Selling insurance can earn you a substantial income, and if you grow a big customer base, renewal commissions let you build wealth over your career. But how can you optimize your chances of getting into the insurance industry, or of making a move to a more profitable position? Careful preparation for the interview is the key.
These days, many insurance companies conduct behavioral interviews for insurance sales jobs and independent contractor agents. “We’re trying to get in touch with competencies or behaviors that are part of a track record for success,” says Dan Strubberg, director of agency recruiting for State Farm Insurance.
“If you’re going to sell insurance, you need to communicate the benefit of it and the need for it,” says Paul Powers, a management psychologist. “To establish rapport, instead of starting with life insurance, for example, you talk about protecting your family in the worst of circumstances.”
Beyond these basics, what can you do to make the most of your insurance sales interview? Here are nine top tips.
1. Brush Up on the Industry
“Go to competitors’ sites and learn what kinds of trends are going on in the industry,” says Michael Neece, an interview expert and chief strategy officer at Pongo Software LLC. “What are the drivers that will be influencing the market over the next 18 months?”
Says Powers: “Your knowledge indicates your competence and interest.”
2. Prepare to Sell Yourself in a Minute
“Create the 60-second sell,” says Robin Ryan, author of 60 Seconds and You’re Hired. “Take your five best selling points and link them together in a couple of sentences.”
3. Talk About Your Selling Prowess
“How you can bring in sales -- that will be the main focus of the interview,” says Linda Matias, author of How to Say It: Job Interviews.
Professionals coming from functional areas other than direct sales should talk about how they can excel at selling. “Candidates should talk about why they’re suited for sales [and] why they would thrive in that environment,” Strubberg says.
4. Be Ready for the Tough Questions
Salespeople often have checkered careers, so they need to be able to talk confidently about their work history. “Prepare answers in advance,” Ryan says. “Anyone can improve their interview if they write out answers to questions like, ‘Have you ever been fired?’”
5. Find Out What You’ll Be Doing All Day
How much time will you spend in the office? Paying calls on clients and prospects? Filling out paperwork? Working late? Now’s the time to find out. “Ask what is a typical day in the life of an insurance sales executive at this particular company,” Neece says.
6. Show You Know How to Learn
Insurance products are complex and changeable. In addition to demonstrating a basic knowledge of your prospective employer’s business, you need to convince the interviewer that as a new hire, you’ll be able to drink from the proverbial fire hose. “The interviewer will be looking for trainability,” Matias says.
7. Come with Questions that Transcend the Obvious
Show that you’ve thought about this career opportunity enough to ask questions that go a step further than your rivals’. “The questions you ask have two potential benefits: You can communicate information about yourself, and you can gather the data needed to decide on a job offer,” Powers says. For example, “ask about turnover rate, the types of people who are most successful in the job, training, technology support and actuarial support.”
8. Zip Your Lip on Money Until Late in the Game
“You really have no leverage to talk about compensation until someone wants to hire you,” Neece says. In any case, there’s usually not much an insurer will do to sweeten the deal beyond its standard salary-and-commission structure, at least for staff-level sales positions. “The hiring manager has very little leeway, maybe $1,000 or $2,000, up or down.”
9. But Do Ask the Interviewer to Get Real about Compensation
Don’t be satisfied with broad claims to the effect that the sky’s the limit. “Ask what their top earner makes and their bottom earner,” Ryan says. “How many of their salespeople earn less than $100,000?”
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