“I need to hire producers, but where can I find more of the candidates who will go on to become top performers – and how do I identify them?” We speak with agents all the time who are asking this question. They’re looking for the best and brightest producers to help take their agencies to the next level, because they know if they can get a handful of those top performers, their business will be set-up for success.
Starting with the basics (including the answer to the question, “What is an insurance producer”?), this article breaks down what an insurance producer does, examines the differences between insurance producers vs agents, and identifies some best practices for hiring, training, and managing excellent producers.
What is an Insurance Producer?
Depending on who you ask, you may get a few different answers. Some people in the industry use the terms “insurance producer” and “insurance agent” interchangeably – they both sell insurance coverage on behalf of insurance companies.
However, I think this definition is just a bit too broad. For our purposes in this article (and mirroring what you’ll often hear in the industry), here’s how we’re defining insurance producer vs. an agent.
Insurance Producer: Someone who has passed their state’s licensed producer exam and is licensed to sell insurance.
When I’m asked “what does an insurance producer do,” my answer is this: They reach out to prospects and sell insurance. At the most fundamental level they are the salespeople whose work builds an agency.
Insurance Agent: Is in most cases also technically a producer. However, the main distinction is that an “agent” often refers to someone who heads their own agency – they are the ones who officially represent the carrier (if they are a captive agent), or who have appointments with various carriers (if they are independent agents).
A good rule to use is that agents have been appointed or accepted by carrier(s) to represent them and sell their policies (and meet a quota, pay back fees, etc. if captive). The agent can hire producers (can the agent almost always is a licensed producer themselves) to sell policies on their agency’s behalf. Producers must be licensed in whatever state they do business in.
Finding and keeping excellent producers is one of the top challenges most agents face. To help make sure you’re hiring and training insurance producers who are going to help your agency grow, follow these tips.
Prequalify Prospects Before You Meet with Them
Create a system where prospects can leave the job posting site they’re searching on and follow a link to your agency’s website. There, they should be required to complete certain steps before they apply, including learning about your agency, your agency’s processes, approach to sales, etc.
In this part of the site, you should indicate the pay structure for that position (unless the base pay is below average, in which case you must really highlight meaningful ancillary benefits aside from base pay), along with any major must-haves (like being required to run your own book of business), the benefits available, and any pre-qualifications required for the position. It’s important to be clear about the requirements of new hires. If you don’t tell them the big things up front, you may attract candidates who don’t qualify; then, once they go through the entire process, you may realize you’ve wasted your time and resources. By pre-qualifying and screening them, you can help guard against this. Make sure, for instance, that you ask key qualifying questions in your application or job posting. So if you require all producers to be licensed already, you should include a question like “Do you currently hold [State] Producer license?” in your initial application.
Understand Labor Laws
Some agencies do a poor job training and staying compliant with labor laws during the hiring process, which puts them at risk for complaints, penalties, and litigation. Anytime your team is hiring, everyone involved in the process needs to do their research to ensure the questions being asked don’t violate the law (i.e., Do you have kids? When are you getting married?).
These questions may be asked innocently, but can place you directly in violation with State and Federal laws and open you up to legal action. Instead, make sure you’re asking questions that have been vetted and approved by your legal counsel. Standardize this format of approved questions so you can reuse it for multiple hires.
Make Sure Producers Have a License in Your State
Having a license before being hired for an insurance producer job has become pretty much standard – it doesn’t make sense to hire and onboard someone unless the new producer has passed the licensing test and applied for their license.
Training & Managing Best Practices
Create a Detailed Onboarding Process
During new hire onboarding, give insurance producers the opportunity to go step-by-step through your agency’s processes (detailed in your handbook, hopefully), explaining to them how procedures work and where information is located.
Give Your Producers Easy Access to Everything They Need
Like the step above, giving producers access to key documents, resources, training material, etc. helps remove some of the pressure of training. While you should still be involved in onboarding, be sure to seek out trainers and recruiters (maybe even within your carrier) whom you can utilize – some of these types of trainers hold group trainings and “new agent onboarding sessions.”
Engage in One-on-One Training and Mentorship
When I was a new agent, the one-to-one mentorship opportunities I had were incredibly helpful to me – my mentor critiqued my language, salesmanship, etc., and I got feedback I couldn’t get in group sessions.
Track Your Producers’ Activities
You should have clear benchmarks and KPIs set for all your producers, so be sure you’re tracking their activity, and keeping an eye on their sales pipeline, meetings, and prospects to make sure they are on track. If you notice any of these things seem to be off, have a conversation about them immediately. The key here is to track each producer’s activity level. Measure percentages of every part of the sales cycle to make sure your producers stay on track.
Common issues agents find with their producers include:
- Low conversion to fact-finding process: If a producer’s activity is high but they’re not converting people to the fact-finding stage, they may be having a problem describing the value proposition. To solve this problem, go over their pitch, and review them how you discuss the value you bring to a client.
- Failure to close deals in the presentation process: You may find that, after the fact-finding phase, your producers have gathered data, compiled a financial plan, and made an offer but not closed it. You need to understand why these “good fit” prospects – the clients you want – went through the process but for some reason are not closing. Once you’ve diagnosed the reason why the producer isn’t closing deals, you can help them fix the problem.
Article By: Anthony Iannicelli