Recruit A Winning Team

Renowned business consultant and author Jim Collins once said, “If I were running a company today, I would have one priority above all others: to acquire as many of the best people as I could. I’d put off everything else to fill my bus.”

Unfortunately, in today’s feeble economy, many brokerage agencies have put their recruitment efforts on the back burner. However, if BGAs fail to “fill their bus” with unbeatable players, they may not be able to stay in the game. If you want to keep pace with your competitors, you’ll have to build a winning team of top-notch professionals and powerful partners. Luckily, with a few clever marketing tactics, you can successfully attract producers, recruit institutions and ensure your agency thrives today and well into the future.

BGAs OFTEN ATTRACT motivated pros by offering cutting-edge insurance programs that enable producers to work more efficiently.

Magnetize top producers  It’s no secret that a brokerage agency is only as strong as its weakest link.  That’s precisely why it’s so important for BGAs to recruit first-rate producers for their team. Here are eight smart marketing techniques for attracting and retaining gifted producers:

1 Offer high-tech tools: BGAs often attract motivated pros by offering cutting-edge insurance programs that enable producers to work more efficiently. “We have developed a number of exclusive packages, including a Life Insurance Comprehensive Policy Review System and a Single Premium Analysis System, which shows the client options depending on whether they want to accumulate, distribute or leverage their premium with LTC or use it as a wealth enhancement vehicle,” says Michael Pinkans with Zenith Marketing Group. “[We also offer] a comparison system for Guaranteed Income Riders. These are all brand-able for the producer.”

2 Stay top of mind: There is tons of competition out there, and producers encounter a myriad of brokerage agencies throughout the year.  If you want to stand out and draw talented producers to your agency, you need to stay top of mind. Try to get your agency’s name in front of producers as often as possible.  “We use a mix of marketing tactics including trade show opportunities, CE seminars and workshops, and national and regional advertising and e-mail recruiting,” says Dex Umekubo, Senior Managing Partner and VP with Producers XL. “All of these tactics have worked well. The key to success is repetitive action and taking advantage of every marketing opportunity that comes up.”

3 The good, old-fashioned cold call: While many BGAs absolutely despise cold calling, this old-school marketing tactic still works for many agencies looking to recruit top producers. “I do make cold telephone calls from all sources, such as the yellow pages, purchased lists, news articles, and I’ve even put an advertisement on Craig’s List,” says Bob Lombardo, Managing Director of Ash Brokerage of Southwest Florida. “This is a lot of tedious work and requires time and much effort. You do kiss a lot of frogs. The payoff is when you make the call and everything clicks and you are off and running.”  Some BGAs ask their current producers for referrals and then call those potential candidates. You might call this a “warm call.” “We make one-on-one personal calls to referrals from our existing producer base,” says Umekubo.

4 Reach out online: While cold calls still work in some cases, the best way to reach today’s younger generation of producers is through the web. That’s why many BGAs opt for digital marketing tactics, from

e-newsletters to e-blasts. “We produce a four-minute weekly PowerPoint with audio that discusses the industry along with a weekly e-newsletter containing information needed for life, annuity, LTC and DI product lines,” Pinkans explains. “These are heavily read. On an ad hoc basis, for important news, we do an e-blast ‘Message from the CEO’ which gets open rates of 30%.”

5 Follow up: If a broker seems interested in your agency, don’t give them the chance to forget about you. “I follow up personally with any broker that shows interest in our organization, usually within one week

after our initial contact,” Umekubo emphasizes.

6 Show them the benefits: Once you snag a producer, you’ll need to keep their interest. That means

you’ll need to teach them how to take advantage of your agency’s offerings.  “When working with a new broker, [I show them] how best to benefit from what we have to offer,” says Lombardo. “I give them information on our product and insurance lines, advanced sales, underwriting, website familiarization and special programs. I also have my support team reach out to them.”

7 Manage their expectations:  When you’re working with a new producer, the last thing you want to do is make unrealistic promises—this will simply set them up for disappointment.  “The first case is always the litmus test of the potential business relationship,” says Umekubo.  “We try very hard to manage the producer’s expectations of the first half dozen cases.”

8 Stay in touch: Once a broker is “in the fold,” Lombardo says it’s important to remain in constant contact with them. “I do this with phone calls, informational e-mails and an e-newsletter I send out periodically

called The Morning Coffee,” he says.  “More importantly, for this group, every time you touch a piece of business is a marketing opportunity.”  Of course, this is just a handful of marketing methods BGAs can use to attract top producers. There are countless other outreach tactics and recruiting tools available to brokerage agencies.

“All marketing efforts work to some degree,” says Lombardo. “Educational meetings, newsletters, telephone

and personal contact, sales promotions and all the other marketing methods work to varying degrees.  You may not see direct results, but overall you need to stay engaged with the brokerage community as much as possible. Get your footprint in as many places as possible as often as possible, and things will happen.”

However, while these marketing methods may help you attract new producers, it’s up to you to keep your team happy. If you want to retain first-class talent, you have to offer the total package, including top-notch tools, superior support and ongoing educational opportunities.

“Over my many years in this business, I have found that there is no ‘best marketing method’, per se,” points out Lombardo. “I think it is the whole package you deliver that makes a broker want to do business with you and keep doing business with you. We all have the same products and similar compensation levels, so what sets us apart is how we deliver.”  Of course, if a producer simply does not mesh with your agency’s unique personality, all the marketing tactics in the world won’t help.  “Recruiting agents is a mano y mano, eyeball-to-eyeball process, so ultimately it is the mesh of personalities that seem to be the biggest factor to whether a new recruit works out or not,” says Umekubo.

IT’S NO SECRET that a brokerage agency is only as strong as its weakest link. That’s precisely why it’s so important for BGAs to recruit first-rate producers for their team.

Marketing to the “Big Boys” However, times are changing, and BGAs are no longer marketing exclusively to producers. These days, many BGAs are recruiting entire institutions, such as wire houses, broker dealers and banks. The brokerage agency ultimately becomes the organization’s “back office” for managing all of their life insurance sales.

“This is certainly becoming more important and the wave of the future,” Pinkans stresses. “These institutions want to make sure their producers are dealing with trusted organizations, and BGAs are finding that building out programs and training for institutions is more cost effective than trying to capture producers one by one.”

So, how exactly can a BGA recruit these “big boy” organizations? First of all, not every brokerage agency is built for this type of business. “You need to have a very large adept operation that understands this market—one that can deliver much greater support to the advisors than usual, create custom commission accounting and reporting systems, deal with compliance issues and corporate mentality,” explains Lombardo.

“There have been some BGAs that have been successful in this market who have put the necessary time and resources required to work with these entities. There have been many more BGAs who have tried and have had poor results.”

While it may seem intimidating to market to these major institutions, some professionals say recruiting banks and broker dealers is not all that different from recruiting producers. “The strategies and tactics are the same, with the exception that there are more ‘folks’ in the process,” says Umekubo. “Once you identify the number one decision maker within the bank, BD or other outlet, you’ll need to make your very best ‘first impression’ on that decision maker.”

If you do manage to recruit one of these organizations, you’ll have to stay on your toes to keep the partnership successful. “It takes constant interaction with executive management—discussing what is working, what isn’t and being willing to constantly tweak to make it all work,” explains Pinkans. “These institutions are looking for specialized and brand-able programs that can give them a competitive advantage in the marketplace.”

Most importantly, as you try to attract these organizations, don’t make lofty, idealistic promises. Always be honest about your agency’s abilities, strengths and weaknesses. “We do our very best to ‘under sell’ and ‘over deliver,’” says Umekubo. “Most of these entities have heard all the ‘pitches,’ and many are quite persuasive. So we do our best to just be who we are, say what our strengths are and how they can leverage them, and frankly where our weaknesses are and how we can work together to manage those weaknesses so that they do not hinder the business relationship.  We’ve actually gained access to some accounts like this because the former BGA over promised and under-delivered, which gave us a real opportunity to gain access into their system.”

Because every institution is looking for a different type of partnership, you’ll also need to stay flexible. “It is important to understand how transparent the institution wants the BGA to be,” Pinkans emphasizes.  Sometimes, the institution and BGA are marketed to the producer as a true partnership.  In other situations, the BGA is truly transparent and provides the back office functions without explicit knowledge of the partnership arrangement.”

Assemble an invincible team It’s no secret that the life insurance industry faces countless challenges in today’s weak economy. If you want your brokerage agency to stand a fighting chance, you’ll have to load up your “bus” with an indestructible team. With a star lineup of talented pros and powerful partners at your side, your agency can survive—and even thrive—in these turbulent times. So, get out there and recruit some winners!

Amy Bell is a professional freelancewriter and owner of WritePunch Inc. With more than 10 years of writing, editing and marketingexperience, she writes for a variety of companies and publications throughout the nation, including Agent’s Sales Journal, Blueprints,Real Estate & Construction Review,The Weather Channel, and TurnerBroadcasting. She is a Universityof Georgia Graduate with a BA inJournalism. Visit her Web site at http://www.writepunch.com for more information.

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