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The Three Big Secrets to Insurance Agent Recruiting No One Bothers to Share

The Three Big Secrets to Insurance Agent Recruiting No One Bothers to Share

The Three Big Secrets to Insurance Agent Recruiting No One Bothers to Share

No matter the size of your company or your agency, the acquisition and proper support of licensed insurance agents or advisors is crucial to your success and your future.

You could be a big company growing distribution through large institutions and wholesalers – one that deals with fewer people making bigger decisions − or you could be a driven agent working to expand your footprint to help more people or families in your neck of the woods by bringing other producers under your wing.

In either scenario, and in many other cases in between, your growth inevitably flows through the addition of licensed insurance agents and advisors.

Thus, whether you are contracting entire groups at one time or expanding your agency one great producer at a time, these are three big secrets in agent recruiting that no one has bothered to share − at least not in a single piece − that can help you reach greater success in recruitment. 

Tell the right story

People love a good story.

A good story, well told, can be powerful and incredibly compelling in inspiring others to take action.

But don’t think for a second that we are referring to the story about your company. When first considering whether to join your team, a qualified prospect is not as interested in your story as much as they are interested in theirs.

Now, this does not mean that the agent won’t be interested in learning about your company. Your recruiting efforts, however, can become much more effective if you focus on and tell the right story. So let’s dive into how you can achieve that.

A story always has a lead character.

Great stories that intrigue tell of a great obstacle or menacing factor that burdens the lead character – that tension keeps one glued to the story, longing for a resolution. Good stories often present ally characters, too. Some of them are instrumental in helping the lead protagonist avoid ruin or doom, and in helping him find success in his journey. There’s a big pay-off and resolution in every great story.

The right story is one where your ideal candidate is the main protagonist.

He is living his own plot. If your story clearly tells how your group empowers and puts him in a position where he can overcome his barriers and reach his goals – even if it only helps him get one big step closer − he will not only want to hear all about this story you’re telling but also feel compelled to take action.    

Although you may or may not manage to build a story as epic as a Greek tragedy or a Spielberg saga, if you know enough about the journey your recruitment prospect has traveled before working with you, and where is he was heading − with your help − you will be able to craft a compelling narrative.

A Framework to Build the Story

Not everyone is a storyteller like Mark Twain or Stephen King. Having an effective framework with which to build an effective story, however, can make this easier than you might think.

Here’s an exercise that will help.  On a single sheet of paper, draw three columns. Label the columns “Before” on the left, “After” on the far right, and “Obstacles” in the middle. What your story needs is a “Before,” an “After,” as well as a narrative on how your group plays a role as the lead character makes a shift between “Before” and “After” – the shift that resolves his plot.

You could, of course, simply sit down and try to string this story together.

To really gain the insight required, however, to get into the mind of the person you want to attract and craft a story people will really relate to, it is best to survey and interview some of your most successful and active insurance agents or gather help from people or companies that can help you build a “customer journey.”

Your interviews should get at the circumstances they were experiencing before joining your team that prompted them to be open to new career options to begin with. In other words, in which ways were they dissatisfied with their own situations at the time?

You may uncover big pain points that kept them up at night at the time, as well as the less dramatic – but still insightful − unfulfilled desires that led agents to look for change − the desires that were resolved by joining your team. 

To fill the “After” column you must ask about the changes, both in their personal and professional lives, they envisioned by making a change, joining your group, etc. How did they hope to see themselves in a better future?

And what’s a story without a plot?  That’s where obstacles and barriers come in.

The “Obstacle” column, in the middle, would include what your prospect – the lead character in the story – perceives were barriers to achieving their goal. Those aren’t always big and daunting; they can also be minor hesitations. What makes the story real and relatable is using material given to you by real agents and advisors who went through it. 

Finally, you must substantiate the ways in which your company helped producers move from their Before stage to their After stage. Through this process, you may find that your value proposition can stand improving or fine-tuning so that your offering to producers actually improves.

Going through this exercise may help you discover a new and brilliant way to fine tune your value proposition –or better communicate it − to your public.

Regarding recruiting, the role of your company is to assist in moving a person from the Before stage to the After stage. Telling a genuine story where your recruiting prospect is the protagonist in a journey they can win with your support can be a powerful way to attract producers.       

With the help of a good marketing team, you can incorporate your improved narrative in your recruitment literature, website, and certainly your recruiters’ presentation to prospects.

The cream rises to the top, and why not get more of it?

As our attention tends to shift to what appears new, shiny, or trendy, sometimes vital things that have always been so become hidden in plain sight. Such is the nature of the next “big secret.” 

Although I do believe that we are all created equal, a lifetime of observations has left no doubt in my mind that we do not all produce or perform equally. I will not delve into why, as analyzing those reasons is far beyond the scope of this article.

I can assure you that if you listed out every insurance agent you’ve hired and compared their individual performances, or if you were to put together a spreadsheet with all producers in your independent distribution channel, sorting your list based on production, the fact that there are differences would become crystal clear.  

The cream always rises to the top. 

Some time ago, Italian engineer and economist Vilfredo Pareto discovered that 80% of the production from land in Italy came from only 20% of land producers. Hence, the Pareto Principle, which you may know as the 80/20 Rule, came about.

As it turns out, Pareto pointed out that the 80/20 Rule holds for many kinds of distributions.

In short, the Pareto Principle predicts that 80% of the consequences come from 20% of causes.

Discovering that key 20%

By taking the time to self-assess and establish where you have been and what has driven your success to this point, you can uncover a great strategic path in pursuit of greater or more consistent success.

By comparing and contrasting the average agent (in your own distribution) against the top talent, you may encounter discrepancies that can turn into powerful insights.

It all begins by establishing a benchmark or an average set of attributes for the median or average agent in your list of agents. Study or analyze every demographic, geographic, and psychographic point available to you that can help you describe the “typical agent” in your list.

Once you do so, study the differences with your upper 20% of producers.

If you are an insurance-based Broker Dealer that hires career agents, you might discover that the top 20% of your producers seem to all have brought a particular kind of education that differs from your average insurance agent. I am of course over-simplifying my example, but I think you see what I mean.

Or let’s say that you are an insurance agency that recruits agents you have personally coached and managed. Perhaps you may discover that your upper 20% all had a particular carrier appointment, when you first recruited, that seems to translate to great experience in your market.

If you’re an Insurance Marketing Organization (IMO) recruiting senior market insurance producers, you may find that your upper 20% are different than your average producer in that these producers had a bigger focus on writing Med Supps than Medicare Advantage, even though they were writing both products, etc.

Nobody can quite predict the big findings. What is important is to look at the data.

Thinking harder first, working easier later

Although all of this critical thinking could sound like a lot of work, depending on how large your agent list is, actually investing time in such a task may unlock invaluable insight, hiding in “plain sight,” that can fuel great and strategic innovation in your company. 

Identifying the key 20% of causes bringing about the 80% of your results can help you raise efficiencies, cut costs, and refocus your efforts and resources in those things that, Pareto predicts, will give you better bang for your buck.

It’s not just follow-up, it’s interactions

Just a few days ago, I had the pleasure to meet Lee, the co-founder of one of the largest IMOs in the US.

Besides learning that he’s an engineer, in addition to such a successful entrepreneur, we got to talking and I learned how he was an insurance agent recruiter back in the day.  His group grew tremendously and as you might expect – he was very good at recruiting.

One of the things I picked up on in our discussion was one of his secret weapons − he was quite disciplined about his follow-up with agents after his original presentation, if you will. He had a routine he used every time and actually counted the number of conversations he had with agents.

Where have I heard this before?

This resonated with me, as I’ve studied much from sales and marketing experts Allan Dib, Chet Holmes, and Jeremy Miller – the latter, also a recruitment genius – on the topic of follow-up.

What is the average number of times a closer −or recruiter − tries to follow up with a prospect before giving up?

If you thought “two or three times,” Allan Dib points out, you are right on the money. Most sales people do. What the authors above discovered was that it can take up to 12 positive interactions with a prospect before he decides to take action, move forward, and close. However, 50% of sales people – Dib explains – give up after a first interaction, 65% give up after two, and 80% give up after the third.

I don’t want to pester prospects

One “good” reason many decide to follow up only a couple of times is that they just don’t want to pester prospects.

Think about it.  There are only so many times you can ask, “Did you review that contract?” or whatever is the appropriate follow-up question. There are only so many times you can check again, for example, if an insurance producer now has a case to write and wants to sign on the dotted line.

The secret no one bothered to share is that “checking back” with prospects simply puts the focus on them and their hesitations when you, as the closer, should be focused on delivering value up front to the prospect, one positive interaction at a time. 

Twelve Positive Interactions

If studies show that it can take up to 12 positive interactions before a prospect closes, why not program or line up many different ways (at least 12) in which you can deliver value up front to your prospects?

One of the best ways to earn qualified prospects’ trust and raise their desire to come on board with your group is delivering value up front.  

What valuable content in the form of useful white papers, resources, tools, forms, checklists, cheat sheets, etc. – and you want valuable and unique things your company is able to offer – can your recruiting team tap into to create positive interactions with prospects?

By focusing on delivering value instead of just checking back to see whether a prospect thought about what you said last, you are cultivating a culture of great service delivery, demonstrating your competence to the right public (in quite a strategic way), and building value around your company in an increasingly irresistible way. You are also helping your recruiters have more and better reasons to reach out to high-quality prospects and have effective follow-up interactions that grows your company more consistently. 

These secrets work.  If you will spend the time building a compelling story centered on your prospect, understanding what sets your top 20% apart from the remaining 80%, and being disciplined about consistently programming 12 valuable interactions into your prospect follow-up routine, you will see some real improvement in this challenging but crucial aspect of business building.


Stu Gramajo
CEO and Director of Market Research
Agent Link