You may have started your insurance sales career as a sole practitioner. The new venture began with you, a long list of names to call, and some grit and determination to help get you where you wanted to go. As time has passed, you realize you're getting there. Your agency is growing, and it might be time to call in the cavalry.
New agents wear a lot of hats at the beginning. When you're building your book of business, it might not seem like a huge effort to handle sales, marketing, administration, and finance. But as that book starts to blossom, you may need to hire some help to handle some of these duties.
How will you know when it's time to hire employees? Some agents use a calculated method that relates to business volume. Other folks might experience that they need more than 24 hours in the day to get everything done. Whatever method you choose, you'll know when it's time.
After you realize that building a staff will help keep your agency humming along, you'll need to figure out what specific roles to create and what type of person can best fill those positions. Here's a look at when to hire before we move on to the "who" part.
You can use some number targets as a sign that it's time to start adding employees to your agency. For instance, property and casualty agents often use direct written premium (DWP) milestones as a sign that hiring would help grow the agency and relieve some of the administrative stress. Consider this scenario as a guide to when you might hire — and keep in mind that you must pay yourself first.
Let's say that, as a P&C agent, you've reached $500,000 in DWP. Commissions and bonuses put your earnings around $70K if we use a 12% average commission rate with $10,000 in annual bonuses. At this point, selling and servicing policies have become a handful. And it shows. You've lost customers to oversights and your year-over-year sales volume has dropped by policy and DWP volume. These setbacks indicate you need to enlist some administrative help.
Life and health agents may use a benchmark such as policies in force or a net revenue number, and both methods lead to the same conclusions. You're generating enough business to earn a good living but any further growth will be a slog if you don't build a team. Aside from the numbers, personal factors will heavily influence your decision to hire.
From a practical standpoint, working long hours every day is difficult to sustain. You've heard about work-life balance, and now that mantra begins to make a lot of sense. You have family and friends that value your company, and you certainly have hobbies and interests that you want to pursue. So, you can go by the numbers or what your heart tells you, but either sign points to the need for staffing.
If you've reached the stage where your agency needs help, here are some tips on the roles and the best type of people to fill them.
You understand that without contented customers, the road to success for any insurance agent will be a long and arduous one. As you get busier, you may miss a callback or policy change, and those oversights can cause you to lose a customer or two. These things happen from time to time, but they can't continue at regular intervals. That's why the first person you must hire is a customer service representative (CSR).
Clients call to add drivers to their policies. They may need ID cards. They may have a claim that needs investigating. These issues may seem routine, but you know how much time calls like these can consume. As the primary agent and agency owner, your job involves prospecting and sales. These activities drive revenue more than servicing, yet each role is essential to the business.
The best CSRs for an insurance agency have near-infinite patience. They won't only be handling service issues. They'll also be on the front lines to answer questions about events like rate increases or claims denials. Upping the liability on a homeowners policy is a snap, but it's not as easy to deliver bad news with tact and grace. The ideal CSR candidate will be able to handle both.
When hiring a CSR, patience is key, and an insurance background will also be helpful.
If you reach the point when there aren't enough hours in the day, hopefully you're devoting most of your time to sales. Ideally, the majority of your inbound and outbound calls will be tied to increasing revenue. You'll need greater sales volume to support the non-commissionable salary of a CSR, so hiring a sub-producer could help meet that objective.
Finding the right insurance salesperson might involve some trial and error. You'll want to wade carefully through the recruiting process.
The trickiest part about hiring salespeople is that they're usually pretty good at selling things — including themselves. You may encounter a seasoned agent who needs a draw plus commission or you might meet a younger person with no insurance experience at all. Either one of these extremes probably won't work. As a newer agency, paying salary-plus amounts to a big risk, and the willing-to-learn type might not add to the top line all that quickly.
You may need to find someone who falls between these two types of recruits. Primarily, find an applicant who's licensed. That qualification eliminates the time it takes to study and pass the exam.
Second, insist on seeing some semblance of a track record in insurance sales. If the numbers look weak, the prospective employee may have a valid explanation. If the numbers look strong, you have to wonder why they're hunting for another position.
Perhaps the best compromise would be offering a part-time, commission-only role to a licensed agent who's hungry to sell. A probationary or trial period for a sales agent keeps your financial risk down, and the role may progress into a fruitful, full-time gig.
If your budget eventually allows, you might want to hire an administrative assistant who amounts to someone a sports franchise might refer to as a "glue person." An employee of this caliber can do a little bit of everything in the office, and you won't want to typecast them as a phone answerer and customer greeter. A licensed assistant gives the role even more versatility. You might also consider a candidate with a noticeable eagerness to study and ace the exam.
The optimal profile for a quality administrative assistant consists of two principal qualities. The first characteristic involves oodles of energy. You see this all the time in employer ads, and for good reason. You simply don't want an introverted wallflower filling this role.
The second quality relates to workplace chemistry. You want a non-confrontational personality that knows how to get along with everybody in the office. They should be firm when they need to be and diplomatic when they meet resistance.
Picturing the ideal administrative assistant, you might see someone who can handle multiple tasks and displays a willingness to grow professionally. This individual will be a jack of all trades with duties that include customer relationships, vendor management, and policy administration. As a bonus, they may come to master one productive role like sales or service.
Finding candidates might seem a lot like finding insurance prospects. As with referrals, a lot of new agents will start out looking to hire people they know and trust. That strategy sometimes works but it can also backfire. Like telemarketing or mass emails, placing ads for recruits on the internet or in a newspaper can have you interviewing many prospects before you find the right fit for your agency.
You could hire a recruiter who specializes in insurance producers and service specialists. These folks use various screening, aptitude, and personality tools to try to match you with a candidate who will have a long and fulfilling career on your team. Ultimately, you may use a blend of various hiring practices, meeting each recruit in person and letting your instincts guide you through the process.
If you're considering adding team members to your agency, that means you've made some pretty sound decisions up to this point in your career. Chances are, that streak will continue with hiring the right personnel. In the meantime, you need to keep the prospecting and sales wheels turning all the time. See what Nectar can offer you in the way of quality real-time leads. That's another smart decision you won't regret.
This article reflects the features of Nectar as of the date of publication. Features are subject to change at any time. This article is meant for informational purposes only, it is not a guarantee that using Nectar will help you achieve specific business or financial results and is not intended to serve as the sole recommendation for any business financial decisions.