.

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1. You don't like people.

Senior market insurance sales is a relationship business. I don't think you'll find anyone out there who disagrees with that statement.

If you hate the idea of small talk, calling clients, or meeting with prospects, run for the hills.

You want your career to be rewarding – not just financially, but also emotionally. Agents who love people thrive in this business. They love what they do and can't wait to get up the next day to do it all over again.

If you're not a people-person, you shouldn't become an independent insurance agent in the senior market.

2. You're not a good listener.

Most agents talk their way out of the sale. The most effective agents are the ones who can be quiet and listen.


brent-kellyBrent Kelly, insurance speaker, trainer, and coach with over 15 years of hands-on insurance experience explains, "I know many successful agents that are introverted. Being a great communicator is about listening and asking the right questions. Extroverts can often have more trouble with communicating than introverts — they need to know when to be quiet."

While striking up a conversation and having meaningful conversations with your prospects and clients is a big part of the job, being able to listen is arguably just as – if not more – important.

3. You have no desire to work on evenings and weekends.

As an independent agent, you set your own schedule. So, no, you don't have to work on evenings or weekends if you don't want to.

However, once you've built up a great customer base, things can get a little wild during the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) in the fall. Many of our local agents spend evenings and weekends at the office trying to get everything done before the December 7 deadline.

If that possibility doesn't fit within your desired lifestyle, you may want to pivot to another career.

4. You want to make big money fast.

A career as an independent insurance agent is a more of a long play than a short one. Odds are you won’t make much in your first year. You also can't rely on a steady income – your earnings will fluctuate based on what you sell and when.

Chase-GreuningChase Gruening, an independent senior market agent with nearly 600 clients, says, "You have to think long-term. In that first year, there's no renewals and tons of rejection."

If you need a predictable income to apply for a mortgage or to support a growing family, starting a career as an independent agent might not make sense right now. Many agents get started out when they're young – either right out of high school or during college.

sams-michaelMichael Sams explains, "If I hadn’t started while I was in college – my last 2 years of college – I promise you I wouldn’t be in the business today."

That's not to say you can't start out later in life – we know a ton of senior market agents who started out in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and even 70s! The point is that you probably won't have a great income when you first start, so just be prepared for that.

An exception would be if you're coming into it with an existing book of business, and you can do that. You can buy a book of business to get going, and we can help you with that if you have any questions.

However, if you stick to it, your income will increase rapidly due to renewals. It’s perfectly reasonable to plan on hitting the $100k mark by your third or fourth year.

You can read a lot more about income in our e-book:

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5. You're not interested at all in sales and marketing.

Independent agents make a living from commission, and you don't earn commission without selling product. If you can't execute basic sales tactics, and you hate the thought of doing any marketing, you won't make it as an independent agent.

Now, most of this can be learned if you're willing to put in some effort. You can learn a ton of information about how to be a great salesperson online, and we've put out a ton of material as well. Here are a couple of quick resources.

The Senior Market Insurance Agent’s Guide to Overcoming Objections

If you can’t make the sale because you don’t know how to combat – or avoid – some of the most common objections, that can be bad news for your bottom line. In this article, you'll learn:

    • How to avoid objections to begin with
    • 5 general objections you’ll face when selling any type of insurance
    • 5 objections specific to annuity sales
    • 2 objections specific to long-term care sales
    • What to do when you the client truly says “no”

The 8-Step Closing Process: How to Go From Stranger to Happy Customer

This 8-step closing process takes you from beginning to end. If you follow these 8 steps, you’re basically guaranteed to have a new friend by the time your close comes around.

Now, this process was developed with door knocking in mind, but it can be used in any marketing situation.

The first two steps are the most important part of the entire process, but once you get those down, the rest is a breeze.

You can also learn a lot about marketing, but thinking you can just buy online leads and make it is a mistake.

Gruening says, "I think not being able to find leads is a big excuse honestly." Thanks to the fact that over 10,000 boomers are aging into Medicare every day, he's right.

Dedicating time (and money) to marketing efforts is a part of the job. Again, you don't have to know everything about marketing, but you do need to learn and execute some basics, including:

  • Creating an online presence
  • Sending out communications and advertisements
  • Sourcing new leads

We've created a lot of helpful material about these topics, but again, if you have no interest in marketing, becoming an independent agent probably isn't the right career path for you.

Learn more:

6. You're not good at simplifying complicated things.

Insurance products can get complicated when you start really getting into the nitty gritty.

There's probably no better example than the Fixed Index Annuity (FIA). FIAs can get extremely complex with crediting strategies that get into spreads, caps, and participation rates – not to mention bonuses, riders, and surrender charges.

It takes experienced agents a lot of education and time to grasp FIAs, and even some of our best agents leave the fine details to Kirk Sarff, Director of Life Insurance and Annuity Sales.

Yes, you can learn presentation tips from our team, but at the end of the day, your presentation is probably going to be unique to you. And your client won't buy anything from you that they don't understand. And if they do, you can probably anticipate a chargeback sometime in the near future.

If you're not good at simplifying complicated things – or you hate the idea of not explaining every little detail – senior market insurance may not be the best career path for you.

Maybe You're Not Born With It

Look, not everything has to come naturally. Contrary to popular opinion, many excellent salespeople weren't just "born with it." You can learn how to keep a conversation going. You can learn how to handle objections. You can learn how to close a sale.

But that's the kicker – you have to be willing to learn. If you're pretty stuck in your ways – come on, you know who you are – you may find that starting up an insurance agency just isn't for you.

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