Agency Performance Partners


Posted on July 25, 2022 by Kelly Donahue Piro


Is the commercial producers and account managers’ relationship driving you nuts? Do you ever feel like you spend more time being Judge Judy than running your insurance agency? When it comes to commercial producers and account managers, there is often a lot of tension between the parties. Generally, they both want the same thing—to delight the customer. However, in day-to-day practice, their actions can be a detriment to success. 

In order for both parties to work together, there must be clarity in roles and responsibilities. In addition, it must be clear that neither service nor sales is more important. Rather, they are equal parties, who both, in fact, actually need each other. In this blog, we will review the common challenges and how we approach bringing both parties together to be an effective asset toward agency growth. 

Before we get to the solution, it’s also worth mentioning that your agency culture has a lot to do with how well producers and account managers get along. You need to foster an environment of equality, roles, accountability, and tracking so we don’t end up missing the mark. What I’m saying is that the agency leadership must set the boundaries that are consistent across all players in order for the two very different personalities to co-exist and grow the agency. You may have seen some of our previous content on this topic, but here are a few updates for you!

Agency Performance Partners Update

Where was APP last week?

Heath was doing producer training at TrustPoint Insurance and an Agency Assessment with Gartman Insurance in Kentucky!

This week where in the world are Heath & Kelly?

Kelly: Chico California – Launching renewal reviews!
Heath: Office time with clients

Common Challenges Between Commercial Producers and Account Managers

When I go into an agency, I almost always expect there to be friction between commercial sales and service. After careful deliberation, and listening to both parties, I often can honestly say that both parties are wrong. Like dead as a doornail wrong. Somewhere along the way, they both put on the boxing gloves and now everything is a challenge. 

Here are the top common challenges we see between commercial account managers and producers:

  • Compensation: Account managers are generally compensated by base salary plus some bonuses. Producers generally need to produce to live. This causes some difference in what each party sees as a priority. 
  • Competing Priorities: For many producers, they work with several different account managers based on the details of the account. For account managers, they work with a variety of producers. It can be hard to balance what an account manager should focus on next. When you add in that account managers are often also working on accounts for the agency owner, you can see how that work may get the priority. 
  • Communication Decorum: So many relationships start with trust and the general agreement of respect. When one party (in my experience, usually the producers) send in half the information, don’t clue in the account manager, or don’t respond within 24 hours to questions and requests. Oftentimes, account managers silently retaliate by nitpicking accounts or deprioritizing producer work. 
  • Gratitude: Producers love to win, account managers thrive off of recognition. When a new client is signed by a producer and they are getting the high-fives, it’s key that the team is recognized, not just the producer. Remember, you get more with honey. When you sell a big deal, grab a bottle of wine for the team that supported you.
  • Equality: Many agencies look at producers as being above account managers. This includes compensation and where owners focus their time. It’s not always intentional. However, this fuels the sales vs. service debate. When one party has the owner’s ear, it can lead to back channels. 
  • Clarity of Roles: Oftentimes in agencies, each producer, account manager, and client gets treated like a precious little snowflake recreating the wheel with each client and team member. Not only is this confusing and unscalable, but it’s a surefire way to lead to more blame and dropped balls which causes tension!

All of these challenges are fixable. Let’s dive into these core challenges and solutions. If you are managing commercial producers, this is a great blog to share with everyone.

Challenge 1: Compensation

Generally, in agencies, producers and account managers are compensated very differently. We will break down how these compensation differences can fuel disagreements. Getting producers and account managers to work together means they have to understand each other. 

  • Commercial Producers: Generally paid commission or commission plus base compensation
    • Producers must sell in order to live
    • This makes every lead and renewal the most important to them
    • Some producers chase less-than-ideal business 
    • Because new business is often a higher commission rate than renewals, they prioritize new business over renewals
  • Account Managers: Generally paid a base plus some bonuses 
    • They have a good idea what they will make each week, so they may lack the same sense of urgency
    • Since they are balancing multiple producers, they are constantly balancing everyone’s work
    • Account managers know the market and they find it inefficient to waste time on unideal quotes just to see 
    • Account managers tend to prioritize renewals that they have a relationship with over new business that may appear to be a long shot

We aren’t suggesting that account managers go on commission, but we do have some ideas to get everyone hungry for new business and renewing clients.

Here is how we approach this fix:

  • Everyone in the agency has some form of performance-based pay.
  • Account managers can get bonuses on book growth, hitting a sales target with producers, or renewing X% of accounts.
  • While most account managers aren’t motivated by money, it is different when the bonus comes with recognition. The feeling of winning is something both parties can get behind. 
  • Consider creating a team goal to fuel results for account managers. The bonus may not appeal to them (as in they do not want to go out of their comfort zone for X dollars) and they may let themselves down in reaching a goal, but they will not let the team down.
  • Consider reducing base pay for account managers and giving them a small commission for every policy renewal and assistance on a new sale. 

What this looks like when it’s working in the agency: You walk in and the account managers are high-fiving each other over the new producer sale. They are coaching the new producer on markets and keeping the producer on track with follow-ups.

The producers are thrilled with the new relationship and work renewals more efficiently to help their account management team. At the end of the month, everyone celebrates winning and looks forward to reaching the goal together. Let’s work to get commercial producers and account managers to value each other (our insurance producer course helps cover this!)

Challenge 2: Competing Priorities 

Imagine you are a commercial insurance account manager. Here are typical priorities:

  • Staying on track with renewals when the producer is missing information, underwriters are running late, and the client won’t call you back. 
  • Handling service requests includes certificates, audits, billing, and more. 
  • Helping producers quote new business. 
  • Working on the owner’s new business and renewals. 

What would you focus on first?

For most account managers, they prioritize the owners’ clients over everything else. Who signs their paycheck, after all? Our insurance producer course covers how everyone can work together!

  • Commercial Insurance Producers: Some producers are like a Tasmanian devil. They spin into the office and want everyone to pay attention to them because they are there. Whatever is in their hand is the most important thing to them, why isn’t it to everyone else?
  • Account Managers: They have a packed day and no wiggle room. They get to work and the producer walks in and drops work on their desk due ASAP. They look at it quick and give the producer a laundry list of things to get so they can go back to focusing on the agency owner’s renewals.

So how do you fix this wrinkle?

  • Your agency needs a way to communicate on accounts; we recommend that it’s communicated via the agency management system with activities. Activities have the account, due date, priority, and record of communication if there is an issue. Many agencies do not want producers in the system; we agree for the most part, but they need to be able to add tasks for the account manager. Email is a poor communication tool. 
  • The agency needs minimum standards to start a quote (renewal or new business). This should be fair. Like goldilocks, not too much information but not too little. Too often we leave it up to each person and that causes problems. 
  • Leadership needs to create service-level standards. This is key. What are the turnaround response times between parties, submission timelines, and more? These must be set and explained so every item is not predicated on the mood of the day!

One thing that fixes most challenges in an agency is clarity on the target. If both producers and account managers are clear on agency goals, they can work together instead of against each other to reach their goals.  If you are struggling with how to set goals in your agency, check out our complimentary goal calculator.

Just like any successful relationship, it takes work. Relationships work best with clear boundaries and expectations that both parties believe in. When you are putting out issues between two teams, it’s a waste of everyone’s time and efforts. These distractions are sales disablers.

Challenge 3: Communication Decorum

When we go into agencies, always in the top three wishes of the team is more communication. Don’t want that from everyone? I want better communication with my team, friends, and spouse. We always think that we are great communicators and it’s everyone else’s problem. But that is not always the case! Here is the breakdown between both parties. 

  • Commercial Insurance Producers: They are always on the run! Rarely in front of their screens. They are communicating all day to referral sources, clients, and opportunities. Producers move from one conversation to another and they don’t always have pen and paper to help them take the conversations back home. In our producer sales training, we cover this issue!
  • Account Managers: They are always in front of their computers. In fact, they often use the communication method of their choice that is easiest on them. The reality is they need to pick the communication method that gets the job done. Sometimes, due to their workload, they choose to communicate in a way that delays the response so they can get caught up. 

We all know good communication solves so many challenges, so what can we do?

  • Meetings:  Yes, no one likes them, but they allow both parties the space to update each other. There should be an agenda, time frame, and list of things they need to get caught up on. This limits back and forth throughout the week.
  • Status Updates: Every week, the account manager sends an update on new business and renewals and any open questions. 
  • Preferred Method: Just like we do with clients, we should connect on what the best communication method is. Again, we always like to lean on the management system so it’s attached to the account and very trackable. 
  • Escalation Plan: Every agency should have a plan of attack if the two parties aren’t communicating. For example, if the response time is one business day, what happens if it is two business days with no response? That should be escalated.
  • Monitoring Everyone’s Backlog: In our Agency Efficiency Program, we review how to manage your inbox and activity backlog. This will help commercial producers and account managers get along. 

Commercial Insurance Sales

Challenge 4: Gratitude

If we all showed a bit more gratitude, what would happen in the agency? I bet it would only be really good things. However, when sales and service are not getting along, gratitude can disappear. When producers and account managers work together and feel appreciated, they want to go the extra mile. When both parties are at odds, they tend to go out of their way to make each other’s lives more difficult. 

  • Producers: Many producers like the limelight all for themselves (this is a generalization). They may have worked the lead for two years. It’s their time to spike the football in the endzone!
  • Account Managers: They found the market, negotiated with the underwriter, and got all of the paperwork in and out on time. They worked late and put off other client renewals, but the producer gets all the credit. 

So who is right? They both are! Here is the great thing about gratitude: It’s free! We can give it out to anyone and everyone who deserves it. Gratitude can come from the producer, but also the leadership team and client! How can we ensure gratitude is flowing for both parties? Our insurance producer sales training helps to cover this!

  • Account managers should celebrate and praise producers on new business and renewals. It’s a team effort, but let’s make sure that we show our appreciation for their role in the process. 
  • Producers: When there is a big win, make sure to sincerely thank your team. Buy lunch, grab them a gift, make sure you take the time to thank the squad who assisted you. Remember the team helping you close the deal also helped you with your insurance producer training. 
  • Leadership recognizes people in team meetings and personally for their hard work. 

Challenge 5: Equality

In my opinion, sales is not better than service, and service is not better than sales. They are and should be equals. Just because one is hourly and one is come-as-you-go commission doesn’t mean that one is more

important than the other. We need to resist calling the service team “the girls.” They are licensed professionals that are here to manage the bulk of the agency money. As leaders, you need to be careful that salespeople aren’t selling you why things are off track, and you need to make sure you have tracking on the service team. So how can we make sure we have a fair approach to both parties?

  • Producers: Make sure to watch your language and how you treat account managers. If you treat them like your assistant rather than licensed agents, they will act accordingly. Look at account managers like a quarterback and a receiver, you need both to win the Super Bowl. 
  • Account Managers: Your license is the same as a producer’s. Show up with confidence and a professional behavior and assert yourself to get what you need to do a great job. Don’t make sales a bad word; you have a license, you can sell, too! You may also want to take our commercial insurance course to brush up on your sales skills!

Really, this challenge starts at the top. Remember, your account managers are protecting most of your money. This means they are very valuable and should feel that way every day. Let’s break down what you can do in your agency if you are managing commercial producers:

  • Make sure compensation and bonuses are available for both parties. This includes commission for business written.
  • Make sure you aren’t biased to one party or a person. Your job is to be fair to both parties. 
  • Your organizational chart needs to show sales and service on the same line. 
  • Resist common terms such as “the girls” of the admin team, they are licensed agents, too.
  • In meetings, solicit input from all parties. 

Challenge 6: Clear Roles and Responsibilities

Honestly, 95 percent of the challenges in an agency can be boiled down to clear roles and responsibilities. Too many agencies leave it up to the producer and account manager, and by account. The problem with this is every client gets a different unscalable, unrepeatable process. In fact, this lends to the equality issue mentioned above. Some producers believe it’s how they want to run each renewal, it needs to be the agency standard for running renewals. Also, as Heath Shearon likes to say, both parties have different brains, we need to maximize each party’s strengths. 

  • Producers: They need to be focused on new business, client challenges mid term, and presenting the renewal. 
  • Account Managers: They need to be focused on delighting customers with fast and pleasant service, managing and leading the renewal process, helping quote new business (where applicable), and escalating client issues that need a producer’s input. 

When you clarify roles, it’s common that people will try to test boundaries, so you need to be prepared to inspect what you expect. It may take six months to get people settled into a new way, but you can get there with consistency!

  • Create clear job descriptions, share them with everyone
  • Set up a clear one-page chart of who does what on new business and renewals
  • Have a clear escalation policy of when an account manager is struggling and when to tag in the producer (this should be taught at the start of insurance producer training 
  • Have clear service-level standard of response times for both parties

Many agencies struggle not only to set roles but also goals for each role. Once you have set your target growth amount, it’s important that you have clear goals for every single role in your agency. Yes, even your receptionist can have goals. If you need help, we got you! Check out our agency template on how to set goals for every role in your agency (and get everyone rowing in the same direction toward your target). 

Commercial Insurance Goals


Just like any successful relationship, it takes work. Relationships work best with clear boundaries and expectations that both parties believe in. When you are putting out issues between two teams, it’s a waste of everyone’s time and efforts. These distractions are sales disablers.

commercial insurance sales training

Blog Banter – Listen to Heath & Kelly Throwdown On This Topic