Top producers have an entrepreneurial attitude and a vision for the future. They have a career plan and know how to achieve their goals. Here are some producer tips and suggestions for improving performance.

1. It’s about “what you can do for the company.” A solid contribution is in demand.

Producers are just that — producers! Their focus should be on new revenues, expanding the revenue stream of current clients and creating new revenue streams. They should have targeted revenue goals monthly and a life plan that extends out five to seven years with longer term goals. We see countless situations in which the commissions are collected rather than earned. There should be a clear and understood message of the expectations from the agency and the production number committed to by the producer.

2. Tenure is out the window. Those who perform are rewarded; the others fall behind into mediocrity.

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been there. The primary job is creating revenue, much like a startup company, and the planning and strategy start over each year. You are your own profit center and need to position your thinking from that regard. Selling and growing is your primary responsibility within the agency — period.

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3. You’ll have a number of employers in your lifetime unless you have the entrepreneurial spirit to create your own destiny, so be on the lookout for the next opportunity, always with eyes wide open.

I have read that by the time we’re 50 years old, we can expect to have 11 jobs. That really solidifies the need for you to have a vision and a plan for what you want to accomplish with your career. Think of your production role long term and approach it from an idea of a career and not just a job. Make it a practice to look longer term.

4. Companies have fewer available funds to hire managers to look backwards; they want leaders looking forward.

Agencies don’t necessarily want managers who can only say what was done wrong in the past; they want managers with ideas and visions for the future. Most agencies will make room for talented leadership with a vision for the future. They’re looking for opportunities; present yourself as one!

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5. If you want to truly be successful, forget life/work balance, give 100 percemt to your career.

Being a producer is not a 40-hour per week job. It calls for study, on-the-job training, mirroring the hours of prospects, and being conveniently available when it suits the prospects. This could mean a 7:00 a.m. meeting or an after-hours call. The key to a successful career is to realize that if you’re positioning yourself to make more money than most, to create more wealth than most, then it’s probably going to take more hours than most. I can tell you that if you commit your first decade to focusing on growth and development you can take your pick of nice trips and amenities for the balance of your career!

6. Your personal brand includes everything about you relative to appearance, reputation and performance.

With social media, there are no secrets, so make good decisions. It was recently said by a manager that while it may not matter to you what you look like, how you’re dressed, and the way you present your personal brand, but it sure does matter to those that sign your check and pay you those hard earned commission dollars. At the top of any employer’s background check is a social media scan. When we see alarming pictures portraying ridiculous behavior, it causes potential employers to rethink how that may affect their local brand. Remember, it’s only out there forever. Be aware of how you should fit into “their environment.” After all, it’s not about you, it’s about the prospects and their world.

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7. Build networks of friends and business associates that reciprocate value.

During a recent visit with a new producer, the discussion found us discussing their after-hours activities: softball, hanging out with their buddies, drinking and playing sports. The suggestion was made that maybe there could be consideration for spending time with people you can learn from. Expand your professional network, gain deeper relationships, and open more doors to opportunity. Spend your “down time” being a little smarter.

8. You must create a “market need” for you.

You’re part of your agency brand, but at the end of the day the identity is all about you. Your unique knowledge of a business or a class of risk, combined with the ability to give trusted advice adds value and creates the prospect’s “need” for you. Be unique and different and have special knowledge, and you’ll make bigger deposits.

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9. Make a list of what you learned, then make a list of what you need to improve your acumen.

Personal growth and professional development never stop. Your special knowledge sets you apart from all the others. Your ability to continue to improve keeps you ahead of the competitive curve that is vying for your position. It takes one a lot longer to become smarter than you than to just beat your price. Beat the other agents by being the expert.

10. Stay in “permanent beta mode.”

If you’re always looking to grow and improve, then you’ll never become complacent. Become an eternal student of the sales process and learn how to make yourself better. Acquire the business acumen you need to be smarter than the competitor and stay in the mode throughout your career.

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11. Success is usually the last few steps of a long trip with many surprises. It’s how we respond to the surprises and grow from them that determines the path forward. 

Success is difficult to plan, however, the actions you take as outlined in this article prepare you for your journey. The more prepared you are with the right decision regarding your learning and development, the people you spend your time with, and the long hours of study and preparation all make your future much more predictable. We must be prepared so we’re ready when those opportunities present themselves to make the good decisions that impact our lives positively.

12. Google presents yet another efficient and convenient option for insurance buyers.

The traditional IA (independent agent) channel buyer continues its metamorphosis toward customer-centric solutions. The challenge lies with an aging and somewhat lazy IA channel attempting to force its buyer to purchase in a way convenient to the agent. The buyers have strongly voiced their desire to move to a channel convenient to them. Until the independent agents make their operations 24/7/365, they will continue to lose market share. Those agencies that understand their value-added service and advice can communicate that to the discerning buyer. The insurance buyer has financial risk and responsibility and, therefore, the need for advice will continue. Those agents who choose not to change will see their income and equity value continue to shrink.

So what have I learned in my 38-year career? You are your own brand and it’s up to you to build the reputation that helps sell yourself. It’s about earning your commissions, not simply collecting them. The value-added relationships and knowledge bring rewards. Constant learning is critical to a growing career. Change normally occurs only when we become totally disgusted with the status quo. Finally, at the end of the day, success is usually the last few steps of a long trip with many surprises. It’s the way we respond to the surprises and grow from them that determines the path forward.

Good luck and good selling!

Tom Barrett is president of the Midwest and Southeast regions of SIAA Inc. Contact him at tomb@siaa.net.