Hiring employees is a process crucial to the success of a business. Finding and keeping a good producer is even more crucial, since that person is responsible for growth in new sales. Therefore, the right selection and retention of a producer is a very important action for an agency owner or manager to make.
The steps to hiring a producer are generally the same as hiring any employee. However, here are a few unique steps to incorporate. The hiring process does not begin with the interview and end with the job offer. It involves planning and consideration for the position, the ideal person, and every step along the way. Successful recruiting is the result of mapping out the whole process: finding candidates, interviewing wisely, and establishing a plan to train new workers so that they get off to a strong start.
Define What You Need
To be able to hire the right person, the first step is to define exactly what the right person is. This clarification needs to be more than just a job description. The definition of the “right” person needs to include the required skills and knowledge needed for the position and ideal personality type.
The employee selection process must take place within the context of the larger business enterprise. Evaluate the position and the key descriptions within the context of the agency and its current staff. It is important to hire people that not only fit in, but also are able to thrive. A new hire is an opportunity to make positive changes in workforce structure.
The first place to look for a new producer is within the agency. Can an existing person be trained and developed into a producer? Keep in mind that it takes a certain type of personality to be successful in sales. A knowledgeable and dynamic CSR still might not be a good producer, if they do not have the internal drive and resilience to rejection that differentiates sales people from others.
If there are no current employees that can fill the position, then a search must be expended outward. Some agencies have had good results by using a professional recruiter. In general, the use of recruiters has a mixed bag of results, so be prepared to use other methods.
Ads in local newspapers, trade journals or online job search Web sites can all work well to generate a large volume of potential leads. If you prefer less volume and more quality, it is often more effective to use basic networking skills. Owners, managers and employees should always keep an eye open for potential candidates. Some of the better places to look include: insurance companies; other agencies; real estate agents; mortgage brokers; travel agents; sales people from other industries; retail sales associates; and college graduates.
It is more important to find a person with sales skills than with insurance skills. The insurance knowledge can be taught, but the ability to keep going despite rejection or to know how to close a sale are the type of talents that a person is born with and difficult to teach.
Finding producers is not easy. Finding good producers is very difficult. You should plan that this part of the hiring process takes considerable time. In fact, it might be a good idea to make this a regular on-going task. Often, the right person will just appear.
How to Evaluate
Once a candidate or pool of candidates is identified, the next step is to evaluate them. During the interview process it is important to have other employees interview them as well. This allows for a quick “chemistry test” along with getting insight from another person’s perspective.
All producer candidates that pass the initial screening should be tested. Two well known testing firms are Caliper (www.caliperonline.com) and Omni (www.omnirms.com). This will allow for an impartial assessment of the person. Some people are really good at interviews, yet lousy in actual job performance.
After all the due diligence is done, the checklist that describes the ideal candidate needs to be reviewed. Do not hire anyone who is missing any of the basic fundamentals. If the candidate is missing critical skills that can be taught, then that person could still be acceptable. It is important, however, to follow the checklist and not ignore it just because you like the person. The checklist was the initial, impartial requirements for the position and will transcend fleeting likeability.
When the agency is ready to hire the new producer, there needs to be a clear understanding of what is expected from both sides. The most obvious issue is compensation. However, the offer needs to include typical employee benefits and key requirements to qualify for the position, as well as performance expectations for the producer.
The initial offer can be in written or verbal form. It is quite acceptable for the agency and producer to negotiate terms. The final terms need to be written in a producer contract. The contract should also cover account ownership and any producer vesting terms.
Training and Evaluation
Part of the preparation for hiring a producer needs to be thinking about the training and development of the person. Producers brand new to insurance will need to be trained in insurance and licensed. This will require a commitment of time and money by the agency. Likewise, a person new to sales will need sales training. Part of the offer to the employee needs to be an outline of the development of a training schedule.
Successful people are continuously working on their skills and themselves. Develop a training program that allows for life-long learning and the development of well-rounded skills. The use of a sales coach or mentor is very effective and should be incorporated.
There is nothing more devastating to a person to find out they are not doing well after working hard for months and not getting any feedback. The new producer should get regular feedback on their performance. A sales manager should go over not only the numbers, but also work with the producer on ways to improve.
Finding and hiring a producer is difficult, but a very important part of agency growth and survival. So take the time to properly plan out the position, define the ideal candidate and establish the hiring process. Finally, make sure the new producer has the resources and training that will allow them and the agency to succeed.
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