The Problem with Producers

Every agent has a dream of having either one or two or a department of producers, each self-motivated, bringing the agency a steady flow of submissions to feed the carriers (and the bottom line). Yet our attitude toward hiring, managing and supporting a producer force is antiquated and de-motivating. The result has been fast turnover in potentially good producers and the hiring of mediocre producers who have already had a ‘less-than-stellar’ career with a number of other agencies. The reason they are available to respond to our ads is that their previous employers have finally determined that, excuses aside, the producers were not going to generate more money than they took out of the agency. Now those producers are set to perform similarly for YOUR agency (for as long as you permit it).

We want experienced producers but our hiring methods are more clerical in nature than holistic and usually ill prepared. We treat producers who we would like to earn $100K+ like $20K clerical employees. We look for why they would want to work for us instead of selling them on the agency’s opportunities.

Management is often limited to “You’re hired – now go out and produce (-“or else” is usually implied). We don’t spend enough time training the agency’s culture. We the producer to be a “rain-maker”. A “rain-maker” is an individual whose social, civic, business and family relationships can generate sufficient contacts to create insurance opportunities for the agency. You can identify the “rain-makers” by their extensive list of current other activities (their activities years ago doesn’t help them now). The “rain-makers” are worth their weight in gold. Most successful producers are relationship builders, but are not the best qualified to find prospects. The prospective producer who spends his evenings at home with his family and whose outside activities extends to Little League coaching can certainly be a successful salesperson, but is probably not a “rain-maker”.

Our customer service departments are busy. Far too often, new business opportunities that are most likely imminent and time sensitive, are seen as interruptions, rather than opportunities. Much of this attitude on the part of the service representatives is well-earned. We don’t convert the majority of our sales opportunities into successful sales. Too often we market and quote, then lose a sale to competitors. However, the only way to make sales is to make the numbers. If your track record is 25% of proposals sold and $1,000 average sale, you must propose 100 to sell 25 and generate $25,000 of gross income. Most producers worth their salt will producer $50,000+ new business each year. Look at the additional workload necessary by the service department to support that for just one producer. And how many producers did you say you wanted? (expand on producer acquisition, qualifying applicants first, then selling them on the agency as you would sell prospects on using your agency instead of

No one is self-motivated. We are all motivated by our desires – the desire for money, the desire for things, the desire for supporting a family, or even the desire to win. And everyone needs management. One of the greatest difficulties we encounter with agency owners is that self-management simply doesn’t work. Unless they create systems in which they are responsible to others (a Board, the employees, partners, etc.), it is too easy for even the most motivated owners to stray and lose focus and direction. Producers are by nature individual performers and independent thinkers. The most successful producers are ones who can be team players (and they are few and far between). Most are more concerned with their success than that of the other employees (or even of the agency, itself).

One of the most important keys to producer success is active, participating management. Who in your agency is qualified and capable of managing producers? The best way to answer this question is by analogy. Some agents are successful enough that they invest in other forms of business. If you purchase an office building as an investment, would you be the best qualified to manage that building? After all, you have had an office for many years! The answer, obviously, is that building management requires skills and experience that is different from those of most insurance agents. Well, you’ve sold insurance to your friends, acquaintances and their referrals for many years. Now you feel that your growth will be stunted without a producer force. What makes you think that you are qualified to manage producers? If you take the time to gain the requisite skills, it will be at the cost of the first six producers that you hire and fire (or lose).