There are many factors that account for an agency's success and growth. But, an agency can't survive without a sales team. If you're like most agents I know, you want to do more than survive. You want success.
An agency's sales success depends on how good its salespeople are. The right salespeople can make a big impact not long after you hire them. But, hiring good salespeople is tricky.
Why Hiring Good Salespeople is Hard
A good salesperson is in high demand. Think about it. There is not a business on this planet that doesn't want a team of good salespeople. Which makes finding a good salesperson and then convincing him to join your agency even more difficult.
People who are only mediocre at selling are actually really good at selling themselves. Most people in sales are able to talk about how to sell: what to do, what to say, etc. But can they do it? That is the question. If they haven't met their sales goals for the last few years, it doesn't matter what they say. Don't hire them.
What Makes a Salesperson Good
So, what makes a person good at selling? It comes down to two things: character and environment.
Studies have been done on the character traits of salespeople. Here are some of the characteristics they found in the strongest, high-performing salespeople.
1. High verbal acuity. Good salespeople are able to communicate their meaning, nature and importance of their words so the customer understands.
2. Goal oriented. Interestingly, more than 85 percent of strong salespeople played a sport in high school. High-performing salespeople dedicate themselves to achieving their goals. They measure their performance based on those goals.
They also have the self-discipline to function well in a competitive environment. They will use an agency's tools, like agency management system or comparative rater, to their fullest extent.
3. Confidence. A good salesperson should guide the conversation and confidently share his knowledge and opinions. If he can do that, he will be successful. A salesperson who is more anxious will be more reactive.
4. Empathy. People buy from a good salesperson who they feel understands them. A salesperson who can empathize with the client can do this. She will feel as the client feels, not with her. She can put herself in the client's shoes.
A few other characteristics common in good salespeople? Honesty, good listener, persistent, doesn't take a no personally.
Success in sales has as much to do with the environment as a person's ability to sell.
Consider Agency A. It has a solid agency marketing plan. The marketing generates leads. It's profitable. Their clients love them.
Now consider Agency B. It has no agency marketing plan. The sales team has to generate their own leads. Clients often complain, and the agency is not that profitable.
Even the same highly-skilled salesperson will not perform identically in these two different environments. A person's sales talent doesn't matter if the environment is not supportive.
What to Look for When Hiring Salespeople
First, look at your agency environment. What lines of business do you sell? Life and health insurance will have a more complex sales cycle than auto and home.
Does your sales team need to generate their own leads? Or do you have an agency marketing plan that can provide them with some leads?
Do you require your sales team to use your agency management system for keeping notes on all prospects and clients? Are you monitoring and measuring daily activities, e.g., quotes completed, calls per day, etc.
Your answers will determine what kind of candidate can succeed at your agency.
A big mistake we see agencies make is they hire for insurance experience and try to teach them to sell. Hire someone who can sell, and teach them about insurance.
ITC's Vice President of Sales Don Hobdy Jr: 'You start by trying to hire good people. It's kind of like drafting in the NFL. You find someone with the skillset to fit the position. Next, you teach him your culture and history. Then, you teach your system.'
Look for people who like to talk. People with drive. People who are comfortable discussing money. Insurance is a relationship business. It's important a good salesperson understands that client relationships are highly valued.
One Last Tip
Leave a piece of trash like a candy wrapper clearly visible by a trash can. During the interview ask the candidate if he would throw something in the trash for you. See if he picks up the trash you left and throws that away as well.
This test will tell you if he takes initiative in a good way, cares about his environment, or just has good habits. When he returns ask him why he did or didn't put the item in the trash. This will give you insight into him as a person. Plus, it will definitely make him uncomfortable if he didn't pick it up.
What tips do you have for hiring good salespeople? Leave them in the comments below.
The Modern Agency is a monthly blog series in which we discuss various topics related to the success and growth of independent insurance agencies in the modern market.
About the Author
As vice president of marketing, Becky Schroeder oversees ITC’s growth through marketing and drives the overall marketing strategy for the company and its products. Her specialties include advertising, social media, email marketing, content marketing and public relations. Becky has a master’s degree in integrated marketing communication from Emerson College in Boston and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Texas A&M University. Becky is a big Texas A&M football fan and enjoys cooking, reading and spending time with her husband and their three daughters.Follow on Twitter More Content by Becky Schroeder