Practice, Practice, Practice
As a producer, do you practice?
I was in a situation the other day that I thought I could handle, but something unexpected happened and I was caught off guard. I now know what I would do differently going forward even though that particular situation will likely never occur again. I would practice.
This experience got me thinking about producers and how little they practice sales techniques. I have had the opportunity to work with quite a few ex-college athletes who transitioned into insurance. I always enjoy asking them how much work they put into their college performances. Then I like to ask how much work they put into their sales efforts. The differences are stark.
The two preparatory factors I focus upon are education and practice. Almost no material education occurs whereas when they were athletes, they were studying the sport, and other teams if applicable, for hours upon hours. As an athlete, they might spend as much time in one week studying as producers spend in an entire year on their education. Producers are selling extremely complex legal contracts designed to protect clients against life changing financial losses. There are millions of these contracts given all the carriers and different versions and different endorsements, and so forth. To only spend the state minimum, even triple the state minimum, learning coverages is inadequate. It just makes sense that a professional practicing their art relative to selling a product with serious life affecting contracts would study more than a person who is an amateur playing a game.
The second factor is practice. I find almost no producers practice sales techniques. Practicing sales techniques mostly means role playing. I suppose some producers practice by going through the motions of one unsuccessful sale after another, because the failure to make the sale is at best, a practice session. Would it not make more sense to role play in a safe environment with people who can provide immediate constructive criticism, just like athletes have with their coaches?
The value of practice is significant, but what occurred to me in my case was that with practice I would have had muscle memory. In the middle of an intense sale process, having muscle memory is invaluable. Otherwise, the client will say something or do something unexpected and you will be thrown off kilter. You will lose your momentum. The probability of losing the sale increases. In this industry people have always figured this was the value of experience.
Experience is in many ways, an elongated form of practice. A person can gain the benefits of decades of experience in less than half the time, maybe a tenth of the time, with enough practice. In other words, a person can learn what they need to know over a long period of time or they can accelerate their success by true practice. Having someone else throw out stupid questions which you would never have thought possible or sharing a key data point at the last second or advising that their goals have changed is great practice and results in being seamlessly prepared. It can make the difference between winning the sale and losing the sale and feeling horrible for weeks afterward.
Finding practice partners is really difficult for most producers. Most producers will not have people within the agency who have the ability and/or time to practice with them. This requires a third-party.
Then when you put the three parts together, you have professional level preparation. Traditional training in the insurance world is like reading a playbook the first day you are employed and expected to execute on the court immediately. Or if you are lucky, you at least get the playbook and time watching the equivalent of film before being expected to execute. No coach in their right mind would ever do this in sports, but we do it every day in this industry. It is a waste of time and money.
Here is a partial list of sales actions to practice. Keep in mind when you are practicing with live prospects and you fail, you have blown the prospect. Failure in practice is much less painful. Also, just because you can talk does not mean you can talk effectively in a sales scenario without practice. Most producers never generate material sales and I have yet to meet a producer who failed to generate meaningful sales who practiced. Practice these on your own or get a coach:
All aspects of cold calling
Asking for referrals
Calling on referrals
Handling the basics of a first appointment with a prospect
Asking open ended questions
Handling common objections throughout the sales process, especially objections related to the incumbent agent
Asking and/or following up on underwriting information
Recommending a new coverage, higher limits, or other coverage enhancements
Handling the "let me think about it" response
Asking for a follow-up meeting
Committing a prospect to fire their agent
Asking for the AOR
One would think that it is easy to ask for a referral. The client likes you, you have confidence. Asking for a referral should be easy and yet, in my experience, 90%+ of producers do not successfully ask for referrals and usually it is because they are not comfortable doing so. Practice can make a person comfortable, confident, and successful.
One firm that offers quality practice coaching is Atlante Partners. Practice is a fundamental aspect of Atlante Partners training, coaching and sales management services. They work with producers individually to practice the sales scenarios they are immediately facing so they can directly impact new sales.
Strong practice conducted on multiple levels combined with high quality education makes you prepared and confident instead of scared and ignorant. Make your choice.
NOTE: The information provided herein is intended for educational and informational purposes only and it represents only the views of the authors. It is not a recommendation that a particular course of action be followed. Burand Insurance Education, Burand & Associates, LLC and Chris Burand assume, and will have, no responsibility for liability or damage which may result from the use of any of this information.
None of the materials in this article should be construed as offering legal advice, and the specific advice of legal counsel is recommended before acting on any matter discussed in this article. Regulated individuals/entities should also ensure that they comply with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations.