As your agency grows, finding the right agents to add to your team can be a challenge. You don’t just need someone to set appointments or sell policies; you need a business person who understands how to develop relationships and act as a trusted advisor to your clients. And you need a talented salesperson that can navigate a fluid sales environment and put more products into each household you serve. In today’s economy, you need someone who not only has the right skills and education, but also someone who is motivated and wants to help the agency grow.
You also know that hiring the right staff can make or break an agency. In the past, perhaps all you needed was a team member who could execute good customer service. But today, good is not good enough. The insurance industry is changing fast, and the clients we serve have many different options in the industry when it comes to obtaining a policy. They have zero tolerance for average or below average service. Your staff must exhibit excellent customer service, and anticipate client needs and desires.
Whether you’re looking to add agents or staff people, here are the seven steps for recruiting that I use in my own agency:
1. Philosophy: slow to hire, quick to fire.
In the early days of my career, if someone had energy, I was quick to hire that person. This often backfired. You do need someone in your agency who has energy, but also someone who has technical skills and the motivation to grow. Take your time when getting to know potential candidates to make sure they are the right fit for the job, and you will save a lot of time and energy in the long-run.
2. Recruiting book: Always be looking for people.
It’s a good idea to compile a recruiting book; somewhere you record the names of prospects when you meet them. This way, when you are ready to hire, you can go through your book of prospects and choose the best candidates for a particular position. Any time you can avoid ‘starting from scratch’ with the hiring process, you will be more efficient in your search.
3. First Interview: with the agent / principal.
Every dollar spent in your agency must have a return on investment (ROI). If you do not believe there is an immediate ROI with a particular candidate, there is no reason to hire them. In this first interview you should be looking for a good attitude, someone that wants to grow and is seeking self improvement, (taking classes, etc.) as well as somebody that’s a critical thinker – you want them to be able to problem solve on their own.
4. Second Interview: over the phone.
This step is much more important today than it was 15 to 20 years ago. Today, people are busy and conduct many of their transactions over the phone – especially their insurance purchases. Communication skills are a must when hiring for your agency. When you’re in front of someone it’s easier to sell and service them properly. However, you might not always get that chance. These days, exceptional phone skills are needed to overcome the distance and the lack of face-to-face engagement. These skills can best be judged by talking to your candidate on the phone.
5. Interview with staff: The staff needs to be invested.
Introduce the candidate to other staff members. Happy staff is important for your agency and they are happy when they are part of the decision process. Your staff is going to spend more time with the new person than their own spouse so it’s important that they be on board with your hiring decision. If they like the candidate, it creates a high-performance team.
6. Testing: From a third party vendor.
Whenever possible, have your candidate tested by a third-party vendor. You are looking for feedback on the prospect’s psychology, abilities and personality. It’s prudent to get someone who can give you an outside perspective. Are they a good candidate for sales and service? Today, you need to have someone who can successfully do both.
7. Onboarding process: bringing them into the organization.
A successful onboarding process can make the difference between agency success and failure. It is the most important step in ensuring that your agency continues to produce over time. We have a specific way to bring people into our agency. We don’t just throw them in a chair and say “good luck.” We want them to understand the way the entire businefss works, and we want to help them learn their craft.