Hiring that first good producer may be the most difficult single step/achievement an independent agent undertakes. It is so difficult, at least 60 percent of agencies, based on size surveys, never hire a single successful producer. Hiring just one quality producer who succeeds puts an agency far above average.
Hiring, developing, and then keeping a good producer is truly difficult work for many special reasons including:
1. The agency does not yet possess a reputation as being a great place for producers to thrive. In other words, the agency has to sell a quality candidate as to why the person should take a chance on a rookie agency.
Low-quality producers and candidates will not know the difference. They will not care or they simply are not smart enough. The good producers/candidates know the difference. So what is your sales pitch? Remember, they know the difference between an agency that has a real potential for their achieving their goals and one that does not. Too many agencies seeking to hire their first quality producer enter the search without any sales pitch prepared, without any plan, without even knowing who they want to hire.
2. You need to know what a good producer looks like. A good producer can and will sell. This means a good producer can look a little abrasive, difficult, too forward, aggressive and too energetic. Many agency owners will not hire this person. They want someone that is easier-going first and that can sell second. The proof of this is the plethora of really nice guys that are producers who do not sell.
Before you test someone, talk to the testing organization and learn what a true producer profile looks like. My personal favorite is the sales test given by behavioral sciences because it is easy to see the difference between a nice guy and a person who can sell and how the fact they’re a nice guy can be the reason they can’t sell.
Know thyself. One reason so many people are hired as producers who obviously cannot sell is because the owner does not really want to hire someone that can sell.
- A good producer is often threatening to an owner. They’re the top dog who may have become a little complacent relative to sales and here comes an aggressive person who begins putting business on the books.
- Often, the No. 1 criteria a producer must have to be hired is that the owner likes them; whether they can sell is secondary.
- Sometimes likability is the criteria because a salesperson needs to be likable, but being likable to clients versus likable inside an office is not necessarily the same.
3. Some agency owners are confused as to what selling really is. They have come to believe that what they’ve been doing for the past 10 or 20 years is selling but it is not. If people are calling you versus you calling on them, it is not selling per se.
If the owner, excluding all the appropriated house business, has a book of less than $300,000 after 20 years, it is not selling.
4. If you look really closely at whether people are buying from you because you own the agency versus you selling to them and learn they’re buying from you because you own the agency, understand the significant difference this makes to a producer.
A client fought me on this point for several years until finally he ran some experiments and learned I was correct. He had thought he was great. He learned that many commercial buyers just want to buy from an agency owner and he was the only locally owned agency left. When his producers offered the same package and honestly presented themselves better, they did not have the same success. Consider going undercover and learning for yourself. A non-owner producer will have to work harder and therefore, their sales skills need to be strong.
5. A producer that can actually sell may rub some insider people, including the owner, the wrong way.
Agency owners that know me well know I am adamant that producers follow procedures. However, agencies usually have a choice when hiring a producer. They can get someone that pays attention to detail work in the office or they can hire someone that can sell. The skills are not always mutually exclusive, but usually this is the case.
Too often existing CSRs will run off a good new producer by demanding detail and complaining to the owner how much work the producer is. If a producer can sell, CSRs need to be led, by the owner, to understand the importance of the producer’s skill. The producers still have to follow procedures but maybe the procedures can be modified, maybe the CSRs can do some of the follow up, maybe the agency can support the good producers.
An important note: This only applies to good producers!
The owner may not ever like the good producer. Is your goal to hire a friend or generate sales and value?
6. Have a strategic plan in place prior to beginning your search.
Determine if you are going to hire an insurance veteran or hire a good salesperson from another industry.
Based on the first point, develop a complete training plan before you even interview anyone.
Develop and verify that you have a quality producer contract ready to go before beginning your search.
Develop your producer management plan. Even good producers need overt management.
The first producer hired is always difficult and even culture changing. In many ways, it is like bringing a baby home and into a family. The family is never again the same. Some agencies are so insular they’ll never be able to welcome a quality producer. This just helps every other agency grow at their expense.