Theories are good…in theory. Hundreds of theories have been put forth on selling. I have read the books, attended the seminars, and used the techniques as a producer. Few delivered results, fewer still were effective in the complex process of an insurance sale.
I have devoted 30 years to the insurance industry and over 20 to the process called selling. I have successfully sold, and managed a large book of commercial insurance, and have managed & coached hundreds of producers. Along the way, I have studied and used every process I could find to help myself and my producers excel. I have come to the conclusion after years of effort, that for most producers, traditional sales training does not produce significant, long term results.
There are many reasons, too many to cover in this short forum, but almost all fall within a few main categories, so I’ll summarize by addressing what I consider to be the the 3 main failure factors.
Very few sales processes devote serious attention to the biggest obstacle facing your producers. The incumbent agent. In our business, the first sale is really an un-sell. Most sales trainers do not understand that we are not just asking prospects for their business, we are asking them to break an existing relationship and fire their agent.
How many authors and sales trainers can actually sell? I mean really sell. How many have grown and managed large books or dealt with the complexities of market changes? Most traditional sales training programs are not authored by successful producers, a fact not overlooked by producers.
2 ½. Traditional sales training models are typically rigid and scripted. They offer a one-dimensional approach to a 3 dimensional sale. They work well in the classroom, but not in the fluid and dynamic environment of a sales call. Human behavior is unpredictable. Few trainers have ever had to deal with a difficult prospect or someone that didn’t want to role-play off their script.
3. Coaching & Re-enforcement
Perhaps the most important factor is lack of support and reinforcement after training. Producers leave class anxious to use the new techniques they have learned. They go out on calls, try the scripted approaches, get resistance, and fail. They become discouraged, put the book on the shelf, and quit.
Meanwhile, their trainer is out teaching another seminar. Lack of follow through and coaching on the part of the trainer is a huge failure factor. Just as critical, is the lack of internal support for the “sales process” within the agency. Traditional training addresses one piece of the equation, but fails to assist the agency to embrace and support the new sales process. If the team is not pulling together, they are pulling apart.
For any process to take hold there must be positive reinforcement from the trainer, agency leaders and the team. It also requires practice, practice and more practice. This is coaching and teamwork 101. If sales trainers and sales managers would take some lessons from high school coaches, we would develop better talent and win more games.
My advice? Don’t invest significant money in sales training unless:
The approach invests significant time addressing the incumbent.
The trainer has years of real world selling experience.
Significant follow up and follow through coaching is provided after the initial training.