Here is an article, that we found, that we
help you to understand why the product training you are getting, isn't nearly enough,
if you want to be successful in insurance sales!
Sales vs. Insurance Knowledge:
What's More Important?
By Ronimarie Acord
Agency producers are “drinking from a fire
That’s how Angelyn Treutel Zeringue,
president of SouthGroup Insurance Gulf Coast in Bay St. Louis,
Mississippi, describes the learning environment in the
independent agency world: Technical knowledge is critical as new
coverages, policy forms and risk exposures evolve, but building
networking and sales skills is equally essential.
Insurance sales legend John Savage used to
say his technical skills
contributed only 5% to his success, recounts Kenneth
Fields, assistant vice president and director of sales
development with The State Auto Insurance Companies -
the other 95% he
attributed to his people skills.
But Savage - who started a Toledo, Ohio life
insurance agency that still thrives as one of the 100 largest
insurance and financial service agencies in the U.S. - “would
then go on to say the trick was you have to have 100% of the
5%,” Fields adds. Zeringue agrees that technical training
“helps producers stay keen” to ensure they provide the best
coverages and reduce their E&O exposure.
When training producers, what’s the right balance
between sales training and the development of technical skills?
What’s the Mix?
“Technical skills are a given - a must-have,”
says Fields, who’s helped train and coach 1,600 new
property-casualty producers in the 19 years since co-founding
State Auto’s PaceSetterSM sales development program. But he adds
that those are
“useless without the ability to communicate technical
information to prospects in such a way that they can understand
the value of the product or service. That requires sales
In the overall process of grooming a new
producer, Doug Mills, vice president of Gillis, Ellis &
Baker in New Orleans, believes you can’t separate sales training
from technical training. “At its core, what we sell is our
expertise on insurance products and how they can be applied to
the client’s risk exposures,” he says. “You have to ‘know
your stuff’ to be effective at sales.”
The two demands can form a chicken-or-egg
question for some agencies. “The biggest hindrance to sales
success early on is the fear that the producer will be found to
not know what they are talking about,” Mills says of his
eight producers under age 35.
“Sales is all about confidence, and until the
confidence is established, sales will languish,” Mills
cannot be established until the producer has a firm grasp on the
technical side of things.”
Jeff Wodicka, chairman & CEO of Casswood
Insurance, also says the single biggest reason producers fail is
lack of confidence. A longtime contributor to the training
programs of The National Alliance for Insurance Education &
Research, Wodicka explains that the organization once focused
solely on insurance knowledge. But in the late 1980s, it
broadened its mandate to
help agents become “salespeople” rather than
“For many years, the independent agency system
acquired technical knowledge, but didn’t have the other skills
to move people from their status quo to where they should be to
protect their families and businesses,” Wodicka says.
Wodicka, whose agency has nine producers, starts
with sales training for new producers to build relationships,
probing and objection-handling skills. Then, “we step in and
start to train property insurance, liability insurance, workers
comp insurance and so on” so the agent has the insurance
skills, he says. “We’ve tried it both ways. We’ve gone in
with two weeks of technical training - not as effective. It’s
not chicken or egg - it’s circular.”
In or Out?
Some agencies have explored sales training from
outside the industry. Zeringue says non-insurance programs for
“soft skills” such as time management and sales
excellence help make a producer well-rounded. “I’m a huge
proponent of any training that advances computer skills for
producers,” she says, citing examples like Internet
marketing and social media strategy.
But while it can be productive,
Fields notes that
non-insurance-based sales training lacks the unique focus the
insurance business requires.
“Because we essentially sell promises of a
future benefit that may not ever be realized, the sale of
insurance is very different than any other type of sale,”
Fields says, adding that agents may “have difficulty applying
sales techniques that are not specific to the insurance
White agrees that “working within the industry
has significant advantages over working outside the industry.”
His caveat: “This is only because the industry is
currently meeting our needs.”
Does it Work?
How can you tell producer training is effective?
Mary Parsons, sales program manager, Chubb Personal Insurance,
says effective training has three attributes: “deep industry
knowledge from the presenters; relevant subject matter expertise
and experience of the sponsoring firm; and an ability to help
with post-classroom real-world application of the learning.”
White’s agency puts together one-, three- and
five-year rolling plans with and for its producers, then matches
these goals with resources such as sales training, team selling,
quarterly sales summits and monthly one-on-one meetings between
agent and mentor. The process “also includes learning in the
field - that is and always will be important,” White says.
that internal coaching and mentoring are critical to developing
and maintaining the effectiveness and growth of producers.
“Each of our advisors has a mentor or an
accountability partner to work with, along with myself as sales
leader and our business development coordinator,” White
How does he know the training is worth it? White
says producers are succeeding when mutually defined goals are
“consistently met or exceeded - we are a results- and
Your success in this
about you being confident in your ability to do what is right
for your clients!
If you want to be
successful in this business, then it isn't just about your
product knowledge. You need to learn how to help your clients
'and you' to completely understand their situation, so you
can properly apply your technical knowledge to your
client's situation. And, that requires sales skills. You must
become a "salesperson", rather than just an "order
As insurance sales legend
John Savage said... "Technical
skills contributed only 5% to my success! The other 95% I
attribute to my people skills!"
He also stated...
"People don’t buy insurance, people buy people. If they like
you, in fact whatever you are selling if they like you they will
buy it even if they don’t need it."
Research carried out by
the Carnegie Institute of Technology shows that
85 percent of your
financial success is due to skills in
personality and ability to communicate, negotiate, and lead.
Shockingly, only 15 percent is due to technical knowledge.
Nobel Prize winning Israeli-American psychologist,
Daniel Kahneman, found that people would rather do business with
a person they like and trust rather than someone they don’t,
even if the likeable person is offering a lower quality product
or service at a higher price.
Get the training and
support you need to build your confidence. Confidence leads to success. Believe in yourself.
Believe in your skills. And most importantly, believe in your
ability to succeed.
Yours In Success,
'The Nine Out Of Ten Guys'
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