Sales People | Sales Management – pt 4 of 4: Accountability and Motivation

By Jessica Stevenson, Account Executive – MySalesResults

Conclusions:  If you don’t have goals, how can you exceed them?  Sales people who are “maintaining” and not “selling” are not sales people, they are account managers.

This is the final article in a 4 part series where I will be presenting the results of an in-depth insurance industry research project.  As a part of the research, I interviewed several of the industry’s top agency sales managers to find out everything I could about what makes a great sales person and how to effectively manage sales teams.  This post focuses on accountability and motivation.

Goals – What are the goals & minimum expectations set for your sales people?

Goals and minimum expectations are necessary for every producer within an organization.  After all, if you don’t have goals, how can you have something to work towards?  It is also very important to let the sales numbers be open to the entire team.  This helps to create peer pressure; sales people are natural competitors and will be driven to succeed.  The following is a list of the minimum goals that all sales people should be held accountable to:

  • Calls | Appointments
  • Premium | Revenue
  • Closing Ratios
  • Top opportunities | Prospect pipeline

Measurement – What do you use to measure and track goals in order to hold your sales people accountable?

As the saying goes, “what gets measured and managed gets done.”  It is important to have some sort of tracking and measurement system to help hold your producers accountable, even if you are just using excel.  If you are looking to the market for a sales management system it should possess the following characteristics in order to have a high-level of implementation and buy-in from your team:

Characteristics of a good Sales Management System:

  • Simple – easy to use
  • Designed with the sales person in mind
  • Efficient – doesn’t take a lot of time
  • Specific to the insurance industry
  • Web-based – portability

Meetings – What is your sales meeting structure?

Having regular (and a variety) of sales meeting will help to ensure you producers are staying on track in addition to creating a team atmosphere and helping with business acumen.  Below are a few examples of sales meeting that should be held at least once a month in order for sales organizations to be successful:

  • Individual – one on one meetings – reviewing specific accounts, pipeline, individual goals/results, accountability & action plans
  • Division – Acct Managers & Producers – carrier specific info, divisional goals/results
  • Group Sales (monthly &/or quarterly) – top performers, key accounts written & top prospect opportunities, sales related info to share (articles, blogs, books, etc.)

Compensation – What type of compensation plan do you use to ensure your sales people continually exceed minimum expectations for both new business & overall growth?

Agencies have struggled over compensation models since the beginning of commission pay structures.  Compensation models vary for simplistic new business and renewal commission percentage to more complicated models that help to ensure producers don’t get stagnant.  Here are a few sample models we discovered in our research:

Standard Compensation Models:  Ex. #1 – 50% Commission on New Business, 35% Commission on Renewal Book.  Ex. #2 – 45% New Business, 25% Renewal, 20% 1st Year Referral Commission.

Plus Compensation Models:  Here a retroactive bonus is added based on hitting minimum goal expectations:  Ex. #3 – 25% New Business, 15% Renewal Business, 15% Retroactive on both New & Renewal at year end if a certain growth percentage is met in their overall book of business (note: overall book includes referral revenue.)  Ex. #4 – 35% New Business, 35% Renewal Business, 5%|8%|10% Retroactive on both New & Renewal based on hitting different levels of new business revenue.

Plus Plus Compensation Models:  The final model places on emphasis on both new business goals as well as creating incentive for stagnant producers with large books of business to continue to write new business.  Ex. #5 – 40% New Business, 40% Renewal Business:  Each year that the New Business sales goal has not been met 2.5% commission is deducted from both the New Business and Renewal percentages.  There is a minimum cap at 30% commission.  However, incentive is added for this too because this model pays a 7% Sales Expense (to be used for all sales expenses, including gas, dinners, events, etc.)  If the minimum New Business Goal is not met they will continue to deduct a percentage from the sales bonus as well, creating less of a “spending fund” for the producers who may not seem to have an incentive to write new business.

Accountability | Motivation – Summary

Accountability and continued motivation for your entire sales team (both new and seasoned producers) is critical and necessary for the continued growth of your agency.  It is important to note that not one agency is perfect; however, it is all about progress.  Setting some form of sales goals for your producers and then tracking those sales goals to help hold the producers accountable.  Holding regular sales meetings to help create a team atmosphere, provide continuing business acumen and again holding your producers accountable.  A compensation plan that integrates at least a focus on at exceeding new business goals will help to ensure producers continue to write new revenue, even if they have large books of business.

Thank you again to all of the agencies that participated in this project.

Jessica Stevenson is an Account Executive for MySalesResults, a SMART IT Services company.  She has worked in the insurance industry with sales people and sales managers for over 11 years.

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Sales People | Sales Management – pt 3 of 4: Training and Mentoring

By Jessica Stevenson, Account Executive – MySalesResults

Conclusions: Continual education and business acumen in any profession is necessary for success. And having good mentoring program is the best type of training for a new sales person.

This is the third article in a 4 part series where I will be presenting the results of an in-depth insurance industry research project. As a part of the research, I interviewed several of the industry’s top agency sales managers to find out everything I could about what makes a great sales person and how to effectively manage sales teams. This post focuses on training and mentoring.

Internal – What type of internal process do you have to teach your new sales people in-house systems procedures as well as your culture and how the rest of the team contributes to the overall big picture?

We found that although most agencies have a some sort of formal internal training program in place, most felt that that they could be doing a better job at it. And even through again it takes time upfront to do this; in the long run it will help your producers to be more successful.

• If feasible, have the new employee spend a short amount of time with every employee at the agency
• At a minimum, new employees should spend a significant amount of time with department managers and team leaders
• There should also be some sort of standard technical training in addition to process and procedure training

Mentoring – What have you found to be the most effective mentoring program?

The mentoring process is generally a 1-3 year program where the producer is assigned a specific mentor in the organization.

• In order for this process to be successful the new producer should be spending a significant amount of time with their assigned mentor, “job shadowing” or “road shadowing” as I had one agency call it, to again learn the industry, but most importantly be exposed to successful sales skills.
• Joint Selling | Cross Selling – Whether it is within a department or across departments this helps to create a culture of team selling and is proven to be very effective
• It is important to teach new producers effective cold calling skills because if they are new to sales, they most likely will not have a pipeline of prospects to work with in the beginning. • Not only is it necessary to build a prospect pipeline in the beginning, it is even more important to continually build and grow your pipeline of potential customers throughout your career as a sales person.
• Spending time on a regular basis, weekly or bi-weekly with the Sales Manager &/or Assistant Sales Manager, making sure the bar is set from the beginning on what is going to be expected from the producer and holding them accountable.
• Having a dedicated Service Partner & Accountability Partner and again meeting with them on a regular basis and ensuring that they work together to achieve optimal success.
• Another program that can help new producers especially in the beginning to gain a book of business and learn how to work with customers is a trade down program. This consists of producers trading down a percentage of their book of business every year. So then the producer with the larger book can focus more of their time on customers that are bringing in a higher level of revenue and spend more time prospecting and growing their book of business. But at the same time giving younger producers customers to work with.

Carrier – What type of training do your new sales people participate in on the carrier side?

Carriers throughout the industry offer training programs, from both a coverage standpoint as well as sales skills, they generally range from 1-3 weeks.

A few that were found in our research are listed here:

• State Auto
• Travelers
• Chubb
• CNA
• AO
• Carrier marketing reps
• Young Agents

Outside Sales – What outside sales consultants do you use for new sales training as well as continued training?

Hiring or working with outside sales consultants will help not only new producers, but also helps the entire sales & management team. Below are a few well known industry groups with programs specifically developed for insurance sales people.

Sitkins International – Rookie Camp, Producer Training Camp, Sales Mastery
Selling Strategies – Emily Huling
Beyond Insurance – Scott Addis
National Alliance for Insurance – Dynamics of Selling
• Local Sales Companies

Training | Mentoring – Summary

Having a structured training and mentoring program is a critical and fundamental component to the success or failure of a producer. Not only is education and business acumen important for a new producer, it is necessary throughout every level of the profession in order to continue to be successful.

Our research shows that effective producer training should include a three-pronged approach. Internal training is important to get new producers acclimated to the agency’s policies, processes, and culture. Mentoring – arguably the most important for young producers – helps producers learn from seasoned agents and provides a source continual support as they progress. Finally, outside sales training and resources are readily available from various sources that can help producers enhance their sales skills. Stay tuned for part 4 of the series that will focus on accountability & motivation.

Thank you again to all of the agencies that participated in this project.

Jessica Stevenson is an Account Executive for MySalesResults, a SMART IT Services company. She has worked in the insurance industry with sales people and sales managers for over 11 years.

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Sales People | Sales Management – pt 2 of 4: Recruiting and Hiring

By Jessica Stevenson, Account Executive – MySalesResults

Conclusion:  Sales people need to be sales people, but they also need to fit into your culture.

This is the second article in a 4 part series where I will be presenting the results of an in-depth insurance industry research project.  As a part of the research, I interviewed several of the industry’s top agency sales managers to find out everything I could about what makes a great sales person and how to effectively manage sales teams.  This post focuses on recruiting and hiring.

Recruiting | Hiring

Where – Where are you finding your best sales people?

It seems agencies are finding the most success in hiring producers coming from:

  • Industry | Carriers – underwriting, loss control, claim reps
  • Small CL or PL producers – Farm Bureau, Allstate, State Farm, AAA – people looking to move “up”
  • Niche Industries – such as farming or logging if the agency has a specific niche focus in that area
  • Already in Sales – in other industries
  • Some sales experience, not just out of college
  • But most importantly that they are not already in insurance sales

Characteristics – What characteristics do your best sales people possess?

Being “social and outgoing, but also somewhat detailed” was common theme among all of the sales managers that we interviewed as to what makes a good sales person:

  • Social | Outgoing
  • Somewhat detailed
  • Preferably, connected to the community
  • Competitive – “every good producer has a competitive nature”
  • Athletes or former athletes
  • Also, we found that agencies seem to be having trouble with the younger generation, Generation Y.  They are finding that this generation would prefer to have a steady salaried income, because they are just getting out of college and may have young families.  With the salaried income they seem to also prefer to work a standard 40 hrs per week as opposed to the 50-60+ hr week that sales can sometimes involve.  They also have a tendency to “jump ship” when a new opportunity presents itself.

Interview Process – What is your interview & hiring process?

As the saying goes, “hire slow, fire fast”:

  • Have a multi-tiered interview process – where the person is interviewed 2-3+ times by key people within the organization.
  • Make sure that they are a culture fit – “personality first & foremost”, because even if they look good on paper, if they are not going to be a fit into your culture then the chances of the success of that hire are very limited.
  • Have a Strategic Plan – begin your plan to hire at least 12 months in advance, clearly define the sales position & timeline, share that there is a position available with the entire team and open it up to referrals both internally & externally.
  • Just as it is necessary for a successful producer to have a pipeline full of potential prospects, it is also important for the agency to continually build and maintain a pipeline of potential sales candidates.  That way when you begin your hiring process, or if you are put in a situation where the hiring of a producer needs to be sped up, you will have a pool of prequalified candidates to choose from.


Testing – What type of testing programs do you use to determine traits, qualifications & unique abilities?

Personality & unique ability testing you can gain valuable insight into a person prior to adding them to your team:

  • Caliper is a personality and job matching assessment
  • Kolbe is a measure of a person’s instinctive method of operation and in what ways can they be the most productive
  • DiSC is an assessment of personality styles and how teams can work best together
  • And SPQ Gold is a call reluctance test, geared exclusively for sales people, showing what type of call reluctance a producer will have, including their ability to prospect and close new business.

Recruiting | Hiring – Summary

Our research indicates that top producers are outgoing and socially active, which should come as no surprise.  A competitive nature is inherent and many top producers are former athletes.  Outgoing and competitive are two important traits of a successful producer, but a level of attention to detail is necessary for producers to succeed as well. 

When looking for new talent, don’t be afraid to look outside the insurance industry.  Producers that come from niche industries can be valuable assets for your agency, especially when tapping into new markets.

“Hire slow, fire fast” is a common phrase we heard from principals and sales managers when it comes to interviewing and hiring.  The more time spent up front during the interview process, the more likely the candidate will succeed at your agency.

Personality and unique ability testing can increase the likelihood of a new producer fitting within your agency, especially when done during the interview process.  Tests are important, but making sure the producer fits into your agency culture is of utmost importance.

Stay tuned for part 3 of the series that will focus on training and mentoring.  Thank you again to all of the agencies that participated in this project.

Jessica Stevenson is an Account Executive for MySalesResults, a SMART IT Services company.  She has worked in the insurance industry with sales people and sales managers for over 11 years.

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Sales People | Sales Management – pt 1 of 4

By Jessica Stevenson, Account Executive – MySalesResults

Finding, motivating, and retaining top producer talent is considered a high priority for agencies.  Getting the most out of producers is even more apparent in the current market, leading me to research what traits make a successful producer and what training and motivational techniques managers can practice to contribute to that success.

As a part of the research, I interviewed several of the industry’s top agency sales managers to find out everything I could about what makes a great sales person and how to effectively manage sales teams.  This is the first article in a 4 part series where I will be presenting the results of this in-depth insurance industry research project and below are the conclusions of each sub-topic along with the questions I asked:

Conclusions:  Sales people need to be sales people, but they also need to fit into your culture.

Sales People | Sales Management:  Recruiting | Hiring – pt 2 of 4

Where – Where are you finding your best sales people?
Characteristics – What characteristics do your best sales people possess?
Interview Process – What is your interview & hiring process?
Testing – What type of testing programs do you use to determine traits, qualifications & unique abilities?

Conclusions:  Continual education and business acumen in any profession is necessary for success.  A good mentoring program is the best type of training for a new sales person.

Sales People | Sales Management:  Training | Mentoring – pt 3 of 4

Internal – What type of internal process do you have to teach your new sales people in-house systems procedures as well as your culture and how the rest of the team contributes to the overall big picture?
Mentoring – What have you found to be the most effective mentoring program?
Carrier – What type of training do your new sales people participate in on the carrier side?
Outside Sales – What outside sales consultants do you use for new sales training as well as continued training?

Conclusions:  If you don’t have goals, how can you exceed them?  Sales people who are “maintaining” and not “selling are not sales people, they are account managers.

Sales People| Sales Management:  Accountability | Motivation – pt 4 of 4

Goals – What are the goals & minimum expectations set for your sales people?
Measurement – What do you use to measure and track goals in order to hold your sales people accountable?
Meetings – What is your sales meeting structure?
Compensation – What type of compensation plan do you use to ensure your sales people continually exceed minimum expectations for both new business & overall growth?

The results of the research are very exciting.  The group of agencies researched ranged in size from a small 6 employee agency to a large 100+ employee agency and everywhere in between. 

Stay tuned for the articles in the upcoming months where I will be covering each of the sub areas in more detail.  Thank you again to all of the agencies that participated in this project.

Jessica Stevenson is an Account Executive for MySalesResults, a SMART IT Services company.  She has worked in the insurance industry with sales people and sales managers for over 11 years.

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Insurance industry leader to speak at Take Your Agency to the Next Level 2011

A highly regarded industry leader is slated to be the keynote speaker for a long-running Larry Linneagency automation and technology conference in May.

Larry Linne, President & CEO of Sitkins International, will be the keynote speaker at Take Your Agency to the Next Level 2011, an annual seminar presented by SMART I.T. Services. 

The seminar takes place May 12-13, 2011 in Sterling Heights, Michigan and focuses on helping agencies increase productivity and profitability through technology and beyond.  Linne will speak on May 12th.

Through Sitkins International, a private client group and membership program for some of the top agencies and brokerages, Linne has helped numerous agencies achieve success in the areas of performance management, sales management, selling systems, marketing, effective second in command principles and leadership concepts.

Take Your Agency to the Next Level is a yearly seminar that focuses on helping agencies increase productivity and profitability with the latest automation tools, technologies, and beyond.

More details and registration information can be found here: Take Your Agency to the Next Level 2011.

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MySalesResults now integrates with Microsoft Outlook to save producers time

A few months ago, we announced that MySalesResults features Microsoft Outlook integration to help agents stay connected, save time, and focus on what they do best — serving clients and writing new business.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the new integration features and how they benefit producers.

The Email Contact feature within MySalesResults works seamlessly with Outlook.  A producer can simply click the email icon for any of their contacts and Outlook will open a new message with the contact’s email address already filled in.  This is a very simple feature, but one that provides a great deal of convenience.

The Sync Calendar feature works when a producer clicks on the Things To Do tab abbreviated as “TTD.”   From there, producers can sync back tasks that need to be done to their Outlook calendar.  At this point, the ability to set reminder notifications, change the duration of the tasks, prioritize the tasks and more can be done within Outlook.   This new feature saves producers time because they don’t need to enter the items manually.  Additionally, having tasks as Outlook calendar entries helps producers stay on track and helps avoid forgetfulness.

Similarly, the Sync Contact feature allows contact information within MySalesResults to be saved back to Outlook.  Once again, this saves a great deal of time and keeps producers focused on selling, not on data entry or administrative work.

If your agency currently uses MySalesResults, you are probably taking full advantage of these time-saving features.  If your agency does not use MySalesResults and you are interested in learning more, please contact us at (586) 258-0667, info@MySalesResults.com, or use our contact form.

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Have you set your 2011 sales goals?

Believe it or not, 2011 is almost upon us!  Accordingly, it’s time to set your agency’s sales goals for the new year if you haven’t already.

Breaking down producer goals by the critical indicators available within MySalesResults — revenue, quoted accounts, sold accounts, closing ratio, revenue per account, and internal and external referrals — will help you make them more measurable and manageable.

Keeping track of these important metrics on a monthly and quarterly basis helps keep producers on track and minimizes any surprises at the end of the year.  If your numbers are measured and managed on a regular basis, your success can be predicted.

If you prefer not to set goals based on all of the available indicators available in MySalesResults, at least setting annual revenue goals for each producer is recommended.

Take advantage of these available indicators and make 2011 your best sales year ever!

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