Most of our agency clients tell us they have a hard time finding producers. They want to know where to look and how to bring them in. It is not an easy task to find someone with experience from another agency and with an established book of business that can come in free and clear and easily fit into the agency’s culture. Every agency is different. The following are a few ways that an agency can find good people and be successful in this endeavor based on our experience working with thousands of agencies during the past 35 years.
Promote from Within
We have interviewed many agency staff in countless agencies that feel resentful that owners and managers often look outside the agency to bring in managers and new producers. They may be CSRs or account managers that have worked in the agency for a long time and know the agency’s customers, underwriters, processes and procedures well.
Often, we are told that they do not have an avenue to move up in the organization nor are they ever asked about their desire to do so even at performance review time. It is just assumed that they are not interested or willing to move up.
They also have a fear that if they did move into sales, they would have to go on straight commission. Even if they have a sales personality and could handle most of the commercial lines or benefits call-ins, they may not accept the job because of this concern.
The answer can be a different role that some agencies have created called an account executive. These AEs can handle existing books as producers do and are not expected to bring in new clients. They are usually expected to cross-sell the existing account with other coverage lines, such as umbrellas, EPLI, fiduciary responsibility coverages, business interruption, cyber, etc. Most can do this if they have taken some CSR and CIC courses and have a good manager to lean on.
The key is how to properly compensate them. Most AEs that have that position are compensated on a percentage of the book they handle as a salary, usually in the 20% to 25% range. Usually, AEs have CSRs to delegate to for clerical tasks and operate more as a producer on the accounts. If they cross-sell or bring in new accounts, they should receive commission for this outside of their salary.
In most agencies the personal lines sales are handled by the CSRs/account managers and not specific producers.
Hire Community Professionals
This was an avenue taken by one California firm. They would hire people in their community that were coaches and teachers. These professionals knew everyone and had a desire and drive to win. They are usually also unable to make a lot more money in their current profession so feel dead-ended by their careers.
Over the years, this agency hired about 40 of these professionals and they rarely ever left. They were extremely hardworking and grateful for the opportunity and were quick studies.
Salespeople Connected to Agency Niches
Another source is to look at people that sell in the niches that the agency likes to write and already knows that specialty well. An example would be a lumber salesperson or equipment dealer salesperson and the agency has a specialty in contractors or dealers. The salesperson already knows people to connect with that are contractors and subcontractors and can easily talk to them about their insurance needs. Another example would be a car salesman where the agency writes dealerships, or an attorney who can easily write law firms.
College Marketing Projects & Internships
One of our clients has found two great long-term employees through this idea, including a producer and a marketing manager. They started as college business students needing to do a marketing project for a business. They were invited in and got to know what the agency does, what its marketing efforts were, and concentrated on assisting with their website, mailings, ads, social media, etc.
After making recommendations for their project to the agency, they both ended up impressed with the owner, managers and the firm. After finishing their internships and graduation they were both offered jobs and are still there today.
Many people do not really understand the jobs in an insurance agency and how challenging and exciting it can be to work with a wide variety of clients, especially in commercial lines and employee benefits.
When I was in college we had an insurance degree at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, called Risk Management & Insurance. After graduation, the college would have recruiters from insurance firms come to the school to interview students. It helped students get a big picture view of all the roles available in the insurance industry and that led me to a job with St. Paul Fire & Marine as a marketing trainee.
Prior to that, a risk management professor recommended a summer internship program to both my sister and I at Employers of Wausau. That internship opened our eyes to all the possibilities for careers in the insurance industry. Insurance agencies should consider this approach and contact local universities and community colleges to pitch their firms and explain the opportunities they have available. Often an agency can also post openings on the college website, which can help students find great jobs in insurance.
Today, there are many colleges with risk management and insurance degrees, which is a good place to look for prospective employees. But the high school level is also a way to pique student’s interest in the industry.
The National Association of Insurance Women for years has tried to get high school students interested in the insurance industry, both at the carrier and agency level. Insurance veterans are encouraged to participate in high school career days to introduce students about the opportunities in insurance.
Non-Owner Producer Competitors
There are many producers that come up against someone on an insurance sale and lose to them. If the owner or non-owner producer find out they are not the owner, and they were great, the client may be willing to give you their information. Then your agency can reach out to see if they might be interested in a job.
Lastly, recruit those you come across that impress you. For instance, a waitress in a restaurant or a clerk in a store. Are their personalities or knowledge worth exploring for your own firm?
Always remember that it is much easier to teach someone insurance, than how to close. The key is to make sure they get the insurance training necessary to succeed from the agency, carrier partners, or other educational organizations.
This article provides agency owners with ideas on how to find or grow your own producer talent. They have worked well for other agency owners and may just work for your agency, too.
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