This article was written by Joanne DiNunzio and originally appeared on InsuranceJournal.com
To say that most new producers don’t hit the ground running is an understatement. Between learning about the specific products and coverages the firm offers, beginning to prospect leads, and acclimating to a new job, it’s common for new producers to feel overwhelmed from day one.
The issue isn’t exclusive to insurance. New hires struggle in every industry — nearly a quarter of all workers turn over before their one-year anniversary. A third of new hires may never give their new gig a fair chance — they admit to looking for a new job less than six months into a new position. But research suggests that new producers have an especially difficult time finding their footing. Only 56 percent of new producer hires have been successful over the past five years, according to a Reagan Consulting report.
These findings confirm what many in the industry have known for a long time and experienced firsthand: it’s tough to get your start as a new producer. But it’s not impossible — and it’s up to leadership to help.
Who’s Getting Hired?
Nearly two of every three new producers hired in the past five years have a background in the insurance field. Ten percent are insurance industry professionals with no sales background, while 55 percent are experienced producers. Only 35 percent of new producer hires are from outside the insurance industry. Reagan points out that while luring producers with experience (and established books) from other firms is a good way to ensure a successful new hire, agencies and brokerages, and the industry at large, will have more long-term success by developing a robust recruiting and development process to nurture in-house talent.
Julie Donn, a senior development consultant for The Institutes Producer Accelerator Program, featuring Polestar, has seen the impact these programs can have on a new hire. She says that with the right onboarding process and mentor, becoming a successful producer doesn’t have to be difficult. But a little charisma still goes a long way.
“It all boils down to being able to build relationships,” Donn says. “People buy from whom they like. Understanding the technical aspects of insurance is extremely important, of course, and is a lifelong learning process. But you have a team of people behind you to help with that as you’re learning. You have to be personable.”
The Reagan study looked at technical and sales training strategies and their effectiveness. Providing external training resources was generally the most valuable method.
Mentor relationships are crucial early in a producer’s career and whatever tactics firms use to help new producers succeed, it’s crucial that new hires feel supported and see a clear career path.
This external training must be curated and adjusted to meet the specific needs of new producers, according to the report’s authors. “We repeatedly heard from top performers that a haphazard, make-it-up-as-you-go approach needs to be replaced by coordinated programs that are intentional and proactively managed. Several firms attributed their recent advancements in producer recruiting and development to the significant investment they have made in their development programs,” Donn says. Reagan dug deeper into how firm structures and procedures affect producer success, focusing on specific practices:
- Specialization. Twenty-nine percent of producers are required by their firms to specialize, and these producers had a 7 percent higher rate of success. Individuals with experience in the insurance industry but no sales experience were most likely to specialize.
- Team-based selling. Team selling was less popular among agencies, but did lead to increased new producer success. Reagan notes that team selling may be increasing as firms seek to capture institutional knowledge from seasoned producers approaching retirement. Among producers hired in their 20s, 71 percent who practiced team-based selling were successful.
- Assigning accounts. Assigning specific accounts to new producers also increased success, but authors were quick to note that each firm must balance helping new producers learn the ropes by working on assigned accounts (potentially increasing referrals) and letting producers earn their own business.
Mentoring is a Key Component
Mentoring resulted in more successful producers across all categories and was particularly effective among new producers hired in their 20s or 30s who were from outside the industry or had no sales experience. If you’re looking to recruit mentors from within your ranks, start by asking senior producers and sales leaders. However, not all mentor relationships are created equal — 60 percent of mentors are not paid to help bring new producers up to speed.
Donn says that these mentor relationships are crucial early in a producer’s career and that whatever tactics firms use to help new producers succeed, it’s crucial that new hires feel supported and see a clear career path.
“Knowing they have someone who is talking with and addressing concerns is crucial to getting new producers started more quickly,” she says. “There’s a structure and a plan, and someone is in constant communication with them to make sure it’s happening. It’s a huge benefit to firms.”