Issues that arise with clients and prospects regarding inexperienced producers often are the result of assumptions. How can we help avoid these issues and ensure producers are properly prepared?
FIVE LESSONS FOR TRAINING UP-AND-COMING PRODUCERS
Throwing them to the wolves and having them try to find their way out is probably not the best approach
By Michael Wayne
Over the course of 2020, we have overcome logistical challenges of all kinds. The way that our industry conducts business will never be the same again. As we continue to navigate our current reality, there are still basic tenets that need to be adhered to, especially as we groom the next generation of producers to lead the way.
Case in point: In October, a tech firm sued a global brokerage, claiming an inexperienced employee failed to adequately renew the firm’s communicable disease coverage, and the reason for the failure was the brokerage’s inefficient procedures. The tech firm said it was diligent in obtaining the coverage in the past, but the coverage was not renewed, allegedly, because improper documentation was sent. The tech company alleged it did not learn about the error until March 2020. The complaint states that the brokerage created confusion for its producer and its client by ignoring the need to document accurate pricing, by using different and confusing forms to bind coverage, and by not following up with the client when clearly asked to do so by its MGA.
There is a litany of lessons to be taught to those who are just getting started in the industry. Here are the top five when it comes to helping set the foundation so that they more easily accept the other infinite lessons.
Issues that arise with clients and prospects regarding inexperienced producers often are the result of assumptions. Many of us were thrown to the wolves when we began and figured out our way. Then there were those of us who were lucky enough to have a family member or strong mentor in the business who showed us the way. Simply stated, if you are partnering with a new producer and are relying upon that person to be part of the process that keeps your book of business intact or growing, you need to be the strong mentor. You need to be the diligent one until you are absolutely sure that the producer will be. Even then, you need to make sure you are a part of your clients’ experience.
Being someone’s mentor does not mean you need to be their only trainer. Don’t fall into the trap that you know everything there is to know. Remember, you need to keep learning, too. There is a litany of lessons to be taught to those who are just getting started in the industry. Here are the top five when it comes to helping set the foundation so that they more easily accept the other infinite lessons.
Set the example
The easiest way to ensure that new producers aren’t doing what they should be doing is for you not to do what you are supposed to be doing. This includes illustrating to them how clients and prospects should be treated. If you ignore details, badmouth clients and carriers, and don’t deliver what you promise, you are setting an awful precedent. Setting the right example does not necessarily mean being your agency’s top salesperson. It does mean understanding that everything you do is being observed and there is a danger that your bad habits or detrimental routines could be passed on to people you are expecting to be as close to perfect as possible.
Practice with them and make sure they are practicing on their own
Often we hear that “practice makes perfect.” Well, what if you are practicing “wrong”? Crappy practice does not make one perfect. As a mentor once shared with me, “Perfect practice makes perfect.” Since none of us is likely to achieve perfect practice, the next best thing may well be an abundance of practice even on a daily basis when it comes to sales for new producers.
Run scenarios with them. Ensure that lessons are being learned. Offer an incentive for them to practice. There are multiple industry organizations that sponsor team competitions that will pair young producers with other young producers. Seek them out and get them involved. In many cases, practice isn’t about learning how to do something; it is learning how to avoid common mistakes.
Question what they are doing and why
One of the best ways to do this is to have a checklist of expectations and to do exhaustive spot-checks. On a weekly basis, pick several prospects that a new producer has been working on and have the producer to share everything that they have done to this point. How did they initially contact the prospect? What research did they do beforehand? What new needs did they uncover after speaking to the prospect? How did they endear your agency to the prospect by explaining services and resources that you can provide? What are their next steps in building the relationship and ultimately procuring the prospect as a client?
This is not something that you need to do, or even should do, with all of the producer’s prospects. A producer who is on the right path, should have too many prospects for you to be that much of a micromanager. Additionally, reviewing fewer prospects will allow you and the producer to dive more deeply into examples.
Remember that sales follow behavior
Don’t send out a producer with the mandate to sell first and expect them to do everything right. No head coach has ever started a practice telling his players, “Go score touchdowns.” That’s not how football, winning football, works. Players learn fundamentals, skills, and plays. They train. They eat right, and they learn a game plan weekly. Producers need to do the same. Help them build a plan of attack based on reinforced behaviors. Otherwise, you are simply setting them up to fail.
Don’t hide mistakes
That goes for your mistakes just as much as it does theirs. Sometimes the learning will be painful, but it will hurt much more if the mistakes are repeated. Make them talk about it. Hearing mistakes verbalized will make them completely real for them. They need to understand that mistakes are indeed real and can affect the future. Remember, you are preparing them for tomorrow and for the prosperity of your agency.
Michael Wayne is an insurance freelance writer.