Almost everyone is talking about it like it’s a new trend in the insurance business: “We have to hire new producers”.
The problem started back in 2007 when the near depression hit the United States. The bottom fell out of the real estate market, the stock market crashed and agency revenues were on a downward spiral. It was at that point that every expense-cutting measure was put in place and the first to go was anything to do with new producers.
In 2008, the U.S. Treasury pledged a $200 billion cash injection to help companies cope with mortgage default losses. A week later, AIG was bailed out at $85 billion. Not long after, Lehman Brothers was forced into bankruptcy. Then the Federal Reserve started the process of quantitative easing (QE). QE 1 began in November 2008, and QE 3 ended in November 2014.
With all of that distraction and financial pain, the one thing that still hasn’t recovered is a new producer hiring, but it’s trending upward as agency owners look at the age of their producers and are forced to admit, “we’re in trouble”. When people are in trouble or panic mode, they generally make bad decisions. In this case, a bad decision would be hiring a producer candidate that cannot and will not sell. Obviously no one would do that purposefully, but for many reasons it happens, and quite often. Before you make a mistake, it’s important to put on your thinking cap and not just consider how many bodies you need to hire, but who do you need to hire.
Producers are a tricky breed in some ways. You might think of it as luck more so than skill. But, as is true in all things, those that become a student of a subject generally outperform those that are not. Hiring producers, if you really know what you are looking for, is way more a science than it is an art. Those that feel it is art end up hiring from the gut, or on intuition. They generally end up liking someone enough that they have a hunch and gladly give it a shot. There’s nothing wrong with that approach if it’s working well for you. But for those of you that have tried the gut approach and it cost you a million instead of made you a million, tune in.
Begin with the End in Mind
When hiring a new producer, have you thought much about what you really want? When I first got involved in the hiring process, I thought I knew what I was looking for, but if you’d asked me I would have told you, “I’m just looking for good people that can sell”. If you’d been on your game, you would’ve followed-up with, “How do you know if they can sell?” and with that questions you would have stumped the band. I wouldn’t have been able to answer it.
After 500 interviews and a lot of think time, I’ve developed these things. First and foremost, I’m looking for someone that can be a million-dollar producer. That in the simplest of terms means they can write 50 accounts that produce an average of $20,000 revenue each. Being logical, it doesn’t mean someone that can write 200 accounts at $5,000 each or 1,000 accounts at $1,000 revenue each. With that criteria, average account size of $20,000, we both know it takes a certain type of person to do that.
Here is what I look for to help determine that:
- Intensity and drive (pain for gain, goal-oriented).
- Ability to deal with rejection and criticism.
- Assertive (confidence to confront).
- Smart (learn the business, your sales process and deal with underwriters).
- Relationship (people like them).
- Coachable (they learn from mistakes).
Let’s take No. 1 listed above, Intensity and drive (pain for gain, goal-oriented). The biggest reason most agencies are not growing (if you’re the exception, congratulations, you earned it) is that agencies are full of “teknogods”, coverage specialists and former underwriters, who make great technicians and account managers but poor new revenue producers. Their intensity and drive was hard-wired at about 50% and they can’t change it. They might be great cyclists or marathon runners, but when it comes to setting new production goals, picking up the phone and grinding out new business appointments, leveraging their differentiation to find pain and closing the deal, it’s not them.
They might be friendly and great at relationships, but rejection and criticism just kills them. The ability to confront a prospect and determine if and how they will make a change makes them cower. If you hire “those” kinds, you’ll be sad, despondent, angry and worst of all, have wasted a lot of time and money. So, begin with the end in mind. Define what characteristics a “real” producer has and stick with it as you start your hiring process. The six items listed above a re a “must-have” in my opinion, and it will help you focus your time and energy into recruiting that kind of talent and not settling for less.
Article by: Randy Schwantz
Source: Insurance Journal