One of the most common situations we encounter in agencies across the country is the struggle to hire, train and manage successful producers. Study after study confirms that only 1 out of every 7 people have the personality traits to become a successful salesperson, and we highly encourage and promote personality profile testing as a part of the hiring process. What is surprising is our observation that, even in agencies that are highly selective in hiring their producers, the service staff is often called upon to handle incoming sales calls. And we find a high concentration of these practices specifically in Personal Lines departments.
One of the key differences between Producers and Service Staff is the nature of their personalities. While the Producer has that sales personality, assertive but not pushy, friendly but focused, reading the signals that the prospect gives to qualify or disqualify them as a potential customer, the Service staff is a helper personality, with intrinsic drivers to serve the customer’s needs and keep them happy, but not necessarily comfortable with the potential pressure or rejection of the sales function. When you find the hybrid personality of a CSR and a Producer, you likely have identified an Account Executive, someone who is comfortable and knowledgeable with the agency’s products and also comfortable enough to maintain the agency’s existing relationships, but likely not a true producer in that they would not excel at creating new relationships for the agency and they would find the rejection often associated with sales demoralizing.
With an understanding of some of the personality types within the agency, why would an agency want the person with a minimal expectation of success to handle incoming sales calls? When a customer calls the agency asking for additional coverage there is no selling involved. The customer has a need, and the licensed and qualified AE’s and CSR’s who can handle those needs do so, even if it involves providing additional or new coverage. But that is significantly different from the responsibility of a producer to establish a relationship between the agency and a prospect, build the trust relationship and convert the prospect into a client for the agency. The Producer’s responsibility continues after the first coverage is sold as he or she analyzes all other forms of asset protection needs to identify and provide all other forms of coverage needed. This follow-up practice is the basis of our Asset Protection Model of Relationship Sales.
Without question, the responsibilities for establishing the relationship, closing the sale and performing the analysis of coverage needs exceeds the responsibilities of the CSR and also of many Account Execs. Like Service personnel, many producers have a helper personality, but they are differentiated by the competitive traits that many customer service people don’t have or need. Producer personalities have a drive to “close.” This means that they get special satisfaction from ‘the sale’ that service staff do not. Instead, the Service Staff in an agency are focused on the management of the client relationship with the agency, doing whatever the client needs in a proficient and efficient manner. And if they determine the relationship may be at risk, they alert the producer to address the issue and reinforce the relationship.
Further differentiating Service personnel from Production staff, CSRs often view prospects calling them as an interference with their normal routine, whereas Producers view prospects as an opportunity and will likely drop everything to try to form that initial relationship. CSRs view prospects as someone simply looking for a quote. Producers view prospects as someone with a need that we can fulfill if we can win them over and get them to trust us. As a result of these differences, closing rates are much higher for producers than for most service staff.
Having dedicated producers also permit them to cross-sell and up-sell existing customers, both in the same departments and cross departments – something that we all would like but for which the service staff rarely manages to find sufficient time to accomplish. Whether Personal Lines or Commercial Lines, it will always be more productive for an agency to have dedicated producers handling new customers and prospects than it would for service staff to try to sell the coverage. Producer staff is paid based on successful production while service staff is typically salaried or hourly and work the time required by the job. You will rarely see a producer stop a sales call or fail to call a prospect back just because the clock reads 5:00 PM. However, it is not unusual for sales related messages and follow-ups to become tomorrow’s work for service staff.
We recommend that every agency consider dedicated personal lines new business producers. That is an inside job that doesn’t require them to leave the agency often. But the role goes far beyond quoting on the phone. Their job is to make friends with anyone calling the agency and convince the prospect that they can stop their search for the right policy at your agency by finding things in common with the agency and the producer. The personal lines producer also searches for internal opportunities to write second, third and fourth policies as needed for the client. In addition, they should also be introduced to every commercial client to write the personal lines policies for the business owners, and then for all of their employees. This provides a great opportunity for a commercial lines producer to introduce the personal lines producer to clients already in house.
And, of course, aim your Commercial Lines producers toward growing your book of business. When a producer stops growing the book by adding customers, they become an Account Executive. The AE is valuable in their own rights, but no longer able to set and keep growth goals.
We can help you evaluate your staff and form production teams in Personal Lines and in Commercial Lines. Just call us at (800) 779-2430 to discuss how to help your agency’s growth plan through the management of producers.