By Jessica Stevenson, Account Executive – MySalesResults
Conclusion: Sales people need to be sales people, but they also need to fit into your culture.
This is the second article in a 4 part series where I will be presenting the results of an in-depth insurance industry research project. As a part of the research, I interviewed several of the industry’s top agency sales managers to find out everything I could about what makes a great sales person and how to effectively manage sales teams. This post focuses on recruiting and hiring.
Recruiting | Hiring
Where – Where are you finding your best sales people?
It seems agencies are finding the most success in hiring producers coming from:
- Industry | Carriers – underwriting, loss control, claim reps
- Small CL or PL producers – Farm Bureau, Allstate, State Farm, AAA – people looking to move “up”
- Niche Industries – such as farming or logging if the agency has a specific niche focus in that area
- Already in Sales – in other industries
- Some sales experience, not just out of college
- But most importantly that they are not already in insurance sales
Characteristics – What characteristics do your best sales people possess?
Being “social and outgoing, but also somewhat detailed” was common theme among all of the sales managers that we interviewed as to what makes a good sales person:
- Social | Outgoing
- Somewhat detailed
- Preferably, connected to the community
- Competitive – “every good producer has a competitive nature”
- Athletes or former athletes
- Also, we found that agencies seem to be having trouble with the younger generation, Generation Y. They are finding that this generation would prefer to have a steady salaried income, because they are just getting out of college and may have young families. With the salaried income they seem to also prefer to work a standard 40 hrs per week as opposed to the 50-60+ hr week that sales can sometimes involve. They also have a tendency to “jump ship” when a new opportunity presents itself.
Interview Process – What is your interview & hiring process?
As the saying goes, “hire slow, fire fast”:
- Have a multi-tiered interview process – where the person is interviewed 2-3+ times by key people within the organization.
- Make sure that they are a culture fit – “personality first & foremost”, because even if they look good on paper, if they are not going to be a fit into your culture then the chances of the success of that hire are very limited.
- Have a Strategic Plan – begin your plan to hire at least 12 months in advance, clearly define the sales position & timeline, share that there is a position available with the entire team and open it up to referrals both internally & externally.
- Just as it is necessary for a successful producer to have a pipeline full of potential prospects, it is also important for the agency to continually build and maintain a pipeline of potential sales candidates. That way when you begin your hiring process, or if you are put in a situation where the hiring of a producer needs to be sped up, you will have a pool of prequalified candidates to choose from.
Testing – What type of testing programs do you use to determine traits, qualifications & unique abilities?
Personality & unique ability testing you can gain valuable insight into a person prior to adding them to your team:
- Caliper is a personality and job matching assessment
- Kolbe is a measure of a person’s instinctive method of operation and in what ways can they be the most productive
- DiSC is an assessment of personality styles and how teams can work best together
- And SPQ Gold is a call reluctance test, geared exclusively for sales people, showing what type of call reluctance a producer will have, including their ability to prospect and close new business.
Recruiting | Hiring – Summary
Our research indicates that top producers are outgoing and socially active, which should come as no surprise. A competitive nature is inherent and many top producers are former athletes. Outgoing and competitive are two important traits of a successful producer, but a level of attention to detail is necessary for producers to succeed as well.
When looking for new talent, don’t be afraid to look outside the insurance industry. Producers that come from niche industries can be valuable assets for your agency, especially when tapping into new markets.
“Hire slow, fire fast” is a common phrase we heard from principals and sales managers when it comes to interviewing and hiring. The more time spent up front during the interview process, the more likely the candidate will succeed at your agency.
Personality and unique ability testing can increase the likelihood of a new producer fitting within your agency, especially when done during the interview process. Tests are important, but making sure the producer fits into your agency culture is of utmost importance.
Stay tuned for part 3 of the series that will focus on training and mentoring. Thank you again to all of the agencies that participated in this project.