As you can imagine, after visiting a thousand or so agencies over a 40 year period, I’ve met a lot of folks whose title was Producer. Most of them were part-time producers at best. Some of them had been producers, but had filled their pot and were now servicing their clients, only writing a few new policies each year to replenish their books of business or when a new client was referred to them. Relatively few were actively “producing” insurance accounts for living.
Even in trying economic times, smart agents understand the critical need for “feet on the street”, bringing new clients to the agency on a regular basis. If I could bottle “Producer Pills” I could make a fortune and satisfy the growth needs of agents all over the country.
But there are no “Producer Pills.” Only one of every seven people on earth has the characteristics of a producer, and unfortunately, many of them do not end up in sales jobs. What are those characteristics?
According to Sue Nordhaus of Insurance Hiring Systems, the source of the ACG Hiring System (see our website for discounted access) some of the characteristics of good producers are the ability to learn, reason and solve problems combined with good verbal skills, high energy levels, strong assertiveness and sociability skills, decisiveness and independence. ZeroRiskHR, a great testing service for our industry based on the Kinsell-Hartman Profile, suggests that producers have relatively high intuition and empathy, strong results orientation and decisiveness, focused adherence and organizational skills, only moderate self-view but focused self-awareness and high self-expectations. Students of the K-H Profile understand how to measure for each of these traits and we highly recommend that no employee, especially producers, is ever hired without using a tool to supplement the interview and reference process. The cost is next to nothing when compared to the cost of hiring the wrong person.
But before hiring a producer, the agent must decide what the producer’s role in the agency will be. If you want your producers to be full-line insurance agents who are advisors to their clients, who will help them with their endorsement needs, deliver certificates, take pictures of their property and be the coach and counselor to the agency staff, you are describing a completely different person than the “Producer/Hunter” that defines the personality of a salesperson in most other industries.
Please don’t get me wrong – There is nothing wrong with the full service insurance agent. Most agency owners fit that mold as do most existing insurance agents who call themselves producers. But hiring someone who will be a great counselor and servicer is quite different from hiring the “hunter” personality that loves to track down his prospects with dogged determination until the kill is made. The hunter doesn’t necessarily enjoy dressing, retrieving or cooking the kill. He knows those are important tasks, but he would leave those to someone else – so he can go “kill” something else.
I am suggesting that we need the “Farmer” personality who cultivates his prospects and clients, tending them with loving care and reaping the harvest in due time. They are called Account Executives in professional insurance agencies. Without them we would be trading clients every few years as they made new relationships with other agents while we let them grow or die on their own.
But we are overloaded with farmers. The insurance industry has become overpopulated with people who are average to excellent farmers, but not very good hunters. That’s only acceptable if all of our clients are like cattle, willing to go along with pretty much anything that we give them.
Unfortunately, the cattle are straying at ever-increasing rates. We had better develop into cowboys, actively herding our clients every year (see SHEPHERDING article) or go hire us some hunters.
Hopefully my illustrations above have you convinced that you need to hire some “hunters”. But what should there role be in the agency?
A producer in an insurance agency who fits the hunter profile will perform best if he or she is responsible for building relationships with prospects toward the conclusion of converting the prospect into an agency client. The best producers we have encountered are those who are familiar with their market specialties and are in agencies whose service staff understands those same specialties. These agencies typically contract with carriers who are also good at writing these target markets in the agency’s marketing territory.
Be aware of the following stumbling blocks in order to set your new producer up for success:
1. Producer Characteristics – A “farmer” will shepherd clients while a “hunter” will find the kill. Determine the personality that meets the agency’s goal.
2. You are likely to find some systemic failures in your service process if your staff only understands personal lines, but you have a producer start selling commercial property or casualty insurance. Sell what your service staff understands.
3. We once had an agency ask us to assist them in creating a marketing program for a product that their lead carrier was “hot” on writing. The only problem was that there were only five potential clients within a hundred miles of the agency. Bad idea!
4. Sell in the areas that your carriers provide the strongest products and competitive prices. If you are selling to auto repair shops because there are a lot of them in the area, but your carriers don’t have stronger products or competitive pricing, you and your producers will quickly become frustrated. It may have nothing to do with their skills in sales.
The key to success remains in the functions that you, as the agency owner, ask your producer to accomplish. Everyone is better in accomplishing focused tasks than they are in accomplishing diverse tasks. The best producers are focused on creating and evolving relationships based on showing the prospect how much more valuable your agency is than their current provider of insurance services and products.
Creating relationships sometimes involves prospecting or warming prospects to the history, strengths and services of the agency. Producers will always do better if the prospects are pre-warmed – allowing the prospect to have a familiarity with the agency. The producer then continues going back to qualified prospects until they establish a trusted and friendly relationship. That relationship is enhanced by providing services and value until the prospect realizes that he would benefit from a long-term relationship with the agency. Please call us for information about the Asset Protection Model, our Relationship Selling model that includes this form of producer activity and role as integral to the client/agency relationship. 800-779-2430
Watch for future parts of our Producer series:
The Producer/Gatekeeper Relationship
How to Build a Relationship
When it’s time to close the sale or to close the relationship