Everyone wants them! – But no one knows what to do when they land them!
Agency owners care more about the agency than they do about themselves. They know that doing what’s best for the agency will serve them better in the long run than doing what’s best for them.
The BEST agency owners care more for the wellbeing of their clients and carriers (the two primary categories of their “customers”) than they do about the agency. They know that building a tradition and reputation for always putting the client first will allow them to build a solid foundation and make more profit and a greater agency value over time than any other way. Building your castle on “growth” or “service” alone is like building it on sand.
Producers, on the other hand, whether they are agency owners, employees, or brokers are correctly more interested in their own well-being than they are of the well-being of the agency. They are in the agency to make money for themselves and their families and the shortest distance between their goals and their pocketbooks is through selling policies and retaining them for their renewal commissions.
Can a producer adopt an attitude like that of an agency owner? Yes, but not until the producer can see the benefit to himself from taking care of agency clients and carriers.
When you find someone who is in or who is interested in a career through sales, he is like an infant in the sense that the more you nurture the producer, the more likely he will be to succeed in his role and the more likely it is that he will grow into a larger role in the agency.
Most producers are not interested in the “opportunity” to sell insurance. They can get that anywhere. They are interested in the opportunity to earn a living income and more and he is looking to the agency and to the agency owner to provide him those opportunities.
Most of us who have been agency owners for a while understand that, while there are uncommonly strong insurance professionals among us, there are many successful producers who are only moderately educated in the insurance products and risk management.
I’ve proven many times over that you don’t have to be a super-insurance technician to become a successful producer – but you have to know the basics.
Before you even look for a producer, identify what lines of business would make a producer successful in your agency and identify the education needed to familiarize a new producer to the industry with the basic knowledge that will make him more knowledgeable about what the customer needs than the customer. Work with your Association – they are there to help you develop your agencies.
Why? Why not hire only experienced producers?
Look around our agency industry. You will find 75% of the “producers” are “price-quoters”. They seek prospects who will allow them to quote hoping that they will underprice products that they already have. Price is all they have to sell.
Keep away from these folks. Agencies are now quoting 15-20 to gain a customer, and losing more customers to price quotes quickly; because they don’t take the time to create valued relationships with their newly won first year clients. A producer can’t succeed any longer based on price-quoting – there are too many competitors doing similarly.
Other experienced producers travel from agency to agency every three to five years carrying the same book of business with them as they wear out their welcome in each agency. They are more concerned with their clients than they are with your agency and may harm your loss ratio and carrier relationships more than their volume helps you.
Hire The Personality, Not The Experience
However, sales personalities DO exist in our universe. Most may be in sales but are not selling insurance. Many should be selling but wandered into other professions and are bored after five to ten years. This is where your real prospects can be found. Believe it or not, I have found future producers working in restaurants and computer stores, in real estate, banks, and schools. They are the outstanding performers and bright personalities who don’t understand the opportunities that exist in our service industry protecting the assets of individuals and businesses.
Look to your own clients and your personal network when seeking new staff. They will refer you excellent candidates – if your own customers know you and like you. Once found spend the time to teach them the lines of business that are prevalent in your agency. They look to you and your agency to be their mentors. They will likely not bring in new forms of business in which you are not already proficient.
Learning the Trade
Education is the first step to the Care and Feeding of a Producer – not the only step. Don’t make the mistake of teaching them the Personal Lines of business and Commercial Lines of business and expect them to go out and write insurance.
Learning the trade is different than becoming proficient at insurance lines. You must teach new producers the concept of Asset Protection as opposed to selling price. Whether it involves simple auto and homeowner’s policies or commercial packages, most clients know they need insurance but don’t know why. If you teach your new producer how to identify client needs and address them regardless of who writes their insurance policies, more prospects will convert to clients than any quote machine can create. Asset Protection is the device that puts the customer first and foremost and analyzes coverage instead of quoting price. There is nothing wrong with confirming to a customer that he has the right coverage at a fair price already. There are many more customers who are over insured or uninsured that insured correctly. Those are your opportunities to convert prospects to trusting friends and eventually, to agency clients. But you can’t train Asset Protection unless you practice Asset Protection. So first become what you want your producer to become.
Repetition – The Numbers Game
In order for your producer to become successful they must be in front of a lot of people that you don’t currently insure and be in front of them frequently enough to become friends and create a trust relationship.
This requires you to do the same during your training period after they know the products. Producers will learn much more from mentoring and watching you than they will ever learn by throwing them out on the street and challenging them to sell. Become active with your clients and prospects and take the producer with you at every visit. Utilize the same call reports that you expect of the producer. Rules and guidelines are good! The purpose of the call reports is to provide discipline and to have a track for every prospect that tells you, the sales manager, what has been done (and when) for each prospect and what should be done at the next visit (and when) to advance the relationship toward converting the prospect to a client.
As most of us know, it is hard to discipline oneself, especially in sales. That’s why, while we enjoy the sales process, most agents get caught up in the administration of their agencies and sales time actually diminishes to near zero while their best interest would be served if the agency were out of the office with clients and prospects much more often. If we have that problem as agency owners, what do you think the new producer feels about the rejection he experiences when visiting prospects. If the producer is to succeed and mature, he must become inured to the standard rejection experience in sales. Every successful producer eventually realizes that he sells by the numbers. If he sees enough people enough times, he sells insurance. Sales management can identify what those ratios are for every producer but the producer, himself, must become constantly active in sales calls to make this profession work.
Providing the Opportunities
When I was a pup, the lead generation given to a producer was a phone book and a swift kick out the door. Unfortunately, very few alpha listings in the phone book became either prospects or even suspects. A phenomenally few became clients. If you go to the trouble of finding and hiring good prospective producers you must provide the sufficient leads in the lines of business for which you have good markets and programs to allow them to stay very business visiting those prospects based on a marketing plan that you execute for them and for the agency.
The Sales Management function that you must assume if you have even one producer must be continued long after their training is complete to assure that they remain on track and visit the prospects that you have generated for them frequently enough to create relationships between the agency and the prospects to the end result of creating trust relationships. The prospect will eventually ask your producer to insure them but only when they get to know the producer and gets to trust the producer.
The Care and Feeding of Producers is hard work. But the agents who have spawned one or more successful producers understand that the work effort is certainly worth the time expended because a) it multiplies your production capacity, and b) it converts some of these producers into agency owners as their value to you increases.
Agency Consulting Group, Inc. can help you recruit, train, and manage producers with tailor-made compensation programs that will reward your producers for helping you build your business. Call us at 800 779 2430 for help with your existing or new producers.