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The smart way to launch a career in insurance

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For career-changer Michael Quinn, believe it or not, the transition to the insurance industry from his occupation as a speech-language pathologist makes perfect sense.

The 43-year-old owner of LifeInsuranceBlog.net, hosted by WordPress, says he didn’t want to go the traditional route of first becoming a captive agent with a single company before launching his independent practice.

Instead, Quinn has held onto his speech-pathology license even though he got his agent’s license a few years ago and has signed on with a brokerage that would assist him in starting up a technology-driven solo insurance practice. His game plan is to taper off his previous business as his new one takes off.

“I skipped the captive route,” Quinn said in a recent phone interview. “I knew I had to become educated on my own, and I signed up with a brokerage that focuses on the future of life insurance sales. So far, I love it. Becoming a progressive, next-generation agent really interests me.”

That future-focused brokerage, Pinney Insurance Center Inc., is a national distributor with thousands of agents, roughly 60 carriers and a focus on digitally automated tech. For example, Pinney has partnered with DataRaptor Technologies Inc. to offer one of the first customer relationship management software platforms designed by and for insurance agents. Pinney also offers quoting, marketing and drop-ticket processing tools.

Family firm

Based in Orlando, Fla., Quinn holds both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in communicative disorders from the University of Central Florida, Orlando. His wife, Joann, a teacher who also got her degree from UCF, is his business partner.

“We opened a private practice 10 years ago and were a family therapy business, and we’ve transitioned to a family insurance business. We split it up and she focuses on the Medigap side and I focus on the life insurance side. The first website I developed was our Medicare supplement site, reMEDIGAP.com, which I handed off to Joann, and now I handle the life insurance at LifeInsuranceBlog.net,” he said.

LifeInsuranceBlog.net’s “About Us” page says that Web users who use the site to compare rates will not be subjected to having their information sold to dozens of agents that won’t stop calling. Quinn said during the phone interview that he seeks to provide a hassle-free life insurance application process.

Potential clients may be searching for information about a health condition or facing a high-risk situation such as cancer or diabetes when they come across the articles about acquiring insurance that Quinn has written for his website. On the site, he offers a ‘get a free quote’ feature, and then he goes through the initial quote process with the leads who have come to him.

“There’s not a pushiness,” Quinn said. “It’s about providing people information, and it’s very easy for them to request help. There are no high pressure sales whatsoever.”

Ultimately, aside from referrals, any new leads that Michael Quinn gets are based on his ability to maintain a well optimized, working website. Joann Quinn’s Medigap site is similarly designed to be low pressure, but for some reason that he can’t explain, there are more “tire kickers” on the life insurance side than on the Medigap side of their family business, he said.

‘It’s not like buying a TV at Best Buy’

Either way, people who have requested a quote are sent a once-a-day follow-up email during the sales process.

“The quote is only the first step,” Quinn said. “It’s not like buying a TV at Best Buy. With life insurance, you have different health classes. They may select the preferred-plus health class, but if they have diabetes, they won’t qualify for that rate. Then we’ll have to have a phone conversation about matching the best plan for their condition, and I’m looking at any number of companies.”

For both Michael and Joann, the transition into insurance was not a difficult one in terms of learning about underwriting and products. While running a family therapy practice, they were already familiar with the world of insurance, Quinn notes.

“My wife and I do well when we speak with people. They say we take our time with them,” Quinn said. “That stems from being therapists and working with people and educating them about techniques. Joann is a natural on helping seniors with Medicare.”

Back in 2012, Quinn earned a 2-15 health and life (including annuities and variable contracts) agent license from the state of Florida, even as he continues to hang on to his speech-pathology license and see a handful of therapy clients.

Quinn is licensed to practice in multiple states—a real boon for a tech-savvy insurance advisor who does much of his work online, via email or by phone—and he renews his license every couple of years. Before applying for his insurance license, he completed a 60-hour approved insurance course. A continuing education requirement stipulates that he must complete 24 hours of CE on a biannual basis.

“We have clients all over the country. In fact, last year we went on vacation to Charleston, S.C., and my wife and I visited some of our clients,” Quinn noted.

New career path

He got started on his new career path after observing his brother-in-law’s success in Medicare supplement insurance. He liked how his brother-in-law was his own boss and wrote Medigap policies on the road.

“He gave me a rundown of his business, and I became curious,” Quinn recalled. “I was blown away by his industry. In speech pathology, you bill hourly for treatments, but my brother-in-law was making a living on commissions and renewals. I started doing research on online insurance forums and looked into different business models.”

A couple of well-known insurance sales gurus with a significant online presence also have served as inspiration. Quinn pointed to independent life insurance agent Jeff Root of Rootfin.com, whose online agents are known for providing quick life insurance quotes, and Chris Westfall of MedicareAgentTraining.com, who regularly gives sales training webinars and is popular on insurance message-board forums.

Successes as well as challenges, meanwhile, have come from Quinn’s experience creating websites from scratch.

“I’ve had to address how build up my insurance business on the websites, creating content and doing the marketing. For the most part, I’m my own tech support, but there are some things I hand off to somebody else, like hiring a developer or freelancer to help with my website,” he said.

Both he and his wife write their own content, Quinn said, adding that they would like to hire writers but have been dissatisfied with the quality of writing that they don’t do themselves. Still, hiring outside writing help remains in their marketing budget.

Quinn believes that the future of the insurance industry lies in online sales. He remembers a family friend when he was growing up who worked as an agent in a 9-to-5 brick-and-mortar Allstate shop. Yet the next generation of insurance agents will do well if they rely on digital products and services, he says.

Plus, Quinn likes the freedom that his Web-driven business affords him.

“I’ve found this niche area of communication online and over the phone and meeting in coffee shops. It was really overwhelming at first, but I love technology. Every day, I learn a new technique. It’s an ever-changing process,” he said.