Episode 23B - Insurance Producer Recruiting - Another Lesson from Nick Saban

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Microcast - Insurance

Producer Recruiting

Unless you are from Birmingham or Tuscaloosa, you may be getting tired of seeing the Crimson Tide of Alabama in the playoffs and as college football national champions year after year.  Thanks to Auburn in this year’s Iron Bowl, Alabama will not get their trip to New Orleans.  But for those who follow Nick Saban, he has many secrets to his success including the undying support of his university and the alumni, a huge budget and good coaches.  But many will argue that what really separates his outstanding football program is his focus on recruiting.

Unlike other college programs who come in as cheerleaders for their school and tout how great they are, Saban and his coaches have another approach that is very factual, practical and direct.  Recruiting coaches are taught to have a conversation that goes somewhat like this, “This is who we are. This is what we do. This is what we’ve done. This is what we feel like we can do for you. This is what we feel like you can do for us. If you want to be a part of it, great. If you don’t, somebody else will.'”

Agencies need to recruit new producers. Master agency networks and carriers need to recruit new agencies.  In insurance, recruiting is always an on-going process.   So, what can we learn from arguably the most successful college football coaches of all time about recruiting?

The first lesson is to target the right players.  Saban doesn’t want just anybody to play for Alabama.  It has to be a win-win.  He focuses not only on what Alabama can do for the player, but also what the player can do for Alabama.  If you are trying to recruit a producer or an agency to affiliate with you, then you need to define the characteristics you value and target those people or organizations that come the closest.  Here are some questions to ask that help you recruit the right players:

  • If you are recruiting producers, what prior sales experience are you looking for?   How will their personality mesh with your organization’s culture?
  • For a master agency, ask yourself what type of relationship do agency owners need and want from you and is your organization ready to support it?
  • What type of customers are currently in the producer’s or agency’s portfolio?  If you want those that specialize in commercial accounts, but the organization is too heavy with personal lines, then they may not be the best fit.

You don’t need every producer or agency to affiliate with you, only the ones that will create a win-win relationship and score the touchdown and bring the deal in.

Don’t wait for producers to come to you.  Go to them.  Although Alabama is an elite program, so is Georgia, Ohio State, LSU and Clemson.  Saban and his staff don’t lay back and hope players will notice them.  They are constantly looking for talent and when they see it, they go after it. Saban and his coaches can’t scout at every high school football game, meet every parent or bring every player to campus.  They have to focus their efforts to be effective. 

That lesson should translate to recruiting agents.  You have to go out and find producers proactively and not depend exclusively on passive ways to get them to notice you. 

As an example, if you want the right producers, especially the younger ones, here are some thoughts about how to find them:

  • Post your job openings on all social media. Especially LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
  • Contact local universities that have risk management programs and ask them to let you give a guest seminar on what it’s like working in an independent insurance agency.
  • Develop talent by having an internship program, letting colleges know that you do, and evaluate how people perform.
  • Use your existing producers to recruit new ones.  Give them a referral bonus if they bring someone in that gets hired.

Once you have defined the right producer or agency, it’s time get creative.  Once a carrier or agency has defined the ideal producer they want to target, then the next step is to come up with a game plan that’s creative and distinguishes you from other options. 

Here are some out of the box creative producer recruiting ideas you may want to think about:

  • Recruit from other fields.  Sometimes the best talent is not currently in the industry.  I met a very talented and now very successful insurance agent that ran operations for a nursing home chain.  Now he’s killing it by selling insurance to that industry.
  • If you have a great company culture, show it off by hosting an open house or inviting people who are interested in the industry to come.
  • Get creative on social media.  Don’t just promote your job opening, but rather create a contest and look for talent among those that respond.

Creative strategies should also apply to recruiting agencies to affiliate with your master agency or to ask for a carrier appointment.  Here are some thoughts:

  • Use a content strategy to promote the benefits of your organization and post that content on social media and particularly in insurance related groups.  Make the content educational and informational and the individual will be more motivated to read the blog, listen to the podcast or watch the video.
  • Use referrals from people in other industry segments to see which agencies they work with and respect, then have a plan to get in touch with them.

Define what you consider to be the win-win relationship.  Back to Nick Saban.  His conversations with prospective recruits was direct and to the point.  “This is what Alabama can do for you AND this is what you can do for us.”  If you are recruiting producers, it’s critical that you go beyond their quota requirements and explain the benefits of being in the industry and how they can make a great income from renewals.  If you are a master agency, then explain how your administrative services, your marketing assistance and your expertise will help them grow their business.  If you are a carrier, focus on the breadth of your product line, your support services and other tools you have to make it easy for people to do business with you.  And make sure to focus on the commitments you want individuals or agencies to make to you, be clear about them, and show how the relationship is going to be a win-win.

And one final lesson from Saban; don’t make unforced errors.  Being passive about recruiting is an unforced error that Saban would never make and neither should you.  Don’t make the unforced error of looking for talent where everybody else is looking.  Saban’s team is always looking for that hidden gem that other people miss.  A great example is his 2019 quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, a little-known player from Hawaii that has stunned college football with his talent.  The industry is full of hidden gems because producers or agencies are sometimes are found in the most unlikely places.

And once you’ve recruited and the producer or agency has signed up with you, don’t make the unforced error of not evaluating if you have recruited well. If producers aren’t prospecting, taking up too much of your resources, and constantly complaining, then your recruiting was off, and you should focus elsewhere.  If the agency you’ve recruited is not delivering new customers and seems unhappy with your support, it’s time to re-evaluate.


Success in both football and in insurance often begins with recruiting.  Programs need to define the people or organizations they want to work with, understand and communicate the win-win, get creative about where to find the hidden gems, and commit to recruiting consistently.  And once you’ve recruited what looks like a strong team, constantly evaluate those players to make sure there is still a fit.

I’m a Georgia Bulldog fan, so Alabama is not exactly my favorite team, but when it comes to recruiting, I am going to give Saban and his staff a big “Roll Tide”.

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