This month, we’ve teamed up with a group of producers to give you the inside scoop on professional life from their perspective. With a combined 30+ years of experience, together these agents have written millions of dollars in P&C insurance premium. We hope that their responses provide some insight that will help you as an agency owner to attract good talent, train effective producers, and maintain an overall positive work environment.
Q: What was the hardest part for you as a producer when learning the insurance business?
Producer A: As a captive agent (at the time), completely new to insurance, the hardest part of learning insurance was all the coverages and limits, coverage endorsements, and generating business. As an independent agent (currently) possessing the insurance coverage and policy knowledge the hardest part was learning multiple systems for customer management, raters, and carrier systems. Generating leads and business as an independent is also more difficult than being a captive agent.
Producer B: Building confidence to sell insurance and understanding not all carriers will provide the same level of service to our clients.
Producer C: Aside from product knowledge, the hardest part for me was learning how to have a strong phone presence and overcoming the fear of rejection. I had to remind myself that I'm the "expert" in the conversation and that it's ok to be confident in that fact.
Q: What has been your most successful avenue for creating new business opportunities?
Producer A: My most successful avenues for creating new business opportunities are through networking and customer referrals. My most successful referral partners are from local networking chapters combined with real estate agents, mortgage lenders, car salesmen/dealerships, and current customers.
Producer B: Cross-selling opportunities, follow-up with previously quoted but lost accounts YTD.
Producer C: Referrals and former clients. Due to the fact that I started out as a servicing agent, I learned the importance of taking care of clients and being personally invested in their account. People are just as likely, if not more so, to refer an agent who has helped them out with a problem or a claim as they would an agent who "just" saved them money. Even when a client leaves due to rate increases, your chances are high of recapturing the business in the future if they remember receiving stellar service from you.
Q: What do you think a realistic new business written premium goal is every month?
Producer A: As one agent, especially new to the industry or new to being independent, $30,000 per month would be a great goal. An experienced agent should be able to write $40,000 in monthly premium if they have adequate customer management, rating, and follow-up/cross-sale systems.
Producer B: Personal Lines - $25,000 & Commercial - $35,000
Producer C: $30,000 a month for personal lines.
Q: How would you describe your ideal work environment?
Producer A: My ideal office environment is a quiet place that I can have extended hours to focus and stay on task without distraction. My ideal office location is in or near populous areas so that there are many local networking opportunities to create business referral connections.
Producer B: Supportive, encouraging, rewarding & relaxed.
Producer C: The ideal work environment is one where an agent has the freedom to excel without the fear of failure. Constant pressure from management regarding sales can have an adverse effect. A motivated agent knows what numbers he must hit and will work very hard to obtain those goals. Everybody knows when they have a bad sales month without having to be reminded by management. That can quickly demotivate an agent and lower morale.
Q: From a producer's perspective, what do you think is the most difficult aspect of owning an insurance agency?
Producer A: Selecting customer management systems that work efficiently, generating leads and business, and hiring quality employees.
Producer B: Managing carrier demands, maintaining a positive work environment, creating opportunities for new business, marketing to the right customer base.
Producer C: Understanding the different personalities of your producers and learning how to motivate each one accordingly.
Q: What is the most important skill in becoming a successful producer?
Producer A: Work ethic, consistency, dedication, social interaction skills and you have to be a little crazy yourself to keep up with the ebbs and flows of the insurance industry.
Producer B: Time management, making sure to manage your book and not let it manage you. Making sure you communicate with clients.
Producer C: Perseverance.
Q: What is the one thing that you know now that you wish you knew in your first year as a producer?
Producer A: How important building and maintaining referral sources would be. Generating business is the one thing that I am constantly having to work on and improve on no matter how long I've been in the industry.
Producer B: Product knowledge.
Producer C: It's ok to let "difficult" clients go. The time spent trying to appease somebody who is just plain irrational, or always arguing about a bill, will cost you more than just the hours you wasted explaining everything. It eventually will cost you money in missed new business opportunities.
Q: What motivates you to succeed as an agent/producer?
Producer A: Money.
Producer B: Obviously money. I also enjoy new challenges and trying to become more well-rounded as an agent.
Producer C: Knowing that I can be the "sigh of relief" when something catastrophic happens to somebody's most valuable asset is what keeps me motivated. I take more pride in a client's gratitude than in my commissions. If people know that you can be fully relied upon, the sales will inevitably come.
We hope you found some information in the responses above that will help you be a more successful leader in your business. Finding and retaining good producers is one of the most challenging tasks for most agency owners. In an industry that is constantly changing, this becomes all the more difficult.
If you’re thinking about starting your own independent agency and looking to hire producers of your own, keep the above responses in mind during your search. Perhaps you’ll even want to ask some of these questions to potential candidates. Through some thoughtful question and answer time during an interview, you can hopefully gain confidence that a candidate's strengths align with your long-term goals and will ultimately help your agency flourish.