How to Bag a Direct Carrier Appointment
For new and established agents, getting priority carrier appointments can be a challenge. Read on for some tips on how to gain access to carriers more effectively.
Whether you are a new agent just starting out or an established agency brokerage looking to improve the line of products you carry, it can be very difficult getting a direct appointment with a quality carrier. Most insurance carriers are interested in long-term, profitable relationships with brokers who are experienced, have a proven track record, a desirable marketing territory and a solid business plan. As an agent, access to carriers who offer the most competitive products and compensation structure is important. However, when you first start out, or even after years in the business, obtaining an appointment with the most desirable carriers can be a challenge. So how do you move forward? Read on for some tips on how to gain direct access to carriers more effectively.
9 Tips for Getting Direct Carrier Appointments
- Explore Joining an Established Agency Network. A network (a.k.a. cluster or aggregator) can often help agents access desirable markets and possibly direct appointments. Some groups offer appointments with lower volume commitments and profit sharing thresholds than an agency can obtain on their own. In return, you will likely pay a membership fee or possibly also a percentage of commissions to the group. Be sure to review the agreement closely if you're interested in going this route.
- Get an Appointment with a Wholesale Carrier First. Do some research and find out what wholesale carriers are out there. Once you begin to build a preferred book through a wholesaler, you will be in a better position to gain access to direct carriers.
- Write a Business Plan. If you haven’t done this already, write one now. A business plan is a work in progress and should evolve over time and be influenced by outside factors such as the economy and local conditions. An agency with a current business plan, with specific, measurable and attainable goals, ensures the companies continued success.
- Make Your Agency Attractive. Major carriers seek to do business with independent agents who they feel will most enable them to meet their profitability objectives. Carriers look for businesses that implement successful "best practices," want to work as a team with the company and operate in favorable geographic and regulatory environments.
- Contact Marketing Reps at the Beginning of the Year. Strike while the fire is hot. By reaching out to marketing representatives early in the year, when they are trying to fill sales quotas, you are more likely to score an appointment and/or contract.
- Know the Carrier’s Company Satisfaction Index. Before reaching out to direct carriers, do your homework. What is their appetite for taking on new agencies? Do they have a minimum premium volume commitment? One quick way to learn about a prospective carrier is to review what your peers have to say about them. Look for online reviews and insurance forums to collect information.
- Bite the Bullet and Invest When Necessary. While it may be more desirable to start your own private agency, sometimes it makes sense to work for a broker who will allow you to buy back your book of business. You may also want to consider the option of buying a current book of business with a good commercial mix. Both options involve some up front costs, but are viable solutions for getting started.
- Find Your Niche. Find your niche and do it well. For Personal Lines it may be high value homes or specialty vehicles. For Commercial Lines you might choose restaurants, hotels/motels, auto repair shops or contractors. Having a niche might make you more desirable to direct carriers. Research other local agencies to see where gaps exist.
- Be Prepared. Most carriers provide a list of requirements (and an application) on their website for obtaining an appointment with their organization. Before you begin the process, make sure you have all the prerequisites met and be prepared to meet additional requirements (such as a background check and proof of licensing for both you and your agency).
To find out which insurance companies United Valley Insurance Services works with, view our Carrier Partners page.