“We need organic growth, we want to remain independent, we must differentiate to compete.”
I’ve heard those comments over and over from agency principals and sales managers. When I ask what is preventing them from accomplishing these goals, they almost always say the issue is the inability to hire, train and develop high-performing producers.
The top reasons cited are:
- Principals and sales managers are juggling multiple initiatives.
- The sales manager is also the top producing agent or is trying to manage the largest book within the agency and cannot dedicate the time, energy or resources necessary.
- A consistent process for onboarding and developing producers is missing.
To understand what drives producer underperformance, we should first look at what producers must be capable of if they are going to be successful. If agents and brokers are going to remain relevant and deliver value now and into the future, certain types of skills will be necessary, according to Broking 2020: Leading From the Front in a New Era of Risk, a PwC whitepaper.
These skills can be summarized as the ability to:
- Help business owners and leaders identify new, emerging and escalating risks.
- Demonstrate specialized insights and capabilities.
- Assist business owners and leaders to make better, more informed decisions with data analytics.
The question for insurance principals and sales leaders is: How well does your producer training and onboarding address the development of these critical skills? To create producers that can achieve early and ongoing success, agencies must reevaluate their approach and embrace a new way of thinking when it comes to producer training.
Agencies make two common mistakes that lead to producer underperformance:
1) Bifurcating training. Many agencies send their producers to one place for sales training and another for technical development. This training method assumes producers can align the two trainings and leverage them effectively—but that’s actually a very difficult task.
Combining sales and technical training helps producers gain the skills necessary to pique the curiosity of their prospects, but in the end, only raises their levels of dissatisfaction with the status quo.
2) Encouraging a generalist mindset. Too often, new producers are encouraged to work on any and all opportunities. The assumption is simple: the more exposure they have to different risks and businesses, the better skilled they will become.
Unfortunately, this is an erroneous assumption. It is far more difficult to be effective and competitive when you lack intimate industry knowledge and a deep level of technical insights. Early specialization, either within a niche or line of insurance, increases producer confidence and provides the opportunity to differentiate more effectively, which makes them better positioned to win more sales.
Producer underperformance won’t go away until we shift our ideas about what capabilities we wish to develop and how to develop them to help producers succeed in today’s insurance environment.
Susan Toussaint is cofounder and partner at Oceanus Partners, a ReSource Pro company. Oceanus Partners is a firm dedicated to helping insurance professionals working in all lines of business insurance to improve sales and client retention.