Here’s how to identify new agents and prepare them to sell Medicare more efficiently and successfully.
Insurance agency owners are facing unprecedented struggles with hiring new talent, but the problem is not necessarily a lack of candidates. There are candidates out there who are willing to work but need formal training to get up and running quickly. Such candidates have promise in the long term but require an up-front investment in the form of education and training before they are ready to produce at a high level.
This is particularly true when an agency is searching for a producer to work with clients on Medicare, where sending an agent into the field before they are fully prepared may result in clients buying coverage that is wrong for their situation and could harm the agency.
The good news is that there are steps that agency owners can take to ensure that today's new hires are tomorrow's star producers. Here are four practices that guide the selection and education process for Agent BuilderTM, the talent-development program I co-created. These principles have been tremendously valuable in identifying agents and preparing them to sell Medicare more efficiently and successfully:
1) Hire for attitude. Succeeding in insurance is challenging. Most agents who are just starting out must accept that they will face a lot of rejection, but if they have thick enough skin to push through and start winning prospects, they will ultimately see long-term success.
On top of that, new agents must take in a tremendous amount of information about Medicare. There are myriad complex rules that govern those policies and explaining those rules correctly is an essential part of helping clients make the right decisions about their coverage. A candidate with the right attitude will be willing to do the hard work, push through early rejection, and come out the other side stronger.
2) Find the relationship builders. Unlike other forms of insurance, nearly everybody will need Medicare at some point in their lives. As a result, selling Medicare is less about persuading clients about a particular product and more about providing the information they need to make the right decision for their circumstances.
Getting to that point requires building relationships, which can be difficult for some people to understand. If an agent has done a good job explaining the nuances of coverage, the client will have the information they need to make the decision that best suits their particular needs.
3) Streamline training. Growing an insurance agency would be easy if every new agent came in with the knowledge and abilities to be productive right out of the gate. In the absence of plug-and-play talent, however, agency owners need to find ways to balance the demands of running their business with the reality that they will need to dedicate significant resources to training new agents. Anything an owner can do to speed up that education will shorten a new agent's path to productivity.
Many Americans don't know the difference between Medicare Parts A and D, and an agent who sells Medicare needs to be able to explain these nuances so that their clients can make an educated decision about their health coverage.
Identifying the necessary skills and honing them in training will help get new agents up and running quickly.
4) Keep productive agents engaged. The scary thing about recruiting and training new agents to sell Medicare is the idea that an agent could leave after you've invested the time and money to help them become productive.
Retaining agents requires treating them well from the beginning, not just once they've proven their worth. Why? Because even if they stick with you through a rough beginning and become highly productive, agents will remember how they were treated when they were still learning the ropes. If you expect them to produce without any meaningful support at the start of their careers, don't expect them to stick by your side once they have skills that make them a highly desirable commodity in a competitive job market.
Nurture your agents, offer them the support they need to succeed, and make sure they know you value them as a person, not just as a producer.
There are plenty of hiring and retention challenges in the insurance industry, and the prospect of building an agency can seem intimidating. But making a few smart choices and investing in new agents can pay tremendous dividends down the line.
Frankie Villeneuve is an agent success specialist for IFC National Marketing, the Midwest's fastest-growing insurance marketing organization. He is the co-creator and leader of the Agent Builder staff augmentation and training program that IFC introduced to the insurance industry in 2023.