The Young Agent

Supposedly, by 2018, 1/4 of the insurance agents currently active today will have gone into retirement. ONE. QUARTER.

I am yet to meet another insurance agent as young as I am (I will be 25 in one month), and while they do exist in abundance, typically insurance agents have a few more grey hairs than I do, for a few reasons.

One being that insurance is a tough gig. It can be utterly dismantling in terms of the toll it can take on you. Massive amounts of work can often lead to zero results. They are few industries that require such efforts and can reap such little reward. On the flip side, of course, the rewards can be huge; life-changing in fact.

The second is that success often comes with years. This is a common denominator across most industries; time invested I think they call it. What I mean is that some ‘older’ people, even someone as little as ten years older than myself, have a hard time trusting a “kid” with something as important as their insurance.

I usually like to find out at the first meeting/ on the first phone call if being “so young” is going to be a deal breaker for a potential client. After all, there will never be a point in my life where it is acceptable to waste time.

I was at a networking event recently and had a few cocktails with other young professionals who are very much in the same boat as me. They are also in formidable industries (Financial Planning, Real Estate, etc.), and while we brushed shoulders for a picture, someone blurted out, “This is the future right here”. Needless to say, he could not have been more correct. I then looked around, and noticed the average age at the event was considerably lower than the majority of successful people within our respective industries. And I got to thinking as to why.

For a start, times are changing. I can’t be sure but I don’t think networking was the same kind of dynamic as it is today, nor could it have had the same effect. The reason for this is that selling as a practice is handled differently, something my agency principal says he is glad to see. I talked in a previous blog post about reputation and relationship, and this is how selling happens today.

I believe in the process of learning the hard way, the trial-by-fire way, the “thrown to the wolves” way. I know the guys I was at the networking event with have gone through much of the same process. We’re running hard, so hard in fact that the old guys don’t know how to combat it, aside from showing everyone how many years they’ve been in business and how many awards they have. Yawn.

In sales, it is important to know who your competition is. It just so happens that I know my competition probably better than they know themselves. I know who the agency principal is, who’s on his team, who his best producer is, what he likes to write, how he likes to approach, where he woos his clients; basically everything short of his Social Security Number. To me, you have to know this stuff. The wonderful part about it is, though, is that they have no idea who I am, other than perhaps the fact that I am out there, slowly picking away at his business. Talk about guerrilla warfare.

I like to acknowledge my youth with people. I say things like “I know! How lucky are you to be able to have the same agent for 30+ years to come?!” or “I know, think how smart I must be!” Of course, I put a tone of jest on these statements because people don’t always like the cocky kid, but there are certainly elements of truth in what I say. Think about it – I WILL be around for the next 30+ years; and the smart thing? Well that’s what people assume because the industry is so dominated by people older than myself, so if you’re in the running, that’s impressive.

Running with the big dogs is a lot of fun, especially when you know you are making waves – big or small.

The big dogs have worked hard all their careers to build their agencies into well-respected, profitable businesses. These are agents, even of competing agencies, I admire and in some ways try to emulate because their success speaks for itself. But, because they are stuck managing their agencies, they simply cannot keep up with agents like me who are pounding the pavement; guys who at this point in their careers, have nothing to lose.

Now, it will be a while before I am on level par with these guys, perhaps longer than I want to think about. But that’s the driving factor, the fact that I am not there yet. And for me this is the fun part too, there’s always more work to do and more potential clients to chase. Again, these older agents aren’t chasing anyone, much to their detriment. But that’s fine by me.

There are certain qualities of young agents that a different, older generation simply lacks. One of the biggest of these is the ability to handle technology and social media.

Take my own mother, for example. I’ve been in the U.S. for six years now, and we have Skyped or FaceTimed basically every weekend all that time. Nonetheless, I can guarantee that every time I call her to talk, the first five minutes will be spent on her trying to figure out how to use the same application she’s used for the past six years. Aggravates me to no end. The point is she’s just “not very good” (her words, not mine) at figuring out and using technology.

Apply this to an older insurance agent in today’s market. It is crippling if you do not have a grasp on that, so much so that you will eventually be left behind. It’s one of the reasons I started this blog – it is another avenue where I can reach people on an informational basis, another avenue that my name appears on someone’s phone or computer screen. And, what’s worse is, if they do not handle this well, they pay someone $50,000 per year to do it for them.

Selling insurance is a personal sale, you are selling yourself as the servicing agent. Despite what you are told, we all sell the same products, through the same carriers, and we are all subject to the same rates. What my clients are guaranteed is a call back in the same day, from me. It shocks me how many people I talk to who’s primary complaint is that they can’t get their agent to talk to them. Imagine that – clients are paying you money and you can’t even call them back?! Can’t fly, won’t fly.

A good young insurance agent over-delivers, he calls back right away when he has your answer, he follows-up immediately, he is always accessible, he is enthusiastic, he is involved in the community, he is highly educated, he is very active, and he gets sh*t done.

It is not the fault of the older generation that their adaptability is not as versatile as those of the younger generation. The world moved much slower 30 years ago, heck even 10 years ago, than it does today. To reference Bane in the Dark Knight Rises, young insurance agents were born in it, molded by it.

I have a substantial amount to learn in this industry, again more than I would like to think about. Much of what I will learn will come from the big dogs I am competing against; in what they do well and what they fail to do.

I’ve never made a secret that I am coming after every single agency in my county for their biggest, best, juiciest accounts. And, when I get them, I’ll ensure they are not taken from me the same way I took them from their former agencies.

The future is bright.

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