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Practice Management > Building Your Business

Selling and the subproducer

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Ernie has had a rich, successful career. He’s built a strong reputation as a knowledgeable, trustworthy advisor. He has hundreds of clients, a professional and dedicated staff, and a unique office in a restored Victorian home. During the recent economic downturn, his referrals started to pour in.

He thinks he’d like to build a full-service advisory with several producers, someone to follow up on those lead sheets or talk to those prospects at his workshops he hasn’t been able to reach. So Ernie decides to hire another producer. His business already has an excellent reputation, and he has hundreds of prospects who haven’t been called. He can offer the new person a draw against commission, and anyone worth their salt will make money in short order.

But, time after time, his new producers didn’t perform to his expectations. Like many driven people, Ernie expected others to be as focused and enthusiastic as he is. When hiring a potential subproducer, it may not work out that way because they suffer from call reluctance. When your business reputation is on the line, it becomes crucial to recognize it and stop it in its tracks. Let’s review the common call-reluctance warning signs:

1. “I will make some calls as soon as I’ve been properly trained and understand more about the practice.” This may be the most obvious warning sign you get from a new producer. More training is rarely, if ever, the solution to a call reluctance issue. Strong salespeople with some basic knowledge will pound the phones right away because they’re motivated to succeed.

When your new producer uses this excuse, it’s often their way to shift the responsibility away from them and on to you. Many entrepreneurs fall into this trap because they are not afraid to take responsibility for their failures, so they respond by sending the producer to training classes and mentoring visits. But the phone isn’t going to dial itself when they get back. Your prospects need to be called, and all the training in the world isn’t going to change that.

2. “I’ve left lots of messages, and sent lots of e-mails. No luck yet.” Their definition of “lots of” may be different than yours. This response is common among producers with a self-esteem problem. They don’t want to seem pushy or aggressive and lack the confidence to remain focused on their goal. When they make calls, they are feverishly hoping that voicemail picks up. Close supervision, goal setting and sales contests can help this type of producer.

3. “I’m working on my network of contacts. I’ve got some big deals in the pipeline.” If your new producer has an established network of potential clients, why is he working for you? Why was he available when you needed an employee? A strong, motivated salesperson will work every prospect they can, affluent or otherwise, and get through them relatively quickly.

Because you may have invested money and time in him already, there is a tendency to “hang in there” and hope one of those golden deals comes through. The producer should get through his stack of business cards in about a week and tell you what to expect from his network.

The Solution? Leverage. Perhaps you shouldn’t have been looking for a subproducer at all. Instead, you may have been wise to look for a potential colleague. Adopting that mindset may be frightening to you as an entrepreneur. There are, however, ways to identify that person, all while maintaining proper leverage and control of your business. Stay tuned for part two of this article next week to learn how.

*Joe Anzalone, vice president of sales at Asset Marketing Systems, is an experienced sales management and training executive with a 20-year track record of increasing sales, enhancing strategic client development and retention, and designing and building businesses for both independent businesses and professional services firms. Anzalone has been a regular contributor to ProducersWeb on the subjects of sales, marketing, public presentation and indexed annuities. For more information, go to


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