Most people have heard the comment about training: “You get out of it what you put into it.” This becomes a greater truth when applied to soft skills like selling. Activities such as networking, building relationships quickly, consultative selling, and negotiating are refined skills that take practice, quiet confidence and methodical persistence. Successful producers who are adept at building relationships have certain skills and if they are lucky enough to have a firm that invests in their development, there are always new things to learn. We regularly interview our clients and collect their thoughts on how they are developing their team of successful, relationship building advisors. Strong leadership, what we term ‘Shadow of the Leader’ is a key to their success.

Here are 8 tips we have collected to help your insurance agency create effective sales training:

  1. Sales development is for everyone, even the senior producers.  It might be important to treat them differently, provide options and flexibility but greatness is achieved by always learning so top performers must actively participate in sales training. Top performers help to demonstrate skills needed for others and training time can be the basis for important mentoring relationships.  What successful person does not like to share their approach?  This is a firm’s opportunity to shine the spotlight and with that, elevate the bar of expectation. Usually, top performers will participate if training is positioned correctly. A learning culture is paramount and everyone, even top agents have room to grow and help others grow.
  2. Why be good, when you can be great? Speaking of culture – excellence is an underlying and consistent theme that drives the development efforts and generates engagement of the producers. Who does not want to be part of a great team? The investment of time and money into training demonstrates the commitment of the company to higher standards.
  3. Sales training must be company-wide, all revenue producing areas must be involved for a successful sales team. The same language must be spoken and an easy-to-follow sales process must be used consistently for brokers to leverage opportunities and bring in partners. It is hard enough to generate cross line introductions; a common approach, systems and processes and tracking puts the spotlight on providing clients with a holistic approach.
  4. Sales development is a capital investment and should be positioned and reported as such. Many firms report quarterly on the number and dollars of deals in the pipeline vs year prior as well as improved “pull through rate” which is number of sales compared to deals entering the pipeline. Sales development is also a key component to attracting and retaining key producers, an important human investment.
  5. Use Big Math for coaching.  The data does not lie and it takes the personal out of the conversation. Of course, agencies must collect the right data in order to do that including outreaches, appointments, opportunities, presentations, approvals and deals closed. This data will tell a seasoned coach in which areas their producers need to improve. Without this data, the coach is just telling their team to run faster.  They must collect the data that allows them the insight as to where the agent is not excelling.  For instance, perhaps their producers are making plenty of outreach efforts but not getting many appointments. They likely need help with a more compelling value proposition and some practice asking stronger questions and listening to understand.
  6. Leverage small group training even though it may be more time intensive or costly, it is worth it. Small group training allows producers to be more comfortable in front of others in role play. One leader said they practice until the broker no longer feels like “throwing up on their shoes.” It is so important to practice new approaches internally and not with prospects and clients. We avoid the term role play and focus on the practice aspect.
  7. Clear out the junk in the pipeline with regular 30- and 60-day reviews and personal coaching. Do not allow the sales pipeline to carry dead weight. This will help the pipeline be more predictive of future success as well as flush out the potential need for more prospecting activity on the part of the producer. This requires regular and thorough pipeline review meetings with agents, which when combined with pre-call or post-call discussions can be very effective.
  8. One way to make the pipeline more real is to require Opportunity Memos on those deals that are in middle to end stages of the pipeline.  This memo clarifies the prospect qualifies on the many scorecard attributes identified by the agency.

In today’s environment, many clients are reaching out to ask questions, explore options, get better premiums and feel more secure. This takes insurance out of its commodity state of years past and allow for producers and agencies to differentiate and engage their clients and prospects in a new way.

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