How to Grow Your Own Producers

By Catherine Oak | February 11, 2013

Finding a good, qualified producer has always been difficult. When one finds a good producer, that person might be restrained by a contract from another agency or specialize in a line the agency does not sell,or the person could be a producer you should not hire because he or she has been a problem elsewhere.

As an alternative, agencies can hire from outside the industry and grow their own talent. The following tips were gathered from some of our clients that are not hiring traditional producers from other agencies, but instead are essentially growing their own staff.

Testing Is Important

Always test for the right skills. People tend to seek their own best qualities in the people they hire. It is no surprise that agency owners will look for producers who share the same qualities and skills of the owner. They often do not interview them well, nor ask the right questions. It is essential to test personality and skills, so the agency hires people with good sales skills. A simple way to do this is to use the First Step test by Caliper. It is not expensive and doesn’t take a long time. If the person looks good in the First Step, then the longer Caliper test can be taken.

For good benefits producers an agency can look at individuals with finance backgrounds.

Get Advice From Others

We all have blind spots and tend to overlook some personality traits in others. It is a good practice to have any prospects interviewed by other employees in the agency. First, they are the ones that will work with the person, so it makes sense to see if there is a fit. It is equally important to have people evaluate the prospect from a different perspective than your own.

Look and Promote From Within

It is important that employees in an agency do not feel dead-ended and know that if they are good, that they can be promoted up through the ranks. Often there are individuals in customer service that have sales potential. They may not be people that can go out and bring in new business, but often they can hang onto an account well and can become what we call account executives.

AEs can handle accounts from the owners or top producers and perform the producer role, and still have a CSR to delegate to. This essentially frees up the top producers and owners to write new business and know their accounts are handled well by the AEs. The producer still receives part of the commission on the account, usually at least 10 percent, and the AE is paid a percentage of the book they handle, usually 15 percent to 25 percent as a salary.

Carrier Marketing Reps or Claims Pros

Most agency owners know how difficult it can be to make most insurance company employees agency producers, or even employees. The mentality in a company is totally different. There are many layers to which to delegate. Usually they are not on the firing line. Insurance companies learn to say “no” to agents that try to place business with them, and agents need to say “yes, we can help you” to even difficult clients. Marketing reps and claims persons are the exception. They both work with people to solve their problems and are much more interactive with agency employees in working to make business happen and keep customers happy.

Look to Other Sales Industries

Agency owners should look for producers who have been successful in other sales industries. But which ones? It is best to profile what you already write (your top 10 niches) and what markets you have for those niches. If a salesperson is found from one of these niches, he or she is more likely to succeed. The niches could, for example, be equipment dealers, technology reps, commercial real estate, manufacturing, or agriculture related, for example.

As individuals are brought in, it is best to see what their centers of influence are. So a “fit” also could be determined with those centers if they gel with what the agency is already doing or helps them get involved.

Hire Financial People

For good benefits producers, an agency can look at individuals with finance backgrounds from banks, stock brokerages, or loan or title companies. These individuals seem to transition well to employee benefits producers. Remember that insurance companies are also good at helping new benefits producers produce, so this can be a great way to bring in individuals new to insurance. Most property/casualty agencies want a benefits arm or to enhance the department they already have, so they are writing the entire account for a client.

Hire Those That Have a Drive to Win

Rather than focusing on finding a “salesperson,” it often is a good idea to look for people outside of sales that have an inner desire and drive to win. They tend to end up being great producers. This is especially true if they are also dead-ended in their current income generating ability. For example, owners should look at sports coaches, athletes and teachers. Anyone can be taught insurance, if they have this inner drive. These people can make a lot of money if they can be supported well initially and learn the insurance business. Usually, they are well-known and connected in the community in which they live, which helps with prospecting.

It is important to think out of the box, when searching for new, great producers for your agency. The old way of thinking was that we needed to find producers with books from other agencies because it is too difficult to teach insurance. On the contrary, it is almost impossible to teach sales to non-sales types. These suggestions have merit, and it might be the right avenue for your agency.

About Catherine Oak

Oak is the founder of Oak & Associates, based in Santa Rosa, Calif. The firm specializes in financial and management consulting for independent insurance agencies, including valuations, mergers acquisitions, clusters, sales and marketing planning, as well as perpetuation planning. Oak will be conducting a three-part producer series in March, April and May in Fullerton, Calif., for the IBA West of Orange County. Phone: 707-936-6565. Email: catoak@gmail.com. Website: www.oakandassociates.com. More from Catherine Oak

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Insurance Journal West February 11, 2013
February 11, 2013
Insurance Journal West Magazine

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