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A PRODUCER’S ROLE: PART ONE
Even in trying economic times, smart agents understand the critical need for ‘feet on the street’ bringing new clients to the agency on a regular basis. If I could bottle ‘Producer Pills’ I could make a fortune and satisfy the growth needs of agents all over the country.
But there are not ‘Producer Pills.’ Producers are born and bred with that capability. Only one of every seven people on earth has the characteristics of a producer and, unfortunately, many of them do not end up in sales jobs. What are those characteristics?
Some of the characteristics of good producers are a) ability to learn, reason and solve problems, b) good verbal skills, c) high energy levels, d) strong assertiveness and sociability skills, e) decisiveness and f) independence. ZeroRisk (www.zeroriskhr.com) another great testing service for our industry (most built on the Kinsell-Hartman Profile) suggests that producers have relatively high intuition and empathy, strong results orientation and decisiveness, focused adherence and organizational skills, only moderate self-view but focused self-awareness and high self-expectations. Students of the K-H Profile understand how to measure for each of these traits and we highly recommend that no producer (or anyone else) is ever hired without using one of these tools to supplement the human intervention of interviews and the ludicrous responses generated from most referrals. The cost is exceedingly minor compared to the cost of hiring the wrong person.
But before you even hire a producer, the agent must decide what should be a producer’s role in the agency? If you want your producers to be full-line insurance agents who are advisors to their clients, who will help them with their endorsement needs, deliver certificates, take pictures of their property and be the coach and counselor to the agency staff, you are describing a completely different person than the ‘Producer as Hunter’ that defines the personality of a salesperson in most other industries.
Please don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with the full service insurance agent. Most agency owners fit that mold as do most existing insurance agents (who call themselves producers). But hiring someone who will be a great counselor and servicer is quite different from hiring the “hunter” personality that loves to track down his prospects with dogged determination until the “kill” (sale) is made. The hunter doesn’t necessarily enjoy dressing, retrieving or cooking the kill. He knows those are important ingredients and he would love to have someone behind him available to accomplish those tasks – so he can go out and “kill” something else.
I am suggesting that we need the “Farmer” personality (cultivating his prospects and clients, tending them with loving care and reaping the harvest in due time). They are called Account Executives in professional insurance agencies. Without them we would be trading clients every few years as they made new relationships with other agents while we let them grow or die on their own.
But we are overloaded with farmers. We become an industry of fair to excellent farmers but lousy hunters. That’s only o.k. if we would like to be vegetarians (or if all our clients are like cattle, willing to go along with pretty much anything that we give them).
I have bad news for you. The “cattle” are straying at ever-increasing rates. We had better develop into cowboys, actively herding our clients every year (a topic for another article on the proper servicing of insurance clients) or go hire us some HUNTERS. Even the best of our “farmers” is finding it ever more difficult to live on a vegetarian diet. And, when times are tough and the “vegetables” don’t grow, the farmers just sit on their porches and starve.
So, hopefully, my illustrations, above, have you convinced that you need to hire some “hunters”. But what should their role be in the agency?
A producer in an insurance agency who fits the “hunter” profile will perform best if (s)he is responsible for building relationships with prospects toward the conclusion of converting the prospect into an agency client. The best producers in insurance agencies that we have seen have agency owners who find them (and educate them) in lines of business for which the agency has internal resources (in agency staff who understands the market and how to service it) and insurance companies who are good at writing these lines of business for the specific target market in the territory in which the agency resides.
Understand that without the full complement of these tools, the producer will not be effective, regardless of his/her strengths in relationship building.
- Producer Characteristics – If you take a ‘farmer’ personality and tell him to go out and hunt, he is more likely to fail than if you took a lifelong hunter and told him to go out and “kill stuff”, right? So that ingredient is important at the beginning of the sales process.
- If your staff only understands personal lines and you have someone start selling commercial property or casualty insurance, you will probably find some systemic failures in your service process that will eventually become noticeable by your new commercial customers. Sell what your service staff understands.
- We once had an agency ask us to assist them in creating a marketing program for a product that their lead carrier was “hot” on writing. The only problem was that there were only five potential clients within a hundred miles of the agency. Bad idea!
- If you are selling to auto repair shops (because there are a lot of them in the area) but carriers that you don’t have enjoy much stronger products or much more competitive pricing than your carriers, you and your producers will become frustrated by their lack of success. It may have nothing to do with their skills in sales.
But the key to success remains in the functions that you, as the agency owner, ask your producer to accomplish. Everyone is better in accomplishing focused tasks than they are in accomplishing diverse tasks. The best producers are focused on creating and evolving relationships with prospects based on showing the prospect how much more valuable your agency is than their current provider of insurance services and products.
Creating relationships sometimes involves prospecting or warming prospects to the history, strengths and services of the agency. Producers will always do better if the prospects are pre-warmed – they already know something about the agency. The organization and discipline needed is to continue going back to prospects until they establish a trust and friendly relationship and then continue to enhance that relationship by providing services and value until the prospect realizes that he would profit from a long-term relationship with the agency. Please call us for information about the Asset Protection Model, our Relationship Selling model that includes this form of producer activity and role as integral to the client/agency relationship. 800-779-2430
Watch for future parts of our Producer series
The Producer/Gatekeeper Relationship
How to Build a Relationship
When it’s time to Close or to close