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How To Become An Insurance Broker: Top Tips From Former KBD President

How to become an insurance broker (top tips from and interview with former KBD president Gary Killen) | KBD Insurance
Curtis Killen

As president of KBD, Curtis aims to simplify insurance for his clients. He’s helped lead KBD to become one of Canada’s fastest 400 growing companies according to the Globe & Mail.

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It’s safe to say that many people don’t expect to get into the insurance industry – and that includes insurance brokers. But if you know you’re interested in a career in insurance, and you want to learn how to become an insurance broker, you’ve come to the right place.

In the latest episode of The Freemium Podcast, Curtis Killen is chatting with former president of KBD Insurance, Gary Killen about his 40+ year career in the industry.

From his early days as a commercial insurance broker, to learning the ins and outs of underwriting, to eventually acquiring KBD Insurance, Gary shares sales techniques for new brokers, how to build relationships in the industry and get clients, and his experience growing an insurance brokerage.

Plus, he talks about the challenges he faced during his career, the tricks of the trade he’s learned along the way, and how he stayed competitive in a fast-evolving industry.

We’ve pulled out the best lessons from the podcast in the article below – including closing sales lines you can use in your own sales strategy.

But if you want to soak in all of the learnings of a 40+ year insurance career and learn Gary’s exact path of becoming a successful insurance broker, tune into the podcast below.

Here’s what’s covered:

Gary Killen On His Career In Insurance, Advice For Brokers & Running A Business Like A Sports League

How to become an insurance broker

You might be wondering, “Is an insurance broker a good career?”

Well – that really depends.

On paper, learning how to become an insurance broker is pretty simple. Like many careers, you have to study, pass your exams, and become licensed in the region that you’re selling in.

But a sales career can be a grind, so when it actually comes to having success as an insurance broker, it’s a different story.

It takes a certain business mindset to want to work in sales. According to Gary, having a competitive drive, being open to learning new things, and getting comfortable with rejection were key factors that helped him have success as an insurance broker.

Below, we’re sharing his sales strategies and prospecting tips for building your book as a new insurance broker, so that you can get off to a strong start.

How to prospect for insurance clients

So, you just got your insurance brokers license, but how do you actually get clients?

When prospecting for new clients, here are the key takeaways that Gary shares:

“I’m still for brokers doing cold calls because it enhances your skill level as a salesperson. You get to deal with rejection, objection, and you have to be able to address all of that.” -Gary Killen

Here, we’re sharing Gary’s five tips to get (and keep) clients as an insurance broker:

  • Cold calling isn’t dead: Cold calling will teach you how to pitch your product, how to overcome objections, and how to get comfortable with rejection so that it doesn’t slow you down.
  • Follow up with warm leads: Don’t wait too long between your initial outreach and when you follow up. And keep in mind that your prospective client will probably ask, “What’s different about your quote than what I’m paying right now?” So when you do follow up, make sure you’re overly prepared to answer, whether that’s with a quote, or a presentation.
  • You have to deal with decision makers: This is insurance sales 101. Identifying and working with decision makers will save you valuable time. Decision makers are often CEOs and company owners, and will be able to give you an answer quickly.
  • Build trust with your clients & colleagues: Business is about relationship building, and presentation and professionalism is the utmost. You have to build trust, and the only way to do that is to earn it.
  • Offer a better service: Sometimes brokers can get sloppy if a client has been with them for a long time. There’s a comfort factor, and prioritizing existing clients by shopping the market regularly might slide off their radar. So, make sure that your service stays consistent. On the flip side, if you’re prospecting, that’s an opportunity to offer a better service.

With that covered, sometimes you have to cut your losses.

So, how do you know when a client’s not interested?

Here are a few things to watch out for when prospecting for clients:

  • If you can’t get the mandate from the client, there’s no interest.
  • If the prospect doesn’t ask any questions, they’re generally not interested.

How to manage people: Developing managerial skills

You now know the basic steps of how to become an insurance broker, and have the tools to start building your client base.

So what’s next? What if you want to take the next step in your insurance career as a manager?

You might be wondering – what actually makes a great manager?

Managing people (and doing it well) is a skill just like anything else.

When it comes to managing employees, here’s the communication strategy that changed the game for Curtis:

“If you want someone to change something, start off with three compliments, then ask what they think about [changing their work]… Diffuse, disarm, works like a charm .” -Curtis Killen

So, let’s break that down.

What does that actually look like when you’re confronting issues with your employees?

  1. Step 1: First, highlight what your employee is doing well to help build confidence. By doing this, they’ll be more willing to take on challenges in the future. Plus, they’ll be more open to hearing about mistakes they made, and how they can improve.
  2. Step 2: Ask them what they think about the issue you want to bring up. This brings up the obstacle in a more collaborative conversation, where they get the opportunity to problem solve.
  3. Step 3: Let your employee come up with a solution, or work together to decide what needs to be adjusted, and make changes accordingly.

How to present a quote to a client

Being well-prepared shows professionalism, whether you’re presenting a quote to a client, or an insurance underwriter.

As Gary says, “Presentation is the utmost, because if you don’t present [the submission to the underwriter] properly, you’re not going to get a competitive quote.”

But as a new insurance broker, you might not know where to start.

No worries, we’ll help you out.

Here’s how Gary would approach presenting a commercial insurance prospect to an insurance underwriter:

  • Step 1: Gather basic information to supply to the insurance company. This includes the commercial building information (construction, building age, sprinkler installation, safety features, etc.)
  • Step 2: Gather business operations information. This means making sure that you know exactly what the insurance client does, and how they do it.
  • Step 3: It never hurts to be over-prepared. Gary went a step further with gathering the underwriting information, and would find out background information about the business owner.

This last bit of information will help you anticipate any objections from the underwriter, and fully understand whether the business is a good prospect.

Like Gary says, “The best businesses that you can insure are businesses that have no moral risk whatsoever.” – Gary Killen

And this is something you can discover by doing your due diligence as an insurance broker.

This includes asking information about the business owner, including:

  • Their education
  • Where they went to school
  • How they started the business
  • How they started dealing with their broker
  • If they’re still working with the same broker

The more you know, the more prepared you will be to address any objections.

Sales techniques for insurance brokers: Learning how to close a sale

First things first: As an insurance broker, you have to understand what high risk and low risk sales questions are.

By doing this, you can address any questions that your prospective client may have ahead of time, so that it can be easy for them to say yes.

And high risk questions always come first.

That said, high risk sales questions can’t be asked three days into the process. They have to be asked right away.

For example, asking for the mandate is a high risk question.

Great closing sales lines to use as a new insurance broker

Here are a couple of great sales lines to keep in mind the next time you speak with a client:

  1. “Assuming I can address all of your concerns with regard to switching, what would it take to cause you to change [insurance providers]?” What would constitute a change for us to do business together?
  2. If you’re opening a sales opportunity for your team, make that clear to the client from the beginning. When you go to sell, tell the client, “I have a team behind me, and they’ll service you better than I will.” That way they’ll be expecting a change in who they’re dealing with, and they won’t be upset when they find you’ve delegated their file.


And there you have it.

A masterclass on how to become an insurance broker – and how to get insurance clients to boot.

To recap, here are the key takeaways from Gary and Curtis that will help build your insurance career and your client base.

  • Cold calling is a great way to learn: As a salesperson, you have to learn how to overcome objections and rejection. Cold calling is the perfect training tool as a new broker.
  • Presentation is the utmost: Make it easy for the client to say yes (whether they’re the underwriter, or the insurance client).
  • Managing people is a skill: Learn how to effectively provide feedback to your employees so that you can get the best work out of them.
  • Follow up with warm leads: Follow up in a timely manner, and make sure that you’re prepared when you do so!
  • Always deal with the decision maker: When you work directly with the decision maker, whether they’re an owner or a CEO, you’ll be able to determine whether there’s actually interest in your product, and you won’t waste any time.

On The Freemium Podcast, Curtis Killen, president of KBD Insurance, hosts creative entrepreneurs, founders, business owners, and professionals to chat about all things business – unfiltered.

We cover the behind the scenes details of running a business, from funding & financing, to creative marketing & branding, to mishaps, mistakes, and the big wins, nothing gets left out.

Whether you’re an aspiring business owner, or a current founder looking to commiserate this podcast is for you.

Subscribe to The Freemium Podcast on YouTube, and tune in on Spotify & Apple.