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Selling and the subproducer, part two

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When we last left him, Ernie was despondent. He had high hopes for adding a new producer to his practice, only to discover that it’s not easy to find a productive salesperson. Ernie’s intentions were good, his heart in the right place. But like many salespeople-turned-businesspeople, he made the three most common mistakes that often plague independent producers when they try to add to their sales team.

Mistake No. 1: Mirror, mirror, on the wall …

Busy independent businessmen, like Ernie, quickly make a mental checklist of the skill sets they want their producer to possess, a list that sounds a lot like them about 10 years ago. Ernie tells his assistant to set up initial screening calls and interviews this veritable cadre? of Ernie clones. After a couple of weeks, the subproducer is chosen.

Subconsciously, his reasoning is, “If the guy is like me, how can he go wrong?” Those attributes he valued, however, were not the ones that led to his own success.

Mistake No. 2: But, first, are you experienced?

Yes, experience matters. Ernie’s subproducer should have proper licenses and a reviewable track record in the business. That does not mean, however, the 15-year candidate is a better fit than the five-year candidate.

Pressed for time, entrepreneurs often value the candidate with longer tenure, but a candidate who is heavy on experience and light on production is a red flag. Why has that experienced candidate been seemingly content with a middling salary and an average income level?

Mistake No. 3: Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match.

Let’s say Ernie has not had any luck developing a relationship with a CPA in his area. He sets out to find a “match,” and hires a CPA who says he wants to sell. Or maybe he would like more women as clients, so he limits his search to women. Or perhaps Ernie wants his subproducer to handle the high-end cases, those in the affluent areas of his market he hasn’t been effective in engaging, so he focuses on an individual with that network of contacts.

Simply adding someone to the team with some background in the target market guarantees nothing and can create a new set of unforeseen servicing and branding challenges.

The solutions: The “Three D’s” building leverage

  • Drive: Your new producer should be able to tell you in detail how they brought sales initiatives and prospect meetings to completion. Good producers describes their thought process in sensible, clear and convincing terms–and you’ll sense an inner drive and desire behind their responses. Their drive is evident in virtually everything they have done.
  • Discipline: Virtually all great producers have this trait in common. No one has ever had to “push” them to focus on the necessary, valuable activities that lead to sales. Here, it is especially important to “read between the lines” of the candidate’s resume. Did they make sales happen through a series of self-directed, disciplined actions, or were they the fortunate benefactors of an efficient system at their company? Did they build their own book of business or inherit it?
  • Deference: Self-confidence is necessary for a producer. But the best producers attribute much of their success to luck, even as they work tirelessly to make it happen. They are humble, respectful and grateful to their colleagues, clients and mentors.

In most cases, the reason producers, like Ernie, don’t find the “3-D producer” is they’re looking for an employee. But when you change your mindset to finding a colleague, instead of an employee, another world of possibility will emerge in your search.

Most 3-D producers aren’t looking to be a subproducer. The best potential candidates aren’t looking for a job. They’re looking for a real career opportunity.

Law firms and accountancy firms have long recruited for future partners, depending upon their business structure. They bring in terrific new talent that is often young and inexperienced. In the meantime, they leverage themselves for additional revenue and cash flow. You should consider a similar approach.

Even when you find the right person, this process still takes considerable time and effort. The right person must be someone you would trust with your clients. You’ll need to spend time mentoring them to see if they are the real deal. Effort and frank analysis at every step in the process, while not always easy, pays dividends later. Remember, you’re not looking for an employee anymore. You’re looking for someone with whom to trust your clients and your reputation. The process requires consistent coaching, constant feedback and regular review.

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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