What Skills are Required to Succeed in the Insurance Industry?

There’s a question that torments every prospective insurance agent: “How do I really know if I have what it takes to make it in this business?” Just because you have an insurance license doesn’t automatically mean a career filled with endless success.

As important as it is to have a comprehensive grasp of policy details and basic technical knowledge—there is a lot more to succeeding in this very competitive business.  

So, do you actually have the skills needed for a career in insurance? Here are 13 skills every insurance agent must have to be successful.

Relieve stress 

If you allow yourself to get consumed by frustration every time a prospect tells you “no” you’ll struggle as an agent. Learning how to use this stress to your advantage is important.

Strong communication skills

Communication is one of the most fundamental skills because of how encompassing it is on a day-to-day basis. The ability to influence clients, prospects, and colleagues and persuade them to take action is an important part of your business life. Being able to articulate ideas is a prized skill in today’s insurance workplace when time is limited and customers require prompt and concise communication.

Active listening skills

Hearing what someone says and actively listening to them are different things entirely. Most people hear someone speak and instantly begin forming a reply in their brain (or even worse, start babbling) before the person even finishes what they were saying. The key here is to listen actively, which admittedly takes more effort but will produce a better outcome. It means you listen without interrupting, take the time to form an effective reply, and then respond. This takes practice, of course, but your client will feel like they’re better understood.

As the saying goes, we were given two ears and one mouth. Be a good listener and be conscious of the needs of your prospects, clients and colleagues. With practice, you’ll see a noticeable difference in the reaction of the people you deal with.


The ability to authentically relate to and empathize with your clients is essential to growing your book of business. Early on in your insurance career, empathy will help you to determine the challenges your prospects face, pinpoint where their pain is and, importantly, gauge whether or not they are ultimately willing to move their insurance business to you. Even if they can’t articulate it, your customers definitely know if you truly care about their needs. When you choose to empathize with their challenges and unique difficulties, you develop a totally different relationship with them—one that's positioned to help them solve their problems rather than just making sure you make a sale.

Be productive

This is a big one for insurance producers because there is no single right way to “be productive” for all people. Determine your peak daily energy times—then figure out when the best times for prospecting and administrative work are for you. Explore different productivity tools to help you be at your best during those times.

Write persuasively

While audio and visual content like photos, podcasts, infographics, and videos have become the essential content for social media these days, the written word is still king when it comes to getting your ideas across in this business. Creating compelling content that gets coworkers and prospects alike to take action is the cornerstone of your day-to-day communication. Without the ability to write persuasively, you won’t stand out from the other professional trying to win over prospects. Additionally, you will need exceptional writing skills for email, website content, insurance proposals and more.

Identify your strengths and weaknesses

As an insurance professional, you don’t need to be perfect at everything. However, you do have to recognize where you’re strong and where you’re weak. Assessing this will inform everything from how you prospect to how involved you get in the marketing process with carriers. Example: Hate to cold call? Maybe hiring a telemarketer to do the work makes sense.  

Build a referral network

Asking for referrals should always be a primary source of new business for insurance brokers and agents. In fact, it’s fair to say that the quality of your referral network could make or break your insurance career.

Building your network of insurance referrals is easier than you may think, however. You do not have to be exceptionally outgoing, but you’ll need to make an intentional effort to reach out to your existing clients often. If they’re happy with your service, they’ll be glad to help you with referrals.

Ask the right questions

Insurance agents should be problem solvers, and in order to do that, they have to ask questions.

Knowing how to ask the right questions will save you time and dramatically improve success as your insurance career develops.  

Keep in mind, asking the right questions doesn’t mean plowing through an insurance policy word for word in front of a prospect. The right questions go beyond policy coverage and exclusions, to the much deeper level of what your customer’s specific problems are and what they’re trying to accomplish by working with you.

By asking specific targeted questions, you’ll not only better understand your prospects, but you also establish credibility and expertise—both of which can lead to a boost in sales.

Focus on your customers

To be absolutely clear, without your customers, you don’t have a book of business. Treat them accordingly and be sure all of your sales pitches, proposals, and services are laser-focused on addressing actual customer needs. Research and ask the right questions, as mentioned above, so that you’re able to offer outstanding customer service. This business is far too competitive to offer anything less.

Close the sale

Every insurance producer is first and foremost a salesperson. Not only are they selling their ideas, products or services to prospects and customers but also to colleagues and underwriters. They are at the point of sale when the customer is ready to buy.

Understanding and solving a customer’s issues is important, but asking for the sale is where many insurance producers fall short. If the idea of asking for the sale makes you nervous, understand that’s it’s really not as difficult as it seems.

Make a dedicated effort to get better at this skill with a mix of formal sales training and trial and error. After all, there is no business without sales.

An ability to deal with failure

There is no straight line to success in insurance sales. Being able to quickly get past failure is essential. Remember that every successful insurance producer likely failed many times before getting a sale. Failure isn’t an end, it’s just a mile marker on the jagged path to success.

If there is a secret to success as a salesperson in the insurance business it’s to get back on your feet again as soon as possible. Apply what you’ve learned and use it the next time.

Willingness to keep learning

Successful insurance agents understand that they don’t know everything (and never will) and that the insurance market is constantly evolving. They stay up to date on new coverages, technology, and industry trends. Learning doesn't stop with insurance school—make it a lifetime commitment.

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