Do you remember all the mistakes you made as a new Agency owner and entrepreneur?
The 30,000 Agents in INSURANCE SOUP – the FREE Facebook group for Agents, Brokers, and Team Members remember a lot of theirs.
I sure as hell do. I made a TON of them as I am sure you did or are currently doing now.
When I got my Agency I came from outside the industry.
I was trained to do the job. If I am being totally honest with myself I probably did not take the training as seriously as I should have. Opened my doors with a lot of questions and far fewer answers.
My employees were fresh faced kids out of college in need of training, guidance, mentoring, coaching, and more.
I decided that the inexperienced route was a good one to take as I was starting with a fresh slate and bringing zero bad habits to the Agency.
Well not having ANYONE besides myself capable of doing anything self sufficiently I quickly became overwhelmed. How was I supposed to train and manage 3 people at once while also selling, networking, marketing, and budgeting the business?
Then it dawned on me – I needed someone experienced. One of my employees made a quick move from my shop and left me with a hole to plug… but at the same time helped me avoid not having to fire her as she did not take the role seriously.
Hitting the online classifieds I began pulling resumes of people looking for work that were both experienced in the industry and experienced with my carrier.
And then she appeared. Almost out of thin air. An angel from heaven. Was she there to save me?
A VERY experienced team member with over 12 years experience with the carrier I represented with a whole brag book of production numbers that would make any new business owner a little hot and bothered.
We didn’t click great during the interview but wow was she impressive. Something felt off. Just a gut feeling... but she knew the products, systems, technology – could slide right in and help us start making moves.
I made the decision to not only bring her in but to have her come on right out the gates as the office manager.
Her very first day she closed 4 households herself. I think we only had a couple days where we closed 4 households in a day as an OFFICE to that point
The days turned into a couple of weeks and we were humming along.
Sales were picking up and this woman was as advertised.
And then it happened.
Out of nowhere one of my other original employees called one morning and quit out of the blue.
I started the hiring process again.
My Rockstar began referring people she knew in the district that she knew weren’t happy in their Agencies that were also, according to her, rockstars.
During the month that I was hiring again the chemistry and feel in the office began to change.
My Rockstar was becoming very confident in the office. Almost too confident.
I think she picked up on my ignorance to a lot of the systems and products and knew she had the office by the neck.
She began becoming very authoritative and disrespectful. Began making jokes in front of my other employee about how much she knew compared to me. How SHE should be the Agent.
She started pushing my other employee around. She was outperforming him by quite a bit and knew way more than him too. Somehow he began to migrate from being a sales person to being this womans office lackey.
She would tell him to pick up the phones, get her faxes off the machine, would have him go grab her coffee… she deferred all her service work to him as “the office needed her to keep selling”
A couple of weeks later my other original employee quit. I learned a few days after he left that he couldn’t handle working with this “Rockstar” that was in his way and preventing his growth.
Something I should have picked up on but didn’t because I was turning a blind eye to it all because… well… production.
NOW…. NOW??? It was just ME… and the “Rockstar” that now had my Agency in a vice.
I quickly hired 2 new people. Probably too quickly. But as we trained the two of them it became even more evident.
With each snide comment about her abilities or joke about my lack of experience she was undermining my authority as the Agent and owner.
The two new employees got trained up and hit the floor but neither of them seemed too happy, excited, or driven.
They were not the people I interviewed.
I allowed the Rockstar to continue to perpetuate the poor environment because she was producing.
The new employees? They were not producing much. Did they suck?
All the while my emboldened Rockstar now began acting like she was my confidant and telling me about conversations that were taking place when I was not there or in my office.
I was not a big fan of the woman but she was keeping me in the loop on things I was unaware of and needed to know.
I decided at that point to begin circumventing my Rockstar and communicating directly with my other employees significantly more frequently.
They both told me they felt stifled and like this “Rockstar” was preventing them from really taking off.
She took more of the leads than the other two and I didn’t say boo about it. She was a closer.
But these new staff members needed reps… they needed confidence… they needed to know I had their back.
I redesigned my lead distribution to be equitable and wouldn’t you know it?
My noobs numbers started to rise and they were more upbeat, fun, and confident in the office.
My Rockstar was still in my ear about everything ugly she “heard” in the office and it was really starting to grind on me.
Then one day one of my other employees asked if he could talk privately with me. Of course I said yes and we headed into my office.
I learned that EVERY time I was not within earshot I was being crapped on by my Rockstar.
The same types of stuff she was telling me my staff were saying and doing… or not doing…
They were being told the exact same things about me… and none of it added up to them as they knew me very differently than she sold me.
I was furious – my “Rockstar” had been disrupting the whole office regardless of who I had there and was manipulating people to constantly be at odds or distrustful of one another.
But what the heck was I supposed to do? This woman was closing 40 households a month while my other 2 were each closing 10-15 a month.
I couldn’t afford to lose that kind of production. It would cream me and I was trying to earn a contract…
After some soul searching I decided to take my chances. I called her into my office and let her know I was aware of a lot of things that were being said behind my back and of a lot of things I was told that according to my other employees were never done or said….
She started getting very smart with me in what was originally a very calm conversation.
I fired her on the spot.
I went home that day scared. Very scared. I just lost 50-55% of my production with that move and had a couple of people who couldn’t even cover their seat.
They assured me they would step up and everything would be fine. That the Rockstar was the problem and things were going to get better.
I struggled to believe them but had no choice. I decided to not hire to replace right away as I needed a break from personalities and wanted to give the new kids a chance to shine.
Out of nowhere both my producers went from being 10-15 household producers a month to BOTH close 35-40 households EACH a month about 60 days later.
My Rockstar was completely replaced and my office was now doing the exact same numbers with $3500 a month less in payroll.
The victory was unexpected but tremendous.
Addition by subtraction.
Removing the Rockstar from my office saved me money, gave my noobs the confidence they needed to step up, and totally changed the culture of my office day to day.
From that moment on I decided a toxic employee had no home with me regardless of their talent level and from that day forward I have removed anyone that I have even suspected of being remotely cancerous to my culture and never look back.
Things continued to get better and better from there and my first year wound up being a million dollar premium year despite the first quarter being a pretty big disaster.
If you are holding on to a toxic Rockstar out of fear you need to cut them loose.
The damage theyre doing to your culture and other employees is immense and at best they are dealing with it and at worse they are underperforming due to it.
Cut the toxic staff from your Agency fast.
You know the saying….
Slow to hire… quick to fire.
Theyre wise words for a reason. Follow them and keep that culture positive and upbeat.
Rockstars are replaceable and theres a new one born every day.
Do not let ANYONE hold your Agency hostage because they are a Rockstar.
You win more that way.
If you are not in Insurance Soup we invite you to join the conversation. It is a very active community with 30,000 Agents and we offer continuing education at a discount, an industry hiring board, and have industry thought leaders sharing knowledge and free trainings regularly along with the networking, advice, ideas, and laughs we share in their regularly.
We hope to meet you soon.
We have the conversation all the time in Insurance Soup, our free and very active group of 30,000 Insurance Agents .
What is the best way to staff an Agency?
Well while there are obviously 100 ways to skin a cat there is one model that the majority of the more successful Agents out there will tell you is just the flat out wrong way to set things up.
The “Generalist” Model
It’s a model that typically new Agency Owners and lazy Agency Owners run with.
The newer ones because they do not know any better and the lazy ones because they started as generalists and do not want to “rock the boat” or change the culture of an existing Agency that on the surface is “doing ok” but nowhere near their full potential.
The generalist model puts every single person employed by the Agency into the interesting position of being able to answer the question
“So what do you do in the Agency?”
The sales, the service, the marketing, the claims… you name it – if you are a generalist you are handling everything thrown your way.
You know what a generalist does NOT do?
Anything particularly well.
You know what else a generalist is also going to do?
Sink more time into activities they prefer or enjoy or are compensated more heavily for while neglecting their other responsibilities.
There lies another problem for the generalist in an office that is typically far more reactive than organized…
The inability to get into any kind of flow.
The generalist sits down.
Day starts. They check their email. Answer a few. Take a phone call. Does some service. Makes 4 calls. Gets a walk in. It’s a payment. 20 minutes gone. It was a chatter. Makes 3 more dials. Starts a quote. Tells the prospect they will call back in an hour. Has to call back one of the people they serviced earlier to let them know everything is good. Someone walks in and needs to change their address. The generalist tries to cross sell. Strikes out. Misses the time they were supposed to call the quote from an hour ago back. Oh a new lead came in 45 minutes ago. Well that things been called by 3 other Agents already. Good luck. Oh crap I had someone in my calendar for 20 minutes ago but I was changing Dolly’s address. Damn it. Voicemail. Hope she calls back. Back on the phones. Make some dials. Oh a claim is calling in.This should be fun. And the day continues on from there.
There is no chance to get into “the zone” that most of us like to be in when we are selling.
There is no real true effort to give the best service because the month is ticking away and they only sold 4 auto, 2 home, and ZERO life policies.
Why isn’t the generalist selling any life?
Ask them what they know about it.
Turns out the only life product they comfortable selling is term and they do not like selling life. They feel its intrusive and are not comfortable talking about death with strangers for gain.
What does the generalist enjoy doing?
What did their resume and career goals reflect when you hired them?
Turns out the generalist is sitting on a skill set the Agent is not even tapping into.
Their “zone of genius” has gone wasted.
And on and on and on it goes… and all the while there is turnover as employee happiness is lacking because no one likes to run around like a chicken with their head cut off all day every day.
Now on the flip side, savvy Agents know to specialize.
Specialists do what they like and are good at all day every day without interruption.
The P&C sales guy comes in and manages a calendar he can not be interrupted from.
Gets into the zone. Makes their dials. Gets their quotes. Closes their sales.
The marketer is able to consistently put together ads and events that keep the registers ringing and are not simply doing things “when theres time”
The Life Agent is handed warm intro after warm intro from the P&C sales person as the knowledge base for the agency on protecting families income and houses in the event of tragedy.
The CSR is able to deliver OVER THE TOP service to the people in need of help and not simply check things off or brush people away due to time or compensation restrictions.
And on and on it goes…. Each person performing a duty they enjoy and excel at to their hearts content, earning a fair wage for their effort, and staying within their zone of genius.
And magically the numbers in those Agencies are typically higher. Attrition lower. And the gossip about how that Agency is “probably cheating” hums along from underperforming Agents running generalist models.
If you are in a generalist model there are a few things you can do to mitigate the distractions but unfortunately you are currently in a situation that will ultimately inhibit your ability to earn and distract you from going all in on areas of the business you love but here are a few tips that can help you get into a better position.
Block off 3 hours a day for cold call / lead calls. 2 in the beginning and 1 at the end of the day. 1 hour to follow up on pipeline. 1 hour for marketing/social media mining. 1 hour for service and 2 hours at the end of the day that you let the day take you where it needs to. If there is a private office area available for you to get work done uninterrupted.... go... now... yesterday... and get into flow.
Defend it fiercely. You need it. It will allow you to get into the flow and check things off your never ending to do list.
Show Your Boss This Article.
Maybe they have never given consideration to a specialist model and reading this article may be the kick in the derriere they need to see the light.
Explain to them how you do not feel you are giving the Agency the best version of you with you bouncing around all the time reacting to whatever is going on around you.
Look at Different Agencies.
We are fortunate to work in an industry that has high turnover and constant hiring needs. If you are in a position where you feel your earning potential is limited there aint no one that can hold you down. This is ‘Murrica and in this economy jobs are abundant.
Be Your Own Boss
A lot of Team Members are surprised to learn that they are actually at a point in their career where they could move into ownership and actually be able to craft a business in their own image… and we all know that there are few people who have a more clear vision of how a business SHOULD be run than an employee in an Agency that is not being run well…
All that said, it can be difficult to navigate being a generalist in this industry.
While the Agent is not saying it directly, maintaining a generalist model is the Agents way of saying
“Hey I want you to sell as much as possible but also do these other things that will prevent you from doing what I will probably judge your job performance on the most”
Without actually saying it.
Pretty ridiculous when its laid out that plainly.
While it may feel confusing… there are no generals in the Agency in the generalist model…
Only foot soldiers who receive no direction on how to really win the war.
If you are stuck in a generalist model know that there are ways Agents conduct business in this field that will allow you to go way further while being way happier.
You should be pursuing what makes you happy and what makes you money.
Without both in place your time remaining at the generalist Agency is eroding by the day.
Looking for a resource to pick up tips, tricks, hacks, referral partners, ideas, and more?
Join 30,000 of your peers in Insurance Soup today!
The year was 2016. Dave was in a period of transition in his career and decided to move from banking to insurance. A fancypants headhunter recruited him out and sold him on the idea of owning his own business and controlling his income and future.
There was one caveat though.
The carrier wanted the Agent to open in Ohio. Dave lived in Arizona.
It was a big decision for Dave and his family but ultimately they decided it was the right one and they moved across the country in pursuit of a lofty new dream.
The Agency opened as planned and Dave did everything as instructed.
Hung the sign. Bought the direct mail package. Bought the social media “ad package”. You know – the one that Agents pay for that brands the carrier but gets no leads for the Agent
Bought the “discounted lead program” that he was told to. Hired staff.
The phones did not ring. The people were not coming. It was smile and dial just like in previous careers.
The type of stuff that wears an Agent out.
He joined a networking group AND the Chamber of Commerce. Woke up early once a week to network with other business owners for referrals that were rarely provided and offered up by Dave as a new person in town, even less.
Tried to run for a position in the Chamber and got boxed out. Threw his hat in the ring at his networking group for some leadership and no one voted for him. Same incumbents won every seat.
The pressure was mounting. At home he was stressed. The bank account was moving in the wrong direction. His wife was giving him quite a few “I told you so’s” about the move. The carrier was also threatening Dave that they would pull his contract if his performance didn’t improve.
Dave was feeling like all may be lost. A move across the country to chase a dream that was quickly becoming a nightmare.
In a moment of desperation Dave decided to follow some crazy advice he had heard in Insurance Soup, the FREE Facebook group for Insurance Agents with 30,000 members across North America all in the trenches selling policies every day.
Something that did not feel natural….but enough people were saying it works well so he decided to give it a shot.
He decided to create something where HE was in charge and HE was the leader and main voice being listened to.
He started a Facebook group for the locals in his area and gave people reason to join.
Running point on all things going on in the community, the locals quickly flocked.
Steals and deals, recommendations, school goings on, events, charity – you name it – if it was going on in his town Dave was reporting and supporting it.
His few local friends that he made all invited their friends…. And their friends invited friends… and before he knew it Dave was sitting at the top of a community of people that were visiting his Facebook group very regularly to have fun and learn about what was happening this week around town.
And then it happened. On the 3rd week of owning the group with just under 400 members… one of the members asked
“Does anyone in here have a good Insurance Agent? My payments are out of control and I need to shop it.”
Well… Daves local friends all began tagging him. And as the owner of the group running the conversation and keeping people infotained regularly he was the obvious choice for a chance at the business.
Dave called the woman and was very competitive. Assuming that the prospect would need to shop around or think about it he did not try and close. New to sales and not confident, this was another major flaw in Dave’s game.
The prospect closed themself!
“What do I need to do to get started”
Dave COULDN'T BELIEVE IT.
This prospect that came to him in the group was a lay down sale – almost like a referral!
And then it dawned on him…. These people were all coming to hang in his community every day.. but at the same time they were getting to know, like, and trust him.
It then became his goal to grow that group as large as possible and to continue to infotain while lightly promoting his business.
Business continued to flow and as the group grew Dave now had other opportunities coming his way as well.
Business owners wanted to partner up. The top loan officer in town wanted to be an admin in his group. Several realtors too.
Before he knew it Dave had 1400 locals buzzing around his group daily and 4 referral partners that swore allegiance to him. Business owners were asking for face time in his group.
A myriad of lucrative opportunity opened up both insurance and non-insurance related.
Everyone wanted to be recommended by the admin of this little local social media community.
As the group grew Dave picked up more and more clients and they all came to his office at no cost.
He now hosts events with the locals.
Rents out movie theaters. Hosts Happy Hours. He’s invited to every local event and even MC’d a local parade hosted by the town mayor.
All as someone who moved from Arizona to Ohio to a new town where he knew no one, Dave was now writing 4-5 policies a week for free from the group while also pulling a nice amount of referrals from his new referral partners… and the group continues to grow and prosper.
Dave will be the first to tell you that he now looks at his Facebook group as his virtual and digital “agency”. And his "Agency" has thousands of people in it every single month - just about every single day!!
And his digital “Agency” currently boasts 4700 people with over 250 households in his book directly coming from the group itself and an untold number more coming over from his referral partners who also are highly recommended in his community.
All because in a moment of desperation, a transplant from across the country decided to follow the advice of some strangers that were praising the idea in Insurance Soup.
If you are struggling to pick up momentum in your town, we strongly urge you to create your own online community.
Following the Blueprint laid out by Career Agent Concepts in the mini course “Growing Profitable Groups on Social – The Definitive How To” Agents across the country are closing a ton of business without spending any money on marketing – all while having fun and gaining credibility and clout in their community… and monetizing in a number of manners that are truly outside the box and fun.
If you are not in Insurance Soup you need to be – 30,000 of your peers are having conversation about how to win and every day there is something being dropped in there that is a major a-ha golden nugget moment.
Click here to join Insurance Soup
Interested in learning how to build your own thriving community on social media that will do business with you and look to you to be the leader they need?
Grab a copy of Growing Profitable Groups today! Follow the link at the top of the page! $197 one time payment gets your thriving community off the ground!