What would your advice be to a business owner given the following circumstances?

  • Their business model has a disproportionate amount of dependence on their sales people (Not only do they depend on the sales people to generate revenue, they depend on them to maintain the revenue).
  • The sales people receive a significant share of that revenue as compensation, which means the business owner has to ensure a way to generate some level of ROI for themselves out of this big investment.
  • To get that ROI the business owner depends on the sales people to behave and compete in effective and efficient manners.
  • The business owner does not provide any training to teach and enforce said behaviors for their producers.

Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this business owner needs to start training his or her sales people, does it?!

I have the privilege of traveling around the country and speaking to various groups. It's rewarding on so many levels, not the least of which is that I get to hear/witness first hand stories that fuel my optimism for our collective future.

Where is all the training?

And then there are also the stories that make me realize we have a lot of work to do. One of the stories I hear constantly is the tale of sales training in agencies. Or to be more accurate, the story is about the lack of sales training in agencies.

I recently spoke at a meeting for Mid South Association of Health Underwriters (Memphis). Before I had even made the 5-hour drive back to St. Louis, I received the following email from one of the attendees.

"I wanted to thank you for speaking to our Mid South Chapter of the Health Underwriters today. It was very informative and brought a new way to look at doing business today. I used to work for a major corporation in my past career and was constantly getting sales training. Being an independent Broker, I have to go out and find the training now. That is why I enjoyed your presentation."

You might say to yourself, but he said he is "independent," so finding that training is up to him. You might think he is also the business owner. You might be wrong. Actually, you would be wrong.

He is one of those sales people I mentioned above, recently hired by an agency owner to come in and help grow/maintain revenue. Like too many in our industry, he is in a huge position of responsibility within his company without any level of training for delivering on that responsibility.

Not training sales people is a catastrophic failure on the part of leadership!

I use the term "leader" here very loosely. These business/agency owners are jeopardizing their own ROI and the very future of their business. Worse than that, they are being unbelievably irresponsible and unfair in asking the sales people to commit to the success of their business without a reciprocal commitment to the success of the sales person.

Why don't agencies train sales people?

How can it be that this ridiculous scenario plays out time and time again in agency after agency? It happens for two basic reasons.

First, agency owners have convinced themselves that their sales people just want to be left on their own and don't want to be "told how to work". If that's true of your sales people, you have done a poor job of hiring. The best talent in any field needs, expects, and demands to be given the tools to be successful (as evidenced in the email above). This starts and continues with training on how to use those tools.

The second, and probably biggest, reason is that very few agencies have any type of sales process around which to train. And, don't try to tell me that quoting insurance and negotiating with the carriers is a sales process; it's not. It's nothing more than part of the job function we perform as brokers.

Not only is having a sales process and training around that process critical to ensure your ROI as an owner, it's a fundamental responsibility you have before you ask someone to be on your team.

Are you meeting your responsibility as a business owner?


Photo by Nima Badiey