Finding Producers in Small Towns

By | March 7, 2016

How did agencies in small towns ever get started? Someone wanted to work on their own, in sales, and blaze their own future. People don’t usually get into insurance on purpose, and especially not into the insurance agency business. This is the career by accident/fortune/karma industry. Many small town agencies were founded by people who easily might have chosen another industry. They weren’t searching to found an insurance agency specifically.

People who want to be in charge of their own future in small towns still exist. These people are likely no more or no less qualified than people who founded small town agencies 20, 40 or 50 years ago. Certain aggregators, franchisors and others are finding these folks and helping them start new agencies. Literally thousands of small town agencies have been founded in the past five to 10 years. The fact is that potential producers do exist. So why are small town agencies not finding them and if they do find them, why are they failing to convince these people to work for them rather than founding a competitor? The failure to hire these people is a double whammy because not only do they lose future production but their competition increases.

The failure to find these producers before they become competitors is closely correlated to this being an accidental/fortune/karma based industry. So many agency owners depend on a producer just falling into their laps rather than proactively and methodically finding these people first. The first factor that must change is the small town agency owner’s mind set. Good things do not always happen to good people. The mindset needs to be, if the owner wants a more assured future, build a methodical plan for hiring a producer who has no insurance experience.

Many agency owners do not know how to build this plan or in many cases, how to get their heads around the entire concept. The concept is easy to put on paper but not so easy to grasp the first time a person actually attempts execution. The first time everything seems so theoretical, even ethereal.

So many agency owners depend on a producer just falling into their laps rather than proactively and methodically finding these people first.

Building a Plan

Step one is to identify – extremely specifically – three great reasons a person with no prior insurance experience, but wants to be in charge of their own destiny, should consider insurance. The reasons listed must be absolutely concrete. No cloud in the sky reasons are allowed like, “This is a great industry!” Better is, “You can make six figures and eventually build a level of independence rarely available in today’s corporate world.”

Step two is to identify – extremely specifically – three great reasons a person with no prior insurance experience (or maybe with some experience), but who wants to be in charge of their own destiny, should consider your specific agency. Reasons listed must be even more tangible. “Our agency is a great place to work!” “We have a great reputation!” and other dribble will not suffice. Name exactly why your agency is a great place to build a six figure career. Details and tangible reasons inspire confidence and trust.

Step three is to understand how important it is to attract people to the agency rather than you trying to find them. The most valuable marketing/advertising a small town agency might spend is money designed to attract quality people rather than clients. Build your networks to attract people as much as potential clients.

Attracting high quality people is often a significant psychological barrier. Hiring quality people for the first time almost always invokes fear. It is fear of the unknown. It is fear of potentially being challenged. It is fear of not being good enough. Sometimes the fear is justified and sometimes it is not. Fear may be justified if, obviously, the agency is not a good place to work and build a six figure income. The calculation then becomes whether the financial and emotional cost of improving the agency is worth the rewards of simply having a better agency and even better, having an agency that is attractive to high quality people. If one’s retirement horizon is five years or less, the investment may not make sense.

If a longer horizon exists, the financial investment is almost certainly worthwhile. Whether the emotional investment is worthwhile can only be determined by the person seeking to hire. Quite often the fear owners feel is related to the unknown and the fear of being challenged by a high quality person. If you feel these fears, quality coaching can work miracles if you’ll ask for the coaching. Overcoming these fears and feelings is rarely a DYI project. Asking for coaching assistance is not indicative of a weakness either. Asking for assistance is in fact a sign of strength, a sign of immense internal strength.

One of the key reasons so many agencies stay small is the agency owner fails to find the strength to request assistance. I meet owners of small, medium and large agencies all the time and those that insist on a DIY process, or a de facto DIY process when they hire advisors/coaches that are sycophants, rarely ever achieve complete success. At best, with extremely few and always unique situations, they look successful for a while mostly based on the owners’ personal skills, but they fail to build a true business. The most confident and most emotionally well-developed frequently seek great coaching.

Quite similarly, if the fears are not well founded, the best solution is to ask for assistance to learn if your concerns are or are not justified. It is so hard to see one’s own agency from the outside including the qualities that will make it attractive. Usually only an outsider can provide the necessary clarity.

Step four is to prepare yourself to sell the career but do not oversell. By this I mean, do not forget you are doing the hiring and it is most important for the candidate to talk than you. Agency owners can get so excited they spend all the interview time selling the candidate instead of having candidates sell themselves.

Step five, because agency owners in general tend to like every candidate at first, use high quality testing and go with the results rather than your guts. Ask a key staff person to participate in the interviews.

Finding high quality producers in small towns is not any more or any less easy than it has ever been. The key is building the methodical plan for attracting enough candidates, not just one but many, and then use the testing and interviewing process to select the best.

We know for a fact thousands of people want to work in the industry as producers and they’re finding other options. It is key you get to them first!

About Chris Burand

Burand is the founder and owner of Burand & Associates LLC based in Pueblo, Colo. Phone: 719-485-3868. E-mail: chris@burand-associates.com. More from Chris Burand

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