Abram Interstate Insurance Services, Inc., CMGA

Helping Independent Insurance Agents Since 1996

5 Ways to Develop Successful Sales People | Business Tips for Insurance Agents

Published on June 16, 2016

At the core of the insurance industry is the question: How good are you at selling what you have? It always comes back to sales because even if you have the best product on earth, and no one who wants to buy it, you’ll be left high and dry.  But how do you recruit the kind of people who are going to be good at dealing with customers, who are going to be personable, attentive, informative, persuasive, positive and logical?  Well, these folks, the ones who are just “naturals” are few and far between. While you might be looking for those who are just “a natural” as the type of sales person you need, there may be a better way to recruit people who will strengthen your business.

It comes down to the nature vs. nurture debate. If you find someone who is a natural, hire them. But there are many people out there who have the right materials, and they are trainable. When you find these nurtures, here are 7 tips from the Cohen Brown Management Group on how to help them develop into successful sales people and to strengthen your team and your business.

Tip #1 –  Don’t ask the naturals to tell you how they do it or teach the nurtures.  

More often than not, the naturals don’t know how they do it.  They’re mildly surprised that others need to be taught.  If they offer you explanations, you can count on hearing some oddball theories.  “I pretend I’m talking to my best friend.”  “I just keep talking – eventually it works.”  “I just launch myself into the zone, where everything is clear and easy.”

Not exactly trainable tactics!

That’s not because the naturals are not smart or reflective.  It’s because you’re asking them to explain something that just unfolded in nature.  You wouldn’t ask them how they get their hearts to pump or their hair to grow.

So leave your naturals in peace.  But make the most of their talents by carefully but quietly studying them, discerning their best practices and coaching others on them.

Tip #2 – Find out what the nurtures need and tailor your training accordingly.  

Nothing undermines learning like being taught the wrong stuff.  If you teach what they already know, they tune you out because it’s patronizing.  If you teach sophisticated techniques to people who don’t have the basics, they tune you out because it’s beyond their reach.

Instead, find out where they are in terms of current capabilities.  And not just capabilities but current practices.  If they know how to do something but they aren’t doing it, that calls for training, too.  Only when you have done this assessment are you ready to construct your training around their current capabilities and their gaps.

Note I did not say, “Pull out the closest training modules.”  Otherwise why bother doing the assessment.  Instead use tried and true training solutions but tailor them to the specifics you learned in your needs assessment.  It’s amazing how attentive a class becomes when you teach them exactly what they know will fill their gaps.

Tip #3 – Surface fears to overcome them. 

You hear it all the time from sales trainees:  “What if the customer doesn’t need it?  What if they think I’m too slick or pushy?  What if I’m catching them at a bad time?  What if I don’t explain things well?”

There’s a single subtext to all those what-ifs:  I am afraid.  I’m afraid they might object.  And if they do, that’s like rejecting me.  I don’t want to put myself in that position.

Of course customers will object.  Birds sing.  Bells ring.  Customers object.  But, trainees must learn, objections are not objectionable!  The first buy sign of a prospect is an objection – or as I put it: “Objections are the royal road to closing a sale.”

So get your trainees to voice their fears so that you can teach them how to overcome them.

Tip #4 – Make employees clear, capable, and motivated.

This is what we call the Success Triangle.  People need to first be crystal clear on what is expected of them.  Then they need to be capable – that is, equipped with the skills, equipment, scripts, documents – everything.  And then they need to be motivated to do it.

But often people tend not to see those three virtues as a single unifying whole.  In large companies, different people are responsible for different aspects of this triad.  There’s IT training here, there’s Rewards and Recognition over there, the Compensation people handle this, the Sales Training people handle that, and then it’s on to Product Training, and so on.

So you get sales and service people who know exactly what they are expected to do, but nobody taught them what to say or how to do it.  Or you get people trained to perfection but with no idea how their duties fit into the overall scheme and so they have a great deal of reluctance to stick their necks out or make the effort.  You get others brimming over with eagerness to do it, but so poorly equipped for the effort that they are quickly discouraged.

Employees will not succeed if they are missing one edge of this trio.

Tip #5 – Training is essential, but it’s the beginning, not the end. 

Imagine a professional athlete heaving a sigh of relief on making the big leagues:  No more two-a-days for me.  Done with all that!

Excellent performers get that way because they work on their craft all the time, their whole career.  If you’re in charge of sales professionals, you know that some aspects of training “take” with some people, not so much with other people.  So after training you observe them.  And you coach them honestly and specifically on what you observed.  Not in a general way (You need to sound more personable.) but with detailed specifics:

I want you to use the customer’s name at the beginning and end of every conversation, slow your rate of speaking to a more conversational pace, and inject enthusiasm into your voice, and smile while you speak.

Now go out empowered knowing you don’t have to wait for the perfect-fit person who is “a natural.” There are plenty of candidates who could be successful people to add to your team. Help them find the ways to success.

Abram Interstate Insurance Services, Inc. is a California wholesale insurance broker (CMGA) that has licensing and expertise to place business in both admitted and non-admitted markets for personal lines insurance and commercial lines insurance in California and surrounding areas.

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