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3 Reasons You Need to Start a Peer-to-Peer Sales Training Program

Posted on July 28, 2016 by Arleah Clark

insurance agency producer sales culture vertafore

Legends aren't born, they're made

“You’re going to make a great salesman one day,” they told me, “you have a way with words that makes people feel comfortable. They just trust you."

Does this sound familiar? It was something I heard when I was growing up, but I never truly understood what it meant to be in sales until I finally took my first sales job. 

I think it's fair to say that some of us were born with a natural inclination for success in sales, but none of us were born the world’s greatest insurance salesman. It takes an experienced salesperson to take a complex business like insurance and distill the intricacies into laymen's terms so that 1) your prospect actually understands what they're buying and 2) they understand why they need to buy it. Becoming a deft salesperson is a process regardless of what industry you're in, which is why peer-to-peer sales training (syncing a rookie with a veteran) is such a powerful experience for any new hire.

Think back to your early days as a producer and reflect on your own learning process. How did you get brought up to speed? Who showed you the ropes? Were training and new hire success baked into the company culture? Or were you thrown to the sharks and told to sink or swim? 

Things might have been a little different in your experience, there might not have been an "official training program" when you were setting up shop or transitioning into your first job, but I bet there was someone you turned to when the going got tough, someone you could trust and rely on for advice and guidance. Someone who taught you the tricks of the trade.  

That person had a huge influence on the way you conduct yourself, your business, and ultimately, your long term success as an insurance producer (especially if you're an agency principal now). 

Take a moment and really think back to a specific memory of that person and a time when they helped you. 

I'm hoping some of you will be kind enough to share that memory with us in the comments section below.

Setting producers up for long-term success

By now I'm hoping that you have a crystal clear vision of the person who helped you and a defining moment you shared. If you do, I know you'll agree with what I'm about to say: 

Finding a mentor can be life-changing.

Especially in an era where the lines between 'life' and 'career' have become increasingly fuzzy. 

Now put yourself in the shoes of new producer. It's your first day on the job. Wouldn't you agree it makes sense to set yourself up for success? Wouldn't it make sense to set all of your new hires up with peer-to-peer training? 

Okay, I'll admit it, that was a bit of a set up, but there's another huge reason for agencies to invest in peer-to-peer sales training: organic growth.

"Organic growth is an agency’s actual growth excluding any acquisitions and book purchases – growth achieved through growing the production force and by writing new business." - Reagan Consulting 

Only worry about the things you can control 

As I mentioned earlier, the insurance industry is complex and influenced by many external factors, like the economy and new legislation that can have a direct impact on an agency's plan and strategy for growth. But even with all of the things that can go wrong (and they will), there are two things that agencies can maintain a fair amount of control over:

1) Retention (customer experience)
2) And new business (sales!)  

For the purposes of this conversation, we're going to focus on new business (if you want to learn more about retention I'd suggest taking a look at our CSR blog).

So how do you achieve more organic growth? How do you close more new business? The answer can seem obvious: you're going to need to hire new producers.

But how many new producers do you need to hire in order to hit your organic growth goals? Increasing efficiency is only realistic up until a certain point before you have to start worrying about burn out.

And what about the time it takes to validate new hires? 

You can't just hire older, more experienced producers that are bringing their own books of business with them. I realize this is a successful short-term strategy for some agencies in our current market, but it can't be your only hiring strategy for serious long-term growth; it won't last as those producers continue to retire (1/4 of them over the next 2 years to be exact).

Now that you've seen the facts about the changing demographics in the insurance industry, there's another unpleasant piece of data we need to discuss: producer hiring success rate. 

Let's turn back to the data: The average agency has a producer hiring success rate of 56%. And if you're in the bottom 25 percentile, The Reagan Consulting Producer Study tells us that you're looking at a 22% success rate. That's only 1 out of 5 hires. That is not acceptable for any business looking to hit their growth goals in any industry. But don't take my word for it, look back at the data again and you'll see that the top performing agencies see success with 84% of new hires. 

Producer hiring reagan consulting insurance vertafore

What does this all mean? 

It means that taking the success of your new hires seriously (one of the things you can control) can have a disproportionately positive effect on the success of your business and your ability to hit your growth goals. 

The 3 most important concepts for new agents

There are many things you can do to increase the success of your new hires, and I would definitely make sure you download a copy of our free e-book that covers this topic at length, but in the meantime, continue reading for 3 important tips about how you can help create a winning peer-to-peer training program.

Step #1: Insurance Knowledge

No one can sell something effectively they know nothing about. Domain knowledge is crucial - especially in insurance. In accordance with hiring trends (only 35% of new hires come from outside the insurance industry), many of your producers will likely come to your agency fully licensed; however, you may have the opportunity to train one from the very beginning. When you find yourself in this situation, there are a number of highly qualified training facilities through which this can be accomplished, including The Hartford School of Insurance or classes from The National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research. Once completed, your producer-in-training is ready to take the necessary state producer licensing tests.

There are also software tools available that act as reference libraries - allowing both new and experienced producers to feel confident writing complex lines of business. 

Step #2: Sales Training

Not everyone is a natural-born salesman. However, that doesn't mean that the art of insurance sales can't be learned. One of my favorite insurance sales courses for new producers is the Dynamics of Selling Series available from The National Alliance. Not only is this good for new producers, but it can help others on your sales team (including yourself) revitalize your sales skills and rejuvenate your entire sales force. Sales training needs to be ongoing for two purposes: 

1. To react to the ever-changing market and the demands and needs of your prospects and customers.
2. It allows you to drive home the importance of continuous learning as a core value of your agency's culture. It also keeps the troops engaged, discussing new tactics, and motivated to have new and different types of conversations with prospects. 

Looking for some sales motivation? Check out the 6 Must-See Sales Videos That Will Change the Way You Sell Insurance

Step #3: Insurance Sales Technology Training

We live in a digital world and the more your new producers are prepared to utilize insurance sales technology tools, the more success they are going to find. The right technology will help producers prepare flawless proposals and access data for top prospects at a moment’s notice. 

The right sales technology tools will also assist in accurately assessing a client’s risk and offering the right insurance products so they are fully protected, and help in training your young producer properly now to avoid costly future mistakes. Proper risk assessment will help you avoid any future E&O (errors and omissions) mistakes, such as omitting to recommend a coverage that is clearly needed by the client, that could be very costly to your agency in lost sales and customer goodwill.  

Finally, once you’ve invested knowledge, time, and training, you need to protect that investment by being able to measure performance and success rates - including new premium dollars on the books as well as the producer’s long-term value to the agency. Part of this can be accomplished through agency reports, which will help you put your finger on your top sales producers and reward them accordingly. It will also help you understand who you can use in future peer-to-peer training scenarios so that high performers pass good habits on to new hires. 

Start your peer-to-peer training program today

I understand that creating a peer-to-peer training program can sound like an overwhelming endeavor that requires an investment of time and money. But you don't have to get a complete training program set up in one day. In fact, I would recommend starting small and building out the program based on your team's bandwidth and needs. Even one small change a week could yield huge results for your growth 10 years down the road. Task a high performer on the team (or yourself) with driving the new program and set up realistic checkpoints and milestones that are easy to hit. Your new hires, and your bank account, will thank you!

Peer-to-peer sales training is a long-term investment in your agency, there's no doubt about it; but having a stable of well-trained, high-performing loyal producers is a surefire strategy for organic growth success.

Arleah Clark

Ms. Clark is member of Vertafore's inside sales team based out of the Bothell office. She has over 10 years of experience in the Insurance industry working for companies like State Farm, Kibble & Prentice, and Veracode. Ms. Clark's experience as a CSR, Producer, and Account manager makes her uniquely qualified when it comes to understanding the needs of her clients. Connect with her on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/arleahclark

 

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