Super Agent

Posts Tagged ‘Training’

What Not to Do On a Sales Call

We recently had a call with a company who does excellent marketing and lead generation work. Their messaging is clear and consistent with no sales jargon or company-focused language. And, they push out a great variety of content including survey results, articles and engaging videos. So, we were expecting the same level of quality and seamlessness from their sales process.

Unfortunately, we were wrong. Here’s why the call blew up:

(1)    They didn’t do their research.

They started off by asking us to tell them a little bit about what we do and what we were looking to achieve on the call, immediately handing over the reigns as opposed to leading. We’ve said before that, during sales conversations, it’s critical to answer the questions prospect’s don’t know to ask by challenging them to think, proposing new ideas and revealing creative ways that you can help them. Instead, without research, the first portion of the meeting will be spent gathering information that could have been learned online.

(2)    They didn’t qualify us.

This goes hand-in-hand with the issue above. Because they didn’t qualify us before scheduling a call, during the meeting, it became clear that we were most likely not a right-fit to engage with them. Don’t get caught in the fear-of-losing-business trap. Many agents operate on the belief that they need to take advantage of every business opportunity that presents itself, but doing so is not in your best interest or in the best interest of the buyer.

(3)    They made it about price.

Even as we tried to steer the conversation away from price and toward what value they might have to offer, they continued to focus on the cost of their services instead. Imagine the difference in power between conversations that begin with “Here’s the bottom line, we offer ___ and it is ___ price.” versus “From the research I’ve done, I understand that you are facing these challenges…”

(4)    The conversation was company-focused.

“This is what we do.”

“This is who we do it for.”

“This is how much of an investment it will be.”

Dialog is only effective when it’s consultative and client-focused. Are you trying to sell your services to prospects, or are you trying to positively influence them to get to a better place?

Overall, it is important to ensure that the process you use to nurture prospective clients aligns with the conversations you have once they raise their hand. Also, remember the significance of researching and qualifying your prospects, and ask yourself how you will pivot if you identify early on that they are not a right fit. Do so in a way that still allows you to keep the door open in the event that your value proposition changes and the opportunity to engage with them arises in the future.

Chicken-and-Egg Debate

We often see agencies get trapped in a vicious cycle that plays out like this:

-Producers aren’t producing
-Pipelines are empty
-There is a lack of belief or confidence that producers can fill their pipelines
-Agency leaders choose to do one of two things:

  • Provide training to producers with the expectation that they will sell more
  • Hire a group of telemarketers to fill producer pipelines

So, which investment comes first? Do you invest in helping agents get better, or do you hire a business development person/team to generate leads. The problem with option one: What good does it do if you have a flood of new business appointments but your sales team can’t execute an effective sales process? The problem with option two: What good does it do if you have the best sales team in the world, but they never have a first appointment?

Focusing on only one tactic will likely lead to frustration and disappointment—agencies should focus on both simultaneously in order to set producers up to succeed.

How? Here are 5 steps to consider:

1.  Cultivate lead development and nurturing strategies—agencies have a choice to make here.

  • Outsource, or hire an inside business development person/team making sure that they are representing the agency brand, qualifying right-fit prospects, and successfully positioning producers for first appointments.
  • Train producers to employ an effective messaging and lead generation strategy that piques curiosity, and measure key performance activities

2.  Implement a consistent, repeatable and effective sales process. In addition to providing structure, and strengthening your brand, it also ensures that prospects and clients enjoy a consistent experience when engaging with the agency.

3.  Adopt a process for evaluating producer abilities (non-revenue indicators of success and selling skills) as well as revenue generation.

4.  Mentor and coach, then hold producers accountable. Top producers will lead during the sales process, learn the skills to align resources, goals and objectives of all stakeholders (agent, agency, prospect) and demonstrate how they create value for businesses.

There are no magic bullet solutions for helping producers achieve success, but if you take a, thoughtful, process-driven and comprehensive approach instead of getting caught up in the debate of which comes first, there is greater opportunity for improved outcomes.

Are You Setting Up Young Producers for Success?

Every insurance agency wants to find and keep good talent, but many traditional orientation and training programs for young producers only set them up to fail. They often look like this: the agency sends them to insurance carrier schools, provides them with current phone books of their territories so they can fill their pipelines, encourages them to work off of X-dates, and offers words of encouragement.

If this sounds familiar to you, it may be time to consider a change. These development tactics foster bad habits and agency leaders become frustrated when producers fall short of their expectations and move on to another agency or profession. In the end, any money spent on hiring and training has been wasted. According to an article on Property Casualty 360, “industry surveys suggest as many as two thirds of new producers don’t survive through their second years in the business.” So, how can you set producers up to succeed instead?

- Implement a consistent and effective sales strategy—a repeatable and systematic process.
- Adopt a process for evaluating young producer abilities (non-revenue indicators of success and sales skills) as well as revenue generation.
- Create a culture of permissions to conduct business only with the right-fit clients for your agency.
- Mentor and coach, then hold young producers accountable. This includes training them to transition from a transactional selling process to a consultative one.

Adopting this approach requires some investment, but recruiting the right new producers with leadership capabilities and providing them with the appropriate training will produce greater rewards for everyone.

Carrot-and-Stick Motivators: Why They Fail and How to Keep Producers on the Path to Success

When an agency creates an environment of expectation by clearly communicating what success looks like within the agency, and when the agency and a producer work toward a common set of objectives that have been clearly defined and articulated, the likelihood of success for both parties is increased. But in order for this to happen, producers must be intrinsically motivated.

Great producers actively seek learning and growth opportunities, and are committed to their craft. So, how can you motivate producers to succeed? The first step is to look beyond simple monetary rewards, and to understand the complexity of human motivation. According to author Daniel Pink, “Employees must have autonomy…They must desire mastery of tasks or skills that matter to them. And they must see their work as contributing to a greater purpose.” Agency leaders can facilitate motivation by making sure producers have a clear understanding of the distinct value they bring to employers. In a past blog post, we provided a list of endeavors producers can focus on to see the bigger purpose in their work. Here are just a few:

- Create greater opportunities for clients
- Facilitate better care for injured employers
- Protect clients’ businesses

If producers feel that they are working for a purpose larger than just making sales, they will be more likely to work hard and stay driven. This means that engagement and communication is key. Agency leaders should be open to input from team members, promote an action-oriented culture, and give feedback frequently.  Kevin Plank explains: “Motivation, passion, and focus have to come from the top.”

Effective Training: One Size Does Not Fit All

Too often, agency owners and sales managers will provide producers with the same sales training and resources regardless of their skill level, needs or performance. As we’ve discussed in the past, failure to assess the needs and attributes of producers before implementing a training strategy can be a waste of time, energy and resources. According to an article published in Harvard Business Review by Thomas Steenburgh and Michael Ahearne very few companies are focusing on getting the most out of their salespeople, and “companies that take individual differences into account will realize better results across the performance curve.” It is important to segment your producers and identify their performance problems in order to align effective training that will improve outcomes.

Identifying where underperforming producers are lacking is the first step in aligning the right training resources with specific producer needs. They may be lacking knowledge, or they may lack the ability to convey their knowledge fluently. Asking these questions can help identify where producers are underperforming and what skills they are lacking:

Fluency Questions:

- Can the producer identify right-fit clients and convey a message that captures attention and curiosity?
- Does the producer have the skill to connect resources with a prospect’s risks and threats?
- Does the producer have the ability to identify and adapt to marketplace changes?

Knowledge Questions:

- Is technical knowledge missing; do producers have the necessary knowledge to understand problems and identify opportunities?
- Does the producer have a good understanding of the sales process and the ability to effectively lead the buyer through the sales process?
- Does the producer have the ability to up-sell and cross-sell clients?

Once these questions are answered, a distinct and effective training strategy can be developed. Segmenting producers and assessing their needs is a necessary step in developing a training program to improve their success. According to John Baldoni, “when it comes to reaching people, one size does not fit all.”

Constant Improvement = Excellence

Agencies today can’t afford to waste valuable and expensive resources on training processes that aren’t successful, so improving performance requires organization and careful development. The time you invest in creating an efficient approach for improving performance should be rewarding for your business in terms of measurable gains in revenue, productivity, efficiency, and profitability. 

So, how can you implement a plan to make sure that your coaching is effective, successful and sustainable? According to a recent MIT study that is discussed in a White Paper put out by the TAS Group, “the key to motivation—which is at least part of the role of the sales coach—is to understand that people are motivated by (1) connection to a purpose, (2) the desire for mastery, and (3) the ability to be self directed.”

For a sales manager, this means accepting suggestions and solution ideas, making sure everyone involved in the coaching understands its objectives and purposes, emphasizing the essential steps for growth and progress, and finally, holding salespeople accountable.

What are some successful training strategies you have used to improve performance and increase the success of your business? What are some that have failed?

“Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change.” – Tom Peters

4 Strategies Agencies Must Embrace to Create Exceptional Insurance Producers

One of the unfortunate aspects of our industry is that far too frequently agencies hold on to under-peforming Producers for too long.
Equally as unfortunate is that few agencies have a process or plan to improve producer performance. I’m not sure why this is the case, the cost in lost opportunity, time and resources is significant.

There are a number strategies that agencies can incorporate into their producer on-boarding process that can enhance producer performance and reduce the costs associated with Producer under-performance

Strategy #1 Define Expectations

Often, agencies focus on the revenue expectations only. We believe that revenues will be met, if other more fundamental expectations are insisted upon. They include,
adherence to a sales/agency culture and working with only the types of clients the agency has the capability to service consistently and effectively.  In addition, agencies must hold Producers accountable to a effectively implementing the agency’s adopted sales process (if there is one). While these are fundamental expectations, unless they are communicated and measured, Producers performance is likely to wain.

Strategy #2 Demand Performance

Here again, revenue is the outcome achieved when producers have successfully performed their role. Some performance activities that we believe are non-negotiable are the development and execution of a Producer business plans, alignment with internal and external stakeholders goals and objectives and continuous self-improvement through on-going education and professional growth activities.

Strategy #3 Measure Performance

If revenue is a lagging indicator of success, what key performance activities are Producers required to perform in order to reach their financial goals and objectives. How many phone calls, first appointments, messaging campaigns, and networking opportunities need to occur in order to meet revenue goals. How are agencies validating Producer capabilities? Skills validation must include not only a revenue component, but a Producer’s ability to advance the sales process.

Strategy #4 Intervene

For heavens sake….Intervene! Is there an agency plan in place to coach up under-performing producers or are they left to wither on the vine? Is there a strategy to liberate Producers that just can’t produce regardless of the resources thrown at them?
Like all important initiatives, creating exceptional producers requires planning, goal setting and implementation!