How to Hire The Best Insurance Salespeople: 25 Hiring Tips
I’ve worked with hundreds of ridiculously successful insurance agents.
I’ve also worked with lots of bad ones.
For years, I struggled to find one unifying characteristic – one trait or skill that was shared by all the successful agents and absent in the others.
Every time I thought I found it I’d meet another agent who, by his success or failure, would disprove my latest theory.
Until I finally figured it out…
Every successful insurance agent is not a great marketer. They’re not all good conversationalists. They’re not all organized, interesting, or hard-working. They’re not all well-written, well-read, well-mannered or well-spoken.
They’re not even all well-groomed.
But every rich insurance agent I’ve ever met was great at finding, hiring, and keeping great employees.
I’d like you to be rich too.
That’s why I put together 25 of my favorite tips for helping agents hire the best producers on planet earth.
1) Hire Young For Affordable Superstars
Someone fresh out of school or just entering the job market is an obvious gamble, but it might be the only way to get a high-quality employee at an affordable cost.
Face it, most of the top-tier licensed and experienced producers are either happy where they are, too expensive for you, or they’ve already become an agent themselves.
If you can’t afford the sales rock star with a proven track-record you might have to build them yourself.
Look for someone you could see owning their own agency in 7-10 years.
That’s plenty of time for you to make a lot of money getting him or her ready.
2) The Best Sales Personality is Not What You Think
The gregarious and extroverted personality most people think is ideal for selling insurance is not.
It still pays to know lots of people, but today’s consumer wants to work with someone who will listen and respond to their concerns instead of someone who can’t wait for their next turn to talk.
3) Don’t Hire for a License
The biggest mistake I’ve seen agents make is limiting their employee candidate pool down to only those who are already licensed.
That means 99% of all great employees are off the table for you.
You shouldn’t need to pay someone to go to insurance school for 2 weeks. Today, you can study for licensing exams at home on your own time and if someone is really motivated they’ll be able to pass the test on their own.
4) Hire Close to The Agency
When deciding who to hire, one thing you might overlook is how far someone needs to commute to get to your agency.
If they live 45 minutes away:
- They won’t know as many local people, who are probably the best prospects.
- They’ll be less likely to work a local community event.
- They’ll be less likely to stay late to close a sale.
- They’ll need more money to pay for the extra gas and vehicle maintenance.
- They’ll be more likely to miss work because of weather.
- They’ll be more stressed.
- They’ll be more likely to look for a job closer to home.
- They’ll be more likely to leave you.
It’s not all gloom and doom, but it’s worth considering.
5) Try Before You Buy
Bringing on a new employee is a HUGE commitment.
It’s such a gigantic decision that I seriously doubt most agents’ ability to make the right choice after only a couple interviews. Plus, everybody acts different on a job interview and for the first few months at a new job.
At the beginning they’ll work hard to impress you and you can always compare their results from that time period to future production to be sure they’re always pushing hard.
6) Ask My Favorite Interview Question
I love this question because it tells you one of two things:
- Is the prospect actually interested in being successful and willing to do something about it?
- Or, are they really good at making up believable answers when they don’t have a good one?
Either way, a good salesperson will shine through this question and a wannabe will fumble miserably.
If you don’t believe me, ask people you already know!
7) Pay as Close to 100% Commission as Possible
Yes, it’s hard to attract people with a 100% commission pay structure, but somehow it worked for you, right?
Even if you need to inflate commissions to levels higher than what you’re making, the closer you can tie your producer’s pay to their production the better you’ll both be.
And if a prospective salesperson is terrified of a commission-reliant paycheck, you might be talking to the wrong person.
8) Match Your Producers’ Commission Structure to Yours
If selling a certain policy makes you three times the commission as another, make sure your producers get paid three times as much too.
Generally speaking, the higher the commissions the harder the sale and the lower the easier.
If you don’t pay more for the harder sales your producers are going to naturally go after the less profitable (and easier to sell) business.
Make sure you’re all on the same page going after the same goals.
9) Beware Producers Who Ask for More Base and Less Commission
If you really want to be successful in this business, you’re going to need to have superstar salespeople on your team.
Superstars don’t ask for more cushion and less opportunity. They want the opposite.
When someone negotiates for a higher base salary I recommend countering with a lower base and much higher commissions.
A sales rockstar will take it. A loafer will go somewhere else.
10) Be on the Lookout – Everywhere
A job interview is a horrible place to determine whether someone is a good employee.
If you really want the truth, you have to see them in action while they’re working. That’s why it’s easy to identify great employees that you encounter while they’re working at their job!
I know one very successful agent who gets all his producers from fast food restaurants!
He figures if they can stand on their feet all day, deal with rude customers beside a team of poor employees and maintain a positive contagious attitude they’d make great additions to his team.
Could your current producers do it?
11) Hire Part-Timers Working Somewhere Else
If you’re looking to get some more action into the agency, consider bringing on part time employees that are currently working somwhere else but want to make some side money.
You no longer need to leave work for two weeks to attend a licensing class. In most states you can study online to earn your license in your spare time.
It helps if they have a related job like a real estate broker or an accountant, but anyone willing to pass the test on their own and learn your system can be selling for you on the nights and weekends.
If you had a team of 6 people who could each bring in 3-4 policies a month for your agency that would be an extra 250 policies this year!
12) Beware the Agency Jumpers
If you’re actively looking to hire an insurance producer, you’re sure to run into plenty of what I call, “agency jumpers”.
You’ll recognize them because their resume has 5 different agencies in the past 3 years.
They’re usually very good at interviewing and always have valid explanations for the history but it’s always the same story:
First, they work very well for 3-4 months.
Then they start getting bored, surf the internet more, and start openly disagreeing with the way you run your business.
At 7 months they spend most of their time looking for a new job until they do it all again.
13) Ask Everyone You Know
If you’re in the market for a great employee, make sure everyone knows about it.
Referrals generally result in the best hires because people won’t usually recommend a bad applicant. You can also use the referring person as a filter if you frame the situation properly.
Don’t say, “I’m looking to hire someone,
do you know anyone that needs a job?”.
Instead say something like this, “I’m looking for a hard worker that can learn fast and wants a career, not just a job. If you know anyone with a lot of ambition let me know.”
14) Hire Locals
Whether they were the class president or least popular kid in school doesn’t matter, if you’re choosing between someone born and raised in your community and a transplant, hire the local.
Whoever knows the most people will, by default, sell the most insurance.
This always becomes painfully obvious to me when I visit my hometown in Syracuse, NY and can’t go to the mall, out to eat, or pump gas without running into someone I grew up with.
And with social media today, people are even more connected to their high school classmates than ever before.
15) Craigslist Ads Are Free
Unless you live in a few major markets, you can post job ads to Craigslist for free.
There’s no harm other than the time it takes you or your office manager to post an ad every week or two.
Even if you’re not actively hiring you can build up a list of strong prospects and can always offer 100% commission jobs to the right candidates.
I’m not a fan of scaring people to increase output, but it’ll also keep your current staff on their toes if they know there’s always someone waiting on the bench ready to play.
16) Always Be Hiring
Even if you already have more employees than you can handle, you can always take someone on at 100% commission.
And who knows, if you’re always looking for new employees you might stumble into greatness at a time you wouldn’t have expected it.
Put a sign in your office somewhere visible asking for only the most honest, customer-focused, and hard-working applicants.
As an added benefit, customers who see this will have a higher regard for your current employees.
17) You’re Not Buying, You’re Selling
I’ve watched a lot of insurance agents interview potential employees with the completely wrong attitude.
Most agents think its the applicant’s job to sell themselves to the agent and the agent’s job to screen out all the weak people.
This is wrong.
The best producers don’t need to put on a show to win you over. The producers you need can walk into a room and everybody knows it.
Great producers choose who they will sell for and its your job to make them want to choose you!
When you’re talking to the right applicant, you’ll be the salesman and they’ll be the buyer. If it’s the other way around, you’re talking to the wrong person.
I’m sorry if that interferes with the enjoyment of crossing your arms, furrowing your brow, and watching people sweat under pressure.
18) Tell Them No
This interview technique comes from a book I listened to a few years back called,The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes. (It’s a decent book and there’s some good ideas in there about hiring too.)
At some point in the interview process, tell the applicant you have doubts about whether they fully have what it takes to be successful. You’re basically saying “no” but in a polite way that leaves the door open for them to overcome your objection.
Some agents like this idea because it identifies the ability to overcome objections but I believe there is an even larger benefit.
By putting applicants in a position where the job is taken away from them you’ll get a true glimpse into how badly they want it.
If someone’s just looking for a job they’ll accept your opinion. If they’re starving for your opportunity they’re not going to let it slip through their fingers.
And when you get an applicant to sell themselves into the position they’re more likely to be successful later on.
19) Test Computer Skills
FACT #1: A lack of basic computer skills like typing, using a spreadsheet, finding information on a webpage, and using email is a major handicap to being a successful insurance producer.
FACT #2: Computer skills are like STDs – You can’t tell who has them just by looking… or even asking!
I’ve worked with so many agents who fell in love with a new employee only to find out afterward that even the simplest tasks took hours because of technical ineptitude.
Create a basic test that includes recreating a word document, a simple spreadsheet, and finding answers to questions from a website. You could create something for this in 15 minutes and it could save you a HUGE mistake.
And just because you suck at computers don’t give potential applicants a break. More people who can’t open an email attachment will only amplify your weakness.
20) Look For Non-Insurance Salespeople
There are plenty of very talented people selling knives, consumer electronics, and used cars that could be great additions to your agency.
Pay attention to people you interact with in other sales positions like the guy at Jiffy Lube that upsells synthetic oil and transmission flushes.
There are top-tier, proven salespeople that would blossom in your agency and view it as the opportunity of a lifetime.
21) Multilingual Is Usually Good
Producers who can speak a second or third language can be a real benefit to the agency.
Customers who speak in a foreign language with your staff are often more loyal and can be better referral sources if there’s a large enough group of other people from their culture in your community.
Take the good with the bad though.
Building your business on customers that speak a language you can’t speak requires a good amount of trust. You won’t always know what your producers are saying and if they leave, your business will soon leave too.
22) Use LinkedIn To Announce You’re Hiring
Just like Craigslist, posting an available job position on LinkedIn is free and you never know what may come of it.
If nothing else, announcing from time to time that you’re hiring on LinkedIn just makes you look successful.
People may be more likely to forward information about a job opening from within LinkedIn than anywhere else simply because it’s the professional social network.
23) Research Applicants on Social Media
It’s usually pretty easy to find someone on Facebook just by typing into Google, “Facebook Firstname Lastname”. If that doesn’t work, add the city and/or state.
Not only do you get a clearer idea of who they are as a person, you can also see how many friends they have.
The average person has around 150 Facebook friends. A well connected person would probably have more than that, right?
Just realized I have under 150 friends… What a Loser!
24) Watch Out for Movers
I’m not sure it’s all that prevalent, but I’ll mention it because I’ve seen it happen a few times.
If someone from far away is moving to your area and looking for a job be careful.
Don’t get me wrong, they might be great. But there’s a decent chance their main priority is moving and your job is just their safety net.
As soon as they get to town the real job search will begin, on your dime!
25) Ask for the Stars in Job Postings
If you advertise a job as $25,000/year plus commission you’re going to get applicants who are worth $28,000.
Ask for hard-working applicants willing to do what it takes to make $80,000 and you’ll get a whole different group of people.
A better group.
Use your advertisement to weed out the mediocre. Your hiring decision is too important to waste time on them.
And if you’re not hiring now…
But you know…
- Another agent that’s hiring,
- A sales manager who helps agents hire,
- Someone looking for a job in insurance,
- Or anyone else who may be interested,
Would you do me a favor and send them a link to this article?
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