Finding Your Niche: Specialization vs. Generalization

Finding your niche with insurance sales products

If you’re just starting your career as an insurance sales professional, it’s important to decide whether you want to specialize in one specific segment of our business, or whether you want to be more of a generalist. Both roles are important, and the marketplace needs both.

So, you might be wondering, “How should I decide?”

If you want to focus on a specific product type or target customer, becoming a specialist may be the right choice for you.

Insurance specialists usually have a niche market focus – like employee benefits. You and your business are committed to helping owners and managers find the right products and services to address the health care needs of their employees.

You may narrow your niche even more by selling exclusively (or nearly exclusively) to businesses with 2 to 50 employees. Or you may write groups of all sizes, but your focus is on firms engaged in specific markets like manufacturing, agriculture, non-profit work, or a dozen other fields.

Your specialization allows you to zero in on an industry or market niche, become an expert, and offer your customers greater insight on the products and services available to serve their needs.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandates that Applicable Large Employers (ALEs) provide their full-time employees and dependents with health coverage or face an ACA penalty. Whether an employer is an ALE is based on whether the business has 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent employees. (Businesses need to do an analysis each year to determine their ALE status.) To learn more about the ACA employer mandate, also referred to as the Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions, visit the IRS website. For additional information on determining an employer’s ALE status, download the ACA IRS Reporting Calculator on the W&B website. It’s one of several ACA-related calculators that we offer.

Some brokers who specialize may want to focus on writing ALE groups. With the mandate to provide health insurance, there is less of a need to convince the employer of the benefits of offering coverage.

If you choose to be a generalist, your business will typically offer a more diverse array of services. That can include Health Insurance (including coverage through the Covered California or Nevada Health Link exchanges), Life Insurance, and Ancillary and Supplemental Insurance (like Dental, Vision, Disability, Accident, Hospital Indemnity, Critical Illness, Cancer, and Legal Services plans).

As a generalist, you may write both Individual & Family Plan (IFP) coverage as well as group coverage or employee benefits. You’ll work with individuals, families, business owners, and HR and benefits managers. If your clients have in-person open enrollment meetings, you may also interact directly with employees.

Questions to Consider in Making Your Choice

If you are not sure what career path is best for you, here are three questions to ask yourself.

1: Who do you want to work with? Specialization may be the way to go if you want to focus on a specific market segment or customer type (e.g., small businesses). Your specialization will enable you to better serve your customers because you are focused on learning the ins and outs of employee benefits and staying up to date on the latest products and services. Your focus will also help you nurture a reputation as a market expert, which can enhance your community profile, boost referrals, and drive future sales.

2: Can you spend your day focusing on just one (or a couple) of things? If your specialization is employees, you’re primarily selling health and ancillary products. If you are a generalist, you may be pitching IFP Health in the morning and Disability insurance in the afternoon. Many IFP agents who sell Life are also licensed to sell Accident and Health (A+H). Others may cross over and sell A+H as well as Property and Casualty (P+C).

Some licensees appreciate the daily variety, which could tip the scale to generalization. Keep in mind, though, that earning and maintaining multiple licenses can present challenges. You may want to consider whether you need to undergo added training to be able to sell more products. Plus, you should investigate any added CE requirements to maintain multiple licenses or certifications.

Another way you can learn about what to expect if you specialize or generalize is to talk with other brokers or agents. Find a specialist and a generalist who can discuss their experience and provide you with insight into whether they would make the same generalization or specialization choice if they were starting over. A good question to ask is whether they are happy with their work/life balance?

3: Could specialization narrow your opportunities in the future? The insurance marketplace is constantly changing. That is true for insurance sales professionals who favor specialization as well as those who choose generalization. Changes at the state and federal levels occur regularly. Keeping up on those changes is important for all brokers and agents – so you can better serve your customers.

Twenty years ago, no one would have forecast the future implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Although there are still opponents of the federal law a decade after it was implemented, there’s no longer a major push among politicians to get rid of the ACA. In fact, a February 2024 poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found an uptick in overall favorability toward the ACA. Six in 10 U.S. adults hold a positive view of the law. Among Democrats, 87% hold a favorable opinion as well as 55% of independents. More than two-thirds (67%) of Republicans have an unfavorable view.

The Choice is Yours

What is important is that you make a choice – specialization or generalization – that fits you, your aspirations, your lifestyle, and your vision for your future. You’re not locked in for life. You may find after working for a while, you move from a generalist to a specialist. Or vice versa.

Having a general agency partner can expand your product and service portfolio, help you write more business, process it more efficiently, and increase future opportunities. Word & Brown has been helping brokers for nearly 40 years. Talk with your representative about how we can help you. If you are not yet working with us, we make it easy to get started. Complete our online form or call us at 800-869-6989.

Be sure to also read our related blog, The Art of Differentiation: How New Brokers Can Stand Out in a Competitive Market, ADD LINK to learn more about differentiating yourself.



How Much Can You Earn as an Insurance Broker?

Find out what you can be earning as an insurance agent in our handy, up-to-date salary guide. Produced by our in-house experts, this resource is bound to help you in advancing your career.

Word & Brown Salary Guide