One of the greatest challenges I see for agencies is the ability to make new producers successful. I have seen them approach the problem from every possible angle: threats, hand holding, training programs, providing leads, changing the compensation model, motivational techniques, investing in new resources, and on and on and on. Eventually (and usually way too late), they get rid of the producer, hire a new one, and the cycle perpetuates itself.

For the most part, it's not a training issue, a compensation issue, a motivational issue, a resource issue, or anything else like that. Mostly it comes down to one issue that really isn't about the producer — it's about the agency and how you hire. Or to be more specific, the problem is in the type of producers you are hiring.

According to a study cited in the book The Challenger Sale, there are five distinct sales profiles. While any of them are capable of being an average performer, if you want high performers, there's really only one way to go.

First, let's review the profiles and see which you have been hiring.

·Relationship Builder: This sales type is looking to make friends during the sales process. They try to keep everyone happy and will do everything they can to take tension out of the discussion. This is probably the most common sales approach in our industry. After all, this is a "relationship business", right? Well, this is the number one reason we fail at producer hires.

Percentage of high performers who are relationship builders – 4%

·Hard Worker: They make sales by being willing to make more calls and conduct more visits than anyone else. I'm not sure how often you come across this type of person, but it seems like it would be a good hire, right? Not so fast.

Percentage of high performers who are hard workers – 10%

·Lone Wolf: The rule breaking cowboys of the sales force. They either do it their way or no way at all. This doesn't usually sit very well in an agency environment, or maybe it does all too often. It's too bad it is so disruptive, because they are actually reasonably effective.

Percentage of high performers who are lone wolves – 25%

·Reactive Problem Solvers: I would argue this is the second most common sales tactic used in our industry — they find a prospect whose current broker has dropped the ball, fix the problem and get the business. I guess there's a certain amount of logic, but this personality profile is much more suited to be an account executive (which is usually what they do once they are satisfied with their book of business.) After all, they are more interested in fixing problems than selling new business.

Percentage of high performers who are reactive problem solvers – 7%

·Challengers: These individuals are assertive. Their assertiveness comes through a well-earned sense of confidence. They use that assertiveness and confidence to push thinking boundaries, control the conversation, share controversial opinions, and actually thrive when there is a constructive tension in the conversation. They understand that it is only when the prospect starts questioning their own situation and looking at it with new perspectives that they will find their motivation to do something different. This is what buyers want. This is what buyers reward.

Percentage of high performers who are challengers – 54%!

So, is there really any confusion as to why we fail with our producers? We're hiring for the wrong traits. Stop looking for relationship builders and reactive problem solvers who combine to represent 11% of high performing sales people. Instead, go look for the challengers. It may take a little more effort to find them, but think of the effort saved once they are on board!

If you'd like to know more about these profiles and how challengers work with prospects and clients, I recommend reading the book. It will change the way you view selling and hiring in your agency.


Kevin Trokey, founding partner and coach of Q4intelligence, is a business consultant and sales coach who specializes in independent agency transformation strategies. He is a frequent speaker within the industry and also writes regularly on various industry-related topics. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter (@KevinTrokey) or reach him at


Kevin Trokey

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Employee Benefit Adviser content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access