Helping the country’s top commercial risk management and insurance brokers to recruit and develop the next generation of producers (sales people), we often get asked about the key ingredients for a successful new producer. Client hiring managers want to know, for sure, but so do candidates, business-to-business (B2B) sales reps considering the career transition to becoming commercial insurance brokers.
We’ve learned that you need to find an individual with a strong probability to be successful in the commercial insurance broker role, in the specific agency/brokerage firm and in the industry. Our assessments evaluate an individual’s success potential using 8 Key Success Criteria: (1) sales skills; (2) drive to achieve; (3) relationships skills; (4) cognitive abilities; (5) work ethic; (6) verbal skills; (7) career desires (fit), and (8) compensation fit. The detailed definitions for these 8 Key Success Criteria are contained in our prior post “New Producer Hiring: The Answer Key”: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/new-producer-hiring-answer-key-james-caragher-cpcu-cic?trk=hp-feed-article-title-like
A person meeting all 8 key success criteria will have a high probability of success as a commercial insurance producer. As we look back at our placements for the past decade plus, work ethic has proven to be a core element that can actually make up for shortfalls in the other seven criteria. And, when work ethic is missing, the other 7 criteria often can’t make up for it.
How can a commercial insurance agent/broker determine if a person will do the hard work necessary to be a successful new producer? First, start by defining work ethic. Then, use a detailed work history review, interviews, and thorough background and reference checks to assess a candidate’s work ethic.
Here’s how we define work ethic: works hard; understands that building a book of business from scratch requires more time devoted to work than many careers, and has demonstrated a willingness to give the time required.
Interview questions that help to assess work ethic:
- Earliest work experience – describe the first time that you ever made a buck in your life.
- Describe your jobs during high school and college.
- Tell me about a time when you worked about as hard as you’ve ever worked.
- How demanding is your present job in terms of your time, i.e. how many hours per week do you work, tell me about your average day?
Questions 1 and 2 delve into early work history, typically pre-resume, grunt-level jobs. We want to find out when a person started working and why. Questions 3 and 4 address a person’s time commitment to work. We look for an understanding that high sales achievement requires more than a competitive drive and money motivation – those are important too but a commitment to work the necessary hours, i.e. 50-60 hours per week at the beginning of the commercial insurance broker career, really makes a difference. You need to find out if a person will do the hard grinder work in the early years of the producer career. Successful new producers do not stroll into the office at 9 am and leave at 4:30 pm every day. They consistently get in the office early and stay late to do phone prospecting before/after the prospects’ gatekeepers are in the office.
In future posts, we’ll discuss the other 7 key success criteria for new commercial insurance brokers. For now, our advice to hiring managers and candidates is to never underestimate the importance of hard work at the start of a successful commercial insurance broker career.