“If they get off to a great start, they’ve got half a chance; if they get off to a bad start, they’ve got no chance”.
A street-wise commercial insurance agency principal (and CIB client) made this statement about his firm’s track record of new producers. All of his good and great new producers got off to a great start. The failed ones did not. In our experience recruiting and developing hundreds of new producers, “start strong or go home” is not universally true, but it’s correct more often than not.
How Can You Tell if New Producers Are Starting Strong?
So, what constitutes a great start for a new commercial insurance producer? It’s really all about pre-closing: Covering in advance so that when it happens, it happens the way you want it to happen. Begin with your firm’s expectations for success in the first year with milestones a new producer needs to hit during that critical foundation year. Those performance expectations define and preset new producer success and, in their absence, also define new producer failure.
When we work with a client on a new producer recruiting project, we help them to outline upfront those new producer performance expectations and milestones in a Success Profile. The Success Profile describes in 2 or 3 pages — very specifically — what success in the commercial producer’s first year looks like in their firm.
Main Objectives for Successful New Producers
Here are the six main, high-level performance objectives that we suggest you include in a new producer Success Profile:
1. Complete a structured, coaching-based New Producer Development Program (include a small dose of technical insurance training and a heavy dose of prospecting activity and sales coaching, monitoring and mentoring)
2. Prepare new business prospecting plan by end of month 1 (start with a tactical 90-day plan and then repeat the cycle every quarter)
3. Implement prospecting plan to begin building a robust pipeline by end of month 1 (once licensed, immediately start getting 2-4 qualified new business prospect appointments every week)
4. Sell $XXK new commission by end of year 1 (set a sales goal to roughly cover the new producer’s starting salary in total agency commission revenues, e.g. $60K salary, aim to sell $60K in agency commission revenue in year 1; expect sales to be back loaded in the second half of the first year)
5. Demonstrate understanding of the producer’s role in working on the agency team (the new producer should learn the ropes and be able to demonstrate that they can do the full scope of their expected role in the agency)
6. Begin to establish expertise and relationships in target niches/specialty markets (much higher success odds for a new producer with niche(s) focus versus being a generalist)
Year 1 for a new producer is tough in the best of circumstances. Every new producer needs coaching, mentoring, management, direction, and encouragement. Unfortunately, despite all good intentions, a new producer hire may not work out. At various points during the first year, follow through needs to happen and judgments need to be made about the Success Profile performance expectations. These judgments are based on execution or lack thereof and performance milestones hit or missed by the new producer.
Usually, successful producers demonstrate high-activity levels early on and within three to six months, you should be seeing very high first appointment levels and a growing pipeline of sales opportunities. In the first 3 to 6 months, it’s premature to start making judgements based on revenue and new clients — though the great ones seem to find a way to ring the cash register right away! You’re looking for solid progress in learning the business, working productively in your firm, building a strong prospect pipeline, and beginning to produce new business at a pace that will steadily lead toward validation.