When you’re first starting anything new – especially going into business for yourself – it can seem a little overwhelming. But I can tell you from my own experience, it’s definitely worthwhile. Let me now share my story – and some advice that might help you as you start your new career.
MY BACKGROUND AND CAREER SWITCH
I enjoyed a very nice career in the mortgage space for more than two decades, working for Orange County’s leading mortgage services vendor. After surviving several market downturns and traveling nationally on a very frequent basis, I was looking for a career that would allow me to have more control over my schedule and destiny.
In my role, I was responsible for managing the relationships for a couple of multimillion-dollar accounts, but I had little control over the servicing end of the relationship, which created constant challenges for me.
MY START IN INSURANCE
I worked for a small agency in Orange County for the first couple of years after entering the health insurance sales industry. I was lucky enough to find a broker who wanted to retire. She continued to mentor me and ensure the clients were comfortable with me prior to officially retiring.
THE DECISION TO START MY OWN BUSINESS
I was looking for something that would give me the ability to create more balance between my work life and family life. I wanted more time to spend with my family, rather than being on the road or in the office. I also got tired of trying to fix problems that I didn’t create. And, due to the way the company and industry were structured, I knew that leaving the mortgage industry was really the answer.
WHAT IT’S BEEN LIKE
It was very overwhelming – and a bit scary – for the first three to five months. There were many logistics to consider, including what technology platform to use, what business equipment to buy (or lease), how to organize client files, keeping track of client servicing, etc. Of course, while dealing with all that organization and implementation, my biggest priority was to make sure clients would not be adversely impacted during the transition.
It’s been a refreshing experience to work with small to mid-size business owners who are truly the fabric of our country. Helping them solve problems and walk them through details that they don’t necessarily have the time or full understanding to manage on their own is quite rewarding.
Word & Brown has been incredibly supportive in helping me through my learning curve. Jenny Percival, my Senior Inside Sales Representative, was very patient in answering all of my very basic questions, even though I asked most of them more than once.
Some of the carrier reps were also very helpful in providing the resources I needed right off the bat. That’s especially true for the carriers in the specialty markets. I also had some key individuals at the agency where I began my health insurance career who helped me understand the structure of the industry, the plan designs, and underwriting guidelines. And, of course, the broker who has helped me start my own business was instrumental in my success.
MY BUSINESS PROCESS
I’ve found that networking and referrals are truly the best way to prospect for new business. Cold calling works for some brokers, telemarketing works for others; however, for my business, there’s nothing more powerful than a warm referral or lead from a trusted source.
Networking groups have also worked well for me as have a couple of professional associations. I’ve also tried LinkedIn and Facebook, but I find they are better tools to give your business an online presence, rather than using them as tools for lead generation. However, I do use them to stay connected to my professional network, clients, and to help me research a potential client or lead.
TIPS FOR SALES SUCCESS
Always put the client first. The relationship and rapport with a client is the most important aspect of being an employee benefits and insurance advisor. It’s essential to be genuine and put the needs of the client ahead of your commission. If you don’t do what’s right for your client, it will not be a longstanding relationship nor will it result in future referrals.
About the Author
Katie Jaime is president of Magnolia Insurance Solutions, an Orange County, California, employee benefits firm. She’s been working with Word & Brown since 2014.
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