May 17, 2021

How Insurance Agencies Find Sales Talent in Small Markets

by Mary Newgard

Dear Mary, we are one of the largest insurance agencies in our state. Our plan is to remain independent and grow organically in every office location. Some of our markets are easier to find talent in than others. Our most difficult office is in a 60,000-person town. It’s a great community but has a unique character; it’s a little artsy and parochial. We want to grow our sales team but haven’t had success with out-of-towners. Plus, there aren’t many other agencies in town to source from. How do I find sales candidates? — David, Agency President

David, I get it. I grew up in rural, northwest Iowa and found my way into insurance sales in an 80,000-person town, which outside of Iowa, is considered a small town by most brokers. Small markets pose a unique challenge for agencies looking to grow. You have more options than just the “born and bred” hometown producer, including newbies, out-of-industry converts, and returning home stories. Here’s advice I lend to agencies that are on the hunt to find producers in smaller markets.

Profile 1: Newbies

Fresh-faced and ready to take on the world, college graduates need time and investment that might be easier to provide in a small market than a big city.

  • Form partnerships with local colleges and universities to introduce college graduates to the idea of a career in the insurance industry.
  • Create internships with business and finance schools so students see how their technical skills could translate into insurance.
  • Set up post-graduate placement opportunities with the Career Development office.

Profile 2: B2B Converts

Out-of-industry salespeople bring career experience and a Rolodex of local contacts. An insurance career is an easy sell to a sales executive who understands the value of recurring revenue.

  • Source from niche industries that thrive in your local market. Gravitate towards verticals where you have a presence, so you can immediately write new business.
  • Identify salespeople from service-based companies versus product-driven sales. Consultative sales backgrounds transition much better than product-driven sales experience.
  • What insurance field reps engage with your local office? Salespeople at TPAs, carriers, and vendors are more like a B2B convert than an experienced producer, but they know enough about the business to commit to a long-term insurance career.

Profile 3: Relocating Home Stories

Take advantage of people who are in a stage of life where they want to move closer to family, friends, and an alma mater. Heck, even the in-laws, which might be harder to identify through research but equally as assured of a long-term commitment to your community.

  • Connect with alumni groups through the school’s social media and LinkedIn. Advertise your job posting, Careers Page, and other information to showcase your hiring plans.
  • Run searches on LinkedIn using various keyword combinations to generate a list of candidates with ties to your market. Searches might include ZIP code, current title (sales executive, producer), industry (insurance or not depending on how broadly you want to go), education (high school or college), or previous employer (look for people who have been employed in your market before).

Profile 4: Buy Young Talent

In small cities, the list of independent agency competitors may be too limited. Captive agencies are your best source for a larger local talent pool.

  • Google insurance agencies within a 30-40-mile radius of your office. Even a 5-10-person agency will show up that might have all their producers listed. You’re just looking for “the one.”
  • Obtain a list of insurance agencies from a state-based insurance association. Contact owners about their interest in being acquired. Remember, you have a tough time finding new producers despite your size and scale. Imagine how a solo practitioner feels. The beauty here is many of them still try to grow. Buy their shop and with it comes their young talent, too.

“Ask the Insurance Recruiter” is a monthly column written by Mary Newgard, Partner and published in partnership with Insurance Journal Magazine. Visit Insurance Journal Magazine’s website for a complete list of previous articles. For questions and comments, email Mary at


You may also like