By: Raleen Gagnon, Strategic Marketing Manager
The insurance industry and insurance recruitment continue to feel the effects of the recession. As a result, smaller insurance companies must focus on employee motivation as the industry eventually stabilizes.
With the average agency or brokerage employing an average 20 - 30 employees, it is imperative that each of those employees be fully utilized. In some cases, this means that employees must multi-task -- such as having the office manager support the human resources function.
Empower your Sales Team with Knowledge
One exception is the sales team, a group that is uniquely positioned to drive revenue into the business, prospect new accounts and grow existing customer relationships. These producers represent an opportunity for small insurance companies to improve their competitive position and sales performance in a slow market.
Of course, agents and brokers need resources to successfully go to market, primarily a marketable product and competitive pricing, along with employee development.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) requires a standard education and various licensing necessary to sell insurance products; there is also the practical education of leveraging trends and market intelligence in support of the sales cycle. Upcoming regulatory changes, labor market reports and competitive data can enable a salesperson to more effectively define the target market, reprioritize the value proposition of the products sold, or even modify the mode of communication used to sell them.
For example, The Affordable Care Act enacted on March 23, 2010 provides a health care tax credit of up to 35% for a business (25% for non-profits) with less than 25 employees that offer health insurance to its workforce.
Ensuring that the sales team has a working knowledge of this Act enables them to target small businesses in their market; these include companies that either don’t have insurance or that have insurance with another company but are unaware of the tax credits available to them. In either case, speaking to these benefits will not only get an agent or broker in the door, it will help them build a stronger customer relationship.
Market intelligence isn’t limited to tracking industry news however. It can also include:
- An awareness of local competitors and buying trends that could impact neighborhoods in a targeted territory
- Knowledge of financial properties that are performing well in a particular market such as natural gas ETF funds or municipal bonds
- How products should be bundled together to increase appeal for certain segments of the target market.
The assumption may be that salespeople learn these insights while conducting business on any given week, but not every agent or broker is going to amass the same knowledge without assistance. This responsibility thus falls to the employer.
Develop a Communication Strategy
There are several ways to empower and educate your team. While some may work better than others for a given company, all can be effectively leveraged to ensure that a sales team is fully aware of the environment they are selling into and how to optimize their productivity every day.
It might as simple as scheduling time into the agenda of an existing weekly meeting or conference call to review local activity, insights accumulated from the field and ideas on modifying the sales strategy. If an existing agenda can’t be modified, consider these other options:
The Lunch & Learn or Presentation This is an excellent way to assure participation and retain attention as everyone contributes and collaborates on the implications of market activity and potential opportunities.
A Webinar Easily scheduled on a bi-weekly or monthly basis, a webinar can facilitate an update from the field on local activity, open discussion on trends and ideas and or recap of the previous month’s initiatives and performance. A convenient and effective way to convey knowledge among a scattered sales force, there are many low cost providers of webinar services if your company doesn’t have one installed.
An Email or Newsletter A convenient way to distribute and share information. It generally requires follow-up to ensure that the sales team takes the time to read through the content. Without the proper incentive or direction, these communications can often be lost in an Inbox. One way to circumvent this is to hold a monthly or quarterly meeting and supplement those larger meetings with regular email updates that employees will look forward to receiving.
Whether a small insurance agency or brokerage has a dedicated resource to collect market intelligence, or it relies on the entire team to gather the necessary insight, it is essential to effectively manage the knowledge transfer and education of the sales force to leverage that knowledge as part of their market strategy.