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
• 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.