What are Strategies for Hiring Insurance Agents?
April 20, 2021 •Oak Street Funding
Interviewing and hiring insurance agents can be an unpleasant, even intimidating process. Most business owners like to think that they are excellent judges of character who are very skilled at choosing the right people -- but inside, they wonder if their judgment is accurate.
Hiring insurance agents carefully
Hiring the wrong person can carry an amazingly high cost, including lost business opportunities, angry customers who will never return, damage to your hard-earned reputation, and wasted time. Even worse, many agency owners are fundamentally nice people who find it tough to terminate employees, so problem personnel tend to stick around far longer than they should. Finding and hiring the right people may be one of the most important things you can do for your business and your own financial security. Your promises about providing excellent service succeed or fail based on the people you trust to deliver them.
Never rush the hiring process
Hiring the first person who comes along and hoping you can mold them into what you need is a recipe for failure and frustration. The relationship between an agency owner and a key employee is similar to a marriage. Would you marry someone based on a chance meeting or an enjoyable first date? More likely, you’d take your time and get to know each other to ensure you share values and attitudes.
Know who you need
Before hiring, be sure you know exactly what type of employee you need, but be realistic. Finding someone who is an aggressive salesperson, provides amazingly attentive customer service, is warm and friendly, and is willing to cook lunch for the entire staff is probably an unreasonable expectation. Each time you hire, determine the type of salesperson you want and then focus the process on those characteristics.
Find the right fit
If you want someone who will fit into your existing team, take an honest look at how your current employees work and identify the characteristics that mean the most to you. That way, you can evaluate applicants by how well they match those traits.
Build and sustain a culture
A culture is essentially your agency’s attitude, environment, and business approach. It provides a framework and guidance for your employees, so they have a clearer understanding of what’s expected and so you have a standard against which you can evaluate prospective employees. If you want to sustain a culture, you need to model the desired behavior throughout the process because your actions will send clear signals to applicants. If they perceive you share their values and recognize what they’ll bring to the position, they’ll be more interested in working for you.
Focus on people, not skills
You want to hire salespeople who are effective at selling. But if you want to ensure a good fit with your agency and its culture, you’ll want to spend more time getting to know the person. After all, you can always teach sales skills, but it’s much harder to teach people how to have the right attitudes.
Examine their interactions
If the position will require the employee to spend time on the phone with customers and prospects, conduct the initial interview by phone to get a sense of how they behave when talking with other people. How do they answer their phone? Is it easy to understand what they say? Do they speak in a friendly and polite manner? When conducting interviews at your office, watch for little things, such as how they treat your employees. Ask them to wait a few minutes while you wrap up a matter so you can quietly observe them. Do they engage in friendly conversations, or are they standoffish?
Pay attention to listening skills
Do they listen patiently to what you have to say, or do they interrupt? When they respond to a question, is it clear that they considered what you asked, or are they blurting something out? Watch their manner to see if they’re comfortable and smiling. Everyone gets nervous in an interview situation, but a candidate who doesn’t smile when being interviewed probably won’t smile when talking to your customers.
Ask open-ended questions
To get a sense of whether the candidates would be a good fit for your agency, ask open-ended questions to encourage them to share relevant experiences. For example, ask about a time they did something special for a customer. Have them tell you about a time they faced an angry customer and how they resolved the situation. Look for confidence, initiative, and problem-solving skills. If they describe customers negatively, it’s a sign that they won’t treat people well. But if they describe them in friendly terms, they’ll treat your agency’s customers with respect.
Never stop hiring insurance agents
Always keep your eyes open for people who would be great members of your team, even if they have little or no insurance experience. Do you remember that friendly woman at the convenience store where you pick up your morning coffee? You’ve watched her handle long lines of customers and frustrating situations with no signs of annoyance. Could she do the same for you? You’ll find potential team members in other sales roles, too, from retail stores to auto dealers.
Candidates to avoid
- Highly extroverted types may come across as pushy and make customers uncomfortable.
- People with negative attitudes can hurt your other employees’ morale.
- Salespeople who are gossipy or sarcastic probably won’t fit your culture.
- People who spend all of their time talking and do very little listening may not address customer needs.
- Salespeople who have changed agencies or other sales jobs frequently may get bored quickly or have trouble getting along with others.
Always check references. It’s human nature to trust people. Unfortunately, some of the characteristics that make many people seem charming and trustworthy can actually make them bad employees. Investing a little extra time in a few phone calls may protect you from making a serious hiring mistake.
If you are considering hiring insurance agents, you will need to invest in your hiring strategy. You could use cash from your business to hire them and recoup the investment once they are producing, or you could leverage a working capital loan and keep your cash in the business. If you'd like to learn more about a working capital loan and don’t know exactly where to begin, please feel free to contact us. At Oak Street Funding, we have experts in lending who have helped hundreds of clients make their staff growth goals a reality.
Disclaimer: Please note, Oak Street Funding does not provide legal or tax advice. This blog is for informational purposes only. It is not a statement of fact or recommendation, does not constitute an offer for a loan, professional or legal or tax advice or legal opinion and should not be used as a substitute for obtaining valuation services or professional, legal or tax advice.
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