25 Tips for Training Young or Inexperienced Insurance Agents

Written by John F. Carroll on . Posted in Agency Management, Customer Service, Sales

training-new-insurance-agentsWhere were you on Y2K?

I’m not sure where I was (which I’m sure is related to whatever I was drinking) but that’s not important.

I bring it up because that 22 year-old “kid” you just hired at your agency was asleep in bed.

He was in 3rd grade!

He grew up in a different world with different parents instilling different values and expectations. And if you want to get the most out of him, you need to understand how.

One of the most popular articles I’ve written on this blog is this one: 21 Insurance Sales Tips for Young or Inexperienced Insurance Agents.

From what agents tell me, I think the reason its so popular is because so many agents require their new hires read it.

And I thought that if all these agents are making their new employees read that article, why not write one for the agents?

So I did.

Here’s 25 tips for training young or inexperienced insurance agents:

1) Forget About How Hard it Was For You

Agents love telling me about how hard it was for them to get their start.

No training, no leads, no nothing. Just a phone book and a finger to dial with.

It might be true that it worked out for you, but here’s a few other truths:

  1. The more you support your new staff, the more money you’ll make.
  2. Forcing new employees to “figure it out themselves” causes lots of turnover.
  3. Many younger people weren’t lucky enough to be taught the value of persistence and hard work while growing up like you were. (Not all of them of course)

To be 100% honest, I think the “I had to figure it out myself so they should too” approach is really just a way for agents to justify being less involved and/or not having to learn new skills.

It’s an excuse. And if you read this article you won’t have to use it any more.

2) Random Prospect Spot-Checks

Choose random prospects they’ve been working and ask them to explain everything they can about their process for making contact, identifying the prospect’s needs, presenting the value of your agency, closing the sale, etc.

Basically you grill them about every aspect of how they handled the lead.

Random lead spot checks are great because:

  1. They allow you to go into greater detail about what happened on one lead than you’d ever go if you reviewed every lead. This results in more opportunities to educate.
  2. If you make your salesperson explain every lead to you they’ll start thinking too much about what they’re going to say to you when they should be focusing on the prospect.
  3. You have to monitor what’s going on somehow and it’s micromanaging to review every lead they work.

3) Force Them to Practice

3 Truths about practicing sales:

  • Everybody hates it.
  • Everybody gets better from it.
  • Nobody will do it on their own consistently without nudging.

Your new salespeople should be practicing sales every single day. If you want ideas, tips and strategies read this article with 17 of them.

4) Send Them Networking

Young people and new employees want to feel important. They also want to get out from behind their desks and change up the routine.

Send them on a mission to make contacts and represent your agency at as many local networking events as possible.

Give them very specific goals like getting and handing out a certain number of business cards or getting a certain number of LinkedIn connections with each event.

And make them read this article with 33 networking tips for agents. (might want to check it out yourself)

5) Make Behaviors The Goals

The worst goal you can give to a new salesperson is “make X sales this month”.

Set goals for the behaviors that result in sales like:

  • Ask for X referrals every day.
  • Talk about life insurance with X new customers every day.
  • Give out X business cards every day.
  • Make X new LinkedIn Connections every week.
  • Make X outbound phone calls every day.
  • Visit X local businesses every week.

Think of it like baseball.

Of course runs are the only thing that really counts, but do baseball managers push their players to score runs? Or do they push them to do the things that result in runs?

Speaking of sports…

6) Turn Sales Into a Game

Young people have grown up playing games and they’ve got a lot of competitive spirit in them.

They’re also easily distracted and easily bored so they need new stuff going on to keep the interest.

Use it to your advantage and come up with different games with prizes and recognition for the winners.

And don’t think every game has to cost you money. The younger generation of workers is more hungry for praise, recognition, and a sense of importance than you probably were at that age.

And guess what?  Old people like games too. They’re fun. And happy salespeople sell more.

7) MakeThem Identify Buying Triggers (Other Than Price) For Every Lead

When you’re new to sales, it’s hard to comprehend the idea that anybody cares about anything other than price.

Force your new salespeople to identify a buying trigger for every new lead.

And it can never be price.

It’s okay to acknowledge that price is often the largest factor, otherwise you’d lose credibility, but you have to train your new salespeople to see for themselves that despite what people say, there’s always more to the equation than price.

Otherwise we’d all be driving Chevy Sparks.

8) Buy Them Books

You don’t have to do all the training yourself. In fact, it’s probably better that you don’t.

You can hire the best sales trainers in the world if you just buy your salespeople books from the greats.

Offer to buy your salespeople any sales, motivation, or other type of helpful book they want as long as they present their learnings to the rest of the team.

Here’s 7 books that I’ve read (or listened to) and would recommend to new salespeople:

9) Set The Right Example

Remember that someone who is new to insurance or even just the workforce in general is going to be paying close attention to everything you do and say to develop their own idea of what’s right and wrong.

You don’t have to be the best salesperson, that’s not your job.

But if you talk badly about customers behind their backs, say bad things about the carriers you sell for, or fail to execute on promises you’ve made you’re asking for trouble.

10) Record and Listen to Phone Calls

It can be a really helpful training tool to play back a phone conversation with your salesperson and discuss what changes could be made on the next call.

You can get equipment to record calls for under $30 online.

But don’t overdo it. You don’t want your salespeople to feel like they’re constantly under surveillance or they won’t perform at their best.

You’re not the NSA.

11) Team Them Up With Winners

I honestly think the best way to learn how to sell anything is to watch someone else sell it.

But don’t expect really good salespeople to be good educators because the habits and skills they’ve acquired over the years come so naturally they’ve forgotten what they all are and aren’t very understanding of people who haven’t figured it out yet.

That’s where you come in.

Partner your new people up with a seasoned veteran and facilitate their learning from the expert through conversations and by asking questions about what they’ve observed during each interaction.

12) Break It Down Into the Smallest Pieces

Younger people and new hires in general are usually very eager to be good at their jobs.

The problem is they are rarely given crystal clear directives about what to do.

Break everything down into the smallest pieces. They don’t know ANYTHING and are probably wondering what the heck they’re supposed to be doing 80% of the time.

I read a book a few years ago that really nails this point down. It’s called, How I Built a $37 Million Dollar Insurance Agency and the author explains how he develops a fool-proof sales system that is broken down into such detail that practically anyone could execute it.

Then he just puts it in the hands of the hungriest people and the rest is history. It’d be a good book for you to read (especially if you sell group health) but it’s not for the new salespeople like the ones above.

13) Talk About The Mistakes

Mistakes are great, but only when you learn from them.

And if you don’t help your new sales people learn from their mistakes, they’re going to cost you a lot of money over and over again.

Make a point to regularly ask your new salespeople what mistakes they made recently. If they say them out loud to you they’re 1000% times less likely to repeat them.

14) Give Them Questions To Ask

One of my biggest pet peeves is “experts” who tell you what to do without ever really telling you what to do. That’s why I write long articles like this, so you can actually take action on my advice.

I hear a lot of people say that sales is all about “asking the right questions”. But when you ask them what the right questions are, they don’t know.

Give your salespeople specific questions to ask prospects. Put them in a list right on their desk so they’re always front and center.

If you need some ideas, check out this article with 26 sales questions to ask prospects

15) Harness Their Enthusiasm

My first job ever was shoveling horse manure at the great New York State Fair. We got paid the same $6.25 per hour no matter how hard we worked, but I would race against my friend to see who could shovel more stalls out over the course of an 8 hour day.

My first job out of college was selling long distance phone service door-to-door in a suit and tie during the summer in Albuquerque and I was proud of the fact that I’d consistently walk into more businesses every day than any of the other grunts.

Why did I do those things?

Because I was enthusiastic. (And didn’t know any better)

Take advantage of your young employee’s enthusiasm and let them do the dirty jobs nobody else would even consider doing, like door-to-door cold calls!

16) Sales Worksheets

Any direction you can give inexperienced insurance salespeople to use during the sales process is going to be helpful.

And visual stuff like worksheets and checklists works great!

It doesn’t have to be complicated, a simple checklist to make sure they addressed all the coverages for a new client or a one-page sheet that explains all the different products you sell can be really helpful.

17) Give Them The Easiest Leads and The Hardest Leads

But not the best leads.

Have your newest and youngest salespeople work all the old leads from 10 years ago. They can get a lot of experience without making mistakes on good opportunities.

And toss them a few bones too, like upselling a really good client who needs higher liability limits or is missing a coverage they really should have so they can build confidence.

Don’t burn through good fresh leads with your newbie.

18) Let Them Run With Their Bad Ideas

Inevitably, every new and young salesperson is going to come to you with some bad ideas to drum up business or close more sales.

And you know it’s a bad idea because you’ve seen it fail a hundred times before!

But they haven’t.

And despite the fact that you know that whopper of an idea doesn’t stand a chance, if you constantly shoot down a young employee’s ideas they’re going to start to think they’re unappreciated, they have no voice, and you have no vision.

If a millennial in your agency feels that way, he’s not going to work out.

You don’t have to always say yes, but you can’t always say no and the key is to pay attention, limit the exposure, and help them see the truth as quickly as possible.

19) Telemarketing for X-Dates

I know it’s tempting to run your new salesperson on the phones to drum up quotes for 40 hours a week. After all, that’s probably how you got started.

But it’s a sure-fire way to burn them out and its not effective.

If you’re going to do telemarketing, come up with a script that will get you the quote if there’s interest, but the real objective is to capture the x-date.

And then use your young salesperson’s eagerness to nurture that lead up until that renewal comes up.

20) Puff Up Their Egos

Yeah… I said it.

Haven’t you ever said anything to make a prospect feel good in order to make a sale? It’s the same thing really.

Young people today need to feel appreciated, they need to feel fulfilled…

They need to feel loved.

Don’t blame them… it’s Barney’s fault.

21) Give Them The Social Media Work

At the very least, they’ll know how to avoid doing things on social media that make you look like an amateur.

Just put some tabs on it. Establish a specific plan and determine exactly how much time should be spent on it each week with specific time periods set aside.

If you don’t set aside specific times it’ll eat into everything they do.

Speaking of which…

22) Structure the Day

One of the easiest ways to be ineffective at sales is to manage your time poorly and like everything else – this needs to be taught.

Fortunately it doesn’t take Zig Ziglar to organize your day into chunks so that your new salespeople will always know what they’re supposed to be doing.

And make yourself accountable by saying something like this to your new hires, “You should always know what you’re supposed to be doing at any given time during the day. If you’re ever not sure ask me right away.”

It’s easy for new people to spend hours on the wrong tasks just because they don’t know what the right tasks are.

23) Just Let Them Play With Technology

Young people don’t want to be told or shown how to use computer programs. They just need to experiment and figure it out.

It has to do with their age and situation they were in when first introduced to computers but it’s also a major liability.

While they can pick up technology stuff faster, they’re also more prone to mistakes because they don’t think through every click.  Don’t assume just because they can fly through a quote on the first try they’re absorbing all the details and getting the right rate.

They’re paying less attention to the details than you are.

Let them play, but then make them explain how it all works to you.

24) Show Them the Good Claims

When you work in an insurance agency, it’s natural to start thinking that all your customer’s claims go badly.

They don’t.

The majority of insurance claims go smoothly, it’s just that people don’t call the agency when everything goes well and they’re back to normal.

Go out of your way to show all your salespeople, young or old, experienced or brand-new, that you’re selling a quality product that helps people in their greatest time of need.

25) Give Them Greater Purpose

Let’s face it, most young people today were raised to believe that they are special. They’re here do do great things and make a large impact in the world.

I’m not trying to say that’s right or wrong, after all I hope my girls grow up to think that too.

But I will say this, if you can’t help your young salespeople understand a bigger picture, that it’s about more than closing auto policies, you’ll be replacing them soon.

Help them see the nobility in what you do.

Help them understand the threat posed by insurance companies selling direct  not just to the future of the insurance agency industry but also to the customers!

We NEED the next generation to step up and take the reigns eventually. And they’re going to do it with the right guidance today.

Here’s What to Do Next:

If you found a piece of helpful information or two in this article, here’s what to do next:

  1. Go back through this article and make a list of the tips you can take action on this month.
  2. Remember #9 and follow-through with your intentions to improve your training
  3. Share this article with another agent or manager you think would like it
  4. And make sure to click the like button or share it on social media so I know you like stuff like this.

I hope this helps,
John

 

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John F. Carroll

John F. Carroll is the founder and CEO of InsuranceSplash. For years, John has consulted insurance agencies with internet marketing and sales strategy and he is dedicated to making insurance marketing easy and effective for all insurance agents. If you're an agent, connect with John on LinkedIn, he wants to connect with you!

Comments (3)

  • Robert Slayton

    |

    Nice article and right on track.

    Reply

  • Billy Van Jura

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    Mostly relevant however many of the “tactics” lean more towards making the new hire into an insurance sales person than a professional salesperson. A whole lot of time analyzing leads means you are spending less on actually getting leads. Before any of those I think you really need to consider laying out an overall plan and seeing what they want to learn. My guess is calling for x-dates(because it is old, tired and inefficient) is not high on the list. Glad to see you are encouraging reading. Definitely need to consider building business acumen and including blogs in the reading. How about sitting in on meetings with carriers. Holding their hand at networking events for the first couple. Instead of sending them networking spend some time on a plan. Bottom line; make them a professional first a salesperson second and an insurance salesperson third.

    Reply

    • John F. Carroll

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      Hi Billy,
      Thanks for responding to my tweet with specifics! These are some really awesome ideas and I love the concept. If you’re interested… I love publishing guest posts from agents like yourself. I understand you’re busy, but if you’d be willing to write these ideas up into an article to fill in some of the gaps I left with a little more detail I’d love to publish it here for all the other agents out there. Regardless of whether you take me up on that, thanks for the feedback and for sharing!

      Reply

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