In the field of insurance, sales training is not a once-and-done thing. Rather, it should be a dynamic and evolving life-of-career pursuit. Products change. Market conditions change. Buyer behavior changes. And the competitive arena continues to evolve, with new threats and new competitors, many of them eager to eat your lunch.
What worked yesterday may not work today. The older generation of insurance agents can speak to this: they can recall a time when ads in the Yellow Pages were good for a steady stream of incoming leads. What’s your insurance agency’s biggest source of leads today? Whatever it is, it will probably change in a few years.
There’s no greater illustration of the need for adaptation and flexibility than the past year. We all learned a dramatic lesson in gear-switching when the COVID-19 pandemic kicked in and changed life as we knew it seemingly overnight.
Ace sales pros who excelled on the trade show circuit were forced to adapt to a virtual environment and the use of online meeting apps. Anyone who was previously a rookie in the use of digital technologies experienced a real time crash course. And that wasn’t the only change – customer appetites changed, too.
All in all, the year was an exercise in sales resiliency. We’d make the case that there’s no greater preparation for staying nimble in the face of sudden market changes than ongoing sales training for your insurance agency.
Here are 9 insurance sales training tips that will keep both your agency and your insurance agency’s producers nimble, sharp, and successful.
- Make training a core priority for your insurance agency. Everybody knows it: what the person in the corner office says to do gets done. Insurance agency principals need to be evangelists for training. Don’t leave it to chance – build training into annual agency-wide objectives, into each producer’s objectives, and follow up in subsequent performance reviews. Show that training is an agency value – talk it up at all-staff meetings. Set a budget. Measure it.
- Extend insurance sales training to the entire organization. Obviously, role-specific training is important for all jobs, but the basics in sales training should be extended to your whole team. Even people who don’t work in sales should be able to be brand ambassadors who understand and support sales goals. And some roles, such as service staff, should have training in specific sales skills, such as cross-selling and asking for referrals. Hint: tap into the expertise of your best producers to train and mentor service staff in developing sales awareness and insurance sales skills.
- Train for where you want to be, not just where you are. Establish both long and short-term goals for your insurance agency’s training program. What skills does your sales team need today? What skills will your sales team need for the future?
- Tap into your insurance partners and vendors. Check with your insurance company partners for available trainings. Insurers frequently offer free or low-cost webinars and online training in products and trends. Look for any trainings in core sales competencies and in emerging technologies. Similarly, partner with or take advantage of your vendor partners’ expertise and resources for training your sales team. Vendors might be excellent sources for technology and digital training, for example.
- Develop your sales team’s dexterity. Make it a sales training priority to develop your team’s dexterity in both “real world” and online sales tools and competencies. Develop online skills, such as digital networking, prospecting, and engagement. Train for comfort level in the use of online meeting and presentation tools, and knowledge and effective use of social platforms.
- Keep an eye on emerging trends. Subscribe to and circulate trade publications, both for insurance and for any target industries that you are selling to. If your agency has several target industries, assign one per producer, and have the assignee deliver summaries of news and trends at monthly or quarterly sales meetings. That has an added benefit of developing both research and presentation skills. Hint: you can subscribe to RSS news feeds that will deliver headlines or briefs to your mailbox, an efficient way to monitor news.
- Devote a portion of every sales meeting to insurance sales training. Not all training needs to be formalized in webinars and training sessions. There are many creative ways to build training exercises into sales meetings, coaching sessions, and agency events. Earmark a portion of every sales meeting to an interactive or shared training exercise, such as role play in asking for referrals or overcoming objections. Use your imagination to make the exercised challenging, fun, and competitive.
- Build peer learning circles. Extraordinarily successful producers can be lone wolves, but make sure you build and foster team learning circles where knowledge, ideas, strategies, and innovations can be shared. This is a way to cross-fertilize ideas so that you can build on and replicate success. In addition to using this as a training technique, you might assign collaborative projects to a learning circle, such as building a project plan to expand sales efforts to a new industry.
- Learn from other industries. Don’t be too myopic or navel gazing in terms of learning sources, look outward to other industries. Study marketing successes and sales pros in other industries. Share videos and articles of marketing and sales strategies used by other B2B or B2C businesses. Start a “sales and marketing” book club to discuss successes. Some of the classic big-name sales pros and entrepreneurs can provide many ideas for bringing your insurance sales training to a new level.
As a final bit of advice, we’d recommend that any insurance agency sales training initiatives you embark on are firmly rooted in your agency’s brand, mission, and values. Your agency’s brand positioning should be your guiding compass in everything that you do!