Looking for and finding that perfect new fit for a producer is extremely challenging. I’m not sure I’ve ever talked with an agency leader who hasn’t expressed frustration with this. While there is no guaranteed answer for success, there are certainly ways you can influence the process.

The first thing to recognize going into a potential hiring situation is that selling has changed significantly for insurance agencies. What was once largely a commoditized product sale that was influenced by personal relationships and producer product knowledge has moved to being a complex, consultative sale where the producer is helping businesses make strategic, longer-term decisions.

[Image: Bloomberg]
[Image: Bloomberg]

The people required to manage these two types of sales are going to vary as much as the conversations necessary in each situation. Insurance producers today need to be as comfortable talking about strategies to improve operations and profitability for their clients as they are talking about insurance products and scenarios.
Agencies are notoriously poor at making good hiring decisions, with a couple of factors influencing the outcomes:

  • Sales people naturally want to sell, and when they are the ones doing the hiring, it’s not unusual for them tend to turn a candidate-evaluation decision into a sales pitch to see if they can “sell” the candidate instead.
  • Owners tend to want a magic solution when hiring new producers: Simply bring people on who already know what to do and who have a network of people to talk to, and the revenue starts flowing. No further effort required.

These are flawed approaches to take into the hiring process, which then naturally influence the retention of producers. If things get off to a bad start, then neither party is happy with the results of the relationship and turnover becomes the obvious answer.

Combat these challenges with some consistent processes to follow with each hiring situation:

  • First, don’t limit recruiting to existing insurance producers. They already have habits established and will bring those with them, good or bad. Look outside the industry for curious people who like a good consultative discussion. And look inside the industry for people who have been in other roles, but may have the interest and aptitude to grow into a consultative role.
  • When you start interviewing, be sure you have a defined hiring process that involves more than the owner and sales leader. Open it up to a wider review of the candidate from within the organization.
  • And finally, when the producer is selected, have a defined onboarding program to set the producer up for success. Plan to spend time — the owner’s/sales leader’s time — introducing the new producer to the agency’s way of working. Invest in any additional training that is necessary.

4 keys to creating producer success

After the producer is hired, there are a number of other problems that get in the way of making it a successful transition. Hiring a sales person is not where the owner’s/sales manager’s role ends in having a thriving sales team. It’s actually just the beginning.

1) Processes. Agency owners need to equip sales teams with a systematic approach to finding and winning new business. Have a defined sales process that all producers are taught and follow and have accountability measures in place to ensure consistency.

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2) Technology. Equip your producers with technology that assists in all phases of prospecting, marketing and selling. The tech tools should set them up for success by connecting them to their prospects and other resources to help further the relationships, and allowing the manager to review and assist as necessary. A cloud-based CRM is preferred today, so the sales team can access the data from the office or on the go. Managers should have complete access to all prospecting data to watch the growth and development of the pipeline and assist with coaching.

3) Coaching. Capturing producer activity information in real-time allows managers to have one-on-one coaching conversations and help the producer move prospects through the pipeline, giving them as much opportunity for success as possible. Use the technology in coaching producers to help them overcome hurdles that may be holding them back. Do they need help moving prospects from step to step? Do they have prospects going into the pipeline, but then seeing no further movement? Use the data to uncover opportunities for help and improvement.

4) Marketing. Support producers in their prospecting and selling activities with a comprehensive marketing effort. Marketing should be used to challenge and educate prospective clients and prepare them for the sales conversation. Without a marketing effort, the sales process is overly dependent on the producer, thus naturally reducing their opportunity for success.

Set yourself up for success, but recognize that it’s not foolproof. Hire smart people who are genuinely curious, want to be helpful, enjoy solving problems, and get excited about growing and creating new things. This will help give you and your agency the best chance for success in hiring new producers.

Of course, you could do everything right to set the business and producer up for success and it still may not work. Sales people can be a funny bunch and finding the right fit for themselves and the environment is going to take precedence. And each person’s definition of the “right fit” is going to be different. But when you make that right connection, it’s usually well worth all the effort.

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Wendy Keneipp

Wendy Keneipp

Keneipp is a partner and coach at Q4intelligence, driving agency transformation.